What happened when the Common App offered proactive admissions to students? | Tech US News


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A short dive:

  • The Common Application announced Wednesday that it will expand a pilot program to 10 colleges that allows students to be admitted before they even apply, which comes after early results from the initiative proved promising.
  • Representatives of the Common App — an online portal that allows students to apply in bulk to more than 1,000 participating colleges — said their research found that students are more likely to apply to an institution if they receive automatic acceptance. They compared students who applied to colleges after being proactively admitted to those who applied through the traditional process, finding that the former group was more likely to seek admission.
  • The Common App also looked at whether automatically admitting students would mean they would apply to fewer colleges, which doesn’t appear to be the case.

Dive Insight:

This auto-admission model has emerged over the past few years both at individual institutions and among policy makers and higher education companies.

One of the most prominent examples are Concourse, which brands its service as universities applying students. Applicants create a profile on the platform, which colleges can then view and communicate their interest. It focuses primarily on admitting low-income students.

The Common app first tested direct admissions in March 2021. It partnered with three historically black institutions — University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Fisk University in Tennessee, and Norfolk State University in Virginia.

About 3,300 students who created Common App profiles and submitted their academic history were automatically accepted to one of these institutions in the applicants’ home states.

Only 66 of those students, or 2% of direct enrollment applicants, responded to the offer. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Common App CEO Jenny Rickard attributed that to the pilot project starting so late in the adoption cycle. Of the 66 students, eight ended up enrolling at one of the HBCUs.

The Common Application then expanded the program in January 2022, extending direct enrollment offers to approximately 17,700 students at one of six institutions. In addition to the HBCUs that participated in the first pilot project, Montclair State University in New Jersey, George Mason University in Virginia, and Middle Tennessee State University have joined the initiative.

In the second pilot project, 830 students applied to one of the faculties, or less than 5% of the 17,700. The Common App says students with direct-enrollment offers were almost three times more likely to apply to one of the institutions than those who studied in the control group – about 5% of direct-enrollment students applied to one from partner colleges compared to about 2% who were not automatically admitted.

The organization also wanted to know if proactively accepting students would prevent them from applying elsewhere. But proactively admitted students actually sent in more applications, said Preston Magouirk, senior manager of research and analytics at the Common App.

If those students applied to the same number of institutions or fewer colleges, the Common App would know that the program likely prevented them from sending their applications elsewhere.

Jordanna Maziarz, director of undergraduate admissions at Montclair State University, said fewer than 3,000 students were automatically admitted to the university. Of these, approximately 8% or 249 applied, and 235 students completed their application. Finally, 31 students enrolled.

Maziarz said the process was streamlined for students, and enrolled students had a slightly higher average high school GPA compared to the next freshman class. The student body also included many racial minority students, she said.

Rickard said the common application focuses on equity in the project, so colleges can choose to participate in it instead of starting their own direct enrollment programs or using company programs.

None of the participating institutions is selective. Rickard said some colleges with acceptance rates below 50% have expressed interest in the next iteration of the pilot, but the Common App has not yet finalized the list of 10 participating institutions.


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