Each year, students sit down to submit their applications, only to find out that the schools on their lists all use different application platforms. While most students are familiar with the Common Application, the Coalition Application and school-specific applications, such as the UCA, can cause unnecessary concern in the admissions process.

To help you better understand these platforms, we have mapped out a few key points below:

How are they similar?

Each application platform requires standard information from each student:

  • Demographic data (name, address, parental info)
  • School information (name of high school, current classes)
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores (if applicable)
  • Awards
  • Activities/extracurricular information
  • Recommendations

What makes them different?

Common Application

The Common Application was one of the first application platforms to standardize the admissions process for prospective students, which simplified things—no longer would they have to research each school’s individual requirements. For schools, the Common App provided an easy, reliable source for applications that, by creating a standard for admissions materials, provided access to many more applicants.

When most people think about college admissions, this is the application they are thinking of. It is composed of all the above sections, plus a personal essay. Individual schools also have the opportunity to ask school-specific essay questions, known as supplements. Once all materials have been uploaded, an application is sent directly to the intended college.

Coalition Application

The Coalition Application was born out of the need to provide college access to a greater number of students. It also recognized that the Common App shows a snapshot of who an applicant is, but arguably fails to represent their growth over the years. To account for this, the Coalition Application allows students to create profiles their freshman year of high school and curate their application over the course of their high school career.

The sections are fairly similar to those on the Common App. The main selling point of the Coalition Application is that you get access to it much earlier, which can help reduce some of the pressure many students feel in the fall of their senior year.

University of California Application (UCA)

The UC app deviates from the above platforms the most. While this application includes much of the same data, there is no full-length personal essay. Instead, the UC system asks applicants to respond to four short essay prompts from a list of eight. Altogether, this requires students to write more, and on more varied subjects, than the other major application platforms.

It is also important to note that the UC application has a specific window of submission: the month of November. No application can be submitted outside of that window, and there is no early admissions process.

It may seem like the differences between these platforms are fairly simple. But I urge you to think about the bigger picture! Much of the struggle students face when tackling these applications is not with content, but with execution and management. If your student is applying to schools using many different application platforms, that can mean a lot of repetitive work and more documents that they need to keep track of. Mental fatigue is a huge factor in student success and should be taken seriously, especially when it comes time to submit applications.

The key to managing the many moving pieces of applications on different platforms is effective time management. By starting this process early, and keeping detailed notes of each application’s requirements and which pieces you have completed, you can significantly reduce anxiety!

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