The College Application: An Overview

The Ivy League Prep team is made up of highly successful professionals with a thorough knowledge of the college admissions process. We want to use our expertise to help you craft an outstanding admissions profile and gain admission to your first-choice school. Before starting on the admissions process, you should know how college applications are typically structured.

In this article, we’ll look at the Common Application and then discuss the supplemental application materials required by some colleges.

The Common Application

The Common Application, also known as the Common App, is a standardized college application that is accepted by over 900 colleges. It has been in use since the mid-1970s. The goal of the Common App is to streamline the application process and make it easier for students to apply to multiple schools. If you are applying to several colleges, the Common App will save you time and effort.

Even though the purpose of the Common App is to make the application process more efficient, you should still tailor your applications to each school. This is especially important if you are applying to top-tier schools.

Supplemental Application Materials

In addition to the Common App, many schools also ask for pre-applications or other supplemental application materials. Teacher, counselor, and peer recommendations are usually required.

Other materials, such as art supplements, research paper abstracts, and music recordings may simply help admissions officers better understand your goals, accomplishments, and interests. Each school’s requirements are different, so you’ll need to do some research to find out what each college requires.

Many schools that accept the Common App also provide school-specific application materials, either in the form of a pre-application, additional questions, or additional writing prompts.

If your target college requires a pre-application, this will probably be the first admissions document you’ll need to send. The application fee will typically be due when you file the pre-application. For most other schools, the Common App will be the first document you’ll need to send (along with the application fee).

Biographical Information

At some colleges, the pre-application is the first part of an applicant’s file to be read by the admissions officer. In such cases, the pre-application usually includes fields for biographical information, which the admissions officer uses to create a new file for the applicant.

Prior Contact and Demonstrated Interest

In addition to requesting basic information, a college’s pre-application or additional questions supplement might ask how you learned about the school and whether you have applied previously.

For some top colleges, demonstrated interest shows that an applicant would seriously consider attending if given the opportunity. Contacting a college directly, visiting, attending an event—all of these actions demonstrate interest.

However, not all colleges ascribe importance to demonstrated interest. For many top colleges, including the eight Ivy League schools, Boston College, Stanford University, and the University of Southern California, just applying is enough to show serious interest in the school. Other top colleges, such as Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame, do place some importance on demonstrated interest.


Colleges will usually require you to provide a wealth of information regarding your accomplishments, interests, extracurricular activities, academic records, and more. Additionally, you’ll have to make sure your application grabs the admission officer’s attention as quickly as possible to increase your chances of acceptance.

The application process can certainly seem a bit daunting at times, but don’t worry! Ivy League Prep would be delighted to provide you with personalized, 24/7 guidance. Book an initial consultation today.