Common Application Should Be Common

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As I began applying to college, I looked through the list of schools that use the Common Application. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that only one of the four schools I was applying to does.

Several of my older friends and family members who have already gone through the unbelievably stressful process of applying to college have told me how much I would love the Common Application and how much time it was going to save me. In my case, I found the Common App wasn’t beneficial at all.

The college application process is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. For each of my four applications, I have a separate username, password and university ID number to remember. I even installed an app on my iPhone just to keep track of all of that information. The Common App would eliminate all that confusion by putting all applications on one website, with one username and password.

My friends told me that the Common Application would save me time because it allows students to fill out one application with all of the information every university requests. Even though it is supposed to be convenient, the Common App is no time saver in my mind. Because only one of my prospective schools accepts it, the Common App was just another form I tediously completed with the same basic information I had previously filled out for my other three applications.

I see no reason for universities not to use the Common App. More colleges join every year, and I believe eventually all schools will use the Common App, but why not speed the process up and make the Common App mandatory?

There are many advantages to the Common App. Eric Fruda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, is a strong proponent. “The benefit for students is that they fill out responses to questions that all of these institutions have in common but used to ask independently,” Fruda stated in an interview with U.S. News. “Obviously, this is more efficient.”

If the application is universal for all schools, you might wonder how each school personalizes the application. The Common App allows for individualization as universities can have the students fill out supplements specific to each school.

One of the effects, which can be viewed positively or negatively, is that a university’s switch to the Common Application can increase the number of people who apply. After switching to the Common App, the University of Michigan received a record number of applications. Ted Spencer, the University of Michigan admissions director, claims that the increase is due to the switch.

Fruda points out that the only disadvantage that stems from the Common App is easily controlled by the students themselves. Because it is so easy to add schools to apply to, some students get application crazy and add schools to their list that aren’t right for them. Student should take that responsibility seriously. Applying everywhere only increases stress for everyone.

Why not make the lives of seniors everywhere easier by using one universal application for the information all colleges require, and personalized supplements for each individual college? The university would still get to ask any questions it wants, but would save students from filling out the same information over and over.

 A version of this Article appeared on 19 September 2012, on page 7 of The Shakerite.

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