How Many Common App Essays Are Required?

Sep 7, 2023


How Many Common App Essays Are Required

The new academic year is about to start across US colleges and universities, and the application thrill is near its peak. The transferring students feel more relaxed (as they’ve seen it all before!), while the first-year students are experiencing enormous pressure to do everything right and on time. The most common question we often hear is “How many essays for common app are required?”.

Stay with us to find the answer and to quickly get yourself up to speed with the Common Application process.

What is the common app essay?

By the common app essay in the US, we mean the college application essay written for the Common Application – a centralized application platform for all applicants across the States and to quite a few foreign academic institutions as well.

There is nothing to be afraid of, as it’s a standard application essay with a maximum word count requirement of 650 words. For those always curious, there is also a minimum word count threshold of 250 words. The 650-word volume translates into 2–3 pages of standard font size and style text and can be accomplished in a matter of hours. However, since hundreds of schools will have access to your common app essay, we suggest you allocate more time, ideally several days, to writing this important text.

How important is the common app essay? Well, it may be your most important essay ever, and the one you’ll have to write only once in your entire lifetime. Colleges and universities will assess you based on this short paper, so you’d better do your best to make it right. Rumor has it that up to 20-30% of one’s overall application documents’ weight is placed on the common app essay, so its importance is hard to overestimate.

How many common app essays are required in 2023?

Now, when it comes to the central question of our article – the answer is simple – there has to be only one common app essay. This rule is valid in 2023, just like it was valid in 2022 and all the previous years. The Common Application platform’s philosophy stipulates creating only one application essay, which is then shared across all schools.

In rare cases, certain schools may require you to answer one or two additional questions. These questions don’t have to come as a surprise to you, as you can check them out upfront by registering on the Common Application platform and inquiring about specific schools’ requirements.

The rule of thumb is to register in the Common Application before it goes live on the 1st of August each academic year, as this is when all students across the US become officially eligible for submitting their application documents via this portal (plus plenty of other documents, including academic records and official biography).

To sum up, even if you are applying to several schools, you only need to write one general common application essay, which is immediately made available to admission officers all over the nation and abroad.

How to write common app essays

Many newbies fall into the trap of customizing their essays to fit one specific school. That’s not how you write this type of essay unless you don’t care about maximizing your chances of admission. By default, when you register in the Common Application system, you are asked to select the schools of your choice, e.g., that match your educational aspirations and interests. Usually, first-year students select dozens if not more of potential schools that they want to apply to, hence, their application essay has to be neutral and address a broad academic audience.

To write a perfect common app essay, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Select one of the available prompts. Each year, there are 7 such prompts made available on the 1st of August. Choose the prompt that best fits your passions and academic goals.
  • Write about yourself, not someone else as your role model.
  • Be honest and original. Authenticity and deep self-reflection should be your guiding principles, and they are absolutely required in a perfect essay.
  • Avoid mimicking a resume or CV style. Instead, aim to tell a short, which needs to be compelling and inspiring.
  • Focus on what makes you an ideal candidate within a specific academic area.

Remember, the idea behind the common app essay is to give your readers a perspective on your candidacy that goes beyond dry academic achievements and records. In this type of essay, you need to impress with your personality, ambitions, and talents.

Do all colleges use common app?

Unfortunately, not all colleges and universities use the common app. This is something to be aware of when registering in the Common Application system. Just like most high schools, some colleges go with their own candidate selection processes, and they don’t review essays submitted via Common Application. This doesn’t mean that you cannot apply to such colleges, as you can always check their dedicated websites for stand-alone application procedures.

Then how many colleges use the common app? Or, to put it straight – how many colleges can you apply to on common app? In 2023 there are over 1000 colleges and universities in the United States alone that use the Common App system. You can apply to all of them via the Common Application system, in particular, if you submit your common app essay there, each one of those colleges can access and review your work.

It’s important to note, though, that the exact number of colleges that use the Common Application platform vary from year to year. In 2020, their number was slightly less than 900, while back in 1975 when the Common App was established, only 15 colleges were supporting this system.

There probably will be even more colleges that only require common app essay in the future. So, the application process for the prospective US student will be more streamlined and easier overall.


In short, there has to be only one essay submitted via the Common Application platform. That was the central question of this post, and we hope we’ve got it explained clearly. Another essential inquiry was about “How many schools can you apply to on common app?” And the answer is – on the common app, you can apply to the vast majority of schools in the US. As soon as one’s common app essay is submitted, it is instantly made available to over 1,000 schools in the US and abroad.


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