Jun 24, 2020

Virginia Tech joins the Common App and keeps requirements the same

Beginning August 1, 2020, students will be able to use the Common Application to apply to Virginia Tech. Long rumored to be in process, the addition of the Common App may expand the reach of Virginia Tech into new markets and potentially attract more applicants, particularly those thinking about coming from out of state to Blacksburg. 

“Over the past two years, our office has transformed the admissions process, making it more accessible for more students. Adding the Common App is the next logical step,” said Director of Admissions Juan Espinoza.

For the past couple of years, Virginia Tech has been one of very few universities exclusively using the Coalition Application. Last year, the University of Florida added the Common App, leaving Tech, the University of Maryland and the University of Washington as the only remaining “Coalition exclusive” schools. And not surprisingly, these large universities represented a significant percentage of Coalition users and cross-over applications. Virginia Tech’s announcement will no doubt affect Coalition utilization. 

While the Coalition Application still remains an option for prospective Hokies, students now have a choice of application platforms to use in 2020-21. According to Espinoza, “it’s important for students to have choices so they can use the application platform that works best for them.”

With the addition of the Common App, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions hopes to not only enlarge but also diversify its applicant pool. Espinoza noted that, “with a record number of underserved and underrepresented students in this fall’s incoming class, adding the Common App will help Virginia Tech continue fulfilling its mission of partnering with students from the commonwealth, the nation, and the world in a top-tier educational experience.”

As one of the newest members of the Common App, Virginia Tech will not be changing its basic application requirements. The Common App’s personal statement will not be required nor will it be considered in the admissions process. Virginia Tech will not require teacher or counselor recommendations to be submitted. 

And, Virginia Tech will not be changing the four short answer questions (120 words) used the last two years. These will be found in the member-specific section of the application and are:
  • Virginia Tech’s motto is "Ut Prosim" which means 'That I May Serve'.  We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with.
  • Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond?
  •  Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals.
  • Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal?
With regard to the optional COVID-19 question added by the Common App this year, Espinoza advises that, “We will read that information if submitted. Coalition is asking a similar question and we will review that information in the same way.”

Keeping all things equal, Tech will launch both the Common App and the Coalition Application on August 1.

Virginia Tech will be joining well over 900 colleges and universities that use the Common Application and is no doubt among the more welcome of the new additions for 2020-21.

Jun 14, 2020

The Common App Welcomes 42 New Members for 2020-21

Loyola University Chicago
The Common Application recently announced the addition of 42 new members to a roster of what will be well over 900 colleges and universities accepting the Common App for 2020-2021. The popular online platform and college planning website 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 Auburn University, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, Loyola University Chicago, Tuskegee University, and the University of Georgia, these numbers are bound to increase significantly.

“Through these unprecedented times, these 42 colleges and universities continue to help forge a direct and unambiguous path to a viable future for all students, and reduce barriers to college access for underserved students. We are honored to welcome them into our membership,” 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 new members are included includes
  • Colleges from all 50 states plus Washington, DC
  • 419+ colleges with no application fee
  • 78% with admission rates greater than 50%
  • Over 230 public universities
  • Over 50 minority-serving institutions and 10 historically black colleges
  • 28 women’s colleges and 3 all-male institutions
  • 45 Hispanic-serving institutions
  • 60 international universities in 20 countries
  • 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), which was welcomed last year by Harvard, Cornell and Princeton. 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 42 highly selective colleges and universities. And a significant number of colleges 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 2020-2021 are:
Arkansas Baptist College (AR)
Auburn University (AL)
Augusta University (GA)
Baker College (MI)
Bethel University (MN)
Bryn Athyn College (PA)
Buena Vista University (IA)
Carlow University (PA)
Clemson University (SC)
Coastal Carolina University (SC)
Cornerstone University (MI)
Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Holy Family University (PA)
Indiana Wesleyan University (IN)
Lake Superior State University (MI)
Lees-McRae University (NC)
Loyola University Chicago (IL)
Medaille College (NY)
Milligan University (TN)
New College of the Humanities, London
Norfolk State University (VA)
Northern Illinois University (IL)
Palm Beach Atlantic University (FL)
Richard Bland College of William and Mary (VA)
Spalding University (KY)
Texas Tech University (TX)
Trevecca Nazarene University (TN)
Tuskegee University (AL)
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (CO)
University of Georgia (GA)
University of Louisville (KY)
University of South Florida (FL)
University of Texas at Dallas (TX)
University of Texas at San Antonio (TX)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (WI)
Wilmington College (OH)
Winthrop University (SC)

Jun 12, 2020

UVa announces essay prompts for 2020-21

The University of Virginia announced this week that essay prompts for fall 2020 applicants will be slightly different from those used in previous years and will feature a few minor tweaks to keep things interesting.
The basic instructions to applicants will remain the same. In addition to a required personal statement, UVa applicants are asked to write two short responses to prompts specified in the application. And as in past years, UVa is “looking for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.”
For the first essay, applicants should respond in a half page or approximately 250 words to one of a series of questions corresponding to the school/program to which they are applying (changes from last year are noted):
  • College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
  • Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major.
  • School of Nursing: School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
  • School of Architecture: Describe [a] significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
While the engineers moved away from their decade-old request for applicants to come up with a “small engineering project,” the College of Arts and Sciences remained loyal to the tried-and-true prompt seeking a challenging or surprising work of art, music, science, mathematics or literature.
For the second essay, applicants are being asked to pick one of five questions to answer also in roughly 250 words:
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that “…there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.
For 2020-21 applicants, UVa replaced a prompt requesting “an example of a community that is important to you and how you worked to strengthen that community” with one on action taken “for the greater good”—perhaps a more focused reflection on the challenges of our times.
In the past, associate dean of admission Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” to the readers of the UVa Admissions Blog, gently suggested, “A good essay conveys the voice and personality of the writer. A good essay shares something that hasn't come through in the other parts of the application. A good essay has made it to its final form after a round or two of editing.”
And students applying to the University of Virginia will be using the Common Application, which goes live on August 1, 2020. 
In the meantime, the early release of essay prompts will give prospective ‘Hoos months to consider their topics carefully and write compelling essays in time to meet either the nonbinding early action or new early decision deadline—both now set for November 1.