Planning on applying to college? Luckily for you, the college application process is no longer as tedious or as time-consuming as it was years ago. Back then, almost every single college had their own individual college application. In other words, students had to fill out multiple types of college applications. Nowadays, most universities have streamlined the application process by using universal applications. However, this improvement does not detract from the many types of college applications that still exist. Choosing which college application system to apply with is still a crucial part of your process. Knowing the different types of college applications and their characteristics can significantly improve your application journey!

Also College-Essential: The Ultimate College Application Checklist

The burden of choosing which application system to use largely falls on you. We’re here to help you make an informed decision. We’ll be discussing some of the most common types of college applications in this essential guide.

The Types of College Applications

Although most universities have opted-in to streamlining the college application process for prospective students, not every college accepts each type of application. Depending upon the number of universities you are planning to apply to, you may encounter more than one type of application. If you have some colleges in mind already, it will help you narrow down your choice of system.

Moreover, plenty of universities give their applicants multiple options they may use to apply with. Sometimes, it really is up to which application suits your needs best. Let’s figure out which type that may be now.

The Common Application

In 1975, the Common Application was the first viable solution to streamlining the college application process. By filling out one application form, a student could apply to any number of the member universities. Obviously, this was much more convenient than completing an individual application for each university.

As of September 2019, 879 member universities accept the Common Application. Yes, this means that you could complete one application online, click on all 879 universities, and apply to all of them in one shot. However, with such a large population of member universities, the application needs to be comprehensive enough to suit each school’s needs. As a result, there are several added components to the application. The number of components depends on the school you are applying to. These components could be optional supplemental questions to answer or school-specific essays or tasks.

If you choose to apply with the Common Application, you will need to be prepared to fill out the following sections:

  • Personal Information
  • Common App Essay
  • High School Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Extracurricular Activities List
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Supplements

If you need guidance on the Common Application Essay, take a look at our guide on Writing the Best Common App Essay.

Coalition for College Application

The Coalition Application is a relatively new option. As a result, only a 140 universities accept this application. However, every member university of the Coalition Application are meant to have high graduating rates and debt-free graduates. The Coalition Application also grants fee waivers to eligible low-income students, allowing them to apply to as many universities as they please without paying application fees.

Structure-wise, the Coalition Application is similar to the Common Application. Components of the Coalition Application include high school transcripts, essay questions, extracurriculars, and test scores. The application can be completed online.

If your financial situation is impacting the number of colleges you apply to, this type of college application may be a smart option for you. Although it does not cater to the large number of universities that the Common Application does, its specific requirements for member universities can help you research colleges that may be more affordable than others.

The Universal Application

To be frank, the Universal Application is not very universally used. Most universities who offer the Universal Application as an option also offer either the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or both. This means that there are only around 50 member universities that exclusively use this application. While this application may benefit your particular situation, it may be more efficient for you to choose the aforementioned application systems.

In terms of the application format, the Universal Application continues to follow the trend of the other application systems we discussed.

System-Specific Applications

In particular cases, some state schools may follow a singular system to consolidate the application process for prospective college students. The structure and components on these types of college applications will be similar to the Common Application and Coalition Application. However, they will also ask for system-specific information to ensure a holistic view of each applicant.

The most prominent example of this type of college application is the University of California system or the UC system. This system does not accept any other application. It only supports its UC application but will help you apply to all of its universities simultaneously.

If you are interested in applying to a University of California, take a look at on our guide on Tackling the UC Personal Insight Questions.

Most state school systems do accept one of the streamlined applications but they may be partial to a specific type. Make sure to check with the admissions office of the respective universities.

Individual Applications

Of course, there are still some colleges that prefer to keep an application unique to their school. Fret not! This application will require similar components and you will most probably be able to reuse the essays you write with a few modifications.

Individual applications are generally practiced within private colleges more than public ones. If you have a certain private university in mind, you should definitely look at their application requirements!

How Should You Choose?

Honestly, we have given you the necessary information about each type of college application. At this point, you will need to research the requirements of your target schools. For most students, this will narrow down the choice of application to either a combination of a system-specific application and Common Application or Coalition Application. Moreover, many universities offer both as an option, so it may be a choice of which user-interface you are more comfortable or confident with using.

To be concise, choose the type of college application that fulfills your personal requirements best. Decide on the application system before you start filling out forms. Good luck with applying; we’re looking forward to Decision Day!

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Posted by Irfhana Zakir Hussain

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