Applying made easy.

The complexity of applying to independent schools is a barrier for many. Let families know your school supports them by accepting the Standard Application Online (SAO). Accepted at over 400 independent schools, the SAO simplifies the process and saves families time by streamlining every application step.

The SAO makes receiving applications easy for schools, too! A free resource for EMA members, the SAO integrates with the industry’s leading enrollment management solutions, enabling SAO applications to appear seamlessly in one system alongside the school’s native submissions.

The Benefits of a Common K–12 Application

Through the Standard Application Online, families save time by compiling their information, essays, transcripts, and recommendations once and submitting them to any school that accepts the SAO. In turn, schools enjoy the following benefits.

Increased Applications

Schools that go all-in on SAO can see first-year application growth as high as 20%.

Ease of Use

As a cloud-based application, the SAO operates in real-time and is available to schools and families anywhere with an internet connection.

Simple Setup

You can customize application components and immediately receive submitted applications and pre-application inquiries.

An icon of a cloud with a gear in front of it and an orange to yellow gradient.

Seamless Data Integration

The SAO’s partnership with leading enrollment management system providers allows for seamless integration with existing school databases.

Superior User Support

EMA operates a full-time customer service center to support families and provides training and instructions to support EMA member schools.

Expanded Access

EMA’s Community-Based Organization (CBO) program combines the SAO and the application fee waiver process to provide students and access organizations with a simple, one-stop option.

577,536+ SAO applications submitted—and counting!

It's time to champion transformational education journeys. Let’s do it together.


Standard application. Remarkable results.


Free to Members

As a free, member-exclusive service, the SAO boosts membership ROI and works seamlessly with other EMA enrollment tools such as the SSAT and Character Skills Snapshot for reporting results.



Standardization of forms, recommendations, and essays simplifies the application process, but the SAO is also flexible, supporting school-specific supplemental forms, student body cohorts, and admission event dates.


Enrollment Funnel

Through, EMA’s resource site for families, new candidates from around the world are discovering and applying to independent schools that accept the SAO. 


Data-Rich Dashboards

Perfect for board reports, easily track enrollment trends with previous-year and peer-school comparisons. See a breakdown of applicants from your school’s website and EMA referrals, and monitor the overlap report for competitive insights.


Application Fees

Customize and collect your school’s application fee, charged to families in one sum payment with EMA’s nominal SAO processing fee.


Parent Appreciation

Parents will thank you for accepting the SAO. Displaying the SAO badge on your school’s website strongly indicates that the school cares about the parent experience.

See what admission professionals say about the Standard Application Online.

"At a time when we are trying to reduce barriers, create access, and alleviate unnecessary stress on families, the value of the SAO has never been more evident."

Quentin McDowell
Quentin McDowell
Head of School
Mercersburg Academy (PA)

“The Standard Application Online is a game-changer. It gets us the application pieces we need in a more streamlined fashion, we can customize certain components for our different divisions, and there’s seamless processing with our backend enrollment management system."

Ginny Bachman
Ginny Bachman
Director of Admission & Financial Aid
St. Luke’s School (CT)

Schools Benefiting From the SAO

Tabor Academy logoSalisbury School logoTaft logoSolebury School logoMercersberg Academy logo

Featured SAO Resources

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