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What You Should Know About the Changing College Admission Process: The Not-So-Common Application

by Joanne Apesos
December 3, 2015

Forty years ago, 15 U.S. colleges and universities created the Common Application, offering a one-stop approach to submitting college applications.

Forty years ago, 15 U.S. colleges and universities created the Common Application, offering a one-stop approach to submitting college applications

 Fast forward to 2015 where over 600 colleges and universities throughout the world use the Common Application, generating 3.5 million applications from 850,000 students yearly. Even though the Common App is the leading application processor, there are schools taking a more creative approach to the process.  Some of these ideas were nationally chastised, particularly Goucher’s radical application option. Here’s some of the innovative changes:

1.    Last year, for the first time, Goucher College gave students the option of creating an application video in lieu of submitting the traditional test scores, high school transcripts and letters of recommendation; credentials normally required of applicants. The two minute videos were evaluated based on content, organization and clarity. Sixty-four students opted to apply via the Goucher Video Application and 58 were accepted.  Students also had to include two pieces of writing, a signed statement of academic integrity and $55 to complete the application. More information here: http://www.goucher.edu/admissions/how-to-apply/video-app/how-to

2.    Oklahoma State University takes a holistic review of applicants but also evaluates students’ potential leadership skills that standardized tests don’t measure; analytical, creative, practical and wisdom-based skills. Students answer a set of essays designed to measure those skills and can also include pieces of visual art to their application. See http://statemagazine.okstate.edu/panorama for more information.

3.     Test Optional schools continue to grow. This year there were 815 colleges that offered optional test score submission. Bates College in Maine was one of the first to go test optional in 1990 and they found an increase in the number of applications but more significantly, the diversity of the application pool also increased. For a complete list of optional schools go to http://fairtest.org.

4.     Bard College offered a new approach to their application process last year by offering students, in lieu of test scores, to submit four 2,500 word research papers. Do you think anyone jumped at writing 10,000 words instead of submitting scores?  You bet they did—well at least 41 students did. This year, Bard revised the process a bit calling it the Bard Entrance Examination, where students go to a secure site to complete four essays to be graded by Bard faculty. Students will be admitted if they receive B+ or better on the four essays. Bard calls it, “Integrating modern technology with an old-fashioned approach to education.”  Students can still apply to Bard the regular way if they so choose; http://www.bard.edu/news/releases/pr/fstory.php?id=2576

5.     ZeeMee.com is an innovative approach to college applications offering students a platform to upload video, photos or documents that exhibit “a snapshot of who you are.”  It’s a free service that is considered an addition to the college’s application. Thirty-three schools, so far, are participating in the service and includes popular schools like Elon University, Elmira College, Drexel University and Ohio Wesleyan University. It’s advertised to students as a way to “empower students” and a place to “showcase your hard work” while for colleges it’s a way to “collect data and information needed to shape their incoming class.” See Fox News story-- https://www.facebook.com/FoxFriendsFirst/videos/1085481844796877/

6.     The biggest and most controversial upcoming change is from the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success Group. Eighty colleges have agreed to build a new online platform, considered to be a rival to the Common Application, whose lofty goal will be to increase access to higher education for all. Students will be able to, beginning in the ninth grade, collect information in a “virtual locker” like parts of a journal, videos or a wider range of data for their college applications and can share it with mentors, if they choose. It’s supposed to help low income and underrepresented minority students have increased access to higher education through early engagement. It was first announced this fall but it wasn’t received favorably. Plans are to open the platform in January, 2016. 

Today, students' search for and application to colleges is far different than their parents approach yet the college application process and decision-making continues to be masked in mystery. Who knows if any of these new approaches will aid in making schools more accessible to the disadvantaged or make the process smoother for all students. What I do like is that higher education continues to search for ways to improve the system and seek different ways to measure a student’s potential for academic success.

 

Joanne Clary Apesos is the owner of College Pursuits, a college counseling business in Holliston.  She has advised high school students and their families in planning their college experience for many years.  Prior to assisting high school students she worked in higher education for 20+ years as an admissions counselor, adjunct faculty and director of student activities at both public and private colleges and universities in the Northeast.  She holds a master’s degree in Higher Education from Columbia University and a UCLA’s College Counseling Certificate Program. She can be reached at joanneapesos@gmail.com. Attend the Free Financial Aid Workshop at Medway Public Library on Dec.3. Go to: Reducing the Stress Understanding College Financial Aid, Facebook page for more information.

 

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