Tackling colleges' Common Application

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Espensorvik.
Image courtesy of Flickr user espensorvik
It's crunch time for the college admission season. The application deadline for many colleges and universities is fast approaching for high school seniors.

Many students applying to selective colleges must tackle the Common Application, which 456 mostly private institutions in 46 states use. For those who have been procrastinating, my next two posts will serve as a crash course on the Common Application.

Only colleges and universities that rely on a holistic admission process students use the Common Application. That means admission officers look at test scores and grade point averages, but they're also curious about such things as a student's interests, talents and activities. In contrast, most public universities evaluate students by the numbers -- test scores, class rank and GPA -- making them ineligible to use the Common Application.

Schools that use the Common Application

Here is where you can find the names of all the colleges and universities that use the Common Application.

As the name suggests, the institutions share one application that is intended to make the admission process easier. The name Common Application, however, is somewhat misleading, because schools routinely ask students to answer extra supplemental questions on the document. A typical supplemental question requires applicants to explain why they are interested in their schools.

Here's where you can find the Common Application supplemental forms for member schools.

2.5 million applications and counting

The Common Application continues to grow in popularity. Last year, students submitted more than 2.5 million applications through the member organization.

For the Common Application, Dec. 31 is the single busiest day of the year, according to Scott Anderson, the director of outreach at The Common Application, Inc.

"Our servers have ample capacity to handle the volume of that day or any other," Anderson said. "One of my colleagues likes to refer to the system as a Ferrari that sits in the garage 364 days a year."

The big downside to waiting until (literally) the 11th hour comes when students find they need help. "Our support team will be ready to assist them, but there is no guarantee that we'll be able to help them resolve their problem before the clock strikes midnight."

If you've got last-minute questions, no worries. Just contact the Common Application's Support Center.