Sunday, April 17, 2016

Has the Common Application Distorted Elite College Admissions?

I love the Common App.

I wrote a couple of recommendations for students this semester, uploaded them to the Common App, and that was it. Easy as pie.

But see the New York Times, "Common Application Saturates the College Admissions Market, Critics Say":
As the news rippled across the web last week that a Long Island student had won admission to all eight Ivy League universities, thousands of people reacted with messages of praise.

But when Peter Kang, a high school senior in Chantilly, Va., saw a New York Times article last week about the student, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, on his Facebook feed, he grumbled.

“This is exactly what is driving down college acceptance rates and making university that much harder to get into,” he wrote on the site, setting off a lively discussion in the comment thread.

The crux of Mr. Kang’s complaint, one shared by many other students, is that he and his peers are applying to too many colleges, driving down admission rates and elevating the prestige of selective universities, which leads more students to apply.

“It just seems like a vicious cycle,” Mr. Kang, 17, said in an interview.

Admissions experts say Mr. Kang has a point.

Mr. Kang blamed the Common Application, the standardized form that has risen in popularity and is now accepted by more than 600 colleges, including all the Ivy League universities. The ease of using the form has led many students to decide almost on a whim to add one, two or even 10 more universities to their list.

Mr. Kang admitted that he, too, chose to “blast send” his applications. He felt as if he had to. “I was one of those people that took advantage of the system,” he said.

He applied to 21 colleges, all but two through the Common Application, and won acceptance to six. All the Ivy League campuses to which he applied rejected him.

The experience left him deflated, though despite his critique, he said he was happy for Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna (pronounced oo-wah-man-ZOO-nah), a child of Nigerian immigrants.

“She did the same exact thing I did and she got the results, but I can’t be mad at someone trying to improve their odds,” he said. “It’s so much easier to apply and there’s so much pressure to apply.”

Admissions experts point to a trend called application inflation. Students are sending off more applications than ever. In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more schools, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. By 2013, that group had grown to 32 percent.
Keep reading.