The new common application for U.S. colleges and universities was released Thursday, updated to encourage a broader diversity of students to apply to college.
With the common application, students can apply to any of the 517 member colleges by filling out one form. The updated application features an improved online interface, new essay question prompts and a simplified fee-waiver system for students who can’t afford application fees.
The not-for-profit association of member colleges said the development process took two years and required an $8 million dollar investment. Part of the goal was to help first-time applicants move through the process more easily.
“Our focus is to increase college access for all students by helping them navigate a complex process,” Rob Killion, executive director of The Common Application said in a statement.
Carol Barash, founder of Story to College, a college essay consulting company in New York, said the new essay questions are less academically focused and more open-ended to allow students to share their personal stories.
“The common application is specifically designed to expand college access and level the playing field,” Barash said.
Last year, more than 730,000 applicants used the common application.