The differences between
the two leading generic application providers
With so many students
applying to a bunch of colleges these days, one-size-fits-all applications are starting to take off.
A full 33% of applicants last year sent off packets
to six or more colleges – an extremely time-consuming affair if you must fill out each application individually.
But, with the Common Application accepted at 414 colleges, and the Universal
Application processing 4 million submissions last year, things are getting easier.
Of course, many students have questions – foremost of which is, will my generic application be as strong
as an individualized one?
The short answer is: yes, mostly.
Common Vs. Universal: When to use them
The Common Application consortium isn’t just a group of 414 colleges
that accept the form. It’s also a bloc of schools dedicated to viewing applications holistically. That is, they consider
other things besides grades and test results. A Common Application won’t lower your submission a notch at almost any
school that accepts it.
The Universal Application doesn’t promote
any philosophy, but there’s a decent amount of crossover with schools that accept The Common Application. For those
that don’t, you need to investigate how they handle admissions. For example, the Universal Application may not be the
best choice for a more traditionally minded university.
Why does the
school bother accepting it then, you ask? Well, schools that accept generic applications tend to get an immediate bump in
applicants, and a more diverse pool as well. Both those things help increase a school’s standing in lists like the US World and News Report college
Other key differences
between the Common and Universal Applications…
- The Universal Application is run by a
for-profit company. The Common Application is run by the colleges themselves.
Universal Application doesn’t require an essay, and if you write one, it will only appear to schools that require one,
or have space for an optional essay.
- The Universal Application suggests a maximum
of 500 words for the essay. The Common recommends a minimum of 250 – but has no upper word limit. If you’ve got
a lot to say, the Common will let you say it.
All told, the most
important thing to consider is the attitude of the college accepting your generic application. Even some Common Application
schools haven’t signed on to the holistic philosophy (though the vast majority have).
If, after looking through a school’s admissions material, you feel confident they’ll view
a generic application the same as an individual one, then you shouldn’t feel timid about applying with one. Save yourself
time on busywork – and spend it honing your essay.