Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Common Application

According to this New York Times article, there are about 350 college and universities currently using the common application at According to the site's "exclusive users" page, there are 125 institutions that only use this site for applications. The list includes very presigious institutions, but only a handful of publics. The full list is actually 346 members in 45 states plus D.C., and includes 21 publics (including the SUNY system). The site's mission statement reads:
The Common Application is a not-for-profit membership organization that, since its founding over 30 years ago, has been committed to providing reliable services that promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process. We serve students, member institutions, and secondary schools by providing applications – online and in print – that students and school officials may submit to any of our nearly 350 members. Membership is open to colleges and universities that promote access by evaluating students using a holistic selection process.
The student application form is short. You can download it as a .pdf, but they naturally encourage an online application. There is a personal essay required. To apply online, you need to create an account.

Adding your institution to this list puts it in good company. Neither of the institutions I'm working for currently is on there, but I'll get that changed. There are positives and negatives to using this site exclusively for applications. On one hand, it simplifies your life, but on the other you give up some control. For example, if you want to route applicants to information about a particular major, based on their preferences, I don't see how that's possible with the common application. There may be some programming API that allows such things, but it's not obvious from the menus.

The Times article cites comment site College Confidential as a portal into the souls of prospective applicants. Browsing through the comments, it seems like the type of student who uses these two sites is pro-active and ambitious. Just the kind of market many institutions would like to tap into. The number of college-bound sites seems to proliferate daily. It will be interesting to see if one, like facebook, takes over as the premier place to go. The common application seems to have a head start on signing up some of the best schools in the nation, and are no doubt attracting high quality applications. The article is actually about network congestion that panicked some students doing last-minute applications. Not a bad problem to have, as long as it's fixed quickly.

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