Wharton said the advent of the Common Application has largely changed the methodology of college applications. Common App is a digital service that allows students to send out their applications en masse to the more than 500 colleges who enroll in the service. Thirteen colleges from Maryland use the Common App, according to its website.
Instructors and administration can upload recommendation letters directly to the Common App website, which is convenient, Wharton said.
An application fee, determined by the individual institutions, is still required.
The advantage of Common App, which Wharton said has become more prominent in the last four years, is that students won't spend excess hours tailoring applications, but also means they need to demonstrate a greater commitment to a school.
"Going to a college visit, going to college fairs, emailing the colleges to ask questions about student groups or majors - those are all ways students can demonstrate interest," Wharton said.
Towson University is enrolled in the Common App and offers a Towson application on its website, said Dave Fedorchak, TU director of University Admissions.
Towson began using the Common App system in 2011, and since then, the number of students applying through Common App significantly dwarfed the number who use the Towson application. Approximately 12,263 freshman applied for the fall 2013 semester using Common App, while only 4,230 students used the Towson application. Of those applications around 8 percent were not completed, according to Fedorchak.
Fedorchak said that admissions officers do not look down on students who use the Common App, which is actually lengthier, but contains similar questions to the Towson application.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County only offers the Common App for student applications, according to Katie Murray, associate director of the UMBC Office of Admissions and Orientation.
UMBC was one of the first state schools to adopt the system - Murray estimated roughly five years ago. She said that the Common App provides a structured system for students and high school representatives to submit the required materials.
UMBC can include specific questions they want answered, which makes the Common App more representative of a student. For instance, a student can select one of five essay questions.
"It's easier for the student," Murray said.
McDaniel is enrolled in Common App, but also offers a McDaniel "smart decision" application - students can fill out either one, and neither is more advantageous for admission, said Cheryl Knauer, director of media relations at McDaniel College. The two applications are similar, she said, though the "smart decision" application is pre-populated with information a student provides McDaniel through correspondence with admissions office representatives.
According to an email from Knauer, McDaniel seeks individuals who have participated in accelerated or honors courses, writing capability and cohesive letters of recommendation.
The best practice for college applications, Wharton said, is to take your time and take advantage of school and personal resources.
"If you need a week to write an essay, make sure you have a week," he said. "Or if you need two weeks, take two weeks. Budget your time wisely."