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College Applications

Each college has its own application process and you have to pay attention to the details. You can save time by using the Common Application for those schools that accept it. The process can be confusing. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. And remember, the deadlines are real.


  • How many colleges should I apply to?

    There is no exact number of colleges a person should apply to. 8 – 15 schools is the common range. Make sure the list is “balanced”, meaning it includes schools that would be difficult for you to get in to, schools where you are very likely to get in, and those in between. They should all be colleges you’d be happy to attend.  Most should feel like good, realistic matches.

  • What is the difference between ED/EA?

    ED and EA are early deadlines that allow a student to also receive an early admissions decision. ED or Early Decision is a binding contract, meaning that you commit to attend the school. EA or Early Action is non-binding. You do not have to tell the school you plan to attend until the May 1st deadline.

  • Should I apply Early Decision?

    ED or Early Decision is only for students who have found that dream school, and should not be used just as an admissions strategy. If you apply ED, you will not have the opportunity to take advantage of NYS Opportunity Programs and you will not be able to compare and contrast different financial aid packages. You might be missing out on much better financial aid offers.

  • What is the Common Application?

    The Common Application is an online application used by 488 colleges around the country. Once completed online or in print, you may send it to any number of participating colleges. Be aware that you may need to submit additional or separate documents to some colleges. You also still need to pay individual application fees for each college.

  • How much does it cost to apply to college?

    Each college sets its own application cost.

    • CUNY charges a flat rate of $65 to apply to up to six of its colleges
    • SUNY charges $50 per application
    • Private school costs vary.

     Fee waivers are available to those who qualify (See next FAQ on fee waivers).

  • How do I get fee waivers to pay for my application?

    Fee waivers are available for those who meet the income guidelines. Talk to your school counselor or get help from a college access program to learn what steps you have to take to receive fee waivers to pay for your applications. Certain fee waivers are given to counselors in limited numbers, so you’ll want to make sure you ask for them early in the fall before you plan to enroll.                                                             

  • What are the parts of the application?

    Different colleges will ask for different parts of the application – but in general, this is what applicants will be asked to submit:

    • Application and Fee
    • Transcript
    • Standardized test scores (ACT/SAT)
    • Essay(s)
    • Recommendations
    • Interview (not required by most schools)
    • Portfolio/Audition (not required by most schools)
  • Who should I ask for recommendations?

    First look at how many recommendations you are required to submit in your applications. Most schools require a recommendation from your counselor, and then recommendations from two teachers. In choosing the teachers, choose teachers who:

    • Speak to your positive qualities
    • Had you later in your high school career. Colleges don’t often want to read a rec from your freshman English teacher, because it doesn’t usually give an accurate picture of where you are now as a student.
    • Pick teachers from different subjects. Ideally, you would get a rec from someone in the humanities and someone in the math/sciences.
    • While you can get additional recommendations from outside involvements (maybe your coach or your boss), make sure you meet the school’s required recommendations with academic teachers.
  • How do I apply for CUNY?

    First, determine to which CUNY schools you plan to apply. Then:

    • Go to
    • Register as an applicant with CUNY
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • After you submit, you will be prompted to pay the $65 application fee; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible) or money order
    • If you currently are a NYC public school student, your transcript will be automatically sent to CUNY. If you attend any other school, you will be asked to submit a transcript. Your application summary package will provide more information  on where/crihow to send in your transcript
    • If you applied to any four year institutions, you will be required to send your SAT scores. You can send them through College Board (College Board code 2950 to send them one score report to all schools), or have your school counselor send in a copy of your score report.
    • While recommendations and an essay are not required, if you submit them, CUNY will evaluate them with the rest of your file.  That can be mailed to the UAPC, with the “additional materials” page of your application summary package.
  • How do I apply for SUNY?

    First, determine to which SUNY schools you are applying. Then:

    • Go to
    • Create an account with SUNY
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • After you submit, you will be prompted to pay $50 for each school you apply to; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible) or money order
    • You can choose to submit your grades via SOAR ( or have your school counselor submit your transcript
    • Four-year institutions will require an additional supplement which can be filled out at; it will include an essay, and provide further information about sending of recommendations
    • Four-year institutions will require you send an official score report of your SATs from College Board.  Each SUNY must receive a separate score report
  • How do I apply with the Common App?

    First, determine which among the colleges you’re applying to accept the Common Application. Then:

    • Go to to register
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • You will be prompted to submit each individual school’s fee; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible), or money order
    • Certain schools may require additional supplements to be filled out
    • Your counselor must send in your transcript and recommendations to each individual school. The counselor can decide to send this information electronically or via mail.
    • Your teacher(s) must send in your recommendation to each individual school.  The teacher can decide to send this electronically or via mail. 
  • Should I even bother applying to colleges I don’t think I can afford?

    Absolutely. Remember that after financial aid packages are determined, most students will pay far less than the "sticker price" listed on the college website. You don’t know if you can afford a college until after you apply and find out how much aid that college will offer you (if you’re accepted). Fill out the FAFSA as early as possible after January 1 to qualify for the most aid. Even if the aid package the college offers is not enough, you have options. Many colleges are willing to work with students they have chosen for admission to ensure that those students can afford to attend.

    To help determine what kind of financial aid a school might be able to offer you, utilize the school’s Net Price Calculator.

  • Should I use an online or a paper application?

    Check with the college to see which is preferred. Most colleges prefer online applications because they are easier to review and process — some even offer a discount in the application fee if you apply online. Applying online can also be more convenient for you — it’s easier to enter information and correct mistakes. Whichever method you choose, be sure to tell your school counselor where you have applied so your school transcript can be sent to the right colleges.

  • Is it OK to use the same material on different applications?

    Definitely. There’s no need to write a brand-new essay or personal statement for each application. Just make sure that you read the question or essay prompt carefully to confirm what you have written responds to it. Also, look out for any mentions you might have made to a specific college.

  • Should I apply to colleges if my admission-test scores or grades are below their published ranges?

    Yes, so long as you balance these “stretch” schools with others where you fit in or exceed the range. The admission scores and grades that colleges show on their websites are averages or ranges — not cutoffs. There are students at every college who scored lower (and higher) than the numbers shown. Remember that colleges consider many factors to get a more complete picture of you. For example, they look at the types of classes you take, your activities, recommendation letters, your essay and your overall character. Colleges are looking for all kinds of students with different talents, abilities and backgrounds. Admission test scores and grades are just two parts of that complete picture.

Recommended Resources

The Common Application

WEBSITE  |  A standardized undergraduate college application form used by 488 institutions, designed to make applying to college easier for students.  Read more  

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