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Help your students break down the application process

Once students have selected which colleges to apply to, they have to do the actual applying. Help guide your students through the process, step by step.

It's important that your students understand all the elements of the application process. This includes timelines and the actual items they will have to submit. Much of the necessary information originates from other sources (such as transcripts and personal recommendations), so students should initiate those requests first. Use the College Application Checklist to get started.

Applying to open-access colleges

Open-access colleges, including most community colleges, are typically two-year programs that are supported by local taxes. They have a public mandate to provide educational opportunities for all qualified students in a particular region or state. The admission policies are straightforward — applicants who meet the basic requirements (e.g., grades, class rank, test scores) are admitted.

Make sure your students recognize that their application must show that they have met all entrance requirements. If any requirements have not been met, have them contact the college and talk to the admission officers.

Applying to traditional colleges

Many traditional four-year colleges make admission decisions based on a specific dimension of success, such as test scores and grades. Other colleges create a blueprint of the incoming class as a whole, expressed in terms of academic qualifications, personal characteristics and geographic and ethnic diversity. Applicants are evaluated against the blueprint to determine what each can contribute to the big picture.

Your students need to closely follow all application instructions and present a complete picture of their skills in each area. Stress the importance of any requested essays — they may be the deciding factor. It is imperative that your students demonstrate both how they can succeed at the selected college and how they can add to the campus community.

Taking advantage of the Coalition, Common, and Universal Applications

The Coalition, Common, and Universal applications are examples of services that provide standardized college applications that let students apply to multiple colleges with a single application. Instead of filling out eight different applications, they can simply fill out one and submit it to each college.

The Coalition Application, created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, is accepted by more than 90 institutions. The coalition’s platform offers students their own online “locker” — a private, secure space to store materials throughout high school that they might want to share with colleges.

The Common Application is a standardized application used by nearly 700 colleges. Each year, nearly a million students use the Common Application to submit over 4 million applications.

The Universal College Application is accepted by more than 30 colleges and universities.

Make sure your students know that they may need to submit additional or separate documents to some colleges. They also still need to pay individual application fees for each college.

Get more information to share with your students about applying to college. You'll find articles on narrowing down lists of colleges, getting organized, completing applications elements and writing better essays.