Common Application for International Students: Fees, Requirements

Common Application for international students

Common App Fees, Requirements, Guidelines, Process, Deadlines

High-School graduation brings with it a whole lot of unfamiliar responsibilities in mature teenagers. Besides discovering their passion and interest to follow into their undergraduate college education, if the students so choose to do, the choice of universities to apply to and then the stupendous application process, to each, can become quite a daunting expedition for these near first-time adults.

The Common Application (or Common App) steps in as a sort of one-stop-shop Walmart option to college application – you get access to Undergraduate Applications to more than 800 member colleges in USA, across its majority of states, as well as universities in Canada, China and Europe (64 international institutes).

The Common App is maintained by a non-profit organization and is aimed towards not just convenience for students but also to make the process fair and accessible so more students can feel comfortable about their higher-education.

The process has a built-in tool to help students in need of Financial Aid and Scholarships, career counseling, and other resources. It is available to both first-time applicants as well as a separate application package for transfer students.

It is estimated that more than 3 million students, teachers, and high-school counselors make use of the Common App annually, around the world.

Which schools are on the Common App?

Some of the member schools include big names like

There are also several top universities such as MIT that don’t use the Common App.

There is no apparent bias within admission committees regarding considering applications coming in through the Common App, as long as the applications are genuine and have completed information.

Colleges do insist that students apply through only one portal for a term. That is, if a student intends to apply on the university website directly, then that university should not be selected in the Common App, and vice versa. In other words, one application per student per college, as is obviously expected.

Let us explore what are the essential parts of a Common Application.

Common Application (Common App) for Undergraduate Admissions


What does a Common App constitute?

The Common Application has a total of six sections with further sub-sections drilling into the details within each. Since most of the information is basic and common in the member institutes, the information need only be filled in once.

In the event an institute requires additional documents or information, you will have to provide it separately. For instance, if a school requires recommendation letters, it will ask for the same and your recommender will have the opportunity to add the letter to your application on the Common App.

In general, some of the universal tips for Common App suggest that you gather all your documents, well in advance, as well as thoroughly understand which universities you want to apply to and what do each individual university require on top of the common materials.

A good idea is to keep on top of everything such as gathering transcripts, talking to potential recommenders, making a list of your achievements and activities, and talking to your high-school counselor if one is available to you.

Also attempt your college tests (ACT, SAT, TOEFL, etc) or have the dates of the scheduled tests ready for filling in the details. Of course, stay organized and don’t forget those pesky college application deadlines.

University / College Selection, Requirements, and Deadlines

To begin with, you will have to select your intended colleges. Once you have them under your “My College” tab, you will be able to monitor what each will specifically need for you to send in a complete application.

This is also where you will come across a FERPA authorization which will be required of you (just sign and be done with it) to permit your school and your recommender share your information with the university.

You will also be required to indicate your Admission Plan – that is, when do you plan to start your term. This information will automatically help the college specify the application deadline.

Common App Sections

Following are the various sections within the Common App, in brief.

  • Profile Section: As the name suggests, is about details such as name, contact information, citizenship, etc. This needs to be filled in carefully as all future correspondence will be done based on the details provided here.
  • Family Section: This section involves description of your family and household.
  • Education Section: High-School grades and courses and possibly a copy of your transcript. Keep a copy handy for yourself to fill this section. Bits like school name, counselor information, previous schools, gap years, college courses if any, GPA, class rank, etc, are part of Education. The website mentions that it is not necessary to fill in career interests if you are not sure.
  • Testing Section: College Entrance tests like ACT or SAT, TOEFL, IELTS, PTE (Read TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE) for non-English speakers, and subject tests like AP, IB, SAT Subject Tests or A-Level tests go here. These scores are self-reported. You will have to send official scores when available. You can also indicate future test dates if you are yet to take them. Indicating no test related information is assumed to be a complete portfolio in itself, without test scores. International students can report their school leaving scores. For instance, Senior Secondary results in case of Indian students.
  • Activities Section: You can list up to 10 activities with a description, under the specified word limit.
  • Writing Section: It contains three sub-sections – Personal Essay which generally has suggested prompts within the system to help students understand what is expected in the essay, a Disciplinary History where you can provide explanations for any disciplinary problem in your past, and finally Additional Information where you can choose to share other relevant but not yet presented data.

Learn more about the Common Application Essays.

Besides the above, you will get a chance to self-report your transcripts for all your high-school grades and any other College specific questions or supplements.

Application Fees and Fee Waiver

More than 250 member universities, in the Common App, don’t require an application fee and this information is clearly mentioned in the college search. However, there is an application fee for the rest.

The good news is that the Common App has a feature whereby students with financial constraints can opt for an Application Fee Waiver, provided they satisfy one of the following:

  • The student is enrolled in Federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program
  • Annual family income is within a range specified by USDA and Nutrition Service, as being low-income
  • Already received or is eligible for a SAT or ACT fee waiver
  • Is already enrolled in some form of federal program for low-income families or receives public assistance
  • Lives in a subsidized public housing, under foster care, or is homeless

And this application fee waiver has been active in supporting over a million applicants receive over $55 million in waived fees. The students can request for a Common App Fee Waiver in the Profile section mentioned above.

Individual colleges also have possible fee waiver schemes. Students with financial need can also request for a NACAC Application Fee Waiver Form for applying to college. This helps to gain access to financial assistance and free application to colleges.

Common app for international students

While most of the process is the same, there are 4 areas where the common app for international students is different.

  1. Citizenship
  2. Residency
  3. Common app fees
  4. Payment

The first 2 are self-explanatory. When it comes to the application fees, it is up to the schools to take a call on whether they’ll charge the same fee for domestic and international students, or keep it different for the two categories.

The payment process will be handled by Flywire for international students i.e. those who have a permanent address outside the U.S.

Apart from these differences, each college may ask international students to complete additional details. These would be specified in the ‘My Colleges’ section
The Common Application is not the only portal for selecting and applying to colleges. There are other competitors in the market as well. However, they are more recent and with not as many member institutes.

The convenience, fairness, and straightforward features, have helped millions of students begin their college journey, irrespective of nationality, race, and economic background. So, if you are looking to apply using this tool, start picking your colleges already and open your account with

Common App Help

If you need help with your application, we can recommend the best common app counsellors to improve your odds of success. Send us an email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com
Meanwhile, here are a few relevant links.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4