The college application process should be pretty easy, just submit one application at one date and see if you get accepted or not, right? If only.
The process consists of various separate applications. Want to apply to a community college, a California State school, University of California, and an out of state school (or a private school in California)? You will need four separate applications for that.
California has its own community college application portal called CCCApply, where you input all your student profile and interests at community college. This is one of the more simple applications (and the only free one) but makes the process more repetitive as, if you are applying to the four different types of colleges, you will have to input all the same information four times.
The application opens October 1st for Freshman and closes August 12th, which is the widest application timeframe of the four applications.
Many of these community colleges, like Saddleback and Irvine Valley, offer promise programs which pay for the first two years of college (everything: classes, books, registration fees, etc.), after which you can get your associate’s degree and then finish up your last two years of college wherever you would like (our local community colleges are partnered with the University of California to allow seamless transferring to all campuses besides UCSD, LA, and Berkeley).
This is a great option if a student does not want to pay for housing, wants to save money on their college expenses, or is still figuring out what profession they would like to major in.
California State Universities (CSUs)
The CSU application is (as the name entails) used by all state schools, from San Diego State to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (23 total), and is open from October 1st to November 30th.
This application, like CCCApply, requires you to input your academic course load, but costs $70 for each college you apply to.
These Cal States also offer a promise program although it is only available to low income students, while the community college promise program is open to everyone.
CSUs offer far more options for affordable 4-year schools and an easier application process when compared to UCs.
The University of California (UC) Applications
The University of California Application (Aug. 1st to Nov. 30th) allows students to apply for eight prestigious undergraduate schools (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, UCI, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced) through one portal, with a fee of $70 per school you apply to.
The application requires you to do the same as the community college and CSU app, but in addition you have to add activities you did during high school, awards (you can submit up to 20 activities or awards), and answer four ‘personal insight questions.’ For these personal insight questions you are given eight prompts to choose from and you pick four from them, it is recommended that you write around 350 words (that is the max) for each question.
After personal insight questions you do not have to answer any more written questions and are ready to submit your application. You do not need to take any standardized tests (other than AP tests if you want college credit) for this application, in fact UC schools do not look at any SAT or ACT test scores even if you try to send it to them, they will ignore them.
This is a fantastic option for all California residents as you are able to go to some of the best universities in the United States for extremely inexpensive prices (comparative to other schools in their caliber).
Out of State or Private California Schools
Most out of state schools and private California schools (over 1,000 colleges nationally) use something called the Common Application (or CommonApp for short), for this application you choose one of the seven prompts the Common App provides and write a max 650 word essay ‘answering’ it (it is usually not advised to directly answer them, they are more just questions to give you ideas for what to write).
In addition to the essay you also have to fill out an activities page (similar to the UC application’s activities section).
Out of state schools that do not use this application either use a different widely used application format (usually the Coalition application) or their own app (State Universities of New York have something similar to Cal States and MIT has their own application).
These applications range from free to $90 (they are commonly around $70).
These colleges sometimes also ask for supplemental essays, these commonly consist of questions along the lines of “Why do you want to go to [insert college here]?” or “Why are you interested in the major you chose?” or even just a question about what your favorite book or movie is. Colleges like to ask these questions to get to know you better and see if you are a right fit for their college.
Whatever colleges you are looking at just remember to do your research and make sure that you would love to go there. Whatever happens though, whatever college you want to go to, it will work out.