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Independent Colleges

Independent Colleges and Universities

The Association of independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) is a great place to understand the benefits of attending a private college or university instead of a state school.  Each year the publish a guide with easy to see information.  Of course, there are great schools outside of California too!  Many families have questions about these schools.  Here are just a few myths the AICCU works to help students and families understand.

Myth #1: Private schools are too expensive
Reality: Since 2000, tuition costs have increased by 173% at CSU schools and 208% at UCs while AICCU tuition rates have only increased by 90%. Eighty percent (80%) of students at AICCU schools receive Institutional Grants to help pay for tuition. Overall, 86% of students at AICCU schools receive some type of aid.

Myth #2: Private schools are harder to get in to and you have to have very high grades
Reality: Most independent colleges and universities consider a number of factors other than grades. These factors can include: High School coursework, GPA, Entrance Test Scores (ACT/SAT), Essay, Activities/Community Service, Honors & Awards, Letters of Recommendation, Interviews/Auditions, etc.

Myth #3: The student populations aren’t diverse
Reality: AICCU member schools enroll students from every background and ethnicity. Minorities are the majority (57%) across AICCU schools.

Myth #4: It will take me longer to earn my degree
Reality: AICCU member colleges are very proud to have the highest graduation rates; where our students graduate at a rate of 12% higher than the UCs and 23% higher than CSU schools. In addition, class sizes are often smaller at AICCU schools leading to more direct student-faculty interaction, with the average student to faculty ration 12:1.

Application Options

Early Action: In simplest terms, early action is a non-binding action that allows students to apply to colleges early without having to be tied to the school they receive an offer from. Students can also apply to more than one college in the early action round (except for a handful of selective schools).  Deadline: Typically, November 1st or November 15th

Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action: Schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and other selective colleges have what is referred to as restrictive or single-choice early action, where students can only apply to one college in the early round. Students will typically be limited from applying to other private colleges during the EA round.  Deadline: Typically, November 1st

Early Decision: Now early decision is a bit tricky. Unlike early action, early decision is a binding commitment. Students that apply and receive acceptance to one college are obligated to attend that institution and cannot apply in any other round of applications. Students who applied to other colleges before receiving their acceptance will be required to withdraw their applications.  Deadline: Typically, November 1st

Regular Decision: Regular decision allows applicants to apply to as many schools as they choose without any restrictive or binding commitments. Note: students that applied early action may also apply during the regular round.  Deadline: Typically, January 3rd but varies widely and can be rolling

There are pros and cons to applying to each round, but one thing to note is that there is no magic formula for college admissions; every process is unique. Take the time to do your research and find what fits for you!   

-Info courtesy of College Wise

Common Application

The Common Application is a not-for-profit membership organization that, since its founding over 35 years ago, has been committed to providing reliable services that promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process. They serve students, member institutions, and secondary schools by providing applications that students and school officials may submit to any of our over 500 members. 

Using the Common Application allows students to complete one main application that can be used for the majority of independent colleges and universities.

Common App Essay prompts for 2022-2023

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Common Application Play List



Counselor Recommendation

When you apply to a private college or university, a secondary school report and letter of recommendation from your counselor is usually required.  

This packet of information is required by your counselor to complete this process for you.  Please note that this packet is required NO LATER than three weeks before your application is due.  

We want to write a great letter for you and it takes time! 

LOR Request 2022-23.pdf (PDF)

LOR Request 2022-23a.doc (DOC)

Teacher Recommendation

In addition to a letter from your counselor, many application will require an academic recommendation.  Be sure to ask a teacher to complete this for you with plenty of time.  Here are some resources that may help you - always be sure to ask your teacher what they require!

Asking a teacher for a recommendation letter

Handout to help your teacher

Common App tutorial


Click here to Start!

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Essay Prompts Guide

Common App Toolkit Site

Clarification: You can create a Common App account at any time, and your account can rollover from year to year, using the same username and password. Your college list and any questions you answer on the ‘Common App’ tab will rollover next year - when you’re ready to apply - so you can begin answering questions in these seven sections: Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, Writing, and Courses & Grades.