The College Search: Applying For Admission

Many colleges make use of the Common Application, which can be filled out once and then sent to multiple schools.

May 12, 2010 7:35:25 AM PDT
Many colleges and universities make use of what's known as "The Common Application", a simple, online admissions application that can be filled out once, and then sent to multiple schools. The "Common App" includes an essay (required by most colleges), which is also sent to the different schools instantaneously. In theory, this greatly streamlines the application process. The Common App website (linked below) also allows high school counselors and teachers to submit materials like report cards and letters of recommendation electronically, another big time saver. In addition, there are ways to submit Arts and Athletic supplements through this useful website.

HOWEVER, you may find that some colleges on your list either don't participate in the Common App, or require separate supplemental applications that may only be available on the university's website. So, while the Common App is designed to make things easier, the process may still end up being rather arduous, depending on which schools you're considering. It's extremely important to determine each school's application requirements, as stated on their websites. Make sure you're up to speed, not only on the general university requirement, but that of your student's perspective major. Usually, supplemental university applications include additional essays, and opportunities to further flesh-out an applicant's personal history.

Those schools that accept the Common Application will usually give you the option of submitting a mail-in application instead, mainly to accommodate applicants with limited computer access. But admissions officers generally prefer that you go the electronic route. The advantage for them is a more streamlined, seamless process. The advantage for you is that electronic applications are processed much faster, and you'll receive confirmation that all of your materials have arrived and are in order much more quickly.

Do Not Miss Deadlines

While most colleges have similar deadlines for the various categories of admission, some differ. We kept a list of all the colleges our kids were aiming for, along with all deadlines, tacked to a wall in the kitchen, in plain view. I double-checked the information several times. With thousands of kids applying to these places, there is very little incentive for an admissions officer to make an exception for a tardy candidate, so make sure your child stays on top of this.

To that end, my advice is to get your student filling out the basic applications (both Common App and Supplements) early in the process. You can almost always do this online, and a student can save his or her progress if there's information that can't be entered right away. You should also begin requesting Letters of Recommendation from teachers early on in Senior Year. The reason I recommend getting on top of these things quickly is because it clears the table for the far more daunting task of writing essays. Kids will take FOREVER getting their essays finished, especially if they have lots of them to write. My son finished his Common Application essay fairly quickly, only to find that every college on his list ALSO required supplemental essays, sometimes several of them. It took months for him to get around to finishing all of these, and if he hadn't gotten a relatively early start on the basic work, it would've been an even taller order.

Another important thing to consider: the deadlines for these applications and essays usually fall during the autumn semester of senior year, one of the busiest and most important, in terms of earning good grades to submit to prospective colleges. Add in things like the SATs, senior prom, senior class trip, extracurricular activities, jobs, and it's easy to see why staying ahead is a good idea.

MORE COLLEGE SEARCH ARTICLES: Submitting Applications, When Will I Hear If I'm In?, Wait List, When Must I Decide?, What If I Have Trouble Deciding?, Merit Aid, Need-Based Aid, Federal Need-Based Aid, Can I Ask For More Aid?, 529 Savings Accounts, Myths About The Cost, What Is Upromise?, The Best Way To Pay, College Troubles, College Depression, NCAA Athletics, Athletic Scholarships, The College Search Preface

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