The Universal Application Vs. The Common Application

Education institutes across the United States use Universal or Common Application when it comes to accepting new students into their program. Below, we will be discussing exactly what these methods incorporate and how they differ from one another. 

Common Application

Almost 700 universities and colleges around the United States make use of Common Application. On top of this, roughly a third of these institutes do not incorporate any other application methods, such as Universal. 

The Common Application originally promoted integrity, access, and equity. This meant that the application process relied heavily on high school grades, personal essays, and recommendation letters. However, over time, this recommendation has eased to bring more schools into the picture. 

Universal Application

Only 34 universities and educational institutions around the country make use of this application method. These colleges vary widely in size and caliber – for example, some of the schools are highly prestigious and part of the Ivy League, while others are smaller and private. 

Unlike Common Application, the Universal Application does not promote any particular requirements or philosophy. Instead, the college must adhere to the National Association for College Admissions.

Like the more modern version of Common Application, Universal Application does not rely on personal essays or recommendation letters. While some institutes do still require these documents, many others have made them optional. 


Other than the differences mentioned above, both application methods are pretty similar to one another. For example, they will both require information regarding academic records and extracurricular activities. More so, both applications ask for basic data, such as family and personal information. On top of this, both applications were created by the same company (Applications Online). 

Which Application Method Looks Better?

One question that many students ask themselves is ‘will using a specific method make my application look better?’. Most colleges view the Universal and Common Applications as equal, meaning that you will not be placed ahead of the pack simply because you used one over the other. 

Which Is The Most Popular?

The Common Application is the method of choice for most colleges worldwide that do not have their own exclusive applications. With that being said, many schools have begun to accept the Universal Application as their first choice. 

Many educational institutes have incorporated this newer method (Universal Application) with their exclusive applications. More so, some applicants choose to decide which method they would like to use when applying for a particular college. 

Concluding Thoughts

The Common and Universal Application methods are widely used by educational institutes all over the country. The most apparent difference between the two is that the Common Application relies more heavily on letters of recommendation and personal essays. However, both methods ask for information regarding high school grades and extracurricular activities.

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