The Application Process

Students should begin applying to colleges and universities during their senior year in high school.

While each institution has their own application process, students can always expect to submit their personal information and academic history such as GPAs and ACT/SAT test scores. Depending on the review process, students may need to complete other components like writing prompts. 

Moreover, all institutions will have an admissions application deadline. Students must identify early and regular decision deadlines to apply on time.

Non-Holistic vs. Holistic Review

There are two categories in which most admissions applications fall into: non-holistic review and holistic review applications.

Institutions with a non-holistic review process focus on students’ grades and test scores on the ACT/SAT. If the student meets the requirements, they are admitted. 

Institutions with a holistic review process place greater emphasis on a student’s four years in high school and what they have accomplished.  When it comes to the holistic review process, students can highlight their academic achievements, passions, talents, and other details that make them unique.

Holistic applications review:

  • Rigorous academic coursework
  • Test scores such as ACT/SAT and AP courses
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, and coaches
  • Essays and short answer responses 
  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Talents or passions
  • Special circumstances such as disabilities, illnesses, and family/financial situations

Platforms for Admissions Applications

Students may apply directly to an institution or via an application platform if the institution is a member.  

Platforms for admissions applications allow students to apply to more than one institution at a time. The most popular platform is known as the Common App which has close to 1,000 participating institutions.

Other platforms are based on state systems of higher education such as the UC System that governs the public universities in California or the State University of New York System.  

Some platforms are part of a special program like QuestBridge that offers a full-ride scholarship when students match with an institution that is a partner. 

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