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Ready, set, apply!

WSU campus
WSU campus
Cathy McMeekan

When the Common Application went live on August 1st, hundreds of rising high school seniors started their college application process in earnest. The Universal College Application was already open for students to create their college applications over the summer, but with only about 45 colleges participating in the Universal Application many students have been waiting for the Common Application which boasts over 550 college members. According to the Common App website, last year students submitted 3.45 million applications via their site. What is the benefit of using either application? Students fill out one application, including essay, which is accepted by multiple colleges versus filling out individual applications for each college on a student’s application list.

It is important to know that when completing either the Universal App or Common App there may be only one main application to fill out, however there could be additional forms or essays needed for any given college. Last year the “stealth” supplemental essays were the bane of many students using the Common App when they didn’t realize they had to complete additional essays until later in the application process. This year the problem has been addressed slightly by the Common App either rolling most of those supplemental questions into the college question section or indicating a supplement is required under the writing section on the applicant’s dashboard. However, there are still supplements that will appear based on responses to questions in the college question section, so make sure that section is completed in order to see all supplemental questions that pertain to your application.

Another big part of most of the college applications are the test scores, either the SAT or ACT, and in some cases the SAT Subject tests. Sometimes students think that filling out their college application and reporting their scores is enough, but colleges want the test scores sent to them directly from the testing agency. For those students who are test-phobic or prefer not to submit test scores, there are hundreds of colleges that are “test optional,” meaning they don’t require standardized test scores for admission. The Fair Test website keeps an up-to-date list of those colleges not requiring scores for admission.

The high school supporting documents are also critical to a student’s college admission application. Each high school is different in the way they require students to request transcripts and recommendation forms. As a high school senior, if you don’t know your school’s preferred method for requesting these items check out your school website or contact your school counselor or registrar. The Common Application and Universal application, as well as colleges’ individual applications, will have instructions for having teachers and counselors submit your school documents as well as list how many recommendations are required. Be sure to submit your requests well in advance of any application deadlines.

Finally, don’t forget to sign your application and submit the application fee, otherwise your application will not be considered “complete” by the college. Once your applications are submitted you can sit back and enjoy your senior year of high school!