Why Are Schools Switching to the Common App?

February 3rd, 2011 By Eric Pait

Right along with being a part of as many extracurricular activities as possible, and studying to get good grades, most high school seniors find themselves dedicating large amounts of time to filling out a multitude of college applications. A major part of this time-commitment is the mundane task of filling out the same general information on each application – which is where the Common Application comes into play.

The Common App is an application available in both print and electronic forms that needs only be filled out once before being submitted to as many of its member institutions as you desire. According to the Common Applications website, it now has over 400 member institutions representing “the full range of higher education institutions in the US: public and private, large and small, highly selective and modestly selective, and East Coast, West Coast, and every region in between.” This is a result of massive growth within the last decade, averaging 21.5 new members a year since 2000.

With so many schools making the switch, you have to ask, why the Common Application?

Simplicity. From a student perspective, the easier it is to apply to multiple schools, the more likely they are to apply. While this may lead to admissions offices having more work with an ever-increasing number of applications, widening the application pool allows universities to be more selective. Doing this encourages students of wider demographics to apply as well, helping universities diversify their student body.

Maintain individuality. Many colleges and universities pride themselves in their unique applications. Whether it is an unusual essay topic, or answering a series of questions with one- or two-word responses, transitioning to the same general application as hundreds of other institutions may, in theory, impede upon this ability to stand out. Luckily, member institutions can customize a supplement to the Common App, allowing each college or university to ask their own short-response or essay questions in addition to information asked within the standard application.

The Ivies are doing it.

While you shouldn’t do something just because everyone else is, making the switch to the Common Application is one case where following the crowd is beneficial. With the cost of college on the rise, and the admissions process becoming more competitive each year, being able to draw the same students applying to Ivy League universities can prove beneficial for top-tier public and smaller private universities that have similar services to offer at more affordable prices.

Numbers don’t lie.

With the 2010-2011 application season setting records at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country, the Common Application reported 1.8 million applications by January 1st, including a single day record of 127,175 applications on December 31st, 2010.

Eric Pait is a member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s class of 2014. Double majoring in Photojournalism and Peace, War, and Defense he interns for reesenews, a digital news publication powered by students at the UNC-CH School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and serves on the Lobbying & Advocacy sub-committee of Advocates for Human Rights, a committee of the UNC Campus Y.

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About Nathan and Joanna Cornett

We are a from San Diego California, currently on a mission trip in Guatemala. Nathan has worked as a youth pastor, teen center director, college advisor, and now missionary. Joanna has worked at LaBahn's Landscape for 7 years in the field, sales, and as the Vice President, she started the Hispanic ministry at Foothills Church, and has worked in youth ministry, she is now working as a missionary. We are both passionate about youth, worship, and missions.

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