Deciding on the Common App: Higher Ed Hero’s Pros & Cons for Admissions Staff

Common-Application-LogoThe Common Application, or Common App as it’s commonly known, allows college students to apply to many colleges at once without having to fill out duplicate information. While the common app was introduced in 1975, it has seen a drastic increase in use over the last decade. Today, there are over 500 colleges that accept the common app. However, there are some causes for concern with the common app and recent news stories regarding not-for-profit organizations’ increase control over the college application process. Whether you currently use the common app or are considering accepting it, there are pros and cons that must be weighed. Here are Higher Ed Hero’s list of the most important considerations regarding the common app.

Pro: By simplifying the application process, the common app allows more students to apply to your institution. High school students that might not normally take the time to apply to your college can do so with one extra click.

Con: Having to conform to the common app’s standards for admission. To ensure the common app is treated with the same weight as a college’s direct application, you have to agree to weigh them the same. Also, the common app dictates how admissions are decided. You have to commit to a holistic approach, which takes into consideration academic criteria, at least one letter of recommendation, a personal essay and other criteria. Since most colleges follow this process anyway, it doesn’t present a major roadblock, but still, some colleges don’t like being dictated to.

Pro: The common app is becoming more common every day. With over 500 institutions accepting the common app, not accepting it now would be a serious setback in admissions. Meanwhile, accepting it would be keeping with the overall trend in Higher Education today.

Con: The wide-spread acceptance of the common app gives them a majority share of the marketplace. As detailed in a recent article by T.H.E Chronicle, the common app is currently being sued by CollegeNet, claiming the common app has monopolized the field.

Pro: The common app’s first mission when a group of private colleges began the not-for-profit organization in 1975 was to create standardization. They have succeeded. Part of the reason the common app is so accepted is that the application meets the needs of most admissions staff.

Con: Too much standardization can create problems for individual colleges. There are many colleges today which require additional supplemental applications in addition to the common app.  This can be a significant roadblock for students who are applying to your institution using the common app and then in addition must complete the supplemental applications.

Pro: The online application process appeals to today’s tech-focused students. Today’s high school students grew up with the internet and expect to have instant, scalable access. The common app does this efficiently. It is also free to use. Students only need to pay the individual application fees for a particular college.

Con: Technology can’t always be relied on. As ABC News recently reported, the common app is making some major overhauls due to a rough 2013. Students had difficulty with the essay formatting, submitted the application and determining if the application fee was paid.

The common app provides an easy to use scalable process for students applying to college and the admissions staff that serve them. Its ever-increasing usage makes it a necessity for colleges taking applications. However, there are some concerns regarding the process, control and technology behind the common app.

We here at Higher Ed Hero hope you found these pros and cons of the common app helpful.

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Kevin – Higher Ed Hero

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