The Common Application and Internet Applications

February 0, 2003

by Howard Greene and Matthew Greene

Finding and filling out college applications has become easier than ever, despite the general rule of thumb that the college admissions process has become overwhelming and highly complex. A few key physical and personal resources are necessary, though, to facilitate students' management of the application process. First, and foremost, is access to a computer and a good internet connection. Preferably, this will be available at home. Many high school guidance offices and local public libraries have also established great public internet access, often with special resources dedicated to college planning. Second are good organizational skills, such as file and time management, written communication tools, and computer-based practices like word processing, e-mailing and book-marking important Web sites. Managing college applications can be a family-oriented process. Parents and students can explore college Web sites together, for instance, and learn about admission requirements, curricular offerings, and tour and interview opportunities. Families can work together to fill out financial aid forms and learn about loans, grants, and scholarships. Most of the application process, however, requires student leadership, direction, and follow-through. Here are some suggestions for making it easier to apply to six to ten colleges, which is generally the number we suggest for students seeking selective college admission:

  1. 1. Use the Common Application: now accepted by about 250 selective private and public colleges and universities, the Common Application is a standardized form that can be filled out on-line (www.commonapp.org) and printed out or e-mailed, or filled out by hand and photocopied. Many colleges require some king of a supplement to the Common Application, which can usually be linked to from the commonapp.org site or found on the colleges' own Web sites.
  2. 2. Find the Web sites for colleges you are interested in, often at the college'sname.edu (www.oberlin.edu, or www.wisconsin.edu, for example). There, you can register by e-mail to receive a full set of application materials. You can also often download and even submit applications electronically far more easily. These Web sites are essential for informing you about important admission requirements, deadlines, programs, and in some cases admission decisions later in the spring.
  3. 3. Consider using some of the other application programs available, some of which are utilized by your high school or particular colleges on a contractual basis. These include those available at www.collegeboard.com, www.collegeview.com, www.review.com, and some of the state public university mentor sites, such as www.coloradomentor.org.
  4. 4. Access the most important financial aid form on-line, at www.fafsa.ed.gov
  5. 5. Work on your essays using a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Apple Works. Then, spell and grammar check your work, proofread it carefully, and cut-and-paste it into one of the computer-based applications or print it out (with your name, social security number, and application question number at the top of each page) to be attached to an application. Make sure to follow the specifications for each application, since some have word or space limitations, or handwriting or typing requirements to which colleges will want you to adhere.
  6. 6. Use a college admissions and application calendar and organizer to track deadlines, requirements, and tasks you have completed. You can add special information, such as essay topics, Early Decision or Early Action deadlines, and financial aid deadlines, to help you organize your college applications.
  7. 7. Stay in touch with colleges and admission officers through letters and e-mails during the year. If you have interview, send a thank-you note or e-mail. If you have a question, send an e-mail to the admission officer responsible for your school or state. Remember that well-organized, neat, correct, complete, and on-time applications will fare best in the admission process, and it is your job as a student to make sure you meet at least these criteria. Oh, and don't forget to be creative and interesting on top of all that!