College application


United States

A college application is part of the competitive college admissions system. Admissions departments usually require students to complete an application for admission that generally consists of academic records, personal essays (as well as samples of high school work), letters of recommendation, and a list of extracurricular activities. Some schools require the SAT or ACT, while others make it optional. Deadlines for admission applications are established and published by each college or university.

Most college bound students receive application assistance and advice from their high school guidance counselor. Students who are transferring from a community college to a four-year college obtain guidance from their college counselor.

Recently, aided by marketing firms, colleges have begun sending out "fast-track" applications. These applications typically waive the application fee, don't require essays, and assured an admittance decision within a shortened time-frame. Critics warn that these types of applications are misleading, because they give the impression that the student is pre-approved to be admitted and may not explore other colleges because this easy option is provided to them. Fast-track applications can be called “Advantage Application,” "Candidate’s Choice Application," and "Distinctive Candidate Application." [1]

United Kingdom

Almost all British universities are members of UCAS, a clearing house for undergraduate admissions. Applicants submit a single application for up to 5 courses at different universities. There is a maximum limit of 4 choices for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses.

The application also includes current and expected qualifications, employment, criminal history, a personal statement, and a reference (which generally includes predicted grades if the applicant is still in education).

Additional forms are required for application to Oxbridge. One can only apply to a particular college at Oxford or Cambridge in a single year. Many Oxbridge applicants are assessed through academic interviews and sometimes further testing.

"Gaming" the college application process

In 2006, the Boston Globe reported that business schools were concerned about a growing problem with applications prepared with the help of consultants. The consultants, for fees of $50 to $3000, promise to increase an applicant's chances of acceptance by coaching or assisting with the writing of applications. One consultant was quoted as saying "The schools refuse to admit [it] but the fact is, if you know the schools, there's a real formula..." The consultant went on to say that admissions officers at Harvard look for applicants' leadership experience and ability to work through others, Stanford is keen on personal revelations, family dynamics, and identity politics, while Wharton rewards applicants who tell admissions committees in personal terms why Wharton—and not the other schools—is the perfect fit for them.

The Globe characterized admissions officials as "rankled" by such statements, and director of MBA admissions at Wharton indicate that coaching can work against an applicant: "Sometimes you read an essay and you lose a sense of who the individual is because the essay is overpolished." Harvard has responded by requiring all applicants to sign a pledge attesting that their application is "my own, honest statement," and requiring applicants to give permission to Harvard to contact all persons named in the application for verification purposes. The article says that the three business schools recently began using private investigators to verify the work experience listed in all their candidates' applications.


  1. ^ Steinberg, Jacques. "Colleges Market Easy, No-Fee Sell to Applicants." The New York Times.

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