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Private/Independent College & The Common App

Most Regular Admissions deadlines will be somewhere between December 1st through January 15th.  Early Decision and Early Action deadlines may be as early as October 1st.  Please check the admissions page on your college's website for the application deadlines.

Applying to a Private / Independent University 

The application process to a private/independent university and college will vary from school to school.  Application deadlines vary from as early as October 1st to as late as February for some schools.  Most Regular Admissions deadlines will be somewhere between December 1st through January 15th.  Early Decision and Early Action deadlines may be as early as October 1st.  Unlike UC and CSU, students will have to research and apply to each university or college separately.  Many private universities and colleges use the Common Application, which has a college search component.  It is best not to wait until the end of your Junior year to start preparation.  The more information you have upfront about the particular university or college you are applying to, the more concise and complete your application process will be.

Private and Independent universities and colleges differ from the UC and CSU significantly in their application process.  Generally speaking, they will have the same subject requirements as the UC and CSU (A-G Requirements); however, students should check the home website of the college/university in question to be certain.  Check the individual private/independent university or college you are interested in attending if the school requires the ACT Plus Writing or just the ACT; check if the school requires the SAT with Essay or just the SAT.  When in doubt, take the ACT Plus Writing and/or the SAT with Essay.  Check if the schools or your major requires SAT Subject Tests.  Where the UC and CSU systems do not require letters of recommendation, or even transcripts with their applications, private/independent universities will expect the following:

UC "A-G" Subject Requirements (A-G Requirements):

a. History

2 years

b. English

4 years

c. Mathematics

3 years  (4 years recommended)

d. Laboratory Science

2 years  (3 years recommended)

e. Language Other Than English
*or equivalent to the 2nd level of high school instruction

2 years*  (3 years recommended)

f. Visual and Performing Arts

1 year

g. College-Preparatory Elective
(chosen from the subjects listed above or another course approved by the university)

1 year

The Common Application

The Common App is used by over 900 colleges and universities across the country.  Students need to create an account on the Common App website.  Apply online, do not use the paper applications.  

The Common App is broken down into two major components, which are the Central Application and the Supplements. The Central Application will house all your general information that the colleges want (name, address, DOB, academic information, activities & awards, essay, etc.). As part of the process, you will need to invite your counselor (Academic Advisor) and the teacher(s) who will be writing a letter of recommendation - you will need to provide their emails.  Your counselor and teacher(s) will be notified by email to submit the letter of recommendation. Complete the Letter of Recommendation Packet and deliver it to your counselor and teacher(s) 3 weeks before the application deadline.  

Once you have added your colleges to "My Colleges," you will review the additional requirements each college needs, including "Supplements."  Supplements are the specific information that each college needs that is unique to their campus.  Colleges will require you to have additional essays or short answers, Teacher Letter(s) of Recommendation and a Counselor Secondary School Report (SSR).  Please Note: The SSR requires a Counselor Evaluation to be included in the report. Therefore, completing the Letter of Recommendation packet is an important tool in helping the counselors complete this document. Application deadlines for each college may vary so it is your responsibility to keep track of the deadlines.  Application fees will vary by college.  Make sure to print a copy of your Common App.

See the "Common Application Tutorial" below.

** Application Fee Waiver:  In the Profile section of the Common App, you will find the Common App Fee Waiver request. Some colleges may also offer their own application fee waivers that are not tied to financial circumstances.  There are over 350 Common App member colleges with no application fee as well.

Early Action vs. Early Decision vs Regular Admission

Applying Early Decision or Early Action does not increase your chances of being accepted.  If you are not accepted Early Decision or Early Action, your application will be processed and evaluated during the Regular Admissions process.

Please note that Early Action does not pertain to UC or CSU; please see application filing periods for UC/CSU. 

Most Regular Admissions deadlines will be somewhere between December 1st through January 15th.

Early Decision: Early decision is a “binding” admissions program, so it is particularly important to understand how it works and to be absolutely sure that you want to enroll at that college. As with Early Action plans, you submit your application early in the fall and receive an admissions decision in either December or early January. However, if you apply under Early Decision, you promise that you will attend if admitted and that you will also withdraw all applications from other colleges. Additionally, you can only apply to one school using Early Decision. A handful of colleges also restrict Early Decision applicants from applying Early Action anywhere. If you are accepted through Early Decision, you must submit your enrollment deposit within a few weeks of acceptance. You can only be released from an Early Decision admission if the college is unable to meet your demonstrated financial need. An important disadvantage of Early Decision is that you can not compare financial aid packages from other colleges – if the college meets your family’s demonstrated need, you must attend, even if you might have received more money or fewer loans elsewhere.

Early Action: Under this plan, you apply early in the fall (usually by November 1 or 15). The college will tell you its decision early as well, usually by mid-December to mid-January, but you don’t have to decide whether to attend until May 1. This gives you time to compare other admissions and financial aid offers. Most colleges that offer early action plans do not have any restrictions on whether you can apply to other schools under other plans. However, a handful of colleges and universities use what is called Single Choice Early Action. Under Single Choice Early Action, you can only apply early to one school. You can, however, still apply under rolling admissions or regular decision plans.

Rolling Admissions: Under rolling admissions, colleges make and announce admissions decisions as applications come in. You apply and usually receive an admissions decision within two to six weeks from the time you submit your application. If you are applying to a rolling admissions school, it is usually best to get your application in as soon as the school begins accepting applications (for some schools it is as early as October 1), because there are usually fewer admissions spots still open later in the admissions cycle. If you are admitted at a rolling admission school, you do not have to decide whether to attend until May 1

Financial Aid Information

Many private/independent universities and colleges require you to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile to determine your eligibility for their own institution's grants, scholarships, and other financial assistance.

Complete the FAFSA here at  FAFSA.  File your FAFSA between October 1st and March 2.  Check your school's FAFSA deadline as some out-of-state colleges and universities have different FAFSA deadlines than California.

After You Apply

Students who are admitted as fall-term freshmen must submit the "intent to register" by May 1st.

If you are admitted for the fall term, you must have final, official transcripts (high school and/or college) sent to the admissions office.  Check your college/university as to when these transcripts must be postmarked or electronically submitted.  You need to go to the Counseling Office by the last day of school to receive your high school final transcript.

Research Starts Here

  • All Colleges in California
  • AICCU website
  • AICCU Mentor website
    • The CEEB Rim of the World High School Code is 051340. You will need this code for your application.  
    • Obtain an unofficial copy of your high school transcript from the AERIES portal or the Counseling Office to be used to self-report your classes and grades on your application.
    • Students must download all application materials from the home website of the school to which they are applying.
    • Most private/independent universities and colleges WILL require college essays.
    • Most private/independent universities and college WILL require letters of recommendation. Remember, deliver the Letter of Recommendation Packet 3 weeks before the application deadline.
    • Most private/independent universities and colleges WILL require high school transcripts at the time of application. Most will ALSO want mid-year transcript updates after the fall semester grades for Senior year have been posted.
    • Most private/independent universities and colleges WILL require information directly from the Counselors' Office (Academic Advisor).  These reports may be called "Secondary School Reports;" "School Reports;" "Counselor Reports," "Counselor Evaluation," etc.  Students must download these forms from the college website or from the College Application and give them to their Counselor no later than 3 weeks before the deadline.
    • If it is a Common App school, your counselor will include a transcript as part of the Secondary School Report (assuming you have followed the steps and invited them to submit an SSR). The counselor will also submit a Mid-Year Report (includes your transcript) to all those schools you applied to as part of the Common App. The Mid-Year reports require 1st-semester grades and therefore will not be submitted until January. The counselor will NOT automatically send a Final Report. That is your responsibility to request via the Counseling Office when the time comes.
    • As with the UC and CSU, students must arrange to have their ACT and/or SAT exam scores sent to the university directly from ACT (ACT) or from the College Board (College Board/SAT). Take the SAT and/or ACT by December of your senior year.
    • As with UC and CSU, students must arrange to have their AP exam scores sent to the university directly from the College Board (College Board/AP). Many private/independent universities and colleges recommend that students who complete Advanced Placement courses complete the related AP examination to demonstrate subject mastery.
    • Have ready your unofficial copy of your high school transcript from the AERIES portal or the Counseling Office to be used to self-report your classes, grades, and GPA on your application.
    • Have ready your log of extra-curricular activities, community service, and employment.  You will be asked for a description and estimated hours. Have ready your list of awards and honors.  Please note that National Honors Society is considered a "school" honor, not a "national" honor. NHS is also a club activity.