The Ivy Coach Daily

September 28, 2023

The Pros and Cons of Applying Through The Common Application

The outside of a curvaceous, castle-like brick building is featured at Harvard University.

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, you might be wondering about the pros and cons of The Common Application. But while some schools have their own applications, gone is the day when schools offer students the option of applying either through their own application or The Common Application.

So, for most schools, students don’t really have a choice since The Coalition Application, The Common Application’s largest competitor, doesn’t have nearly as many subscribing universities and, frankly, at this time, it’s a platform that many admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities aren’t as familiar with and, as such, should be avoided.

10 Pros of Applying Through The Common Application

  1. Students can access all of their college supplements — at least for the schools that use The Common Application (which are most schools) in one place. They can toggle back and forth between a Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Pennsylvania supplement.
  2. The central portion of The Common Application is the same for all schools. Students need not change how they present their activities, biographical information, educational information, etc. when submitting multiple applications on The Common Application.
  3. The Common Application is used by more than a million students annually. As such, admissions officers are highly familiar with the platform — unlike The Coalition Application, which is newer and less frequently used by college applicants.
  4. The Common Application, with exceptions (especially during waning hours before deadlines), is relatively glitch-free compared to other college applications. Yes, we are well aware that The Common App. can go down from time to time, but compared to other college applications, it’s apples and oranges.
  5. Students can preview how admissions officers will see their admissions essays by clicking on the “Preview” button. Other college applications sometimes lack that functionality and so students don’t know if they should press enter between paragraphs or if the platform automatically includes a break between sections.
  6. The platform allows students to include more content in the ’Additional Information’ section, though this section should only be completed if students have coursework that they took outside of their school, won awards that didn’t fit in the honors section, have a published abstract, etc. It should not be used as an opportunity to regurgitate a student’s resume.
  7. Students can include ten extracurricular activities with descriptions of each in the central portion of The Common Application.
  8. The individual school supplements, while they often ask different questions, are all in the same format. So it’s easy to understand what is being asked of applicants and to distinguish the questions on one college supplement from another.
  9. Students can verify when letters of recommendation have been submitted by their teachers and counselors.
  10. Students can see when their applications to each school have been submitted.

5 Cons of Applying Through The Common Application

  1. The Common Application often goes down around deadlines, particularly in the waning hours. That said, Common App.’s support desk is typically responsive and they have a track record of notifying applicants about the glitches and fixing them in short order.
  2. The platform continues to ask students about their race — even after the United States Supreme Court’s ruling. While many schools do not share this answer with admissions officers evaluating a student’s case for admission, it’s somewhat jarring that the question remains on the application in the wake of the high court’s ruling.
  3. While The Common Application eliminated the question that asked applicants about their criminal history, many schools added similar questions directly on their supplements, which are available on The Common Application. In short, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
  4. Not all schools are member institutions of The Common Application, requiring applicants to complete applications outside of the platform. For example, the University of California schools, Georgetown University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all have their own applications. Students cannot apply to these schools on The Common App.
  5. With the proliferation of AI, The Common Application, shockingly, has not seemed to develop any software — at least software that is in use during the current 2023-2024 college admissions cycle — to detect the use of programs like ChatGPT. The Common Application can and must do better to detect not only the use of AI but plagiarism as well.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Completing The Common Application

If you’re the parent of a high school senior navigating the churning waters of elite college admissions, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college application services.

You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s college counseling,
fill out our complimentary consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

Get Started