+ Digital Ways to Apply to College

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Amy Zipkin has collected new apps for applying to college in the New York Times Education Life supplement this Sunday.

The new systems for applying to college involve software that imports the data for all colleges on a student’s list.  Students still have to complete institution-specific questions or supplements. 

By expanding ways to apply,  these institutions can pull applicants from outside the usual channels.  In addition to filling seats, they will be able to shape more diverse classes. 

Application providers see student money in these offerings, while colleges will pay them approximately $5 for each completed application.

There is good news in these choices, although students will have to pay careful attention as they review them.  Check Web sites to make sure your preferred institutions accept the one you choose.

Depending on your objectives, some may be more appropriate than others.  For example, Xap is best for students staying in-state.  The Common Application works best for selective private institutions. 

All claim that their application gets equal consideration from admissions officers.  The content of the forms is much the same.

Here is Zipkin’s list:

The Common Application 

(http://www.commonapp.org)  This application is more than a form: it’s a non-profit coalition with 414 member colleges and universities.  They promise to review applications holistically, considering factors other than grades and test scores. 

Admissions officers say the application also increases submissions from minorities, who in the process may stumble on colleges they hadn’t previously thought of.

The application is available both online and in a hard-copy version to be picked up in a guidance counselor’s office.  It includes a short personal statement about an extracurricular activity or job.  There is a longer essay on a topic of the applicant’s choosing.

Students are discouraged from customizing applications.  “The organization believes the Common Application should be a set of questions answered a single time for all colleges, including the essay prompt,” says Rob Killon, executive director. 

If a student wants to tell something to a specific college, the application points them to the supplements that selective colleges frequently require of Common app users.

Universal College Application

(http://www.universalcollegeapp.com) The Universal application works with 77 institutions that have contracted with it.  It is a for-profit company.  Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke, among others, overlap with the Common Application.

Not all these colleges require an essay; the software technology makes an essay visible only to colleges that require one or consider it optional.  Universal suggests a maximum of 500 words; the Common App asks for a minimum of 250, meaning more than 500 words could possibly be written.

One benefit of the Universal App, which is available online only: you can link to your Web portfolios, social media page and online newspaper or musical compositions.

Common Black College Application

(http://www.eduinconline.com) Edu.Inc allows students to apply to 35 historically black colleges and university at once and pay $35 for all, instead of the individual fee charged by each institution.  (Howard University alone charges $45.)


(http://www.nationalappcenter.com)  Xap is a major player in admissions, having placed four million applications last year.  The  National Application Center site allows students to apply electronically to about 900 colleges and universities for which Xap has customized online applications.

One section connects to statewide “mentor systems.”  Dozens of states, including North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, as well as the California State University system, are represented. 

The pages are often financed by state education departments, so students can apply electronically to all private and public institutions within most states.  The program imports student information from one college’s application to the next.

Because mentor pages are run by states and not colleges, a Xap affiliation is not always apparent on a college’s site. 

Note: last month, Xap and the New York Times Knowledge Network announced an agreement to jointly promote online courses.


(http://www.embark.com)  Tools for college planning and education can be accessed for about 640 colleges and universities with Embark. 

However, fewer than 20 colleges accept applications electronically via this app.

For the others, Embark’s “auto fill” option tries to ease the burden of sending applications the old-fashioned way: students complete a profile with personal and academic information, then select all the institutions they want to apply to.  The information is automatically filled in.  A PDF file of the application can be downloaded, printed and mailed.


(http://www.superapp.connectedu.net/application/)  This application system is available to about 2500 high schools and districts.   Students can apply to any of 1500 colleges and universities.

When accessed from school, the software imports data (GPA, test scores) from the high school’s information system.  That means 80 percent of an application is completed automatically, with little or no intervention from a guidance counselor.

The idea is to improve access in underserved communities.  According to Eric Gordon, the Cleveland school district’s chief academic officer, the new approach took a burden off his counselors.  “Previously counselors didn’t know what colleges students applied to, and if they didn’t report grades and recommendation in a timely way, the application didn’t get completed.”

The system is also used by Detroit’s school district. 

It’s free to high schools, but colleges pay $5 to $20 per application, depending on volume and documents sent.

The SuperApp became available to individual students at no charge last month, although applicants aren’t able to access their school’s information system and will have to fill in that information manually.

Sole source for this information is Amy Zipkin’s article in the New York times’s Education Life supplement on 11/7/2010.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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