You’ve done your research, you’ve created your list, and now it’s time to apply. Just as you have likely realized that there are many different types of schools out there, there’s no lack of application methods. To help keep them all in order, I’ve gone into the different applications you can use, the different ways to apply and the main dates to keep in mind.
Common Application – This is the application portal common to the most number of colleges and universities and likely the one you’ve heard the most about. The CommonApp allows you to fill out all of your personal information once, as well as your personal statement, and send it to your choice of over 700 different colleges. Many schools, like Tufts, will have a supplement to the CommonApp where they’ll ask additional questions ranging from what program you’d like to study to asking for additional essays.
Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success – The next largest partnership between schools to simplify the college application process is the Coalition. The Coalition was created to be a resource for students looking for a college that will support them financially with the end goal of graduating in a reasonable time. To be a Coalition school, the college must graduate over 70% of its students in 6 years and be either 100% full need if private or affordable for in-state students if public. The Coalition has a similar set up to the CommonApp in that it allows you to enter your personal information once for multiple schools, but has the critical difference in that it is meant to be used starting your first year of high school to help not only apply to colleges but keep your college-related thoughts and assignments organized.
QuestBridge – Unlike the previous two which are open to all students, the QuestBridge application is only open to QuestBridge Finalists. Traditionally, QuestBridge Finalists are low-income and/or first-gen students who sit at the top of their class academically but may come from underserved high schools. The QuestBridge application gives students with extenuating family circumstances more space to explain their home environment and be matched with a school that will meet all of their financial need. To read more about how to highlight yourself in your QuestBridge application, I recommend checking out Eddie Pickett’s series on QuestBridge here.
School-Specific – Some schools have specific applications that are unique to them that don’t allow you to share information across multiple schools. For these, you’ll have to fill in all of your information in addition to any other schools you’re applying to and the questions can and likely will vary across all of the schools.
Rolling Admissions – If you’re applying to a school that says it has rolling admissions, that means that your application will be reviewed as soon as it is complete and your decision will come out as soon as it is available. While it can vary across different schools, as a general note it is better to apply to these schools earlier in the process as you will likely hear back sooner.
Set Date Admissions – Unlike rolling, schools that have a set date, such as Tufts, will release their decisions on a single day regardless of when a student applies. For most schools with set deadlines, it will make no difference to your chances whether you get your application in three months before the deadline or three minutes before the deadline (though it may make a difference to your stress level). The exception to this is schools with priority deadlines, where they’ll give priority to students who apply by that date.
Early Action – Early Action is a way to apply early by a set date and hear back by a set date. Early Action is not binding, meaning that if you are admitted to a school Early Action, you are not bound to attend. Unless a school says that they are Single Choice Early Action, you can apply Early Action to as many schools as you’d like. This is a great choice for students who have finished their applications early and want to hear back sooner but aren’t ready to 100% commit to a school just yet.
Early Decision – Early Decision is very similar to Early Action in that you both apply and hear back sooner, however it is binding so you can only apply to one school Early Decision. If you are admitted to a school in ED, you must attend. The only situation in which students can back out of an Early Decision agreement is if their financial aid package comes in and it’s simply not enough for that student and their family to be able to attend. My tip for deciding whether to apply Early Decision is to ask yourself two questions: “If I am admitted to every school on my list, will I attend College X no matter what?” “Will College X provide an affordable choice for me and my family (you can get that information for many schools via the Net Price Calculator)?” If the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes, then go ahead and apply Early Decision! You find out sooner and if you hear back before your other applications are due, you could be saved having to write multiple essays and pay multiple application fees! If you’re not ready to commit, I do not recommend applying ED.
Regular Decision – This is the most popular and frequently used round within college admissions as it gives students the most flexibility. Among schools with set date admissions, Regular Decision tends to have the latest deadline and is not binding giving students more time in March and April to weigh their options and decide which school to enroll in.
Hopefully between my past two posts on types of schools and academic opportunities schools can offer, and Meghan Dangremond’s blog series on financial aid, you now feel more prepared to conquer your college application process. Of course if you stumble upon anything you don’t recognize, let us know! We’re here to help any way we can.