We discuss a universality property of any covariant field theory in space-time expanded around pp-wave backgrounds. According to this property the space-time lagrangian density evaluated on a restricted set of field configurations, called universal sector, turns out to be same around all the pp-waves, even off-shell, with same transverse space and same profiles for the background scalars. In this paper we restrict our discussion to tensorial fields only. In the context of bosonic string theory we consider on-shell pp-waves and argue that universality requires the existence of a universal sector of world-sheet operators whose correlation functions are insensitive to the pp-wave nature of the metric and the background gauge flux. Such results can also be reproduced using the world-sheet conformal field theory. We also study such pp-waves in non-polynomial closed string field theory (CSFT). In particular, we argue that for an off-shell pp-wave ansatz with flat transverse space and dilaton independent of transverse coordinates the field redefinition relating the low energy effective field theory and CSFT with all the massive modes integrated out is at most quadratic in fields. Because of this simplification it is expected that the off-shell pp-waves can be identified on the two sides. Furthermore, given the massless pp-wave field configurations, an iterative method for computing the higher massive modes using the CSFT equations of motion has been discussed. All our bosonic string theory analyses can be generalised to the common Neveu-Schwarz sector of superstrings.