January 24, 2014
Penn likely to join new college app platform, once it’s created
Penn will likely join a new college application platform for which a group of selective universities is soliciting proposals.
The new platform — which would serve as an alternate option to the Common Application — intends to give more flexibility to each member college by reducing the number of required items for all schools, according to a confidential request for proposals obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Several elite schools, including Georgetown, Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities and Dartmouth College, have already expressed interest in creating a new system.
While Penn has not committed to join the new platform yet, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said once the platform is created, Penn will have to join it.
“If all your peers are there, you need to be there — it’s a herd mentality,” he said.
The application platform is intended to be used by member schools of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education and the Association of American Universities — two large college coalitions. Penn is a member of both COFHE and the AAU.
“By definition, that’s going to be an elite group of schools,” Furda said. “It’s a club that has membership criteria that is very high.”
Laurie Weingarten, director of One-Stop College Counseling, said that these colleges are likely soliciting input for a new system because of the trouble many had with Common App glitches last year. As a result of the glitches, several colleges, including Penn, needed to push back their early decision deadlines to accommodate students. However, she was not sure how this new addition will affect the college application process.
“Right now, I’m not that excited about it because it’s going to add confusion to the process,” Weingarten said. For example, students might not know which platform they should use when applying to colleges.
Ivy Coach founder Bev Taylor, though, is looking forward to the new system and said it will allow students to apply to more colleges. The Common App allows each student to apply up to 20 colleges, and using this other application will allow students to apply to even more schools.
Taylor also feels that the Common App doesn’t give applicants enough flexibility, since it doesn’t allow for students to upload essays, which limits how creative they can be with content. Supplemental questions embedded in the Common App also create a lot of confusion among students, she said.
“I think the Common App is way too restrictive,” she added.
The request for proposals asks for developers to create a new platform that will “make it much easier for students to understand, apply for, and, for those who have financial need, to receive need-based financial aid.” But Furda, who is chair of the Common App, does not think the application platform will increase access in applying to colleges.
“If [the new application platform] is going to work, it needs to be more common than customized,” he said.
However, the Common App’s chief isn’t sure what to think of the new proposal at the moment.
“Because so little has been made public about this prospective alternative to the Common Application, it is hard to know what to say,” interim CEO of the Common App Paul Mott said in an email statement.
“If this alternative to the Common Application actually can help increase access — which would reverse a generational trend in the opposite direction — and actually reduce the pointless friction in the college admission process, we look forward to hearing more,” he added.