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With Common App, 'U' receives more applications

BY MICHELE NAROV
Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 23, 2011

This past fall marks the University’s first application cycle using the Common Application — a change that has resulted in more high school seniors applying to the University and more disappointments as acceptance letters arrive in the mail.

High school seniors applying to college say they were more encouraged to apply to the University of Michigan because of the University’s new use of the Common Application. Consequentially, according to University Provost Philip Hanlon, more applicants are being deferred because of a 20-percent rise in application numbers this cycle.

In an interview earlier this month, Hanlon said application numbers have increased significantly from out-of-state students. However, he said even though the University experienced an increase in applicants, it doesn’t necessarily mean more students will choose to enroll.

“(This year’s extra applicants) aren't, perhaps, as committed to (the University),” Hanlon said. “You always expect that when an application process gets harder, it's more committed people who apply.”

Hanlon said that last year the University overshot its target number of students by about 400 students, and this year the target number of students is 5,970. In last year’s admissions cycle, the University received 30,947 applicants. Of those applicants, 15,436 were offered spots at the University.

The current freshman class size — the largest to date at 6,496 students — is higher than what University officials estimated last year.

University President Mary Sue Coleman told the Michigan Daily in September that the freshman class size increase was not intended, and should be avoided this year.

The University will be especially cautious this year, Hanlon said, and more deferrals are being issued this cycle. Though the admissions office uses a calculated system to gauge the number of students to accept, Hanlon said, it is essentially a guessing game.

“You've got this decision-making process made by 18-year-olds and that's pretty random already,” he said. “We do our best.”

Hanlon said University officials weren’t caught off guard by this year’s jump in application numbers.

"Everything is kind of on track,” Hanlon said. “We're not surprised by anything right now."

Erica Sanders, director of recruitment and operations at the University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, wrote in an e-mail interview that it’s too early to tell whether the switch to the Common Application is the reason for the rise in applications.

The University made the switch to the Common Application, Sanders wrote, because the University’s contract with the previous web application vendor was set to expire this year.

“The Common Application was a great fit for our needs,” she wrote. “Many of our common cross-application schools also use the Common Application.”

The Common Application is a standardized admissions process that began in 1975 and allows a college applicant to fill out a single application that can be sent to 414 participating schools. Many of the schools, including the University, also have supplemental essay questions.

In addition to the University, 28 other schools joined the Common Application this year, including Columbia University and two international universities. As a result, the number of students applying to schools using the Common Application rose by 27 percent this year, according to the Common Application website.

Robert Killion, executive director of The Common Application, Inc., wrote in an e-mail interview that the Common Application website is designed to diversify the pool of applicants in addition to lowering the cost and easing the admissions process for universities.

“We can offer both a more sophisticated technology at a lesser cost than any single institution could build and maintain on their own,” Killion wrote.

The Common Application charges $65 per school for domestic students to submit applications and $75 for international students, according to the Common Application website.

Killion, however, wrote that switching to the Common Application doesn’t necessarily guarantee an increase in applicants for a university.

“Very selective colleges get a lot more apps every (year) when they use the Common App, and very selective colleges get a lot more apps every year when they don't use the Common App,” he wrote. “Michigan did get a lot more apps this year. But so did MIT, Georgetown, and USC. None of them use the Common App.”

Julia Wiener, a high school senior from Plainview, N.Y. who was accepted to the University this fall, said she noticed an increase in interest in applying to the University among her friends because of its new presence on the Common Application website. She said some students who weren’t sure if they were going to apply to the University were much more likely to do so because of the convenience the new application system provided.

“A lot of my friends applied to lots of different schools, and I think the Common App played a huge part in them applying (to the University of Michigan),” Wiener said.

Jessica Zank, also a high school senior from Plainview, N.Y., applied to the University but was deferred. She said she was surprised when she received her deferral notice.

“It was shocking to me based on students I knew in previous years who were accepted and the general accepted scores,” Zank said.

High school senior Madison Chaness of West Bloomfield, Mich. said the switch didn’t have much of an effect on her admissions process.

“I only applied to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, so it didn’t have a big effect on me,” Chaness said. “But it was a lot easier for my friends applying to lots of different schools.”

LSA freshman Rachel Beckman said using Michigan’s old application was definitely more of a hassle.

“I know a lot of people who actually didn’t apply to Michigan (last year) because they didn’t feel like filling out the extra forms,” she said.

— Daily News Editor Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report.


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