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So you took the ACT! Now what?

Early applicants to colleges and universities can receive one of three different decisions: accepted, denied, or deferred to the regular pool. Everyone knows it's good to be accepted and disappointing to be denied. But what does a deferral mean? And how should you handle it?

How to make sense of Early Admissions and Early Decisions?

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The College Common Application


The Common Application is, as the name implies, a uniform application that is accepted at over 500 colleges across the country. Some of its benefits and drawbacks are outlined below:

To Students

To Admission Committees

+ Only one essay + Encourage more applicants to apply
+ Time savings + Simplified process also leads to more applicants
+ Send more applications with less effort  – Less individuality among applicants

The Common Application Versus the College’s Own Application

Some colleges and universities offer the option of using the common application or the school’s specific application. Officially, the schools do not have a preference for their own form and essays over the common application. In fact, the colleges must sign a form promising not to give preference to the applicants who complete the school-specific application.

Unofficially, there is indeed a slight bias towards the candidates who complete the school-specific applications and answer the more customized essay questions. In short, this applicant often appears to be more sincere about the college.

Our Advice to You

Consider these questions when you consider a college that accepts both the Common Application and a school-specific application:

  • Are you a “stretch” at this school?

  • Do you really want to attend this school?

  • Do you have the time to spend on this school’s application without jeopardizing your other application deadlines?

  • Are you confident that you can do a better job presenting yourself in the school-specific application than the Common Application?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then use the college-specific application over the Common Application.