Aug 31, 2009

Universal Application Offers Huge Advantage for Some Students

Athletes, performing artists, and others with multimedia stories to tell can now use the Universal College Application (UCA) to upload files, videos, and other digital content in support of applications to any participating college or university. Responding to complaints from college admissions officers frequently forced to chase down computer disks and videos mailed separately from applications, the makers of the UCA added a feature allowing students to provide a link to online content they feel gives the college additional information, demonstrates a particular talent, or highlights an activity. This means an applicant can upload and send with ease audition videos, links to websites, pictures of Eagle projects, as well as recruiting or personal video supplements. Can you beat that?

Enjoying a whopping 500% increase in school participation since going live in 2007, the Universal Application is used by 80 colleges and universities, most—but not all—of which also use the Common Application. From the student perspective, the forms are very similar with the major difference being the unique upload feature. Unlike the Common Application, the UCA does not insist that participating schools require recommendations and an untimed essay or graded paper. Any accredited institution that upholds NACAC’s Statements and Policies of Good Practice is eligible to join the UCA consortium.

According to Josh Reiter, President of ApplicationsOnline, “We are most concerned about customer service. The site is monitored 24/7 and last year, our average response time was only 7 minutes.” While the forms and technology are designed to be user-friendly, questions still crop up in the middle of the night, and staff is always there to answer. They cannot provide feedback on essay topics or give driving directions to colleges, but they will walk a nervous student through the steps necessary to complete required information and send “customized” applications with the click of a button.

After two years of successful operating experience, the UCA projects continued growth and greater visibility as users learn to differentiate among applications and take advantage of the opportunity to upload digital content. If this concept catches on, the essay will lose its role as the sole source of “personality” in a college application. With a little creativity, students literally can attach a face to their documents.

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