The Un-“Common Application”

There was breaking news this week from the world of higher education.   Eighty colleges, including all 8 Ivy League schools have formed the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.  They will be working together to create a new application portal, which may provide an alternative to the Common Application.

They hope to reverse a troubling trend that they see which has been perpetuated by the Common Application.  This trend, which they hope to change, is one in which colleges have made their applications increasingly similar.  They also hope to give low-income and first-generation students more access to higher education, by making college more affordable and providing more college advising resources.

The new application will allow students, beginning the the 9th grade, to build a portfolio.  “The idea is to encourage ninth graders to begin thinking more deeply about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school, to create new ways for college admissions officers, community organizations and others to coach them, and to help them emerge in their senior years with a body of work that can be used to help identify appropriate colleges and apply to them.”

The coalition is focused on three new initiatives:

  1. A new online portfolio, which will allow students a place to keep all of their best work, information about their extracurricular activities, and writing samples,  beginning in 9th grade.
  2. A new interaction system, which will allow college counselors, community organizations and colleges (with the student’s permission) to give feedback to students as early as 9th grade.
  3. A new online application, which will give each college the opportunity to tailor questions specific to their own school.

In order for a school to join the coalition, it must demonstrate a 70% graduation rate within 6 years.  In addition, private schools must meet the demonstrated financial need of all U.S. students.  Public colleges must demonstrate that their tuition is affordable and they are willing to offer strong financial aid packages.

While many feel that this is an alternative to the Common Application, others wonder if this new application will accomplish what it has set out to do.  In fact, many of its critics feel that it will not give students more access, but less. The majority of the colleges in the coalition consist of the Ivy League and many other elite colleges.  The new application could cause students to look at only these colleges.  Others fear that it will make the college application process even more stressful for students, as they now begin building a college portfolio as early as 9th grade. Finally, it could be overwhelming for college counselors, as they help students now manage an entire portfolio of work in preparation for college applications.

Will this new application really provide an alternative to the Common Application?  Will it give students more access to college counseling resources?  Will it make students and counselors much mores stressed about the already stressful college application process?  Stay tuned…


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