Here’s a basic question for you. If you are planning on applying to 10 colleges and 9 of them accept the Common Application and 1 has its own application, how many applications do you have to complete? Many, if not most, applicants would answer "2" — the Common Application and the other application.
It’s a reasonable answer, but it’s the wrong answer. Despite its name, the Common Application is not a common application. The standardized components form only the core of each application, not the whole application for each college. Every college can (and usually does) customize these applications. Therefore, what every applicant needs to understand from the outset is that every college has its own application.
Most applicants make a similar mistake when it comes to analyzing the admissions policies at the colleges on their lists. Although all selective U.S. colleges do have holistic admissions policies and consider multiple factors when evaluating your application, this doesn’t mean that all colleges have the same admissions policy. Instead, each college has its own policy. Not only will the list of factors considered vary from college to college, but the importance assigned to each of these factors will also vary.
What does all this mean for you? It means that if you are applying to 10 colleges, you will have to complete 10 applications and understand 10 admissions policies. You might think this is bad news because it means more work, but it is also good news because it means you can tailor your application strategy for each college and thereby increase your chances for admission. Isn’t getting in your ultimate goal? Of course it is. So stay focused on the good news and spend this week creating your tailored strategies!