Oct 24, 2012

Think Twice about ‘Snap Apps’

RPI famously uses "snap apps"

This time of year, complaints start rolling in about the proliferation of quickie or “fast-track” applications shipped out by colleges anxious to artificially enlarge their applicant pools.

Sometimes disguised as VIP or priority apps, these personalized invitations to apply are designed to lure seniors into submitting streamlined applications often with waived essay requirements or promises of on-the-spot decisions. And the temptation is great for often overworked and stressed high school seniors looking for an easy admit to college.

But be aware.  These applications can be a trap.

“…some counselors call them ‘crap apps,’” said Matthew DeGreeff, director of college counseling at the Middlesex School, in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education.  “This is like catnip for admissions deans because you can expand the application pool overnight.”

Just because you receive one of these applications doesn’t mean the college is particularly interested in you.  Colleges purchase names, by the thousands sometimes, and mindlessly mail them to anyone appearing on the list.   

They haven’t assessed your qualifications, they have no idea of your “fit” for their institution, and they don’t really care if you are remotely interested.

They just want your application.

Why?  Because “selectivity” has become such an important metric in rankings, and the more applications a college receives, the more selective it can appear simply by rejecting the overflow.

And yet, there can be consequences for the applicant.

First, quickie applications don’t provide an adequate opportunity for you to showcase your special accomplishments and unique skills.  Sure, it looks nice to have your name preprinted on the form and the offer to skip the essay part is enticing.   

But if you’re a borderline candidate or if your grades and scores don’t tell your full story, you may be doing yourself a disservice. 

These applications should not be considered automatic offers of admission.  If you want to forego a more “holistic” review of your credentials, fine.  Just be aware you could find yourself on a never ending wait list, or even worse, rejected on the basis of the limited information you provide.

Next, just because you complete the streamlined version of the college’s application doesn’t mean you can skip sending official score reports or forget about having your counselor send a transcript.  All too often, high school students submit these applications and neglect to tell their guidance counselor or arrange for standardized tests to be sent.  This can cause an awful snafu and also result in wait list or rejection if the paperwork isn’t completed on time. 

And finally, be aware that the Common Application system is at war with these applications.  If you use a fast-track application to apply to a Common App member college, your high school will not be able to electronically submit supporting documents such as transcripts, secondary school reports and recommendations.

Because the Common App receives no payment unless an application is submitted, these materials will be held back if you use a VIP or priority application.  It’s an unpleasant reality about which counselors are complaining mightily.  But nevertheless, you will most likely have to have your supporting materials sent by snail mail if you’re otherwise using the Common App system.

Note that the Universal College Application does not hold back documents and will send transcripts and recommendations to their members regardless of whether or not you use their application.  They lose money in the bargain, but they believe it’s the right thing to do.

The bottom line is don’t apply to a college just because they appear to be recruiting to you.  Do your homework and understand what you’re getting into.  And if you still think it’s a good idea, make sure you follow-up with your guidance counselor and meet all remaining requirements for admission.

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