college essay prompts

by Elyse Krantz, former admissions officer at Barnard College

When it comes to applying to college, there’s one online application that’s nearly synonymous with “college application.” That is, of course, the Common Application—a digital, one-size-fits-all document that allows high school seniors to submit their application to up to 20 colleges in one fell swoop. But we are delighted to turn our attention to another application that can make the college application process a little bit simpler and a whole lot less expensive: the Common Black College Application (CBCA).

Ideal for students who are interested in attending one of the nation’s historic black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the CBCA provides students the opportunity to easily apply to 59 HBCUs—all within a matter of minutes. Yet unlike the Common Application, whose fees range from $0 to $90 per college submission*, the CBCA only charges a single $20 application fee for all of its members. That’s right! Pay once and your application will be made available to all 60+ CBCA member institutions.

Colleges that accept the CBCA are located in 18 states and territories (primarily in the South), and comprised of 26 public and 33 private universities. While many of these schools are best known regionally, a number of them earn high marks from U.S. News and World Report in their ranking of the “best” HBCUs across the country. Some of these standouts include Tuskegee University (TN)—4th,  Claflin University (SC)—9th,  Morgan State University (MD)—13th, Tougaloo College (MS)—14th, and Clark Atlanta University (GA)—15th.

To access the CBCA, visit and click on “Apply Now.” Students are then asked to complete a straightforward questionnaire that asks for the names of their four preferred colleges, basic biographical information, high school background (plus approximate GPA), and intended college major. While students can upload unofficial transcripts (and test scores, if applicable), they are asked to provide contact information for their school counselor, who can submit official information.  There are no required essays as part of the CBCA, although students are encouraged to contact each school they’re interested in to determine if essays or letters of recommendation are required separately.

The CBCA is not nearly as tech-laden as the Common App, nor is its application process as streamlined. If students want any colleges beyond their “top four” to download and process their application, it is recommended that they contact those schools individually and inform them of their interest. Despite these drawbacks, the benefits are clear: students who might otherwise not have applied to college can now easily reach out to a broad range of HBCUs at an incredibly low price. Just bear in mind: if you’re curious about applying to Spelman, Howard, or Morehouse—three of the most well-known HBCUs in the country—you’ll have to use the Common Application, as they don’t accept the CBCA!

* Students who meet certain low-income eligibility guidelines can request a fee waiver to apply to Common Application colleges for free.

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Written by Elyse Krantz
Elyse Krantz is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Elyse received her BA in linguistics from Dartmouth College and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining College Coach, Elyse worked as an admissions officer at Barnard College and Bennington College. Visit our website to learn more about Elyse Krantz.