Below was taken from a site called: College Made Simple

I was going to explain the differences myself but honestly, this article does such a great job, that I thought I would share it instead,


Common Vs. Universal: When to use them

The Common Application consortium isn’t just a group of 414 colleges that accept the form. It’s also a bloc of schools dedicated to viewing applications holistically. That is, they consider other things besides grades and test results. A Common Application won’t lower your submission a notch at almost any school that accepts it.

The Universal Application doesn’t promote any philosophy, but there’s a decent amount of crossover with schools that accept The Common Application. For those that don’t, you need to investigate how they handle admissions. For example, the Universal Application may not be the best choice for a more traditionally minded university.

Why does the school bother accepting it then, you ask? Well, schools that accept generic applications tend to get an immediate bump in applicants, and a more diverse pool as well. Both those things help increase a school’s standing in lists like the US World and News Report college rankings.

Other key differences between the Common and Universal Applications…

  • The Universal Application is run by a for-profit company. The Common Application is run by the colleges themselves.
  • The Universal Application doesn’t require an essay, and if you write one, it will only appear to schools that require one, or have space for an optional essay.
  • The Universal Application suggests a maximum of 500 words for the essay. The Common app essay is a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 650 words. 

All told, the most important thing to consider is the attitude of the college accepting your generic application. Even some Common Application schools haven’t signed on to the holistic philosophy (though the vast majority have).

If, after looking through a school’s admissions material, you feel confident they’ll view a generic application the same as an individual one, then you shouldn’t feel timid about applying with one. Save yourself time on busywork – and spend it honing your essay.

1 Answer

Janice Kirn-Sottilaro Points0
Now from my own perspective, I like the idea of requiring an essay as with the common application. I also believe strongly in the holistic philosophy as well because it allows students to be viewed as a whole person, not just by what appears on paper. According to, at last count, 50 colleges were accepting the UCA but that # continues to grow. My suggestion is to actually contact the colleges you are thinking about and ask if they  prefer one application over the other. If not, then ask yourself if you believe that the essay and recommendations (neither required of the UCA) are essential to your packet or do you believe that your transcript will do the trick? Good Luck!

Ready to discuss your child’s college goals?
Get Started for Free ❯❯


SpanOne helps students get into top colleges by working one-on-one with an experienced college admissions counselor.

Our college counselors help families navigate the complex and stressful process of college planning and applications. Many of them are former admissions staff members and educational professionals from the top colleges. They are the best at what they do.

Our college counselors are located in cities across the country, including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington DC.

Ready to discuss your child’s college goals?
Contact Us ❯❯ or Call Us at (800) 878-9438

Get Connected

Have Questions?
   Contact Us ❯❯

Call Us Now!
   (800) 878-9438