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Common Application Opens for the Season

It's Aug. 1. And that means rising high school seniors can officially dive into the Common Application for Undergraduate Admissions. (Click here to download forms.)

While it's tempting to relax in the last month of summer, it's smart to get a jump start now before things really get busy this fall.

This year, 49 new schools joined the Common App, bringing total membership to 463. For a complete list, click here.

The 2011-12 version of the Common Application was previewed in April. For the past two weeks, the Common App has been closed for maintenance but relaunched today for the season. The big change in this year's form is the 500-word limit placed on essays, which I wrote about in a blog post in June.

A video on the Comm App website walks students through the process. Students register for an account and then access the system online. Users can search for colleges by criteria they enter and then click on the schools where they want to apply. Applicants fill out demographic information and their activities and upload their essays.

It doesn't have to be completed in one sitting. Students can work on the form on and off. The completed form can be previewed in a PDF format before sending. Technical assistance is available at the Common App Support Center.

The popularity of the Common Application is growing. Last year, almost 2 million applications were submitted through the Common App Online. A new single-day record was set on Dec. 31, 2010, when students submitted 127,175 applications.

The system does streamline the process, enabling students to complete one form to send to any number of participating colleges. Still, some colleges have supplemental applications that include questions specific to their institution, such as "Why do you want to attend x University?" See related post. Information about supplements and payment can also be found on the Common App website.

The Common Application is a not-for-profit, membership organization founded in 1975 by 15 private colleges that wanted to have a common, standardized first-year application form.

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