Mar 25, 2021

James Madison University joins the Common Application


The Common Application announced today the addition of over 30 new members for 2021-22,
including James Madison University. JMU joins 28 other Virginia colleges and universities currently onboard with the Common App, which has long been used by the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond, Washington and Lee University, George Mason University, Hampton University, and most recently Virginia Tech. With the addition of JMU, the Common App will be accepted by all but two of Virginia’s public institutions.

Common App’s newest members also include nine public universities in Illinois, which joined the platform as part of a state effort to increase college access. Three public universities in the state, Northern Illinois, Chicago State and the University of Illinois Chicago are already members. The addition of the other public universities makes Illinois the second state in the nation to have all public universities use the Common App, according to a press release from Northeastern Illinois University.

The Common App annually serves and supports over three million students, teachers and counselors in the U.S. and around the world. And with the addition of several well-known institutions including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of Alabama, and the Colorado School of Mines, these numbers are bound to increase significantly.

“Key to our mission at Common App is lowering the logistical and systemic barriers to college access,” said Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of Common App. “Thanks to our diverse membership, all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to apply to the colleges or universities that will help them achieve their best future.

Membership in The Common Application is open to colleges sharing the organization’s mission of advancing college access and must be

  • Not-for-profit
  • Undergraduate degree-granting
  • Accredited by an association recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education
  • If located outside the U.S., a member of the Council of International Schools
  • Committed to the pursuit of access, equity and integrity in the college admission process

Member institutions are no longer required to also be members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The requirement to evaluate students using a “holistic” selection process including a recommendation and an untimed writing sample (essay) was also dropped to accommodate a wider variety of member institutions.

  As a result, Common App membership before any new members are included includes

  • Colleges from all 50 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico
  • 400+ colleges with no application fee
  • More than 75% with admission rates greater than 50%
  • 200+ public universities
  • Over 50 minority-serving institutions and 10 historically black colleges
  • 60+ international universities
  • Over 630 accepting transfer applications

But the Common App isn’t the only online application from which students can choose. They may consider the Coalition Application or the Universal College Application (UCA). The Common Black College Application enables students to apply to any number or combination of 55 HBCUs for a single low fee. The QuestBridge National College Match application is currently welcomed by 45 highly selective colleges and universities. And a significant number of colleges, including Georgetown University and MIT, use a variety of school-based applications created specifically to meet their institutional needs.

With all these different application platforms, it’s not unusual for a college or university to offer two or more options for prospective students. While the Common App remains by far the most popular of the platforms, it’s usually worth investigating how other applications are structured and what specific questions are asked. There can be significant differences some of which might provide better vehicles for presenting credentials.

But the Common App can’t be beat for its reach into a variety of academic communities. And among the new member colleges and universities offering the Common Application for 2021-2022 are

Gordon College (MA), Manor College (PA), Westfield State University (MA), Via Maria College (NY), Pratt Institute (NY)

Concordia University-Ann Arbor (MI), Eastern Illinois University (IL), Governors State University (IL), Grace College (IN), Illinois State University (IL), Indiana Tech (IN), Mount Saint Joseph University (OH), Northeastern Illinois University (IL), Rockford University (IL), Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (IL), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (IL), University of Illinois at Springfield (IL), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL), University of Northwestern, St. Paul (MN), Western Illinois University (IL)

Austin Peay State University (TN), Belmont Abbey College (NC), Charleston Southern University (SC), James Madison University (VA), Mississippi College (MS), Saint Augustine’s University (NC), Texas Wesleyan University (TX), University of Alabama (AL), University of North Georgia (GA), Wingate University (NC)

Colorado Mesa University (CO), Fort Lewis College (CO), Colorado School of Mines (CO), Oregon Institute of Technology (OR), Portland State University (OR)

Lebanese American University, University of the Commonwealth Caribbean

Feb 6, 2021

UVa extends early action offers to 6186 for the Class of 2025


Early action applicants to the University of Virginia’s Class of 2025 received decisions yesterday considerably ahead of the mid-February release date originally suggested to follow early decision notifications in December.

And it’s clear that admission to the Commonwealth’s flagship university remains a highly sought-after prize among high school students—both from within the state and across the country.

Following application trends for this year, UVa received 47,827 applications, besting the previous record of 40,971 applications set last year by a whopping 17%. Of those new applications, 28,897 were submitted through early action, also up from 25,160, at the same time last year. And yesterday, UVa extended non-binding offers of admission to 6186 or 21% of those prospective ‘Hoos.

In addition, UVa’s binding early decision option attracted 2,937 applications—an increase of 38% over last year’s somewhat disappointing pool. Of those applicants, 968 or about 33% were offered admission in December. These students, representing about 25% of the planned incoming class were expected to send deposits and withdraw all other applications by January 1, 2021. For the record, Virginia Tech consistently fills about 20% of its class through binding early decision, while the College of William and Mary typically uses early decision to fill about a third of its incoming class. So far, it appears that UVa is steering a middle course.

In total, UVa made 7,154 offers through both early decision and early action—considerably up from the 5,967 early offers made last year. But still to come is regular admission, with decisions set to be released by April 1 (or most likely earlier). Note that 781 students deferred from early decision plus 7,185 deferred from early action will be considered in the regular decision pool (about 16,000 before the addition of deferred students).

The enrollment target for Virginia's Class of 2025 is about 3,800. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SHEV), the class entering in fall of 2020, totaled 3,788, slightly exceeding original projections but far smaller than the class of 3,921 entering in fall of 2019.

Drilling a little deeper into the numbers, about 27% of the early action applicants and 54% of the early decision applicants came from Virginia. The majority of early action applicants, or about 73% came from out of state—a percentage that is a little higher than in past years.

Early action offers were made to 30% of the Virginia applicants (35% last year and 43% the year before) and 18% of the out-of-state applicants (15% last year and 19% the year before). Early decision offers, however, went to 39% of the Virginians (40% last year) and 26% of those from out of state (28% last year).

Most experts believe the large increase in applications for the class of 2025 comes as a result of students encouraged to apply by the new test-optional policy announced for this year and then recently extended for the next two years.

According to Admissions Dean Greg Roberts in an interview with The Cavalier Daily, “We worked extremely hard developing panels, programs and events throughout the summer and fall that allowed us to showcase the University and its extraordinary opportunities. With that said, it is likely that our move to test-optional admission also contributed to the increase.” He adds that 42 percent of this year’s applicants opted to submit applications without test scores.

Although a number of students were denied admission during the first rounds of consideration, about 25% were thrown a lifeline by being deferred to the regular decision pool. And of the 47,827 students applying for spots in this year’s entering class, about two-thirds came through one early option or the other.

Decisions for deferred students and those applying regular decision should arrive sometime before April 1. Note that deferred applicants are specifically encouraged to send new test scores and midyear grades as soon as possible.

All students admitted under early action will have until May 1, to make up their minds. And those applicants who were lucky enough to be admitted to UVa’s Class of 2025 can expect to receive significant encouragement to commit as soon as possible.

Dec 3, 2020

Tips for acing your virtual college interview

College interviews are making a comeback. While many schools never abandoned the one-on-one interview, others are beginning to see the value in meeting with a student to gather additional information for an application process now missing one key component—test scores. 

As over 1665 or more than 70% of four-year colleges and universities have implemented test-optional policies, institutions previously dependent on scores for evaluating students are looking for ways to evaluate students using other metrics—those more aligned with assessing character. And what better way to probe character issues than by actually meeting and interviewing a student? 

 In addition to supporting assessment, the interview can be another marketing opportunity for colleges anxious to replace campus visits as occasions to sell the institution and all it has to offer. And the feedback gathered from a student can be yet another tool for assessing interest or perceived “fit.” 

But just as COVID-19 has pushed colleges into adopting test-optional policies, the virus has also made it all but impossible for them to conduct in-person interviews. And for better or worse, the virtual interview has its own quirks and subtleties. While students are largely accustomed to interacting in a classroom environment over the internet, the interpersonal element in an interview requires the student to be more attentive to communication details. 

To start, the virtual interview may be conducted over any one of several popular video chat or conferencing platforms—each with its own advantages or disadvantages. The most popular are Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout. But be aware that the interviewer decides the format, and it’s up to you to familiarize yourself with the platform making sure you have any required software on your computer, tablet or phone. 

Once that’s established, it’s time to drill down into details. And here are some tips for acing your virtual college interview: 


  • Find a quiet, appropriate space where you can have the call.
    Be aware of your background—plain and uncluttered is ideal. 
    Make sure your computer is charged-up if you’re using a laptop—better yet, plug it in! 
  • Check your lighting and try to position the camera so that you are facing a light source and not the other way around. 
  • Test the technology. Before the interview, schedule a test call with a friend, family member or anyone who has been working with you throughout the application process. 
  • Ensure your microphone and speakers are working on the day of the interview and that your internet connection is stable and supports high-quality live video. 
  • Secure your device if using a phone or tablet—shaky or wobbly video is annoying. 

  • Be sure to use a professional screen name (first and last) that will be easy for the interviewer to recognize. 
  • Eliminate background noise and distractions—barking dogs, while sometimes unavoidable, distract you as much as your interviewer. Keep Fido out of the interview, if possible. Close windows and turn off the TV. 
  • Silence personal devices. 
  • Choose a small, comfortable and upright chair. Slouching on a couch isn’t engaging and sprawled out on a bed is disrespectful. 
  • Dress appropriately—top and bottom (you never know). Logo gear is not advisable, especially when it’s from another college. Avoid clothing featuring small patterns or colors that might not come across well on the screen. 
  • Try to make eye contact by looking directly into the camera. Nodding will show the interviewer that you are involved and listening attentively. Feel free to use your hands if it comes naturally to you. 
  • Have a backup plan in case of glitches. Transitioning to a phone or rescheduling for an alternate time are both possible solutions for technical difficulties. Try not to panic if your software experiences an issue. If the problem is outside of your control, the interviewer will understand. 
  • Follow-up with a thank-you note.


  • Schedule an appointment without noting it on your calendar. 
  • Assume the interview will be in your time zone. Verify with the interviewer the time zone of the interview and be ready to begin at the agreed-upon time. 
  • Have your parent(s) sit in on the meeting. There’s nothing worse than having someone lurking off camera prompting responses. And don’t let them hover anxiously outside the room. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your door if necessary. 
  • Neglect to introduce yourself. 
  • Come to the interview unprepared. An interviewer can tell in a minute if you have absolutely no knowledge of the college for which you are interviewing.
  • Get too cute with virtual backgrounds or screen names. If you must use a virtual background, choose something professional—not a picture of a closet filled with toilet paper as one student recently used. 
  • Turn off or disable your webcam. Part of the purpose of the face-to-face interview is for the interviewer to see how you interact as well as how you respond to specific questions. 
  • Try to record the interview. 
  • Forget to smile. Speaking into a computer is a little unnatural, but it’s important to try not to act like a robot. 
  • Sit in a dark room—it’s a little creepy. 
  • Watch yourself instead of the interviewer. 
  • Talk over your interviewer. Zoom has a built-in lag and it’s sometimes easy to jump in too soon. Practice your timing and use the pause to your advantage as a moment to consider your answer. 
  • Check email/phone/web while on the call as others can easily tell when you are distracted. And it’s a clear signal that you’re disinterested. 
  • Eat or chew gum or wear a hat unless there is a religious reason to do so.
  • Fail to say thank you and follow-up with a note.