As many high school seniors begin their college application process, they will become familiar with their main resource — the Common Application, a nonprofit organization that runs an application system used by 700 national and international colleges and universities. The Common App makes it easier for students to apply to multiple universities at one time. Its effectiveness is seen in the number of applications it handles every year: over 4 million, on average.
Yet across the country, there are only two major universities that still refuse to join this near-ubiquitous system: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University. It is time for Georgetown to join a system that is not only widespread, but also simpler and more efficient for a wider base of prospective applicants.
Switching to the Common App should make applying to Georgetown much easier. When the University of Chicago switched to the Common App in 2008, it received a 9 percent increase in applications, moving from 12,381 applicants in 2007 to 13,600 applicants in 2008. In 2015, it received 30,188 applicants.
By switching to the Common App, schools like the University of Southern California and the University of Maryland have all experienced increases in the socio-economic, ethnic and geographic diversity of applicants.
Receiving a greater number of applications does not necessarily lead to an increase in the quality applicants. But schools should always strive to avoid creating barriers to overall admission where they can. According to The Washington Post in 2011, schools that join the Common App experience a 5 to 10 percent increase in overall applicants to their schools. In the long term, such an increase will give admissions officers a greater pool of candidates from which to choose, which as a consequence allows the potential for greater diversity in the future.
Georgetown should also consider being part of the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. Created in 2016 through a consortium of schools, the nonprofit provides students a free portfolio-based admissions package to organize application resources, including essays and financial information. Over 90 schools, such as all the Ivy League schools, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, encourage the use of the program since it is tailored to providing all students, regardless of socio-economic background, with a simple portal and resource when applying to colleges and universities.
Georgetown’s own system and admission process is one that, presently, provides no benefits to potential applicants in relation to the Common App. Yet the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon (CAS ’64, GRD ’69) has long been a proponent of a separate application. In a 2013 interview with The Hoya, Deacon said the admissions office is “encouraging students to express themselves to us, rather than to a common process.”
Our admissions office should certainly look for outstanding and unique characteristics in applicants, yet the Common App does not present a generally common process. In applying to higher education institutions, all prospective applicants have to input the same basic information, metrics and a common essay. But each school can also add its own supplementary requirements to the Common App, allowing a uniqueness for each school.
Georgetown’s application is composed of a general essay and a supplemental essay for the specific school students are applying to. The difference is that the Common App is a part of a single, easy-to-access and unified system, recognized by all students applying to college, while Georgetown’s application is not.
Switching to the Common App does pose some risks, however. There will, expectedly, be increases in more frivolous applications. It is also true that a potential increase in the number of applicants with a same cap on the number of students accepted would also make our school more selective. Yet Georgetown should no longer be an outlier among 700 other schools. With so many other schools — from Cornell University to the University of Chicago to Columbia University — already using Common App, it is time for Georgetown to follow suit and make its admissions as streamlined, simple and efficient as possible for future Hoyas to come.