What's New in the Common App This Year?


College football teams are getting ready to kick off their new seasons later this month, but the Common Application has already kicked off for this year. If you're planning on using the Common App this year, there are some new features you should check out now. You can read about all the details for yourself here, but I'll give you the short version of highlights -- a kind of quick-start guide -- in case you're in a hurry.

First, there's a new website designed to help students better plan for college, explore their options and apply. Applicants will now be able to better access the Common App from mobile devices and tablets. Visitors to the updated will also be able to learn about new research from Common App that will help them improve college access.

To help students get into and through college, Common App will be introducing some new resources to help them understand the college application process:

- How to pay for college

- Where to get help

- Applicant and recommender guides for both first-year and transfer applicants

- Materials to support families

- Advisor help in the application process, and

- A redesigned Common App Ready toolkit, a suite of resources to help counselors introduce Common App to students and families.

Along with Common App's new look, students applying to college this year will have access to more than 70 additional diverse colleges and universities in all 50 states through Common App's online application system. Here are those schools:

New Members for The Common App's 2019-1920 Application Season

New England

Fisher College (Mass.)

Landmark College (Vt.)


Mount Saint Mary's University (Md.)

University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Md.)

Baruch College, The City University of New York (N.Y.)

Brooklyn College, The City University of New York (N.Y.)

College of Staten Island, The City University of New York (N.Y.)

Hunter College, The City University of New York (N.Y.)

Chestnut Hill College (Pa.)

Duquesne University (Pa.)

Gwynedd Mercy University (Pa.)

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (Pa.)

Messiah College (Pa.)

Misericordia University (Pa.)

Mount Aloysius College (Pa.)

Pennsylvania College of Technology (Pa.)


Dominican University (Ill.)

Eureka College (Ill.)

Methodist College of UnityPoint Health (Ill.)

North Central College (Ill.)

Iowa State University (Iowa)

Loras College (Iowa)

Aquinas College (Mich.)

Eastern Michigan University (Mich.)

Central Michigan University (Mich.)

University of Michigan Dearborn (Mich.)

Missouri Southern State University (Mo.)

Missouri State University (Mo.)

Culver Stockton College (Mo.)

University of Minnesota Crookston (Minn.)

Heidelberg University (Ohio)

Shawnee State University (Ohio)

University of North Dakota (N.D.)

Mount Mary University (Wis.)

Wisconsin Lutheran College (Wis.)


Arkansas State University (Ark.)

University of Arkansas (Ark.)

Elon University (N.C.)

Florida Atlantic University (Fla.)

Florida Gulf Coast University (Fla.)

University of Florida (Fla.)

Covenant College (Ga.)

Wesleyan College (Ga.)

Kansas State University (Kan.)

Wichita State University (Kan.)

Midway University (Ky.)

Northern Kentucky University (Ky.)

Thomas More University (Ky.)

University of Louisiana at Lafayette (La.)

University of South Carolina (S.C.)

College of Charleston (S.C.)

University of the Incarnate Word (Texas)

University of Texas - Arlington (Texas)

University of Texas at Dallas (Texas)

Bridgewater College (Va.)

Longwood University (Va.)

Hampton University (Va.)

University of Charleston (W.V.)

Shepherd University (W.V.)


Arizona Christian University (Ariz.)

Simpson University (Calif.)

The Master's University (Calif.)

University of Utah (Utah)


Ryerson University (Ontario, Canada)

University of the West of England (Bristol, England)

University of Bradford (West Yorkshire, England)

Musashino University (Ariake Koto, Japan)

University of Dundee (Scotland) Aberystwyth University (Wales)

You may be wondering if these changes will be helpful for your college process. Forbes believes that it will definitely help in the area of college access. Here are some highlights from that articleby Christopher Rim on how that will happen:

1. Improved Mobile Functionality

One of the major changes to the Common App is improved user experience and functionality on mobile devices … Many students do not have a computer at home, or their family has a computer but no internet access. In 2015, only 61% of children had access to a computer with internet at home, and this access gap especially impacts students in rural areas and black and Hispanic students. However, 89% have access to a tablet or smartphone.

2. “Ban The Box"— No Default Required Question on Criminal History

This year marks the first year that the Common Application will not by default ask students about their criminal history. Member institutions (colleges etc) will still be able to ask students this question if they choose, just as they are able to ask other supplemental questions, but it will no longer be asked and included by default. ...

3. Improved Language, Clearer Interface

One of the smallest but most useful changes is clearer character limits for activity descriptions. Most students have no idea that they have 150 characters to describe each activity, and either end up writing too-short descriptions or getting cut off unexpectedly. They've also made re-ordering those activities easier and more prominent. There's a lot more (and clearer) explanation throughout the process, including the section of fee waivers. This will really help students who don't have much access to guidance counselors....

4. Integration With Other Services, Including Michelle Obama's “Reach Higher" Initiative

The Common App has really made an effort to partner with other organizations with similar goals, including Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative, whose outreach campaigns and resources are “now housed at the Common App." There are several other organizations and tools that are either integrated into the site (like ScholarSnapp), or linked to (like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's cost calculator)...

5. More Information About Each College (Although It's A Bit Hidden)

This ranks at #5 because, to be honest, although the new member college pages are beautiful and provide lots of information about the schools, they're completely divorced from the actual application … Having helped students through this process many times, I have doubts that they will spend much time on when is so siloed away, so much more central to the process, and provides what looks to students like a complete (though not as useful) page for each school.

So there you have it -- a redesigned Common App for a new college application season. Chances are that you'll be applying to at least one or more Common App schools, so get a head start on your college process by finding out how this new design and improved resources can help you.