Did you know that many colleges and universities require applicants to use the Common Application (Common App) when applying to schools for the upcoming 2017-2018 academic year?

There are many benefits to applying with the Common App.   Over 700 colleges and universities use the Common App, which means you can apply to multiple colleges and universities with just one application! You can also view the writing prompts and supplemental questions, and keep track of all your application deadlines in one place.

Using the Common App system is fairly straightforward. 

  • Create an account
  • Add the schools you are applying to
  • Learn about the requirements for each school
  • Gather references and materials
  • Begin applying

All applicants using the Common App must respond to the personal essay.   According to
Deborah Marconda, Leadership Scholar Program Manager, “From all the applications I’ve seen and schools I’ve worked with, the personal essay is by far the most important piece of the application process.”

The Common App allows you to see what standards (word count, formatting, etc.) different colleges expect you to adhere to when drafting your personal essay. This information can be found under the “Writing Requirements” tab on the Common App website.

The personal essay has a big impact on the outcome of your application. Be sure to stay within the 650 word limit and leave enough time to edit and refine your essay. If possible, ask several people to review your essay before submitting it.

Your chosen college or university may provide you with a writing prompt to help you draft your essay. Some popular prompts are listed below.

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, which marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Some schools may require you to answer supplemental questions in addition to writing an essay.  These supplemental questions are also available through the Common Application.    

For more information on applying to college your installation’s Voluntary Education staff or the Leadership Scholar Program.