While the pieces of the process are not all easily overcome, you may be able to reduce some of your stress by reviewing the various types of college applications that are commonly found in the United States. Each school ultimately has its own expectations and requirements, but if you are applying to American schools, it is very likely that you will see one or more of the following in your future:
1. The Common Application
The Common Application was developed to standardize the college application process and to simplify it for those students applying to multiple schools. Accepted by more than 600 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, the Common Application first asks for simple demographic information like your name and address. It also asks for general information about your academic history, including courses taken and GPA. Applicants are generally expected to provide a minimum of one recommendation and to complete a minimum of one essay. Keep in mind that the schools to which you are applying may have other expectations, so it is always best to speak with admissions departments before submitting your applications. The Common Application is available online.
2. The Universal College Application
Like the Common Application, the Universal College Application is a platform that can be used to simultaneously apply to multiple schools. In this case, however, the application is accepted by far fewer colleges and universities (i.e. less than 100). The Universal College Application asks students demographic questions, as well as information about their academic, employment, extracurricular, and testing history. As always, verify with your prospective schools that they accept the application and do not require any additional information from you.
3. Institution-specific applications
Although many schools accept the standardized, streamlined applications mentioned above, just as many still rely on their own applications, which are unique to their institution and their programs. With individual, school-specific applications, students are expected to submit multiple supporting documents—like personal statements, test scores, and transcripts—as well as one or more references specifically addressing why the school should accept you into the institution. This must be repeated for every college or university on your short list.
If you are not certain about what the school expects from you, you can likely find this information on its website. In the event that you need additional information or have questions, admissions counselors are usually available to assist prospective students.
4. The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application
As technology becomes more advanced and more widely available, institutions have begun to embrace new models and templates for their application process, like the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application. This model was developed for use beginning in the fall of 2016.
Over the course of their high school careers, students can use the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application to organize the work that they have done into a digital portfolio. When the time comes to submit college applications, students can refer back to their work, choosing the best examples to submit. In addition, because the application is worked on over the course of several years, students have the opportunity to address potential problems early and to get assistance well before deadlines. Keep in mind that this application is still very new and is in limited use.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.