When your student gets ready to apply to colleges, the process can be intimidating. After all, it represents a big step forward in their lives.
Not too long ago, every college had its own application. This meant there were hundreds of different types of college applications. Many students found this approach discouraging, largely because it was incredibly tedious and time-consuming.
Now, many colleges have embraced more streamlined processes. While there are still different types of college applications, there aren’t near as many as before. Plus, many schools accept multiple standardized options. This means your student can complete the forms once and submit that same document to most of the schools that catch their interest.
But, deciding which different types of college applications to complete falls partially on the students’ shoulders. And, if your child isn’t aware of what each involves, making that choice is challenging.
To help make that easier, here is a complete guide to the most frequently used options available.
Different Types of College Applications
While the application portion of the college admissions process is much more streamlined, not every school accepts the same application. This means your student may encounter a few while they are applying to colleges.
Additionally, some schools accept several different types of college applications, requiring students to choose one of the available options.
By understanding the nuances of each approach, your student can select the ideal application based on their needs. Here’s an overview of what is available.
The Common Application
Created in 1975, the Common Application (or Common App) was designed to make the college admissions process easier. Students can complete a single application and submit it to any of the member schools, eliminating the need to complete different forms for each college they may want to attend.
Currently, there are about 700 member colleges that accept the Common Application. That means, theoretically, your student could complete a single set of forms and submit them to all of those schools with the click of a button.
To allow the Common Application to stand in for the different types of college applications it replaced, several components were added to the process. This allows the app to be comprehensive, meeting the needs of a large number of colleges in the US.
When your student completes a Common App, here are the sections they will encounter:
- Admissions Essay
- Letters of Recommendation
- Extracurricular Activities List
- Standardized Test Scores
- High School Transcript
- Optional Supplemental Questions
The entire application can be completed online, making it a convenient option for students who wish to apply to multiple member schools.
However, some schools do require additional information along with the Common Application. This means, while the bulk of your student’s application process is handled with this approach, there may be school-specific requirements, like additional essays, that also have to be met.
The Coalition Application
A relatively new option, the Coalition Application is accepted by approximately 140 member colleges. In fact, a few member schools ONLY accept this option, including the University of Washington-Seattle, the University of Maryland-College Park, and the University of Florida.
Like the Common Application, the Coalition Application has set components, including essay questions, high school transcripts, test scores, and more. Additionally, it can be completed online and submitted to any school that accepts it with ease, streamlining the admissions process for students and colleges alike.
One of the reasons the Coalition Application was created was to ensure that technical issues didn’t hinder a student’s ability to apply to college.
For example, in 2017, with less than 48 hours to go before the early application deadlines for many schools, the Common Application crashed. Without different types of college applications being available, some potential applicants could miss critical deadlines. The Coalition Application wants to keep that from happening to anyone.
Like on the Common App, schools may request supplemental information to enhance the student’s applications. Typically, if the college wants something more, this involves extra essays.
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The Universal Application
The Universal College Application isn’t as widely used as the other two. However, it follows the same approach as those listed above.
Typically, most schools that accept the Universal College App also support either the Common or Coalition application as well, if not both.
This means, since there are less than 50 member schools, many students would get more mileage out of their applications by selecting one of the other two different types of college applications listed above.
However, that doesn’t mean this application may not be valuable depending on your student’s situation, just that it might not be an app that they need to use to get into their ideal college.
Some state college and university systems allow students to submit a single application to be considered for any school in the system. For example, the University of California embraces this model, allowing applicants to be considered for any school location using the same application.
However, many of these state colleges also embrace at least one of the standardized options listed above, particularly the Common Application or the Coalition Application. This means most students are best served by using one of those formats to apply across a college system, particularly if they also want to be considered for admission to a school outside of that group.
Different Types of College Applications for Individual Schools
Some schools still embrace unique application processes. This means they will not accept one of the options listed above, instead relying on an app they developed themselves.
Usually, the information being requests mimics any other application. However, your student will need to complete these individually.
A unique college application is more commonly seen with private colleges versus public ones. So, if your student has their eye on a private university, they shouldn’t be surprised if they encounter this requirement.
How to Choose Between the Different Types of College Applications
Before your student starts filling out any applications, it’s wise to explore what each of their target schools requires. In some cases, they may find that all of their preferred colleges use the Common Application or Coalition App, either with or without supplemental essays and other materials.
If that happens, then your student should focus their effort on the option that will get them the most mileage.
However, your child may also want to contact the school to see if the admissions department has a preference. While schools treat all application types the same, that doesn’t mean that is always the case. Since getting into a choice school is so important, it never hurts to ask.
When submitting these applications, keep in mind that seniors should submit scholarship applications through fall semester as well. Many families wait until post-admission season to start looking for money but this means they are missing out on thousands of dollars in deadlines.
While we know it can be tough to balance One thing to keep in mind is that, often times, these admissions essays can be reusable. More specifically, your student can use these essays to apply for scholarships as well, saving time and stress.
If you want to learn more about how to master the scholarship process, including where to find legitimate scholarships your student can apply to, register for our next free training, “6 Steps to Quickly Securing Scholarships” at www.thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinarpst.