Applying to College: The Process


The CommonApp allows easy access to multiple college applications in one place.

Sharon Sun, Photojournalist

“What colleges are you applying to? Are you doing Early Decision?” These questions rarely go unasked as senior students start settling into the new school year. Applying for college is the big first step towards the next stages of life, so today we’ll be covering the long process and also some important terms to know.

Typically, most colleges accept applications through the CommonApp platform. The CommonApp makes it possible to easily apply to and submit needed application materials in one website to many popular colleges around the nation. However, keep in mind that the popular University of California (UC) schools do not utilize the CommonApp. Rather, they use their own application platform for all applications to any UC school. 

Let’s begin with CommonApp. The first step is to create an account on the website and select an option to enroll as a “first-year student” or a “transfer student.” This step is important as first-year students and transfer students have different applications to fill out. Being high school students applying to attend college after graduation, Yorba Linda High seniors should select “First year student.” Transfer students are students who are already attending college and seek to enter a different institution.

Within the CommonApp, it is exceedingly easy to begin a college application. On the toolbar, select “College Search” and enter in a college name, then select “Add College.” This action immediately shows the questions, steps, materials, and any supplemental information about the college. 

Notably, the CommonApp platform has a section titled “Common App” that is sent out to each and every school applied to. This section includes the student’s basic profile, family information, education information, testing information, activities information, and a writing section. The Common App’s Writing Session is one personal essay that is submitted with every CommonApp application. This personal statement is focused solely on the applicant, and there are a number of different prompts to choose from.

Another important material in the college application process is the recommendation letters. Typically, a CommonApp college application will require a counselor recommendation — who submits forms and information to colleges — and at least one teacher recommendation. Having two teacher recommendations is usually the safest route.

It is often best to have teachers who teach core academic subjects and who have had the applicant as a student for at least a full year. Be sure to give teachers notice at least a month in advance to prepare recommendations.

Lastly are the college essays — “supplementary writing materials.” These are often the most intimidating of the application process. However, they help application officers gage more about the applicant and an applicant’s interest and ambitions to attend a certain college. It helps application officers learn more about a student away from the decimal numbers of the grade point average. Mrs. St. Amant (Staff), the AP English Literature here on campus, helps high school seniors with their college application essays every year. “The biggest mistake [seniors] make in their essays is just repeating what’s already been said on the application,” she says. “For example, don’t talk about four years in ASB. Talk about a specific instance in ASB that really revealed something about you or changed you in some way.”

Most applications to private colleges are available easily through CommonApp. However, UC applications require usage of a different website. Their uniqueness, though, lies in the fact that a student can apply to up to nine UC campuses with just one UC application. 

Further, there still remain schools that don’t use CommonApp. Georgetown University, for example, utilizes its own application portal and requires a fee to even create an account and view the application in itself. 

Regardless of the application process, college is certainly a huge step towards the future. As winter fast approaches, Yorba Linda High will no doubt be excited to receive a wave of acceptance letters for our very own seniors.