The Common Application Procedures and Tips What is the Common Application?

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The Common Application

  • Procedures and Tips

What is the Common Application?

  • The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 517 member colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

Why was the Common App created?

  • The Common Application is a not-for-profit membership organization that, since its founding over 35 years ago, has been committed to providing reliable services that promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process.

What Illinois universities accept the Common Application?

  • Augustana College, IL * Knox College IL
  • Blackburn College, IL * Lake Forest College IL
  • Bradley University IL * Northwestern University IL
  • Chicago State University IL *School of the Art Institute of
  • Columbia College Chicago IL Chicago, IL
  • DePaul University IL * Trinity Christian College IL
  • Illinois College IL * University of Chicago IL
  • Illinois Institute of Technology IL * University of Illinois at Illinois Wesleyan University IL Chicago (UIC)

What other universities accept the Common Application?

  • There are over 500 member college and universities. The below list is a small sample.
  • California College of the Arts CA
  • California Institute of Technology CA
  • DePauw University IN
  • Marquette University WI
  • Purdue University IN
  • University of Miami FL
  • University of Michigan MI
  • University of Notre Dame IN
  • Xavier University OH
  • Yale University CT
  • Valparaiso University IN
  • Harvard College MA

How do I begin my application?

  • Sign up for the Common Application (
  • Account Set Up:
  • Use your CPS email address.
  • Set up an easy user name and password.
  • Text yourself and save this info in a million places.

Overall Application

  • You can keep changing info until the minute you submit the application. So don’t worry. You can go back and make changes.
  • Any requirement with a red star over the prompt is MANDATORY to fill in.
  • If you plan to apply for financial aid, you need to add your SSN. If you don’t have one, enter all 0s.

More Overall Application Information

  • Remember, when you’ve completed one section or college, a green check will appear. Your goal is to have all green check in a college row by the time you submit each individual college.
  • You will also see a variety of tips on the right hand side of each part of the application. These are there to help you should you have questions, or provide more information based on certain answers or information that you provided.

How to Navigate the Common Application

  • Once you get an account, you will see the Top Row for the first time. The row includes from left to right-Dashboard, My Colleges, Common App, College Search.
  • College Search is where you will start. You can search colleges by name. You can search by location or type.
  • If you click on the blue name of the college, it will bring to the college page with all vital statistics from deadlines, fees, and required recommendations.
  • Go back to the college row, and you can add it to your list. It will give you a chance to go to the Dashboard or back to college info. There are also links to individual college websites.

How to Navigate the Common Application

  • The next tab left of College Search is the Common Application.
  • This is your working document where you complete your app. 
  • You can have 10 versions of your application, but only 3 versions of essays. So the ideal is to work on one common application. Again you don’t submit it until you’re ready.

Application Navigation

  • My Colleges. Third from right.
  • This page lists each college of your list. When you click on the college, it will provide core information about college in center. To the left, it will list the status of Questions, Recommenders, The Common Application, and if required, Writing and Arts Supplements.
  • A green check will appear if a section is completed. You can click on each to complete the section. You can also track when recommenders have submitted their materials. If the Common Application is completed, Preview and Submit will appear. You can begin the submission process here.


  • Just left of Common Application is the Dashboard. This is where you see the status of each application you have in progress.
  • You will see a row for each college with Deadlines. Common Application and Writing Supplement. If there is a green check you have submitted that section.
  • You can click on that check and get to the date submitted and PDF of your application or supplement.
  • A yellow dot means you have started the process but not submitted.
  • A red dash means a section is not required.

The Common Application Sections

  • The Common Application now has several sections you must complete. You will work on each one and you can go back and forth between sections. You can track the sections on the left.
  • Individual Information
  • Family Demographics
  • Educational Information
  • Testing
  • Activities
  • The Essay
  • Additional Information

Individual Information and Family Demographics

  • Individual Information-This where they track your address and demographics. You will need to show your languages spoken and demographics. This is up to you. They now ask you to identify where each of your parents was born.
  • Family Demographics-They ask you to identify your living arrangements and identify your family members. This will prepare you later for financial aid. You will need to add your parents’ education. This is confusing if your parent has a graduate degree. You will need to put college, and then enter the number of colleges and graduate schools. They will pop up when you enter the number.

Educational Information and Testing

  • Educational Information- This is where you provide your academic history. You need the date of your graduation as well as your GPA and class size. Honors go in this section. You can list up to 5 honors. You cannot move their order around.
  • Testing-The Common Application is not only asking you to report how many times you took particular tests, but it is also requiring you to add your scores for each one. These responses are mandatory, according to the Common Application. But remember, the contract of testing is between you and the testing organizations—The College Board, the ACT, not with the Common Application. So you can opt not to report data here. No matter what–You must send your official scores directly from the College Board or ACT to the colleges to which you are applying.

HOW TO request to have your Transcript, ACT, Recommendations, and Fee Waiver Sent

  • • Visit: CPS Family Connection (Student Login)
  • • Log into Family Connection with your CPS email address and password
  • • Match your Family Connection account to your Common App account (once in Family Connection, students need to click on the "Colleges Tab" and "Colleges I'm Applying To." The directions state to enter Common App email and birth date but that may not appear, so students need to manually reenter all schools they are applying to. Once that appears, it will merge them.)
  • • Use Family Connection to send your transcripts to colleges you've applied to.


  • When you choose a school to add to your list, a gray box will appear.
  • The grey box instructs you to REQUEST TRANSCRIPTS
  • ALL transcripts requests INCLUDE the following: fee waivers, ACT scores, AND transcripts!
  • The counselors receive alerts through their account and will send the appropriate information to the schools / The Common Application.
  • CONFUSED? Don’t be! If you are still unsure, please visit your counselor for clarity.

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