How Common App is Actively Recruiting Students by Securing College Acceptances

Over 300,000 individuals have already received acceptance letters from colleges and universities in their state this month, even before completing their applications. These students were part of the direct admissions program organized by the Common App, a widely-used college application platform. Participating colleges review incomplete applications and offer acceptances based on certain GPA and test score criteria, as well as factors like living in poverty-stricken areas or being a first-generation college student.

This batch acceptance process comes as undergraduate enrollment rates show signs of recovery from the decline caused by the pandemic. Additionally, data from the Common App indicates that applications for next fall are higher than pre-pandemic levels. Increased enrollment is being seen among Black, Hispanic, and Asian students, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

“The goal here is to have every student in Common App feel not only worthy but welcomed,” said Jenny Rickard, the CEO of the Common App. “It’s to inspire them to explore the many opportunities that they have ahead of them.”

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The rise in popularity of direct admissions programs

Direct admissions programs have gained popularity among institutions aiming to increase enrollment. For students, these programs offer a way to bypass lengthy admissions processes that often involve standardized test scores, essays, and recommendation letters. Such requirements tend to disproportionately impact low-income students and those whose parents have not attended college. Jennifer Delaney, a professor of higher education at the University of Illinois, highlights how costly programs like private tutors or parental guidance can help overcome these barriers.

In recent years, the number of direct admissions programs has significantly increased. Idaho was among the first states to introduce such a program in 2015, admitting all public high school seniors to at least six in-state colleges each year. Georgia has recently implemented a similar initiative, sending letters to all public high school seniors to notify them of acceptance to in-state colleges and universities upon application. Minnesota has also launched a pilot direct admissions program, and for-profit company Niche has expanded its program to 68 colleges.

The proactive approach of direct admissions programs helps combat the misconception that most colleges have low acceptance rates. In reality, about 90% of the 1,000+ schools using the Common App accept more than half of their applicants.

College costs remain a significant obstacle for prospective students

A study conducted using data from the Common App showed that students who received direct admissions were more likely to submit a college application, particularly minority, first-generation, and low-income students. However, the study did not find evidence that the program increased enrollment rates at the schools where students were accepted. Jennifer Delaney and Jenny Rickard attribute this to the steep costs associated with college education.

The average price of tuition, fees, and housing for an undergraduate degree increased by 169% between 1980 and 2020, outpacing wage growth, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Tuition costs continue to rise, with a 2.5% increase for public four-year colleges and a 4% increase for private four-year institutions in the 2023-24 school year.

Both Delaney and Rickard suggest that future iterations of direct admissions programs could be combined with scholarships to address the financial burden of college education.

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