A Guide to College Website Madness



By Juliana Scannelli ('23)


Seniors, are you sure that you are checking everything off your checklist? Have you completed everything on Common App? Coalition? Have you completed your Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR)? Have you gone through every college website to make sure that you have completed everything they are asking of you? Have you asked for letters of recommendation and your transcript through Naviance? Ordered your SAT or ACT scores from CollegeBoard?


Why are there so many websites in order to apply to one college?


The thought was that every website used would have a purpose and that some websites would bundle some requirements into one to make it simpler for candidates to apply to a college.


Guidance Counselor Mr. Alexander Dingwall said, “Look at it like this: your checklist gets so large and when you have so many things, it feels like there's a lot, but some of it is designed to ease your burden.”


There are a lot of websites with different purposes. As mentioned before, there are application websites, academic record websites, SAT and ACT websites, and letter of recommendation websites all of which require a certain level of attention to ensure that everything required of students is filled out.


This article will be a simple guide of what each most popular used website is and its intended purpose in the application process.


Common App is used by many, including over 900 universities. Its purpose is to complete one “common” application that can be directly sent to the college(s) of preference. Instead of visiting each university’s website and having to track down each application, most colleges accept Common App. Students then fill out their applications with whatever information is requested by the respective college. Fortunately, the website also includes a variety of prompts about which to write a personal essay but students should be sure to look out for certain colleges that might require a unique prompt.


Coalition has very similar, if not the same, qualities as Common App. The only difference is that Coalition is used by fewer schools and is offered to underrepresented groups, including low-income, under-resourced, or first-generation students. It all depends on what college students are applying to and what they decide works best for them. If colleges mention that they use both Coalition and Common App, it does not really matter which one students use.


According to BestColleges.org, “Colleges often offer more than one way to cater to the unique needs of applicants.”


Even though these two platforms are the most popular to use, there are several other application sites that some colleges might require or include.


However, some colleges, including Rutgers, ask that applicants apply using the school’s website instead of using other application servers.


Some colleges also require students to fill out a Self-Reported Academic Record or SRAR. As stated in the name, the purpose of this website is to allow students to manually input their own transcript instead of using an official school transcript. The official website and various school websites recommend students use any available unofficial transcript to accurately say which classes were taken and grades received. Some colleges that follow this are: Rutgers (all campuses), Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson University, and many more. Prospective students can check this website for all of the colleges that do require it. Luckily, students only need to fill out the transcript once and then can send it out to multiple colleges, similar to the common app.


Senior Khushi Rana said, “I filled the SRAR out for Rutgers and it was a bit stressful because I had to go back and forth between my transcript and the SRAR to make sure that everything was right. It feels a little bit redundant because a few of the colleges I’m applying to are also going to receive my official transcript.”


College Board has similar applications as Naviance with the addition of hosting an individual’s PSAT, SAT, and any AP test scores. Unfortunately, the website does not automatically send out test scores. students or guardians must pay to have them sent out to the colleges. In recent events, the website clarifies that sending out test scores could take two to six weeks, so the earlier students buy them the better. Another option would be to remain test-optional which mitigates the need to use this as it has similar attributes to Naviance.


ACT.org only holds students’ ACT scores and is moreso for testing rather than for researching colleges. There are several tabs to help students study for their ACT(s) but the website stops there in terms of helping with anything college-related.


Naviance is one website that, along with Common App, might be the most important and helpful for seniors. Not only is it a great tool for students to research colleges and occupations, they can also take personality tests as well as match colleges with themselves based on wants and necessities.


Naviance is also important for guidance counselors.


As Mr. Dingwall put it, “Common App is your platform to connect the colleges, Naviance is our platform to connect with colleges. You can use it as a platform to connect with colleges too but it's not through an application service it's more like a research and preparation platform. Matching Common App with Naviance will help us and allow us to easily send all of your school documents, school profile, transcript, letters of recommendation, and anything else that we might add through Naviance.”


Naviance does allow documents to be sent in; however, students must request for their transcripts to be sent in addition to any letter or recommendations that they wish to have written. Both request tabs will be located under the College title and then the Apply to College subtitle that appears on the drop-down menu. From there, students can choose who they want to write their letter of recommendation(s) and request school documents.


Senior Arushi Kashyap said, “During the actual application process, I felt very lost and confused with everything I was doing. I constantly wondered to myself if I was forgetting anything that I hadn't known about, such as deadlines to request transcripts, recommendations, and other academic information. I thought that after I submitted my applications, I would feel less tense. However, I find myself checking my college portals every day in hopes to get a decision already.”


Another resource that students can visit if they are feeling lost is Google Classroom. Every year, SPS makes a Google Classroom only for the seniors with an informational checklist as well as informational videos showing how to navigate some of the websites listed above. Check it out if there is still some apprehension about the whole application process. Rising seniors can start preparing a checklist for the items needed to be completed in their senior year now and start researching areas of interest.


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