NU adopts Common Application

Margaret Matray

Northwestern’s Office of Undergraduate Admission announced today that it will accept the Common Application starting with applicants for the 2007-08 academic year. NU was one of 23 schools to adopt the application this year, which ties last year’s record for the largest single-year increase in Common Application membership.

This application is used by 300 colleges and universities and allows students to submit a single form to participating schools. Students applying to NU also will have to complete a supplement that includes the essays and short answer questions on NU’s institutional application.

NU chose to adopt the application to smooth the process, said Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment.

“We hope over time it will make the process go smoother,” Mills said. “We want to eliminate confusion and make it as convenient as possible for students, teachers and counselors.”

NU also hopes to diversify its applicant pool with the adoption of the application, Mills said.

By accepting the Common Application, NU will be more accessible to students who live in areas of lower socioeconomic status or don’t have academic counselors, Mills said. These students typically have access to the Common Application because it is well-known and widespread, but may not be familiar with the institutional applications of schools like NU, he said.

“We want rural students from where we can’t travel to recruit,” Mills said. “We’re optimistic that we’ll get more rural applicants, more first-generation applicants.”

But NU isn’t the only university seeking diversity. The University of Pennsylvania adopted the application this year to “reach further and wider audiences of all backgrounds,” said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions for the University of Pennsylvania.

One of the selling points for NU was its diversity, said incoming Medill freshman Laura Ashbaugh. A diverse student body should remain a top focus of the university, she said.

“I come from a relatively homogeneous community, so I wanted a school that would expose me to people of different races and religions,” Ashbaugh said. “The more exposed you are to different types of people the more likely you are to adjust and succeed in the world.”

NU received a record number of applicants for the class of 2010, Keith Todd, director of undergraduate admissions, told The Daily in January. The admissions office counted 18,177 applications in mid-January, an increase of about 12 percent, or more than 1,500 applications, from last year.

Mills said he expects to see further growth in the applicant pool with the adoption of the Common Application.

Cornell University began accepting the Common Application two years ago and saw a 17 percent increase in the number of applicants within the first year and a 15 percent increase the second year, said Doris Davis, associate provost of admissions and enrollment at Cornell, in an e-mail.

Although adoption of the application was not solely responsible, “there is no doubt that joining the Common Application has helped to increase and diversify our applicant pool,” Davis said.

NU is prepared for possible growth in the applicant pool, Mills said.

“We’ll have to make some accommodations,” Mills said. “Our readers live in a world of manila folders for months, and we’ve already talked about what will happen if the success continues. We could always hire more readers.”

The University of Pennsylvania similarly predicts more applicants and may hire more admissions officers, Stetson said.

Mills spearheaded the initiative to adopt the application when he joined the NU faculty in July. His predecessors decided against using the Common Application, but Mills said he consulted Ivy League schools that used the application before making a decision.

Schools that are on the fence have been deciding to adopt the Common Application because prestigious schools, such as Harvard University, have noticed success, he said. This may account for the record increase in Common Application membership in the past two years, Mills said.

Reach Margaret Matray at [email protected]