In its 2015 State of College Admission, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that online applications made up 94% of all four-year colleges and universities filings for the 2014 admissions cycle. While this may make it easier to apply to the college of your choice, it also requires you to learn how to navigate each school’s chosen application portal.
Identifying the Application for Your College of Choice
One of the leading online admissions consortiums is the Common Application (Common App). This portal boasts a membership of nearly 700 colleges and universities. Over one million students have used Common App to apply to schools. Another portal, the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (Coalition) was created to serve as an affordable connection between interested students and schools. Over 90 public and private institutions participate in the Coalition’s admissions information and application platform.
Many schools maintain their own application forms in print, online, or both. However, these same schools often participate in one of the online forms. Shared admissions portals allow students to input their data on a single website and then use that information to populate applications sent to the colleges of their choice. In addition to a common application and information gathering form, each shared admissions platform provides extensive information about preparing for college and choosing a school.
As you begin to select your schools of choice and apply, you’ll want to be familiar with the format and type of application each college prefers. The time to gather that information is now.
Begin your research by visiting the website of each of the colleges on your list to determine which formats are acceptable. For instance, Indiana University accepts the Common App, Coalition application, or its own Indiana University eApplication. Georgetown, on the other hand, only accepts its own first-year application.
Tips for Getting an Early Start
Once you know which application or applications your chosen schools accept, then it is time to begin gathering details. You won’t be able to file your application online until the late summer. In the meantime, spend your time wisely by collecting as much information as you can. Below are a few tips to get you started:
Format is your friend.
Admissions officers will see thousands of applications during an admissions cycle. To quickly assess each applicant, an admissions officer will look for certain key pieces of information such as SAT scores or GPA. When you use the admissions officer’s preferred format, he or she is going to find that information right where it is expected.
If the school of your choice accepts more than one type of application, contact the admissions office and ask which format they see most often.
Get ready to write.
Once you know which formats are acceptable to the colleges you would like to attend, then it is time to begin learning the details about how to prepare your application in those formats. The Common Application presents students with a selection of seven essay topics.
The topics for the upcoming admissions cycle have been released so now is a good time to start writing. To better prepare yourself, look at the directions for essay submissions from previous years. You might also want to prepare some draft essays on your goals and interests and ask an instructor or advisor to review them.
Gather your data.
Much of the information that you’ll need for your college applications is available to you before your senior year. There’s no need to wait until you are ready to begin entering information online to get your data together. Begin collecting the records, references, and other materials you’ll need to complete your application now. Keep everything together in a folder. Also, scan each of your documents and save it in digital form. Having a digital copy of your data will make it easy for you to locate and protect you from the risk of losing anything!
Don’t forget the extras.
In addition to the information you’ll be asked to submit using a shared application, each school will have its own requirements. Review the information from each school’s website carefully to ensure that you don’t forget anything. It is a good idea to create a list for each school to help you track the requirements. Use the tools available through one of the application portals, project management apps, or spreadsheet to keep yourself organized.
Preparation Brings Peace of Mind
Applying to college can be stressful. You have a lot of decisions to make, and there is a lot of information to be collected. Spreading out the tasks associated with the process can make it less burdensome. You’ll also feel better knowing that you are prepared and in control. So don’t wait for September to roll around before you get started. Take a proactive approach to the college admissions process, and you’ll gain some peace of mind.
Photo credit: UTC Library