Things to Know Before You Start Your Applications

Holistic Review: Selective Admissions’ Guiding Principle

Most selective colleges evaluate their applicants using a process called holistic review, a process that focuses on the whole applicant, and not just certain parts of the application like GPA or SAT scores. Holistic review means there is not any one single factor that determines whether or not a student will be admitted, and that all aspects of the application are important and will be considered during the review process. As part of this process, you will submit information that gives multiple snapshots of who you are –your academic performance, your personality in and out of the classroom, and an articulation of what you’re looking for in your college experience.

Early Application Programs and Deadline Considerations

You will need to learn the specific application deadlines for every school to which you’re applying. You should plan your application process so you will have enough time to complete all your applications without feeling rushed. Most selective colleges will offer multiple application rounds, which are detailed below:

Early Action: an early application process that allows you to apply early to multiple schools. If you are admitted, you are not required to attend. Students will be admitted, denied, or deferred. If your application is deferred, your application will be reconsidered at later time in the admissions cycle. You do not need to reapply or resubmit your application to be considered.

Early Action Single Choice: an early application process where you may apply early to only one school. If you are admitted, you are not required to attend. Students will be admitted, denied, or deferred.

Early Decision: a binding early application process where you may only apply early to one Early Decision school and are committed to attending if you are admitted. Students will be admitted, denied, or deferred.

Regular Decision: a non-binding process by which you may apply to as many schools as you wish. Applications are usually due around January 1st, decisions are released on pre-determined dates, (often in March and April) and you must decide where you are attending by May 1st. Students who applied through an early program and were deferred will usually be considered during regular decision. Students will be admitted, denied, or placed on the waiting list, if that is offered.

Rolling Admissions: an application process where apply within a broad window of time and receive your admission decision based on when your application is submitted.

If you ultimately decide to attend a college where you have been admitted, you’ll need to commit to one school by May 1st during the application year. Some schools may require an enrollment deposit.

Types of Application Processes

Consortium Applications

Though most colleges are asking for the same types of information, they will ask you to send them that information in different ways, through differently formatted applications. Many selective schools ask students to submit a lot of information through a consortium application, like the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Consortium applications function as a centralized location through which students can submit many different types of information, like a list of extracurricular activities and a personal statement. From that centralized location, the information submitted is then sent out to various colleges that use that consortium application.  Consortium applications are meant to streamline the application process for students applying to multiple schools. It’s important to note that though consortium applications are called “applications,” they do not constitute a complete college application on their own.

In addition to the parts of the consortium application that go to multiple schools, students usually have to submit a supplement that is written specifically for and goes directly to a single college, addressing the question of why you’re applying to that school in particular.  Often the supplement asks you to write to one or more than one specific essay prompts.

You can think of the consortium application part of your college application as your case for why you’re going to be a good college student in general, and you can think of a school-specific supplement as your case for why you’re going to be a great fit at that school in particular. 

Other Types of College Applications

Some schools may ask you to complete an application unique to their school instead of a consortium application plus supplement, or offer you the option of applying through either a consortium application or their unique application. Some public university systems will have an online application system through which you can apply to any of the schools within that system.

However the colleges you pick are asking you to apply, basically all will require that you do so online.

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