When my generation was applying to college, we filled out a straightforward application, wrote an essay, mailed it off and then waited anxiously by the mailbox for that tell-tale fat envelope that signaled acceptance. Well, those days are gone. High school seniors today are very often overwhelmed navigating all the components involved in simply completing the applications. I work with so many great students who have impressive accomplishments to present, but aren’t really sure how to pull it all together.
To avoid this confusion and very often the subsequent panic, it is important for students to break the process down into steps and to create a timeline for themselves to stay ahead of deadlines. The U.S. Department of Education tallies more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the country, and there are many different ways to apply to these schools: Common App, Coalition App, Universal App, school site applications, etc. Even schools that use a general application like the Common or Coalition may only pull certain parts of that application and most have school-specific supplements as well. No wonder this is confusing for so many students today!
Understanding the Basics:
Common Application: The Common Application is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 800 member colleges and universities in 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, and many European countries . https://www.commonapp.org/
Coalition Application: The Coalition Application is a college application platform that is currently accepted by over 140 schools. The Coalition Application launched in 2016 with the goal of making the college application process more manageable for students from under-represented groups (The University of Florida has been the largest user of the Coalition. This fall, UF will also be accepting the Common App for the first time) . http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/
Universal Application: The Universal College Application is a newer option that’s currently accepted by 44 colleges and universities. Three Ivy League colleges accept this application: Harvard, Cornell, and Princeton . https://www.universalcollegeapp.com/
SSAR: SSAR is a self-reported student academic record that lists all courses and associated grades that have been attempted, or will be attempted, for high school and/or college credit. Since accuracy is critical, students should have a copy of their high school transcript available to use as a reference when creating the SSAR
College Application Resume: A resume is simply a summary of the student’s high school “career.” It will include the same information that will be requested on most college applications: test scores, GPA, honors, activities, etc., but presented in a clear snapshot form preferably not longer than one page
Essay Word Limit: This sounds straightforward but can actually become confusing during the process when applying to multiple schools. The Common App essay word limit is 650, and The Coalition App word limit is 500-550 – BUT, many schools that use these application essay prompts have different school-specific word/character limits
When I start working with a new student, we look at initial school choices and the way they accept applications. We then breakdown a realistic timeline of priorities and tasks with the various school application deadlines. The very best strategy is to begin the process as soon as possible to avoid stress and panic as deadlines approach. High school seniors have been working very hard for a very long time, and it is important for them to enjoy this last year of high school. By staying calm and organized through the college application process, they can absolutely submit very thorough applications in a timely manner while still enjoying all the celebrations that come along with finally being a SENIOR!
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