The Common Application


- Launched a membership portal and database based on a Salesforce Community®
- Built a scalable solution which provides a platform for expansion and integration
- Offered a state-of-the-art member experience that matched tech-savvy user expectations

"Experience in education infuses the entire Exponent Partners’ project process. At each step of the project, contextual awareness of what we do as an organization is important, because there are lots of times where member colleges do not behave like a business customer. I haven’t needed to spend a lot of time explaining to Exponent Partners why we need what we need." — Tim McGraw, Director of IT Services, The Common Application

Client Description

The Common Application is a not-for-profit membership organization that, since its founding over 35 years ago, has been committed to providing reliable services that promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process. 549 colleges and universities across the world offer the common application for students to apply to their schools.


Limited scalability for its school member portal
The Common Application offered its member schools a legacy portal built on an association management system (AMS). It offered good functionality but lacked scalability – especially since Common App adds 25-50 colleges each year. Tim McGraw, Director of IT Services, foresaw that his organization would need an easily customizable platform that integrated with other systems and offered more out of the box functionality.

Diverse member base
Many different roles in admissions offices interact with the Common Application’s member system. With high turnover in these positions, users are constantly transitioning. Different staff positions also needed unique levels of service from the system.

Complex member communication requirements
Members of the Common Application agree to uphold a policy of Holistic Admissions, and must follow specific requirements to achieve that goal. Communications with admissions staff around this policy are crucial and also particularly tricky because of turnover and multiple contacts. High priority information needs to be disseminated to the right admissions staff in a timely manner.


Exponent Partners created a member portal for the Common Application’s 549 member schools using Salesforce Communities and the Salesforce platform. The core functionality allows schools to manage their membership, including: applying to the Common Application, consenting to their membership agreement, assigning communication preferences, providing custom information to tailor their version of the application, and accessing membership invoices. Drawloop and Salesforce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud integrate with the Community to support communications and invoice creation.


Leading-edge user experience
Exponent Partners employed Salesforce Communities to provide a superior user experience for Common Application members. McGraw says, “I’ve gotten a lot of praise about the look and feel of the site. People judge a website on a whole range of other websites. We’ve made huge improvements in making the member portal more intuitive with respect to our users’ basic expectations about how a web form should function.”

Staff engagement
Staff are able to more fully interact with this membership system. The Common Application is able to assign licenses to all staff thanks to license discounts from the Also, they can log into their Salesforce Community as a member to review and update. They also have better access to aggregate member data reporting.

Platform that supports a long-term roadmap
To offer a seamless end-to-end member experience, McGraw has built a complete roadmap enabled by their partnership with the Salesforce platform and Exponent Partners. New functionality, such as single sign-on with other systems, annual conference registration, and annual kick-off meeting scheduling, is part of an iterative plan to build out a powerful center for member college needs.