By Jasmine Evans
The Common Application has received a lot of hype in recent years as being an innovative way for students to apply to college. However, it has received some criticism for technological issues applicants face in their online portal. Furthermore, there are nearly 4,500 degree-granting institutions of higher education in the U.S. The Common App only applies to 488 of them. There is another option: The Universal College Application.
How does it work?
The Universal College Application (UCA) is one application that you can send to many different schools. You can apply online or download a hard-copy of the application and mail it in.
Which students use it?
Anyone applying to a 4-year college or university can use the Universal College Application. It is not for students applying to community colleges.
What schools does it go to?
What are the components?
Fortunately, the structure of the UCA is pretty straightforward.
- The first page requests basic information about you and your family.
- Then, you describe your academic history--courses you've taken, schools you've attended, and standardized test scores.
- Next, you can list your extracurricular activities and employment information.
- Finally, you write one short (150 word) essay and one long (500 word) essay. The UCA doesn't give specific essay topics, but instead leaves the question open for you.
This application also gives you the option of providing a link to some online content that tells the colleges more about you. It could be an art portfolio, an online video, a newspaper article, or any number of other highlights.
Be advised, some of the schools have supplements to the UCA. This usually means that they require additional essays or recommendations. The UCA website makes it clear which schools have these extra requirements.
When does it come into play?
The UCA is most relevant during the fall application season--usually the fall before the year in which you wish to enroll. For most first-year undergraduates, this means the beginning of your senior year of high school.
Where do I get it?
The UCA is administered by an organization that's independent of any college or university. All their forms are available on the UCA website. Your high school may also have hardcopies.
Why should I use it?
The UCA streamlines the college application process. Rather than juggling many different applications, you can complete everything from a central location. The idea is to make your life easier, which may allow you to apply to more schools. A popular study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that when students have more options for college applications, they are more likely to enroll in a 4-year institution that meets their needs.
In addition, checking out the list of 44 schools that accept the UCA may expose you to different schools, which you otherwise may not have considered or even heard of. This gives you more options when it comes time to submit applications.
Using the Universal College Application: Quick Tips
- Applying to college isn't cheap. But there is help for students from low-income families. The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers fee waivers to qualified applicants. You can fill out their form and submit a request directly to the schools to which you're applying. The forms for application fee waivers and SAT fee waivers are also on the UCA website.
- Looking to apply to a historically black college? EDU, Inc. offers a common application for HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). It's one application that can go to up to 37 schools for just $35. It saves you time and money.
- Not a college senior yet? It's not quite time to start filling out applications, but knowing the format of the UCA can help you. Check out the extracurriculars and employment information page, and start making plans to make that page as awesome as possible when the time comes.