The Common Application is used for undergraduate admissions by 488 colleges and universities. This application uses a holistic approach looking at a variety of items such as extracurricular activity, college admission essays, letters of recommendation and many other nonacademic items. Of course they also use grade point averages and test scores, but the decision is based on the applicant as a whole rather than just GPAs and tests scores.
The Common Application covers several areas: personal data, educational data, standardized test information, family information, academic honors, extracurricular activities, work experience, a short-answer essay, a personal essay and criminal history.
The Common Application is submitted electronically at the Common Application website. Many schools will ask for a supplemental essay to complement the personal essay options provided on the Common Application. These supplements are often submitted through the Common Application website.
Some colleges charge a fee. These can be anywhere from $35 to $50.