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The College Admissions Process Is Broken

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,315 Senior Member
"Colleges should work together to make applications more manageable for students ... Colleges know about these trends but have done too little to standardize their process and make it more accessible. Things are a bit easier thanks to "The Common Application," a standardized electronic application accepted by over 600 colleges and universities. But too many schools don't accept it, including the entire University of California system and the University of Texas system.

Even those that do often have additional requirements. Stanford University, for example, requires three different essay answers, along with multiple short answer responses that are completely different from those required by say, The University of Pennsylvania. Some colleges require two recommendations and SAT subject tests, while others do not." ...



Replies to: The College Admissions Process Is Broken

  • SouthFloridaMom9SouthFloridaMom9 Registered User Posts: 3,290 Senior Member
    edited June 19
    My son only applied to one common app school and we both thought it was a little bit of a pia.

    Otherwise I think apps are fairly simple compared to previous days.
  • Sportsman88Sportsman88 Registered User Posts: 1,573 Senior Member
    edited June 19
    Common app is a life saver. We were able to add a school late in the process in an hour plus sending transcripts, etc.

    If selective schools, don't have supplements, the process would be even more random among top applicants. And making it easier, would mean even more applications per student when it is already insane that some are applying to 10-15 schools.

    EDIT: I do agree about state schools taking common app. The school we added was a state school that did. Our primary safety was a state school that didn't and that had a painful app for a school that was driven by numbers.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,983 Senior Member
    UC and UT have their own applications that are optimized for their own admissions processes. Going to The Common Application would involve more work for them, and would not necessarily reduce work for those who apply to those schools (since the applicants may not necessarily apply to other schools on The Common Application).
  • ekdad212ekdad212 Registered User Posts: 123 Junior Member
    @Sue22: you absolutely nailed it.

    In some ways, kids are spoiled by all the information and technology at their disposal. Like you, I went to college in the 80's. We had one community pay phone in our dorm and it wasn't used that often. Can you imagine that today?

    Of course, there's a downside to all that information and technology and I wouldn't trade my experiences for those of my kids. But, yeah, the college app process is definitely easier now than then.
  • OrchidBloomOrchidBloom Registered User Posts: 910 Member
    I didn't find the college application process to be that difficult with the Common App. While different schools required different supplements and had different deadlines, it was quite simple to see them all listed out on my dashboard. I was applying to Canadian schools at the same time, and did not find it unreasonable to balance applications through the Common App and a different system at the same time (though I will say, I appreciated the centralization of the Common App - with my Canadian supplements, I had to wait for an email from each school after applying and then submit my supplements through school-specific portals, all with different deadlines).

    I don't think their proposed solution revolutionizes anything either, Different schools are looking for different things, so they probably wouldn't want to all look at the same two essays. Students still have to research and write an additional essay for each school. The prompt "Why do you want to attend this specific college?" ad nauseam is boring and repetitive for both the students and admissions officers (after all, how many ways can you write such an essay for each college?).

    I also question the utility of the 12 college cap. Around a quarter of high school students apply to seven or more schools, and I suspect most of these are in the 7-12 range rather than 13+. Many students who apply to a greater number of colleges do so because they are aiming for highly unpredictable merit aid (or admissions to schools that provide excellent need-based aid), and these policies may end up hurting them.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 10,164 Senior Member
    @OrchidBloom Many students who apply to a greater number of colleges do so because they are aiming for highly unpredictable merit aid (or admissions to schools that provide excellent need-based aid), and these policies may end up hurting them.

    YUP. Or financial aid with a business or divorce, where NPCs are not very useful.
  • daffodilpetuniadaffodilpetunia Registered User Posts: 155 Junior Member
    I applied to colleges in 1989 using the Common App. Not sure when it started, but it definitely existed in the 80s.

    It was a physical form, and I got 5 of them to apply to 5 schools (LACs, all). I wrote my short answers and essay on the computer, printed it out, and then cut and physically taped them to the common app, which I then mailed.

    I recall that I also did supplementary questions for some of the schools, just adding on the page from the school's app to the common app so I could answer them.

    I also applied to UCs, which was, at that time, also one application with checkboxes for each school. One thing that made it easier was that the (single) essay required for UCs had options similar to the CA essay, so I was able to use the one CA essay for UCs as well.
  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal Registered User Posts: 1,962 Senior Member
    D17 applied to:

    Common App- 1
    UK Common App - 5 (max allowed)
    Cal State/Cal Poly - 2
    UC- 3

    So 11 schools, 4 separate applications. UC and Cal State should merge their apps and only have you do the essays if you are applying to UCs.
  • daffodilpetuniadaffodilpetunia Registered User Posts: 155 Junior Member
    edited June 21
    Common app started in 1975, had 100 schools, mostly LACs and no Ivys yet, in 1980.
    Google "The uncommon rise of the common app"

    In 1989, I used it for Occidental, Pomona, Carleton, Vassar, Amherst

  • pickpocketpickpocket Registered User Posts: 317 Member
    edited June 21
    I also strongly agree with @Sue22 's comments above -- it really is easier than ever to research colleges, see where you stack up, and then apply. The headline is pure sensationalism. I too applied in 1979 -- Brown's app required a handwritten essay and your photo!

    There is some truth that many first-gen and lower SES applicants are at a disadvantage. Statistically they may not have parents pushing them or quality guidance counselors helping them. There still exist quirks and strategies and good advice that improve odds when one has knowledgeable parents and counselors.

    I am most baffled by the suggestion that supplemental essays are somehow unfair. They're going to college and will have to write a lot! Anyone turned off by that is not serious, IMO.

    Moving to a standard schedule is also a misplaced suggestion. What's wrong with 1st tiers expecting everything Jan 1 and 2nd tiers picking up the Early round rejectees with Jan 15 and Feb 1 deadlines? Helped my son.

    As for the app # cap, it does sound reasonable though I'd put the max as 15. For a student with a mixture of strong and less-strong elements of their app, applying to 5 reach- 5 match- 3 safety is totally reasonable. (again speaking from my family's experience.)

    Just my opinion. Curious what others think.

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,983 Senior Member
    Regarding limiting the number of applications...

    A high school with limited resources may reasonably put a cap on the number of unique counselor and teacher recommendations any one student may get to avoid overburdening the counselors and teachers.
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