While far and away the most popular and frequently-used online college application platform, serving more than three million students, parents, counselors and teachers, the Common App recently announced a series of “enhancements” that appear to directly respond to features introduced this year by the Coalition Application, proving that competition isn’t always a bad thing.
According to a statement from the Common App, “Many of the changes for next year’s application stem from the feedback we receive from the admissions, high school, and CBO counselors on our applications and outreach advisory committees and from the suggestions of the students and counselors who have used our platform.”
And it seems that some of the feedback the Common App has been receiving suggests the Coalition might be coming up with ideas that benefit the industry as a whole. It’s evident that the Common App is taking the opportunity to look at what might be working to support their stakeholders—colleges, students, and counselors—and “go one better.”
So regardless of where you come down on the confusion caused by having multiple college application platforms, the one undeniable benefit is that competition encourages innovation.
Here are some of the new features recently announced by the Common Application (don’t be surprised if a few sound a little familiar):
Google Drive Integration: Students will now be able to easily access and upload documents, resumes, and school assignments while completing the Common App and college-specific sections of the application. Recognizing that many school districts have adopted Google Docs and Google Drive to enable their students and teachers to create, collaborate, and access shared documents from any internet connected device, the Common App is introducing a feature that looks remarkably similar to the much-maligned Coalition Student Locker, only possibly more efficient. Some students do not have personal computers at home but use Google Drive on school or library computers to store documents. And by using systems students are already using, the Common App is certainly making the process more accessible. But the Coalition’s Student Locker also supports video, pictures and other multimedia files (not just documents), so the jury may still be out on which enhancement has the greatest general usefulness.
CBO, Advising, and Recommender Enhancements: Students receiving support from advising and community-based organizations will be able to work with those counselors just as they work with their school-based counselors and teachers within the application. These individuals will then be able to manage caseloads and view student progress within the Common App system. In addition, any student who wishes to do so will be able to share a view of their in-progress application with their school counselor, CBO counselor, or other advisor. Again, the Coalition pioneered this kind of application management capability, which supports schools and counselors without Naviance or other similar systems.
Courses & Grades: At times, students are required to submit self-reported high school academic records when applying to some colleges and universities. With Courses & Grades, students will be able to self-report transcript information as part of their Common Application, just as they are currently able to do on the Coalition Application. By integrating the Courses & Grades section into the Common App, students who are already sending this information will be able to complete and submit it with their Common App, making the process of self-reporting transcripts more standardized and streamlined for students, counselors, and colleges. Courses & Grades will launch in limited release on August 1, 2017.
Spanish Language Resources: Key information for using the Common App will be translated so that students, parents, and other family members who speak Spanish as their first language can better understand the college admission process, including applying for financial aid and receiving virtual mentoring. This new tool will also benefit counselors who will be working with these families and need Common App materials in Spanish. This is one enhancement that will be of enormous benefit to some families and is truly unique to the Common App.