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5 Easy Ways to Apply to Lots of Colleges at Once

When you begin filling out college applications, a great way to save time is by using a college application platform.

With college application platforms, you can fill out just one application and send it to many schools. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at three major college application platforms, as well as a few other applications that are accepted by multiple schools.

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Common Application

The Common Application, or Common App, is accepted by over 700 colleges and universities. It’s the most widely used college application platform.

Notably, all eight Ivy League schools accept the Common App. The application is accepted by universities in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 19 countries. These include Canada, China, France, Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

How to Use It

      • Create a Common Application account.  At this point, you’ll be asked to enter general information like your name, birthday, and contact information.
      • Add your schools. You can add a maximum of 20 schools to your “My Colleges” list. This list conveniently features each school’s deadlines, application fees, required tests, and teacher recommendations, and more. You’ll also see which schools have additional writing supplements or short-answer questions.
      • Add additional information. You’ll need to input your high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and some information about your parents (like their educational history and employers). Have your transcript and standardized test scores in front of you to ensure accuracy. Some schools may require more information than others.
      • Write your essays. The Common Application has a personal essay with seven prompts to choose from. Although this essay may not be required by every college on your list, you can elect to submit it anyway. At this point, you can also write supplemental information required by specific colleges. (This information will only be visible to the college who requested it when you submit the Common App).
      • Choose your recommenders. On the Common App, you’re asked to list teachers/counselors and their email addresses. The app then sends the recommendation form to your teachers. Be sure to discuss this with the teachers in advance and ask if they’re comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you. Give your recommenders two weeks (or more) to work on the letter.
      • Submit! After carefully reviewing your application (and getting feedback from trusted sources), you’re ready to submit. When you submit, you’ll also be asked to pay application fees. If this represents a financial hardship for your family, you can request a fee waiver through the Common App.

What to Know About the Essay

There are currently seven prompts to choose from for the Common Application personal essay. Your essay must be between 250-650 words. In brief, the topic options are:

      • Meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent
      • Lessons learned from a challenge, setback, or failure
      • A time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea
      • A problem you have solved or would like to solve (ethical dilemma, intellectual challenge, or research query)
      • An accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth
      • A captivating topic, idea, or concept that you find fascinating
      • A topic of your choice

See also: 5 College Essay Topics You Should Never, Ever Write About

Coalition Application

The Coalition Application is accepted by more than 140 member schools. It provides college tools and collaboration spaces for students to connect with teachers, parents, and/or counselors.

Students have access to an online storage system, or “locker” to save videos, portfolios, essays, awards, and more. These shared files can then be shared with a mentor. Mentors can provide comments and feedback on these items, and students may choose to share these files with schools as part of their application.

How to Use It

      • Create a Coalition Application account. Students can create an account as early as freshman year. Provide basic information.
      • Add your schools. You can apply to any of the 140 member schools using this application.
      • Add files to your locker. This is an excellent place to store important information that you’ll need as you fill out your college applications.
      • Choose a mentor. The mentor should be a trusted, knowledgeable adult who’s willing to provide helpful feedback throughout your college application journey.
      • Include additional information and write your essay(s).
      • Submit! You can apply for a fee waiver through the Coalition App if needed. If you participate in a TRIO program or a free and reduced lunch program, you can qualify for this waiver. You’re also eligible if you qualify for fee waivers from the College Board, the ACT, or the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

What to Know About the Essay

The Coalition Application has five essay prompts for students to choose from. This essay may not be required by all the schools you’re interested in. The Coalition App has no set word limit, but some schools may have their own requirements. For schools that have no word limit, the Coalition App recommends a length of 500-550 words. In brief, the essay topics are:

      • An experience from your life that either demonstrates your character or helped shape it
      • A meaningful contribution you’ve made to others, in which the greater good was your focus
      • A time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged
      • The hardest and best part of being a teenager now
      • A topic of your choice

Universal College Application

The Universal College Application is a newer option that’s currently accepted by 44 colleges and universities. Three Ivy League colleges accept this application: Harvard, Cornell, and Princeton.

Although the Universal College App isn’t as widely accepted as others, it does offer several benefits, including:

      • A fast interface with an auto-save feature
      • The ability to edit your essay after submitting (if you catch any errors)
      • Both an Arts and Athletics supplement, allowing you to showcase your talents
      • The ability to link to online content you’ve produced, such as newspaper articles or film projects

And since the Universal College App has fewer users, you’ll get a much faster response if you need any technical assistance.

How to Use It

      • Create a Universal College Application account. Complete your basic information.
      • Make a list of the colleges you’re interested in. Only colleges that accept the Universal College Application will show up. At this point, you’ll be able to see the forms and supplements required by each school.
      • Choose a mentor. Your mentor can’t see what you’ve written or provide feedback/comments. However, they can monitor your progress and ensure you’re on track to complete applications ahead of deadline.
      • Provide additional information and write your essay(s).
      • Submit! Remember that at this point you’ll need to pay application fees. You can apply for a fee waiver if needed.

What to Know About the Essay

The Universal College Application’s personal statement has a 650-word limit. The prompt reads:

“Please write an essay that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life-changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event.”

Basically, you can write about any topic that showcases your critical thinking and communication skills.

You’ll also need to reply in 100-150 words to a fairly standard college application question:

“Tell us about one of your extracurricular, volunteer, or employment activities.”

These major college application platforms aren’t the only time-savers available. Depending on what schools you’re interested, the options below are also helpful.

My UC Application

You can apply to all nine undergraduate University of California campuses with the My UC Application. These schools are:

You must pay a separate application fee for each school you apply to (unless you qualify for a fee waiver), and each school reviews your application independently.


The ApplyTexas application allows you to apply to any Texas public university, as well as some private and community colleges. You can also apply for scholarships at participating schools. The ApplyTexas essays differ for each school, but there is one extended prompt that is common to every school that accepts this application. It reads:

“What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.”

ApplyTexas was created by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the colleges and universities represented on the site. It aims to offer a centralized means for both Texas and non-Texas students to apply to the many postsecondary institutions available in Texas.

The Bottom Line

College application platforms are a great way to streamline the college application process. However, it’s important to note that some schools don’t participate in any of these platforms. Notably, Georgetown and MIT require applicants to complete their own individual applications.

Before mapping out your college application strategy, check on each school on your list and note whether they have their own application and/or which college application platforms they accept (if any). Some schools accept applications from multiple platforms.

Based on the requirements of the schools on your list, you can decide which college application platform is right for you. Good luck!

Find colleges that accept the Common App here

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.