Early Decision applicants experience Common App issues

The Office of Admission is currently reviewing the Class of 2018 Early Decision (ED) applications. The College expects to have about 550 ED applicants this year. While the number of applicants dropped slightly from last year’s 618, “the applicant pool is strong,” Dick Nesbitt ’74, director of admissions, said.

The ED review process includes two readings of each application by different admissions officers, followed by committee discussions in the first week of December. “The committee will be carefully monitoring the socioeconomic makeup of the class to be sure it represents a broad spectrum,” Nesbitt said. The committee hopes to release decisions on Dec. 12.

Although the ED deadline has already passed, the exact number of applicants to the College this year is still uncertain due to the College’s ongoing relationship with the Questbridge program and issues with the new version of the Common Application.

In early December, the College begins its Questbridge Match Program through which high-achieving, low-income students can apply and if admitted, attend on a full scholarship. Typically, the College admits approximately 10 Questbridge Match students. For a select group of Questbridge students who were not able to match, the College will extend the ED deadline, giving them the opportunity to receive early admission to the College.

The College has also offered a deadline extension to students who are having trouble with CA4 (the new version of the Common Application). Students across the nation experienced complications with the Common Application, as forms came up blank, essays were deleted and servers shut down. For the admissions office, PDF documents with recommendations or school forms may be blank, and the College has to contact the Common Application to regenerate the forms. Additionally, some applications submitted via ED were lost in the online queue and not downloaded to the College server.

The issues with CA4 are creating bigger problems for larger state universities that receive thousands of early applications; they do not have the leisure of being able to wait for form regeneration of applications. Fortunately, as a smaller institution, the College has been able to manage these issues. “This is nothing for applicants to be concerned about,” Nesbitt said. “We have a pretty good handle on it.” At this point, Nesbitt is “cautiously optimistic” that kinks in the CA4 system will be corrected prior to the Jan. 1 deadline for Regular Decision applicants.

“The Common Application should have had better testing,” Nesbitt said. “They have to be on their game or colleges will be running in another direction. What I don’t want to see is a different application for every school,” Nesbitt said. Most colleges have agreed upon the Common Application, and up to now, it has been quite reliable. Nesbitt hopes colleges do not revert to using separate applications for each institution, and the Common Application – or a similar application – remains the main method for college application.

Another change in this year’s application process is the electronic application reading and review system. In the past, once a student submitted an application via Common Application, the College would print out the entire application – approximately 25 pages – for review. This process generated “a lot of waste,” Nesbitt said. This year, the admissions office is utilizing a new software system, Slate, to read and review applications. Admissions officers can read applications and enter comments into a “reader card” in one platform.

Slate is a “really outstanding” product according to Nesbitt, although the admissions office has faced some difficulties implementing the product because many other departments – such as the Registrar’s Office – still use PeopleSoft, so communication with these departments has become more challenging.

Difficulties aside, through the Slate system, the College hopes to release admissions decisions using in-house servers and with financial aid letters. “There are a lot of exciting things happening,” Nesbitt said.