Nov 19, 2012

Counselors Urged to Communicate Concerns about the New Common Application

Princeton University

At a recent event organized for DC area school-based and independent college admissions counselors, UVa’s Dean Greg Roberts, a member of the Common Application (CA) Board of Directors, urged organized groups of counselors to communicate their concerns about upcoming changes to the Common App to individuals on the CA board

“The Board will be meeting in January,” said Dean Roberts.  “Because the Common App is moving quickly to implement changes, you should be in touch with anyone you know on the Board as soon as possible.”

The new Common Application (CA4) was introduced at NACAC’s annual meeting in Denver, last month.  At this meeting, serious concerns were raised by counselors about specific changes affecting essay requirements.

In addition to bringing the application “in house” and making fundamental changes to the software, the CA will institute “hard” word limits for the essay.  Similar to limits now imposed on the “extracurricular/work experience” question, students will be restricted to a fixed number of words or characters which will be enforced on both ends of the range (250-500).  

In other words, essays will no longer be "uploaded" so as to allow for flexibility on what has been in the past a "recommendation" with regard to essay length.

The CA has also proposed doing away the “topic of your choice” essay prompt.  In the future, essay questions will be more directed and will change each year.  Students will no longer have the option of writing a more general essay that doesn’t respond directly to a specific prompt.

But it’s not just counselors who are complaining.  Both Harvard’s Dean of Admission William Fitzsimmons and Princeton’s Dean Janet Rapelye indicated their dissatisfaction with some of the changes announced in October.

“We are in the process of communicating our concerns,” said Dean Fitzsimmons.  “We don’t like it either.”

In recent years, questions have been raised about the rapid growth and increasing power of the Common Application in the admissions process.  Counselors wonder if the organization can be all things to all colleges.

“Is the Common Application a victim of its own success?” wonders Will Dix, the “Crabby” College Counselor in a recent blog post on the problems of working within a “one size fits all” application culture.

This year, the Common App added the Ohio State University to its system, which is no doubt producing at least an additional 30,000 applications for the 2012-13 cycle.  

Next year, other members of the “Big Ten” are rumored to be coming on board including Purdue University. And the University of Colorado recently announced plans to explore Common App membership.

In its October newsletter, the Common App boasted that individual applicants registered in the system were up by 21 percent over the same time last year and that submitted applications had also increased by 21 percent to almost 184,000.  School reports were up by 42 percent and teacher evaluations submitted through the system were already well over 100,000 by mid-October.

And there’s no question that the Common App is exercising extreme influence on how the college admissions process evolves nationally and which admissions philosophies will prevail. 

While the Common App’s 14-member board is always characterized as being in full agreement with changes in Common App policies and procedures, the process for vetting the new application suggests a few cracks in the united front.   Pressure from major players such as Harvard and Princeton as well as from groups of counselors will have to be considered.

So what is the bottom line?  If you represent a college admissions office, if you are a counselor, or if you are a student who will be using the new CA next year and you are not happy with the proposed changes, take a minute to communicate your concerns to the Common Application and the CA’s board of directors.  

We are assured they will be listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment