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Last week, New York Times published an article titled “Common Application Saturates the College Admissions Market, Critics Say”  which discussed the ripple effect of the news about a Long Island student who got accepted to all eight Ivy League universities and thirteen other schools.

Not surprisingly, people congratulated the student and started to talk about how easily the high number of schools that an applicant can apply to due to the help of Common Application (or Common App).


How Common Application Could Hurt Your Chance of Admission

Altogether, the Long Island student applied to 22 colleges and got accepted by 21 schools, and is currently waitlisted at Stanford University.  After the news broke out last week, a student in Virginia made some comments that made us ponder if the Common Application actually help or harm the applicants’ chance of admission to top schools.

He said that “This is exactly what is driving down college acceptance rates and making university that much harder to get into.”  He applied to 21 colleges (including the Ivy League) but got rejected by all 8 Ivy League schools.

At present, the Common Application (form) is accepted by more than 600 colleges in the U. S.   The Common Application makes it easy for an applicant to fill out one application form and send it to as many schools as the applicant desires. Because it is so easy to send the Common Application online, many applicants choose to send it to more than 10 schools to boost their chance of being accepted by their dream colleges.

Common Application Causes More Rejections than Acceptances?

Here comes a big problem – it created lower acceptance rates at prestigious schools.   The U.S. has the world’s top schools and they are favored by applicants from all countries.   Many candidates send their applications to Harvard, Yale, Sanford, MIT and other top colleges even they know their chances of being accepted are slim.   The big applicant pool at a world-class college causes heated competition and tremendous work for its admission office.

For instance, the Long Island student who applied to 22 colleges was accepted by 21 schools.  Eventually, she can only attend one of them.  If she had applied to only 10 schools, she could have given the chance of being accepted by the rest 11 schools to other applicants.   From this perspective, the Common Application not only have wasted the top schools’ resources in handling the excessive applications but also created low acceptance rate.

Try Early Admission

This is the reason why many top schools have so-called Early Admission, Early Action, or Early Decision for its applicants who want to apply way ahead of the deadline for the regular admission.  If the vacancies for new intake are not all filled up by the early applicants, a top school will admit more students through the regular application process to fill the seats.   Top schools also have spots reserved for transfer students and waitlisted students.

Overall, the Common Application has created convenience and simplicity for college applicants but has caused waste of school resources to deal with the overwhelming overload applications.