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Preparing for the 3 Most Popular College Application Portals

Summer is almost here, and that means it’s time for students to decide what schools they will be applying to and to start preparing for college applications! Once students finalize their list, they should research what application portal(s) they’ll need to apply through. Juggling multiple portals and filling them out accurately and strategically can be very difficult—that’s why B2A’s expert college admissions counselors are here to help! 

While some schools use more than one application portal, they may prefer a certain portal for submissions. For example, UT Austin accepts both Common Application and ApplyTexas, but UT Austin prefers the Common App. Other schools have their own unique application portal, including Georgetown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Whatever schools you are considering applying to, now is a good time to start creating accounts for these application portals so you can familiarize yourself with the requirements for each! Below is some basic information to help you get started! 

Common App 

The Common Application Portal is the most commonly used portal; over 1,000 schools across the US utilize it. Common App allows students to apply to up to twenty different schools. In the image below, you’ll see the navigation menu in the portal, including the Dashboard and the Common App, where students fill out academic, demographic, and extracurricular information that is sent to all of their schools.

Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the Common App is the dreaded Personal Statement, which asks students to write an essay of up to 650 words in answer to one of seven provided prompts.  There is also a space where students can include Additional Information and an optional essay related to how COVID-19 affected their education.  In the Activities section, students may list up to ten activities and five academic honors & awards.

Students should be strategic about which activities and honors/awards they decide to list here.

Students will have the opportunity to answer questions specific to each of their schools (including supplemental essays) by clicking the “My Colleges” tab.

University of California Application 

The UC Application is different from the Common App in that you can apply to all nine University of California campuses through one application.

There is no Personal Statement for the UC Application. Instead, students answer four of eight provided Personal Insight Questions in 350 words. Students also have the space to list up to twenty activities and awards that can fall into six different categories: 1) Awards and Honors, 2) Educational Preparation Programs, 3) Extracurricular Activities, 4) Other Coursework, 5) Volunteering/Community Service, and 6) Work Experience.

If you have been very active with your extracurriculars throughout high school, then the UC application gives you the perfect opportunity to highlight all of what you have been doing. The UC schools are also test-blind, meaning they do not accept or consider standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT, so the UCs can be a great option for students with lower test scores. 

MIT Application 

MIT has its own unique application portal that encourages students to be direct and selective. Unlike the Common App, students do not write a Personal Statement. Instead, students have the opportunity to write three essays of up to 225 words and one 100-word essay describing their area of academic interest.

Additionally, students have a limited number of activities they may submit. Last year, students were limited to listing four activities and encouraged to choose only their most meaningful. It should be noted that there is a separate space for students to add their employment history, including summer jobs and internships.

Another important component of MIT’s application you can start preparing for is the optional portfolio. Students may submit a research or creative portfolio showcasing their achievements. Please note that these portfolios need to be submitted by the corresponding application deadline (i.e., Early Action or Regular Decision). 

This may seem like A LOT, but don’t worry, you don’t have to tackle these application portals alone! If you need help applying to your colleges this summer, consider signing up for B2A’s Gateway Program, where you will be assisted with applications for FIVE schools. Our trained B2A counselors can assist you with filling in your activity descriptions to create a unique theme, brainstorm essay topics to highlight your best attributes, and offer suggestions for your artistic or research portfolios. Contact us today so we can help you navigate these portals and guide you through the college admissions process.


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