Each year millions of high school students apply to college. By 2020, the number of students enrolled in college is expected to peak at more than 23 million. Notwithstanding, fewer than fifty percent of all students who are accepted to college will graduate within four years, and just over half will ever graduate from college at all.
The college admissions process it time consuming, tedious, and at times, a bit daunting. There are multiple steps, deadlines and choices students must deal with, including standardized tests, application essays, fees and interviews. Applying to college can also be a bit pricy. About a fourth of college applicants apply to seven or more schools – and at $40 an application it can get expensive really fast. While many schools require students to fill out and submit separate applications, through the Common Application (addressed in more detail below), students are able to apply to hundreds of colleges throughout the United States by filling out and submitting just one application online. Once accepted, some colleges may require students to fill out a separate application for a particular department and later another for graduate school.
A few trends in college admissions include a growing number of students in foreign countries seeking to attend American universities, a larger number of college applications in general, students applying through early decision methods, an increased use of waitlists by colleges, and a large increase in the percentage of students who are submitting their college applications online. It's been estimated that over 80% of all college applications are now submited via the Internet.
The college admissions process most often begins in the junior year of high school. A student meets with their high school guidance counselor to discuss their future aspirations and plans, they'll build a list of colleges, attend college fairs, and maybe visit a few college campuses. In addition, during a student's junior year they will complete all standardized testing requirements including the PSAT, SAT and/or ACT. International students my also be required to take one of several English-language proficiency tests such as TOEFL, IELTS or PTE Academic.
Finalizing application plans, writing application essays, and deciding whether to apply early or wait for regular decision, typically takes place during the summer preceding senior year. By a students senior year, they should be familiar with all admissions deadlines, have their teacher recommendations in place, be applying to colleges, and mailing in their transcripts. It's also the time students should be submitting the CSS (in October) and FAFSA forms(in January). Most colleges will have made acceptance decisions by April and students are expected to reply by May.
Even though most college admissions work takes place during a students junior and senior years, most guidance counselors agree it's wise to have a "four-year plan". Don't forget, your grades as a freshman and sophmore count toward your final GPA as a senior and you'll want to develop good study habits and get involved in extracurricular activities as soon as you can.
The Common Application (commonly referred to as "Common App") is, as its name suggests, an undergraduate college application that is shared by a large number of colleges and universities. In all, there 517 colleges and universities from across the United States, District of Columbia, Austria, France, Switzerland, Germany, France and the United Kingdom that use the Common Application. The Common App was not only established as means to allow applications to easily apply to multiple colleges, it was established to encourage a holistic admission approach that assesses both subjective and object factors, including essays, letters for recommendation, test scores, GPA and class rank.
Many universities that use the Common App also require prespective students to complete a "Common App Supplement". The supplemental application is intended to gather basic information, including name, address, date of birth, etc. and does not include any additional question covered on the Common App. All questions asked on the Common App Supplement must not violate the NACAC Statement of Principles and Good Practice.
There are two Common Applications: one for first-year students and one for student's transfering from another higher education institution. Both applications can be completed and submitted to all participating college and universities online.
Topics and Resources
Preparing for college is usually a thrilling time in a young adult's life. However, many young adults find preparing for and entering college to be a major life change that can be very stressful. College preparation usually begins when students taking the ACT or SAT and continues until they start receiving acceptance and denial letters beginning in April of their senior years – but it should being much sooner. The information and resources provided below can be very beneficial during the college admissions and preparation stage and help you get an early start on the college admissions process.
- Admissions Checklist
- College Admissions - A Director's Perspective
- How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?
- What is Rolling Admissions?
- Deferred Admissions Decision
- The Most Common Blunders of College Applicants
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a College or University
- What's a Good Academic Record for College Admissions?
- How Participation in Extracurricular Activities Affects College Admission