Is It Time for the End of the Common App?

The Common Application for college admissions, used by an increasingly large number of colleges as a way to help ambitious students streamline the admissions process (these days a lot of students apply to at least six colleges; filling out multiple applications is just unnecessary), might now be the new has-been application process.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Admissions officials at some of the nation’s most-selective colleges seek to create a new online application system, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle. Although the platform would rival the Common Application, its members apparently would include only private colleges with robust financial-aid budgets, and public institutions with high graduation rates.

Earlier this year, an “exploratory committee” comprising representatives of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities, among several other institutions, sent out a request for proposals describing their interest in “an application solution to ensure that students can apply when another application mode experiences difficulties or system failure.”

The idea is apparently to have a new system up by next year.

The desire for a new system came about because the existing Common Application, used by more than 500 institutions for admissions, isn’t working so well lately. It’s been having a lot of technological failures, which is one of the worst things for ambitious, neurotic high school seniors to have to experience.

While plan includes language about trying to ensure that the new application won’t “make the application process harder for ‘under-resourced, unsophisticated students,’” that’s likely more of a pipe dream. The problem is that what would ultimately be best for “under-resourced, unsophisticated students” is to make the process relatively simple. And any changes, particularly changes that result in more applications to fill out, would not be so good for poorer students.

But then, if the technological glitches are making the system fail, well, perhaps the Common Application has outlived its usefulness.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer