Category Archives: Common Application

College Application Platforms

There are several different online platforms through which universities accept applications. While the Common Application is still the strong favorite, the Coalition Application seems to be gaining in popularity, and the Universal College Application has several interesting features.

All of these platforms allow students to create a centralized college application and use it to apply to several colleges, saving time. Each online application approach includes an applicant profile, list of member colleges, checklist to see the status of applications, and application requirements; but the overall look and formatting differs.

Colleges decide which platform(s) they wish to accept, and this blog will be your guide to understanding the differences between all of them. At the end, we will recommend a course of action.

Common Application

Accepted by over 750 member colleges, the Common Application (CA) is still the most popular platform for the college application process. Most members are in the U.S., but an increasing number of colleges around the world are accepting the Common App, including schools from Canada, China, and the UK (including St Andrews, King’s College London, and the University of Glasgow).

Additionally, the Common App has a rollover feature that conveniently allows students to begin working on their profile before August 1 of their senior year. The platform is user-friendly and has been around for a while, so many high school counselors and educators are well-versed in using it.

Universal College Application

The Universal College Application (UCA) was launched in 2007 as an alternative to the Common App, and currently has 23 member colleges. The only schools that exclusively use UCA (and not the Common App) are the University of Charleston (WV), Fischer College, Landmark College, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

The UCA platform has the advantage of allowing applicants to make essay edits even after submission, which is great if you catch a mistake. This platform also lets applicants link to online content in order to share more information, such as online video, portfolio (pictures or photographs), musical composition, or newspaper article.

Coalition Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success was developed in 2015 in order to provide greater access to college applications for under-resourced students.  A notable feature of the Coalition application is the Locker, in which students can begin storing documents, photos, and videos in 9th grade, which can later be attached to the Coalition college application. This information could include essays, artwork, and performances, as well as standardized test scores and awards. The Coalition feels that gathering this information early will reduce stress later.

The application has steadily grown in popularity, with over 113 participating colleges at present. 19 additional colleges will accept the application in 2018/2019, including Brown, Bucknell, Cornell, and UVA. As of the 2017-18 application cycle, the only colleges to exclusively require the Coalition Application were the University of Florida, University of Washington, and the University of Maryland.

UCAS (United Kingdom)

For international students, UCAS has traditionally been the UK’s centralized application form for higher education institutions. Notably, UCAS limits students to a maximum of five university programs. You are also limited to one school in all of the Oxford and Cambridge’s colleges, known collectively as Oxbridge. Several international schools have joined the Common App as part of a strategic effort to increase the presence of US students on campuses. These include King’s College London, St Andrews in Scotland, and Queen’s University Canada. More international students are now using the Common Application, which has the much greater limit of 20 total universities.

A critical difference between the UCAS application and the Common Application involves the essays.  UCAS includes only one essay, the Personal Statement, that focuses entirely on academics; the prompt asks students to discuss their chosen academic course(s), why it interests them, and why they are suitable. In contrast, the Common Application Personal Essay can be about any topic of the student’s choice; and colleges typically have supplemental essays that are specific to their universities.

For an in-depth look at how to apply to UK universities, see our blog.

Individual College Application

In addition, several schools continue to have only their own application and do not accept any of the shared applications. The motivation is to weed out students who are not genuinely interested in the college, and to customize the application and essays. A few examples are Clemson University, Georgetown University, and the University of Wisconsin.

A few other colleges accept a shared application as well as their own application.  Tulane has had its own application since it began in 1834, and several years ago began accepting the Common Application.

State System-Shared Application

Some schools like New York’s SUNY system and the California state universities share an online application platform that allows students to apply to one or more public colleges within their network.

Our Recommendations

While each student’s situation is unique, overall we recommend the following:

Use the Common Application wherever possible. Perhaps a decade ago, when the Common App was not as widely accepted, we may have recommended that you use a college’s own application, if available, in order to demonstrate interest. But with 700 member institutions, the Common App is now valued by colleges as strongly as their own application.

Coalition Application. Use this application platform if you feel that it would be helpful for you to start saving documents, artwork, and video content in the Locker, beginning in freshman year.

UCAS. Use this universal UK platform if you are applying to two or more UK universities that do not accept the Common Application.

When you have a choice, choose based on the essays. If you’re applying to a college that accepts multiple application platforms, examine whether the essay options are different, and choose the option that matches your needs.

For example, St Andrews (Scotland) accepts UCAS and the Common Application; if you apply through the Common Application, you can personalize your essays more.  You will have the opportunity to submit your Common App Personal Essay (which can be more creative than the UCAS Personal Statement) as well as a supplemental essay about why you are a good fit for St Andrews. The UCAS application does not allow for any university-specific essays.

Navigating your online applications and knowing how to best represent yourself as a college candidate can be daunting. Here at Collegiate Gateway, we’re always happy to help! Feel free to contact us.

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021

It was another exciting year in regular decision college admissions! As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021, here’s an in-depth review of this year’s regular decision trends. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Rising Applicant Numbers, Lower Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance rates tended to either hold steady or drop slightly. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more and more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications, including Brown, Georgetown, Northwestern, Princeton, UVA, and Washington University in St. Louis. WashU has seen a 4% increase in applicants since last year and a 28% rise since 2008.

Many of the country’s most selective institutions (with overall admit rates already under 15%) became even more competitive over the past three years. For example, Duke dropped from 11% to 9%, Northwestern fell from 12.9% to 9%, Swarthmore declined from 16.8% to 10.2%, and Williams decreased from 18.2% to 14.6%. Stanford has the lowest admit rate at just 4.6%.

This year, Brown, Cornell, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, and UPenn all reported record-low admit rates. Over the past ten years, Swarthmore has experienced a 59% increase in applications and only a 7% increase in acceptances, which has led to their declining acceptance rates. Michael Mills, Associate Provost for Northwestern University enrollment, said the highly-selective process of applying to elite colleges and universities can cause stressed-out high school students to send out more applications. Increased applications, in turn, make admissions even more selective, further feeding the cycle.

According to Richard Shaw, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University, these ultra-low admit rates are the product of several factors, including top students applying to many more schools, and higher demand across several demographics (including international applicants). Beyond the simple fact that high school graduation rates have been steadily increasing, U.S. News also attributes higher applicant numbers to the Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted. Universities also use innovative ways to market themselves to prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Early vs. Regular Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2019 through 2021

College Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019
Amherst College (ED) n/a n/a 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6%
Bowdoin College (ED I) n/a 25% 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31%
Brown University (ED) 6.8% 21.9% 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) 8% 31% 7% n/a 9% 27%
Columbia University (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data.
Cornell University (ED) 10.8% 25.6% 12.5% 27.4% 13.7% 26.2%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.5% 27.8% 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26%
Duke University (ED) 7.3% 24.5% 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26%
Georgetown University (REA) 17.4% 11.9% n/a 13% n/a 13%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.4% 14.7% 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 10.3% 30.5% 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9%
MIT (EA) 6.6% 7.8% 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6%
Middlebury College (ED I) 16.7% 51% 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 7.2% 26% 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2%
Pomona College (ED) 6.8% 21% n/a 19.4% n/a 19%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.3% 15.4% 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9%
Rice University (ED) n/a 21% 15% 23% 15.6% 20.4%
Stanford University (SCEA) n/a** n/a** 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 15.7% 24.4% 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8%
University of Chicago (EA) Only releases overall acceptance rates, not early and regular admissions rate data.
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 6.8% 22% 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24%
University of Virginia (EA) 24.6% 29% 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 8.6% 23.6% 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) Only releases overall acceptance rate, not give early and regular admissions rate data.
Williams College (ED) 12.7% 35% 15% 42% 14.5% 41%
Yale University (SCEA) 5% 17.1% 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

** In a break from tradition, Stanford did not release early admissions statistics.

Overall Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2018 through 2021

College  Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2021 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) n/a 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 13.4% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 8.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) 10.4% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) 5.8% 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) 12.5% 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 10.4% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 9% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) 15.4% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 5.2% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 11.8% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) 24.7% 26.3% 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 7.1% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 19.7% 16% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 9% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) 8.2% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 6.1% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University (ED) n/a 15% 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 4.6% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) 10.2% 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%
UC – Berkeley (EA) n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a** 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 18.4% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 9.15% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 27% 29.9% 28.5% 28.9%
USC (No early program) 16% 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 10.3% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) 16% 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 14.6% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 6.9% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

**In a break from tradition, the University of Chicago did not release this year’s applicant numbers or acceptance rates.

Larger Percentages of Freshman Classes Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making the regular admissions cycle even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding; universities are guaranteed the applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and allows students until May 1 to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps increase admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools that admitted 40% to 50% of their incoming class through their early decision program include Dartmouth, WilliamsDukeUniversity of PennsylvaniaNorthwestern, and Middlebury College.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are planning to accommodate increased applications by expanding enrollment. Lehigh, PrincetonStanfordUVAWashington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years.

Yale has admitted its largest incoming freshman class in school history (15% larger than recent classes), as the new residential colleges of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. Dean of Yale College, Jonathan Holloway, said one of the administration’s top priorities is preparing for the larger student body. Over the next four years, Yale plans to increase undergraduate enrollment from 5,400 to 6,200 students. “This expansion touches on every aspect of learning, including teaching, facilities, and financial aid.”

Lehigh implemented The Path to Prominence plan to expand and upgrade the campus, in order to accommodate an increase of the freshman class by 1,000 students over the next seven years. The new College of Health and construction of new dorms are part of this plan.

Stanford University has applied for county permits to accommodate campus expansion for class size growth of 100 more students per year, until the year 2035. In the fall of 2015, 6,994 undergraduates were enrolled at Stanford, and by 2035, this number is projected to increase to 8,785 undergraduates, which is 25% growth over 20 years.

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students. Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs, including QuestBridge, the KIPP Foundation, and A Better Chance.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. Schools with high percentages of students of color in the admitted class include Brown (47%), Cornell (52.5%), Dartmouth (51%), Princeton (53.4%), and Williams (50%).

Some schools have also made international diversity a priority as well. This year, Dartmouth accepted 38% more students from foreign countries, the largest international cohort in the school’s history. About half of the accepted international students will be offered need-based financial aid.

Delaying Admission

More and more schools are offering delayed admission to incoming freshmen, offering spring acceptances or asking the students to begin the following fall.

Middlebury anticipates that about 100 students will matriculate in February 2018 as members of the Class of 2021. This year, Cornell admitted 60 students to the First-Year Spring Admission (FYSA) program, which was established in 2015 to increase access to a Cornell education. Hamilton aims to enroll about 40 first-year students in their spring admission program each year. This allows Hamilton to offer admission to additional strong applicants, while also filling spots created by current students who are studying abroad during the spring semester.

Princeton offers a different kind of option for students accepted for fall entry. The Bridge Year Program “allows incoming first-year students to spend a tuition-free year engaging in international service work abroad in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia or Senegal.” This year, up to 35 incoming freshman are expected to participate.

 Withdrawn Acceptances

This year, there have been several instances of highly selective schools rescinding acceptances due to lower grades or offensive behavior. One widely publicized incident involved 10 students whose Harvard acceptances were revoked after it was discovered that the individuals had participated in the posting of offensive memes to social media.

Withdrawn acceptances are still the exception and not the norm, but students should be aware of the conditions that have caused revoked admissions and how to avoid this situation. For more information, see our blog, Keeping Your College Acceptance.

Tips for Future Applicants

Demonstrate interest. In a competitive admissions climate increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Therefore, apply to 10-12 colleges (a manageable number) so that you can visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Many schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.  If you are applying early admissions, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying regular admissions visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Highlight your heritage. Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Think carefully about your college list. When crafting your college list, make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools.

Be strategic with early admissions. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, early admission has become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are eager to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Waiting for Regular Decision Results

There are many challenging aspects of the admissions process—from agonizing over college lists to writing and revising countless essays to preparing for interviews. But in many ways, awaiting your regular decision results is the most difficult. Know that if you are among the thousands of seniors and parents in this position, you are not alone in finding this time of uncertainty to be stressful.

Take heart. Though it may not seem so now, the college admissions process is just one part of a much larger educational and career path. Your life’s journey will be full of both successes and setbacks, and you will come through each of them stronger, wiser, and more capable. As you await your final college decisions, remember to trust in the process, and remind yourself that you have done all you can to maximize your chances of success. Enjoy your senior year of high school and continue to engage in your academics. Have faith that you will have an exciting range of college options for this fall.

To further ease your mind, consider reading Frank Bruni’s New York Times article, “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness.” In this article, Bruni discusses the paths of two students who faced rejection from their top choices and went on to colleges and career paths that both worked out for the best. In doing so, he explores the importance of handling rejection, as well as offers advice as to how parents can support their children through these experiences.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal article, “What’s Worse Than Waiting to Hear From Colleges? Getting Interrogated About It,” discusses ways to be sensitive to seniors who are handling the anxiety of college admissions and productive ways to support them.

Finally, many people find that achieving a more detailed understanding of the regular decision admissions process can help relieve some anxiety. For those who would like to learn more, look out for our upcoming blog on analysis of Regular Decision Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021, and see the chart below for a comprehensive list of current notification dates.

School Regular Notification Class of 2021 Regular Notification Class of 2020
American University week of 3/20/17 mailed 3/21/16
Amherst College on or around 4/1/17 3/25/2016
Babson College mid March 3/18/2016
Barnard College late March 3/24/2016
Bates College 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Boston College week of 3/12/17 week of 3/14/16
Boston University 3/18/2017 3/19/2016
Bowdoin College early April 3/18/2016
Brandeis University 4/1/2017 3/17/2016
Brown University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Bucknell University 3/29/2017 3/25/2016
Carnegie Mellon University by 4/15/17 3/26/2016
Case Western Reserve University 3/20/2017 3/12/2016
Chapman University 3/9/2017 3/5/2016
Claremont McKenna College 3/24/2017 3/22/2016
Colby College 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
College of William & Mary mailed by 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Colgate University mailed 3/20/17 mailed 3/18/16
Columbia University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Connecticut College late March 3/31/2016
Cornell University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Dartmouth College 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Denison University 3/11/2017 3/9/2016
Drexel University by 4/1/2017 3/23/2016
Duke University 4/1/2017 3/24/2016
Elon University 3/20/2017 3/15/2016
Emory University by 4/1/2017 3/30/2016
Fordham University 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Franklin and Marshall College 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
George Washington University late March/early April 3/24/2016
Georgetown University 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Georgia Institute of Technology 3/11/2017 3/12/2016
Gettysburg College late March mailed 3/18/16
Hamilton College 3/25/2017 3/25/2016
Harvard University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Ithaca College 4/15/2017 4/15/2016
Johns Hopkins University 3/17/2017 3/18/2016
Lafayette College 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Lehigh University late March 3/30/2016
MIT 3/14/17 or 3/15/17 3/14/2016
Middlebury College 3/18/2017 3/19/2016
Muhlenberg College 3/15/2017 mid-March
New York University 4/1/2017 3/31/2016
Northeastern University by 4/1/2017 3/15/2016
Northwestern University late March week of 3/14/16
Occidental College 4/1/2017 3/22/2016
Pitzer College 4/1/2017 mailed 3/22/16
Pomona College 4/1/2017 3/18/2016
Princeton University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
Purdue University rolling rolling, beg. Dec.
Quinnipiac University rolling rolling
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 3/11/2017 3/12/2016
Rice University by 4/1/17 3/25/2016
Rochester Institute of Technology mid March 3/15/2016
Scripps College by 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Stanford University 4/1/2017 3/25/2016
SUNY at New Paltz rolling rolling, beg. Jan. 15
SUNY at Albany rolling rolling
SUNY at Binghamton rolling rolling, beg. Feb. 1
SUNY at Geneseo 3/1/2017 3/1/2016
Syracuse University late March 3/15/2016
The College of New Jersey 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Trinity College late March 3/23/2016
Tufts University by 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Tulane University by 4/1/2017 3/18/2016
Union College 4/15/2017 3/23/2016
UC-Berkeley 3/30/2017 3/24/2016
UC-Los Angeles 3/17/2017 3/18/2016
UC-Santa Barbara by 3/21/17 3/22/2016
University of Chicago 3/17/2017 3/16/2016
University of Connecticut begins 3/1/17 begins 3/1/16
University of Delaware 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
Univ. of Maryland-College Park by 4/1/2017 4/1/2016
University of Miami early April 3/21/2016
University of Michigan early April 4/15/2016
UNC – Chapel Hill late March 3/30/2016
University of Notre Dame late March 3/18/2016
University of Pennsylvania 3/30/2017 3/31/2016
University of Richmond 4/1/2017 mailed 3/18/2016
University of Rochester begins 3/9/17 3/18/2016
University of San Diego rolling rolling
USC by 4/1/2017 mailed 3/23,         online 3/26
University of Texas at Austin by 3/1/2017 3/1/2016
University of Vermont 2/9/17 and 3/10/17 n/a
University of Virginia late March 3/25/2016
Vanderbilt University 4/1/2017 3/23/2016
Villanova University 3/31/2017 3/22/2016
Washington Univ. in St. Louis mailed 4/1/17 3/10/2016
Wesleyan University late March 3/25/2016
Williams College by 4/1/17 3/23/2016
Yale University 3/30/2017 3/31/2016

We wish you all the best, and as always at Collegiate Gateway, we are happy to help!

 

 

Common App Problems Cause Deadline Extensions

CA4, the “new and improved” Common App, launched August 1, 2013, after great fanfare and anticipation.  The goals of CA4 are to handle increased user capacity, to improve the content and design of the application, and to allow more customization of Supplements by the Member Colleges. Unfortunately, users and college admissions officers have experienced ongoing glitches throughout the first few months of implementation, ranging from system crashes to the inability of some colleges to retrieve submitted applications and recommendations.  As a result, several colleges have extended their early admissions deadlines.

Early Application Deadline Extensions

Of the colleges with a November 1 early deadline, Boston University and Yale extended to November 5; and Barnard, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, New York University, Northwestern, Tufts and the University of Chicago extended to November 8, and the University of Pennsylvania to November 11. The Common App organization has been working to resolve high priority issues for the 2014 application cycle, and will examine non-critical suggestions for improvement for implementation in the 2015 application cycle.

Common App Problems

Recently, I attended a fascinating NJACAC (New Jersey Association of College Admissions Counselors) College Admissions Trends session, held at Princeton University.  The panel included heads of admission from Princeton, Villanova, Muhlenberg, Drexel, University of Maryland, University of Delaware and Rutgers. When the topic turned to the implementation of the new Common App, both colleges and counselors (combination of high school and independent educational consultants) were extremely open about ongoing frustrations.  All shared a positive spirit of working together to resolve challenges in order to support students and to conduct timely and informed college application reviews.

Counselors asked colleges for their preferences in how to handle (1) the inability to know what information has actually been received; (2) the continued inability for students and guidance offices to consistently and reliably transmit information and for colleges to consistently and reliably retrieve information.

How Should Students Proceed?

Here are the conclusions and recommendations of the admissions officers on the panel regarding how students should proceed in light of the Common App issues:

  • There is a general consensus among Common App colleges that students will not be penalized if they are a few days late in submitting their application due to technical challenges, but of course students should still strive to submit by the application deadlines.
  • Students should check each college’s online portal after all the components of the application have been submitted. If the college does not confirm receipt of items sent, call the Admissions Office.  Ask each college if it would prefer that you send paper copies of any application components it has not received.

A Primer on College Admissions Plans

Need help sorting out the different ways you can apply to college? Admissions plans include early, rolling, and regular. Each plan has its own timetable regarding when students apply, when students receive decisions, and whether students are required to confirm attendance.  Each plan has its own requirements about whether students can apply early to other colleges, and whether students are committed to attend if accepted (known as “binding”).

Regular Decision

Regular Decision Plans are the most traditional option. Students typically submit an application by January 1 or January 15, and hear by April 15. Students are not restricted from applying to other colleges, and have until May 1 to confirm attendance. Students can receive one of three decisions: accepted, denied, or wait-listed.

Early Admissions

Many colleges now offer early admission plans in addition to Regular Decision. Students apply in the fall (usually by November 1 or 15), and typically receive a decision by December 15.  With early admissions programs, students can receive one of three decisions: accepted, denied, or deferred to the regular applicant pool. Each college has its own policy of the percent distribution of admissions decisions, and policies vary year-to-year based on factors such as institutional goals and prior year’s yield.

Early admissions plans include the following options:

  • Binding Early Decision: students make a commitment to a first-choice institution, and commit to attending if accepted.  ED1 deadlines are typically November 1 and 15.  Many selective colleges offer ED, including most of the Ivy League colleges and small liberal arts schools, such as Barnard, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Lehigh and Pomona.  Increasingly, colleges such as Colgate, Tufts, and Vanderbilt, are also offering an ED2 option, in which students apply by late December or early January, and receive decisions in January or February. While Early Decision restricts a student’s admissions options, ED candidates typically receive a strategic advantage of a higher admissions rate because they have indicated that the college is their first choice and that they are committed to attending. Colleges use ED to help craft their incoming freshman class.
  • Restrictive Early Action: students apply to a top-choice college, are restricted from applying early to another institution, but have until May 1 to decide whether to attend. Examples include Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford. Students can apply simultaneously to any college with a non-binding rolling admissions process, as well as any public institution with an early notification program.
  • Non-Binding Early Action: Students apply early and receive a decision early.  Students can apply to other colleges through early admissions plans, and have until May 1 to decide whether to attend. Examples include University of Michigan, Northeastern University, and University of Vermont.  Non-binding Early Action is the most flexible early admissions plan. Aside from the advantage of receiving decisions in December, there is typically no statistical advantage to applying to schools under their early action programs.
  • Early Decision and Early Action. Some colleges offer both Early Decision and Early Action options, such as University of Miami, Colorado College and Fairfield University.

Rolling Admissions

The third category of admissions plans. Institutions review applications as they are submitted, and notify students throughout the admissions cycle. Examples include Penn State and Indiana University Bloomington, University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers University. The earlier students submit rolling applications, the more beneficial – unless students wish to strengthen their admissions chances through stronger first quarter grades or standardized testing scores.

See the NACAC chart of Definitions of Admissions Options in Higher Education.

New applications record for Common App!

The Common Application has grown exponentially since it launched in 1975 with 15 member institutions!  414 colleges now accept the Common App, and this year, for the first time, international colleges have signed on.  Newest members include Columbia University, the University of Michigan and the American University of Rome.  For the 2010-2011 application cycle, the number of applicants increased 18% to 532,297 and the number of applications submitted grew 23% to 2,266,200.

The increased use of online applications certainly makes it easier for students to process multiple applications efficiently and quickly.  But on the flip side, the added numbers of peer applications increases the competition.  In addition, some colleges waive the application fee, or simplify or even eliminate their essays, to further encourage greater numbers of applications – in order to cast a wide net and increase the pool of candidates for consideration; and possibly to boost their admissions statistics, appear more selective, and increase their rankings.

The Common App has introduced an extremely useful feature, of an interactive requirements grid in which college’s application requirements and deadlines are now searchable.  This means that application requirements, such as testing, will be updated in real time, and students can find out which colleges are still accepting applications.

See commonapp.org for more info.