The Common Application is a centralized application that students can complete for over 900 different colleges. The colleges that participate in this application method commit to treating applications received through the Common App with the same consideration as if students had applied through the institution’s individual application. This will generally mean that you have to spend less time filling out all of the basic information about yourself and can mean that you have fewer essays to write (but maybe not).
On the common app students will be asked to select an essay from a variety of prompts that they will answer in 250 – 650 words.
Then, the "tricky" part of it all is that many of the schools will also have supplements required, which are other questions of their own that they want students to complete. Sometimes it is just simple questions that weren't covered on the Common App, but would have been if you had applied through their individual application, but often times it includes additional short or long answer essays. Be aware and be prepared for that when completing your application. You may want to make sure that the supplements are for the current year, as sometimes there is a bit of a lag in the current year's supplement essay questions being posted.
Not all schools use the Common App - there are 48 Ohio schools which will utilize the common application this year, but as you are getting ready to start applications for the schools you are considering it is worth your time to look and see if more than one school from your list uses the Common App.
Common App’s website is www.commonapp.org.