Completing College Applications
Many students find applying to college to be an intimidating subject, but it doesn’t have to be. Actually applying- the act of filling out the applications- can be a relatively easy thing, provided that you’ve done the required steps beforehand. Students should first identify what colleges that they want to apply to, and how many. A good number to apply to is about six, although students in recent years are applying to more, so it’s not unusual to apply to eight to twelve schools for some students. Other issues that students should consider before completing college applications are the majors that the school offers, it’s size, and financial costs (which usually means talking with their parents). Once these key factors are considered and a list of colleges made, students can now get down to the business of completing applications.
In general, there are two types of applications:
College-specific applications are exactly what they sound like: They are applications that are designed by a specific college to be used by students who wish to apply for entry there. Since each college designs their own application, these can vary in length and information that they ask for. You’ll have to visit the website for the school that you’re interested in to find their specific application. Many schools will give students the option to apply with a paper application or an electronic application, while some schools have converted completely to electronic applications. In recent years I’ve noticed a couple of trends in many school-specific applications. First, they’ve become shorter. Colleges seem to be streamlining the application process to make it easier for students, and there is one student that I’m currently working with that actually got an email from a school with the application already started for her. A second way that some colleges are making it easier for students to apply is that many have removed the essay portion of the application. There are a few schools that I’ve worked with for years that had an essay section, and when I looked this year, it was gone. Not having to write the dreaded “college essay” that many students have always feared may be a surprise to some. College-specific applications are very common, especially for state schools across the U.S.
The Common Application
A second type of application is something called the “Common Application.” Like it’s counterpart, it’s just like it sounds: An application that is common to many schools in the sense that that they all accept it. While some of these colleges may have their own specific application, they will also accept the common application. The colleges that accept this application are listed as “Member Colleges” at the Common Application website, and include some small non-profit colleges as well as well known schools like Rice, Amherst, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Students should check the list of member colleges to see if schools they want to apply to use the common application, since part of it’s convenience is that students complete the application once and then it can be considered by all schools who are members. The actual application itself is long, and does require that students write an essay, but they can pick the question they want to answer, which can be a plus. However, there is a downside to this- a student can’t really tailor an essay to a specific school. Students can only write one essay, and all the member schools will read that it. Another downside to the common application is that it’s not just an application, it’s an entire packet of forms, complete with reports for a student’s Senior year. In addition to the common application, some member schools require the student to fill out their own specific supplement. That is, students who use the common application will usually have a second portion to complete for each school that they apply to. Students should go to the website of a school that they want to apply to and search “common application supplement” to find the extra forms that they need to complete.
Some students completing college applications may find that certain colleges have made it much more easy than it has been in the past to apply. For others, they’ll find they have a more traditional college application process to go through. Either way, students shouldn’t be afraid of the college application process. They should identify the school they want to apply to, find out what type of application they need to complete, make sure they fill out all the needed forms and supplements, then follow up with the admissions department of each school to make sure their application was received and is complete.
Jeffrey Ludovici, M.A., is a national-level higher education consultant based in Pittsburgh. He has worked with students, families, colleges, and other professionals for more than 10 years. He specializes in understanding why students can end up doing poorly in college, as well as what can be done to address the issues.