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Website Organizes College Application Chaos

FILE - A student at Roosevelt High School fills out a college enrollment application at her school in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2013.

For many students facing college applications, the process can be maddening.

The questions and paperwork are like facing a high wall. Writing the perfect essay is like trying to climb a greased pole. Juggling the numerous dates and deadlines is like keeping many balls in the air at once, and if you drop one, you could kill your chances at admission.

Pick your metaphor: The yearlong process of applying to college can be miserable.

Five higher education groups are trying to make it more simple.

The five started a website - - that provides important dates in the college admissions process, helps with application forms and sources of financial aid, all in one place.

While U.S.-centric, it can help other students, says Laura Owen of American University in Washington, D.C., who directs the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American’s School of Education.

“There is a lot of information provided in a single place,” Owen said. The site offers ideas on how to avoid the kind of problems students often face when preparing for college.

For example, one report examines what is known as “summer melt.” That term describes students who are accepted at a college and pay the required deposit, but don't show up the first day of class.

The report says college administrators had long believed “summer melt” students decided to change schools. But researchers Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman found that many failed to attend classes anywhere that school year. It is likely that many students were unaware of all the paperwork required before starting classes.

The website also has information on how students can choose the best college for them.

On October 4, the site will offer a “virtual college fair” of 100 colleges and universities. The event will give students and parents a chance to pose question to staff and students from the 100 schools.

You can also look up former students at your school who went to a college you would like to attend. They are likely to honestly discuss their experiences, both good and bad.

Owen says she likes that the website provides a “timeline,” one that organizes all steps needed to successfully complete the application process.

American University helped to create the website. The other creators are the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, the American Council on Education, Success Better Make Room, and the National College Access Network.

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