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Gear up for the 2022 Fall college application — Things you must know

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

The arrival of August came with the official opening of the Common App and UC application systems. You know what that means - the 2022 Fall college application season has finally begun!

As the summer break draws to a close, new 12th graders will face a lot of tough challenges: picking the right schools, boosting school GPA, writing tons of application essays and asking for recommendations letters. And if you’re planning to apply Early Decision/Early Action, the deadlines are merely three months away.

Before throwing yourself into the busy preparation for college application, there are certain things you need to be familiar with. For starters, how well do you know about the three major application systems and this year’s new changes? What are the differences between the different admission plans (EA/ED/REA/RD, etc.)? Today, Thinktown will walk you through the college prep essentials.

Application Systems

After confirming your list of target schools, you should start looking up their corresponding application systems. For undergraduate admissions, the most common systems are Common App, CAAS, Universal College and the University of California Application. Some schools have their own independent systems, so you need to thoroughly research each school on your list.

1. Common Application

Applicable Schools:

950+, including 37 newly added ones this year

Essay Requirements:

Choose 1 prompt out of 7 and write between 250 and 650 words. A new prompt was added this year while several others were adjusted slightly. The optional prompt on COVID-19 is still available this year. It asks students to describe the impact of the pandemic on their academic and personal lives so that the schools would have a better understanding of their experiences.


10 extracurriculars are allowed in total. Now students can put their Position and Organization separately. A total of 50 characters are allowed for Position, while 100 characters are allowed for Organization. For each activity, no more than 150 characters are allowed. Up to 5 honors and awards are allowed.


Some schools require students to self-report their 9-11th year grades.


  1. System registration (as student)

  2. Lookup and add schools (up to 20)

  3. The main forms have seven parts: Profile/Family/Education/Testing/Activities/Writing/Courses & Grades

  4. My College forms: Questions/Recommenders and FERPA/Review and Submit

2. UC Application

Applicable Schools:

All nine schools in the University of California system

UC Berkeley

UC Los Angeles

UC Davis

UC Santa Barbara

UC Irvine

UC Riverside

UC Santa Cruz

UC San Diego

UC Merced

Essay Requirements:

Choose 4 prompts out of 8. Essays should all be under 350 words. Only one application is required for all UC schools, but application fees and application reviews are administered separately.


20 activities and awards. 350 characters are allowed for describing each activity. 250 characters allowed for introducing your award criteria and past work/volunteering experiences.


Self-report, but no transcript submission or mailing required until after admission. This year, the UC system is continuing its “test-optional” or “test-blind” policy. No standardized test scores required means that ACT/SAT scores are optional and would only be used for reference.


  1. Registration

  2. Forms, 8 parts: About Your / Campuses & Majors / Academic History / Test Scores / Activities & Awards / Scholarships & Programs / Personal Insight


Applicable Schools:

153 schools, among which the University of Florida, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Maryland only accept CAAS applications.

Essay Requirements:

Choose 1 prompt out of 5. Between 300 to 400 words. In addition to the forms, this system also includes a Virtual College Locker, enabling applicants to share their personal growth and development throughout the years, and they can also allow people who trust to offer guidance and assistance.


Up to 8 allowed. 255 characters are allowed for describing each activity.


  1. 1. Application: Personal Information / Contact Information / Citizenship Information / High School Information / 9th-11th Grade Coursework / 12th Grade Coursework / College Information / Subject Test / Honors & Distinctions / Extracurricular Activities

  2. Virtual College Locker: Storing materials that might be useful during the application process, allowing applicants to constantly update various forms of content reflecting their personal growth.

  3. Collaboration Space: A platform for students, teachers, or even admissions officers to communicate with each other. This could help students choose schools, select application materials, and answer questions.

Application Rounds

U.S. colleges have many different types of admission plans and principles, all of which are essential knowledge that students and families should equip themselves with. With their own target school list in mind, students need to plan their application strategy and timing accordingly. Now let’s take a look at the different admission plans and requirements.

Early Decision

ED is exclusive and binding, meaning that if a student is admitted, they must choose to attend that university/college. Only one ED school is allowed for a single round, but other EA schools are allowed.

Results: 1. Admitted; 2. Declined; 3. Deferred (Application will enter the “regular” round).

Some schools also have ED2, which is equally exclusive and constraining.

Early Action

EA is not exclusive nor binding, meaning that students could apply to multiple EA schools and can be combined with ED. Students do not have to attend if they are admitted.

Results: 1. Admitted; 2. Declined; 3. Deferred.

Restrictive Early Action

REA is restrictive but not binding.

The restrictions come in two types:

  1. If a student chooses to go with a school’s Restrictive or Single Choice EA program, they cannot apply to other schools’ ED programs or other private schools’ EA programs, but they are allowed to apply to other public schools' non-restrictive EA programs.

  2. If a student chooses to go with a school’s Restrictive EA program, they cannot apply to other schools’ ED programs, but they are allowed to apply to other schools’ EA programs.

Students do not have to attend if they are admitted.

Results: 1. Admitted; 2. Declined; 3. Deferred.

Regular Decision

Multiple applications are allowed. Up to 20 schools are allowed in the Common App. RD results usually come around April 1st.

Results: 1. Admitted; 2. Declined; 3. Waitlisted.

Rolling Admission

The earlier a student submits their application, the more likely they will get a spot.

Results: 1. Admitted; 2. Declined.


  • Early and Regular Rounds differ in timelines.

  • Some universities only have one round, such as the UCs and the University of Washington. Students need to pay special attention to these situations.

  • All schools only allow one application each year, no matter if it's ED, EA, or RD.

College application is a challenging and rewarding journey, one where you will learn something new about yourself. At Thinktown, we provide holistic and personalized educational consulting services that not only help you find the path to a dream college but also lead you to realize your true potential. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us for a free consultation!

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