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Choosing the “Right” Application

Applying to college is all about making choices: which colleges to apply to, how to present yourself in essays, what families are willing to spend. Students applying to college today also have more choices than ever in college application forms. Because of this, understanding which application forms are available, and the differences between them, is an important step in the application process. Here’s a rundown of the four college application options currently available:

Institutional applications.

Many colleges and universities have developed their own, institutional-specific applications. Some colleges require all applicants to use these proprietary applications, while others allow students to apply using other types of applications, also.

Common Application.

In 1975, a small group of fifteen colleges decided to create a single application that students could use to apply to all of the schools in the group. Today, the number of schools accepting the Common Application has grown to over 730. The Common Application allows students to apply to all of these colleges using a single basic application. However, many of the colleges still ask students to complete additional information that is specific to that individual institution.

Universal College Application.

Twenty-three colleges and universities accept the Universal College Application. Like the Common Application, the Universal College Application is designed to allow students to apply to multiple colleges with a single application. Coalition Application. The Coalition Application, launched in 2016, is the newest group application. Currently, 93 colleges and universities accept the Coalition Application. To qualify to use the Coalition Application, colleges must have a four-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent and be committed to providing enough financial aid to meet the full demonstrated need of all applicants. As with the other multi-college applications, you can apply to all 93 colleges with the same application.

Which application option should you choose? To a great extent, the answer depends on the requirements of the colleges to which you plan to apply. For this reason, your first step should be to carefully review the application instructions for each college on your list. The instructions can be found in the Admissions section of every college’s website.

If you’re applying to a college that only accepts its own institutional application, you obviously must apply using that application. Similarly, some colleges and universities are exclusive users of the Common Application or the Coalition Application. So, if you’re applying to one of those schools, you’ll need to use the proper application.

On the other hand, if a college indicates that it will accept more than one type of application, there’s no need to worry about which application is the “best” one. Colleges that accept different applications will treat all applicants with equal attention, regardless of how they actually apply. So, your admissions chances will be the same, irrespective of the application you choose to use. When you have the choice of one application over another.

Another important consideration, of course, is making the application process as easy as possible for yourself. Although all three of the multi-college applications ask for similar information, your application process will certainly be streamlined if you can fill in that information as few times as possible. So, it is a good idea to make a list of which applications all of the colleges on your list accept, and then choose the multi-college application that allows you to apply to the most colleges with the least amount of work.

What should you do if you can apply to all of the colleges on your list with two or more of the multi-college applications? At that point, you may want to look more closely at some of the key differences between the applications.

One key difference is that the three multi-college applications have slightly different essay prompts. The Common Application and the Coalition Application give applicants up to seven essay questions to respond to. However, the questions are different, although there is some overlap. The Universal College Application has only one essay prompt, which basically allows applicants to write on any topic of their choosing. If you have a choice among two or more of these applications, comparing the essay prompts for each of the applications might help you decide which essays will work best for you.

All three of the multi-college applications also have instructions and videos on their websites that can help you decide which form might be easier for you to use. You can even set up an account for different applications and take a personal tour before deciding which application system you might prefer.

Once you decide which application type you prefer, it’s best to stick with it throughout your application process, unless, of course, a college on your list requires a different application type. This will make it easier for you to manage your application process and keep on top of deadlines. And, when you’re applying to college, keeping things as simple as possible is always a major plus!


To learn more about the College Application process, Call Us at (626)-821-9181 to schedule a free college planning consultation!

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