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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

How should I actually apply to college?


Parents and students often ask, "How do I actually apply to college?" The college application process can be stressful and very confusing. After spending months researching and deciding which colleges you want to apply to, it's time to work on your applications! So which is the best application format to utilize? Let's discuss the six available options to clarify things.

Also referred to as "The Common App," this application format easily allows undergraduate students to apply online to any number of its 1,000+ member colleges and universities. After creating an account, the student completes the multi-part main section. After each college is added, separate college-specific questions will be available. Also included in the Common App is the student's 650-word personal statement or essay. The Common App may be edited continuously before submission. Applications are submitted to each individual college and do not have to be submitted all at once.

Another example of a college application based on a "common" series of questions and responses that can be utilized to apply to multiple colleges is The Coalition App, as it is more frequently referred to. With 150+ member institutions, the Coalition App was created in 2016 and was designed to offer some significantly different features from the more popular Common App. The Coalition App aims to get students thinking about college earlier and allows them to add and organize essential documents and accomplishments for submission later. Some consider it more complex and challenging to complete than the Common App, but several schools utilize it as their only means of application.

3) School-Specific Applications

Several colleges still offer a separate application that applies specifically to their institution. Almost all colleges that offer school-specific applications also accept The Common Application or The Coalition App. These colleges typically do not have a preference for which application type a student utilizes to apply. The Common App is your more straightforward and time-effective choice if given the option.

The rarely utilized Universal Application is similar to the Common App but only has a few current participating colleges. As with The Common App, applicants only need to complete this application once and submit it to all participating colleges on the student's list. All colleges that accept the Universal App will also accept the Common App, which is the preferred and much easier option.

If a student only plans to apply to SUNY schools, then The SUNY Application would be the preferable choice over The Common App. If you are applying to a mix of SUNY's and schools outside the SUNY system, utilize the Common App as the more efficient application format.

Created in 2020, this application was designed to streamline the process for students applying to HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Applicants pay a one-time $20 application fee and can apply to any number of the 67 HBCU's who participate.

So what is the best application format to use? For the majority of students, completing and applying to schools using the Common Application is the best option. The format will save time, enhance efficiency, help keep you organized, and allow for a more stress-free college application process. It is often the format that best integrates with your guidance office's software to send your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and school reports.

Remember, each year, the new "application season" opens on August 1st, so plan accordingly and have your required information set to go so you can hit the ground running! Each title above is a link that will take you to that application's website, so feel free to explore!

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