For high school students, the road to college can be a long one. Exploring schools online, taking road trips, and narrowing choices into a short list may all take place before a student even tackles a college application—a process in itself.
[Stay on track with this college admissions to-do list.]
College applications require thought, honesty, and time. But, depending on where you plan to apply, you may be able to trim some of your workload by submitting one application to multiple schools. Keeping in mind that you shouldn't apply to numerous colleges just because you can, here are some time-savers to consider:
1. Common Application: The Common Application is perhaps the most well-known means of streamlining your application process. More than 450 schools, including Smith College, the College of William and Mary, and Case Western Reserve University, currently accept the standard application.
At Meredith College, using the standard application doubles as a way for the school to draw in applicants who may not have heard of Meredith otherwise, says Associate Director of Admissions Megan Greer, and as an attractive route for prospective students.
"It's a one-stop shop," she says. "It's a little less daunting to have that one application, especially when you're dealing with so many different deadlines [and] reminders. It seems to make one piece of the college admissions process a little more manageable."
[Read experts' takes on the pros and cons of the Common Application.]
It's important to keep in mind that while the core application is accepted at all member schools, more than two thirds of participating colleges require supplemental materials. Through the Common App's new mobile site, students can check on their application requirements and statuses on their smartphones.
2. Universal College Application: The Universal Application debuted several years ago and is a standard application now accepted at about 60 schools, including Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and Tulane University. At Tulane, which stopped accepting the Common App in favor of the Universal Application, the standard application is as ingrained in the admissions culture as the university's own materials, according to Director of Undergraduate Admission Faye Tydlaska.
"When we talk about the application process, we always start out by saying there are two ways that you can apply," she says. "It comes down to convenience for the student—it really does not matter to us either way."
Tulane does not require any supplemental materials beyond the Universal College App, though about half of participating schools do.
3. Common Black College Application: For students interested in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), one application—and one fee—can help to expedite the process. For a one-time, $35 application fee, a student's online materials are sent to 35 HBCU schools, including Tuskegee University, Clark Atlanta University, and LeMoyne-Owen College. In order to gauge a student's interest in specific schools, applicants designate a top four selection, though all 35 schools will receive the application materials.
The Common Black College Application benefits both prospective students and admissions offices, according to founder Robert Mason, since it's a way to expose students of any race to a variety of HBCUs across the country that they may not have considered otherwise.
Such was the case for Tekeya Peterson, who hails from Sarasota, Fla. She had a 2.0 GPA in high school, but instead of opting for a local community college she submitted the Common Black College Application at the behest of her high school counselor. After receiving many rejection letters, she ultimately got into one school—Paine College in Augusta, Ga.—where she's now happily settled.
"If it were not for the application, Paine would not have even existed in my mind," says Peterson, now a junior studying mass communications who dreams of starting her own public relations firm. "I didn't even see Paine's name on the application, [but] Paine is everything that I ever needed and more."
4. State programs: Some states offer ways to streamline the application process for students considering multiple schools.
[Find out how staying in your region can save thousands on college tuition.]
For instance, for the first time this year, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have teamed up to offer a standard application for students interested in more than one state option.
"We are a system that has seven state universities and about 30 two-year institutions, [so] a student transferring from a community college would have seven choices if they want to stay in our system," says Mike Lopez, associate vice chancellor of student affairs at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. "In the old system, it used to be that they'd fill in the information, send out the application, and then if they wanted to resubmit to another institution they'd have to go through the same process again."
Now, any student—freshman or transfer from any state—can apply to any of the participating schools for a $20 fee each. The application is accepted at state schools including St. Cloud State University and Winona State University, though schools in the University of Minnesota system do not participate.
A similar program exists in Texas, where any U.S. resident can apply to every state public school, as well as some private colleges, with the ApplyTexas application.
With the tag line, "Explore. Apply. Repeat.," the online portal offers a streamlined version of the college application that, at participating school Schreiner University, is given equal weight as the school's own application.
"I usually just tell [students] that we're very flexible and we don't care," says Janie Groll, Schreiner's assistant director of admissions. "It's entirely their option, but if they are planning on looking at several schools—and I recommend to them that they do—[then] use ApplyTexas."
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