College applications have come a long way from their old-school paper days — there's no more filling out a paper form and sealing it in an envelope. Instead, you'll likely be submitting electronically, which makes sense, since many schools, including those on your best-fit list, will be asking similar questions. You should keep a list of commonly asked questions and your answers saved to your computer so you don't have to rewrite the same thing over and over again. But you should also consider the following methods, which can save you even more time!
The Common Application is an online system you can use to submit your information to multiple schools, only needing to fill out similar questions once. With over 800 schools that participate (like Brown and Florida State University), the Common App is the most, well, common method of sending your most generic information — your address, GPA, extracurriculars, etc. — to your prospective colleges.
Not only does this method save you a lot of time, the Common App also has a dashboard that helps track important deadlines and certain documents, such as your letters of recommendation. Of course, even if you use an application form like this, it's important to note which schools have unique requirements for application. These can include:
- Varying numbers of recommendation letters
- SAT Subject Test minimums
- School-specific forms or essays
Another useful thing about the Common Application? There's an accompanying smartphone app called onTrack that lets you stay on top of your application deadlines and progress on the go. Having access to a checklist or calendar wherever you are will reduce a lot of stress from this whole process.
Given how much there is to keep track of, even your best efforts to stay on top of it all may leave you feeling overwhelmed. The Coalition Application is a tool that's focused on reducing that stress, giving you the means to stay organized while applying to colleges.
With over 140 participating schools, the Coalition has a more specific goal of making college a reality for all students, regardless of their financial status. To do that, they offer application fee waivers to qualifying students. They'll ask you a few questions, including:
- Do you participate in a TRIO program?
- Do you receive free or reduced lunch in school?
- Do you qualify for fee waivers from the ACT, College Board and/or NACAC?
If the answer is “yes" to any of those (or any of the other questions they may ask), you qualify! With the Coalition Application, you could be well on your way to saying goodbye to application fees to schools like Columbia, University of Michigan and Stanford.
Just like the Common App, the Coalition gives you additional tools to help streamline your process:
- Locker – Unlimited storage for important documents, photos or videos you'll need for your applications.
- Collaboration Space – A virtual place for you to seek insight and input from counselors, teachers and family members in terms of your college lists, essays or overall applications.
- MyCoalition Counselor – Resources including checklists, printable guides and other articles.
If you're going to take advantage of either of these application services, always double-check if the schools on your list actually participate. (Some schools accept both!) While the number of member schools for each is large, some schools will require you to complete their college-specific applications.
For more specifics on the admission process overall, check out our book College Admission 101, where I tackle the most common questions (and some you might not have thought of!) to give you an advantage on getting into your dream school.