Why Use the SAO?

Why a "Common" Application?

When school applications are confusing and nonstandard in both form and function, we create barriers to educational opportunity. In an era of declining demographics, smart independent schools strive to reduce the hurdles that students and families must clear in their search for a perfect school. Streamlining the application process allows enrollment leaders to do what they do best—focus on making the right match between their school and each applicant. Because when great schools enroll great students, everything is possible.

The Standard Application Online (SAO) is a free service provided by The Enrollment Management Association to member schools, in which students submit their information, essays, transcripts, and recommendations just once, online, to apply to as many of the nearly 500 member schools that accept it as they like.

The SAO is used by small schools (with correspondingly small budgets, that cannot afford to onboard a costly vendor-based online application solution) and large, high-volume schools that value the efficiency afforded by online delivery. In addition, regional groups of schools interested in making the application process less arduous for families have embraced the SAO. Even those schools that require unique applicant information take advantage of the SAO by utilizing its supplemental form functionality.

Student Support

  • Live and recorded webinars
  • Step-by-step instructions (video and PDF)
  • Full-time professional Customer Service Center available via phone, live chat, & email
  • Applicant customization: Students determine school-by-school if they are applying for admission to a day or boarding program, applying for financial aid, and providing legacy information
  • Electronically receive application fee waivers granted by schools

Admission Office Data

  • Fully integrated system with real-time data managed through an Applications Workstation on your Member Access Portal (MAP)
  • Easy integration of applications with your database through The Enrollment Management Association’s robust, gold-standard API (Application Programming Interface) or with .CSV file download
  • SSAT score delivery is integrated into the SAO file when the student indicates a school as a score recipient
  • Built-in fee waiver tool to provide waivers to deserving students
  • Easy accounting reconciliation: The SAO collects the fees - You receive the check! Check rosters easily accessible on the MAP.

School Application

  • Quick and easy application setup: Get up and running in less than 20 minutes!
  • Customize the application—easily add a school-specific supplement!
  • Grade group customization for PK-PG— with appropriate forms and components in each grade level.
  • Flexibility in selecting application components (student essays, parent statements, recommendation forms)
  • Application fee checks issued directly to schools 4 times/year - no more chasing down fees or keeping track of payments!
  • SAO badge to place on your website

Placement Tools

  • Advisor workstation for placement counselors
  • Ability to track and manage applications on behalf of students and families
  • Multiple methods for submitting teacher recommendation forms (online, PDF uploads, or mail to schools)
  • Option to upload an advisor supplement letter/supplement with each student’s application
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