Different Types of College Applications

Now that the college application process is done primarily online, students now have opportunities to cast a wider net when it comes to applying to schools. The school information is at the student’s fingertips, providing them with readily available information on the roughly 5300 colleges and universities in just the United States alone.

The most common way students will apply is through the Common Application. The Common Application was created with the intention of having students fill out one application and that information is disseminated to member schools chosen by that student. The Common Application now has over 1,000 member schools, making it, by far, the most commonly used college application (see what I did there?).

A platform that uses a similar streamlined approach to the college application process is called the Coalition Application. This site has about 150 member schools on it that must meet a set of criteria in order to be a part of it: access, affordability and success. It was created with the intention to serve more underrepresented students, yet anyone can create an account to join.

Colleges and universities still use their own sites for students to apply, but many also offer the option to apply through the Common Application and/ or the Coalition Applications. Where it used to be most common to apply directly to the college or university, students seem to gravitate toward these newly popular application platforms because it does allow them to apply to more schools, giving them more choices for higher learning.

Another type of college application students may come across is a shared university system application. This type of application is found primarily within state university school systems, and may not use the other types of applications at all. Examples of this include the University of California Application or Cal State Apply. The applySUNY system does allow a student to also use the Common App, which can be convenient if they are applying to schools outside that school system. The ApplyTexas platform is unique in that the student can apply to both 2- and 4-year Texas institutions.

Finally, a newer platform called QuestBridge has a scholarship-matching service and is geared toward high-achieving students from low-income families. There are about 45 schools that partner with Questbridge, and most are competitive.

So, when you find the right school, be informed on how they are accepting their applications before you start. It will not only allow you to budget your time appropriately, but also give you the opportunity to make sure your best self shines through the application.