A New Way of Applying to College Beginning with those Applying to Begin at Skidmore in the Fall of 2017
Beginning with the class that will enter in the Fall of 2017, the Common Application that is used by more than 600 colleges will not be the only option for applying to Skidmore. Last month, Skidmore announced that it would join about 80 other private and public universities and accept the “Coalition” application that is being developed by a group that has named itself the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.
The Coalition says on their website that it “is coming together to improve the college admission application process for all students.” The coalition will bring about a whole new way of applying to colleges, through an entirely new application, unlike any others.
The most distinguishing feature of the new application will be a feature called the portfolio or locker. This will be an area where students throughout high school can add pieces of their work. This work could range from a paper to a piece of creative work like a video. By the time these students are ready to apply to college members of the coalition application will be able to invite them to attach examples of their creative work to their application.
One of the clear draws of the coalition to Skidmore was the ability for students who wanted to use the “portfolio” to be able to. “Here at Skidmore we believe creative thought matters. So, this seemed logical for us to position ourselves to be able to take advantage of that feature, so that a student whose applying to Skidmore … could… attach something that they have done in high school to their application for the admissions committee to evaluate,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Mary Lou Bates.
According to Bates, the Coalition is hoping for “the application to college not to be transactional in your senior year.” Instead she said they are hoping that the portfolio feature that students can begin creating in 9th grade “will prompt some underserved students who aren’t even thinking about colleges as early as 9th grade to start doing so.” The extensive portfolio might also help “students who do not have a lot of support in the process and would benefit from a process that takes into account things beyond grades and scores,” said Sonya Ohlsson, the Director of College Counseling at the Field School (a private 6th-12th grade school in Washington, DC).
In order for a private college or university to join the Coalition, they must have a policy where they meet 100% of all demonstrated financial need for all domestic students and, public universities must show that they are affordable for instate students. Public and private universities that want to join must also demonstrate they have a graduation rate of at least 70% within six years. By establishing these criteria, the Coalition hopes to send the message to lower income students about the extent of the commitment that member schools have to financial aid and that students who attend are successful. Overall, there were about 140 colleges and universities, including Skidmore, that met these requirements and so far more than 80 have joined. Other schools that have joined along with Skidmore include Union College, Vassar College, Colgate University, Yale University and University of Rochester.
While the Coalition hopes to expand college access, some college professionals are not sure if it will be successful. Ohlsson, is concerned “that because (the Coalition Application) will often be used by students from a lower socio economic status and possibly a high number of students of color, just by using the application, they are immediately segregated.” Likewise, a question that Bates still feels needs to be addressed is how “underserved kids who are in high schools where a guidance counselor is not talking to them in 9th grade about college” will learn about and navigate the new application. Bates said that the hope is community-based organization (organizations that help underserved students apply to college) counselors will now have a vehicle to engage with 9th and 10th graders.
While the high school portfolio may help certain students and may increase interest in universities and colleges that accept the new application, Bates recognized that some high school counselors feel that encouraging students in 9th grade to start thinking about college admissions “is just putting more pressure on kids” and “is just increasing the frenzy around college admissions even more so.” While this may be true at some schools, it is unlikely to be the case at schools, such as Field, that downplay the pressure associated with the college search process. As Ohlsson explained, the Coalition Application “will not impact Field kids because we don't start the college process as early as the Coalition App would [in 9th grade] simply because it is not our philosophy.”
While Skidmore will be accepting the Coalition Application, it will not be getting rid of the Common Application. “I don’t know any college… that plans to eliminate the common app,” said Bates.
Although no one is sure whether the Coalition Application will be embraced, Bates is confident that, by using both the Common and Coalition Applications, “we will [continue to] have a robust applicant pool of extremely qualified students of diverse interest and diverse backgrounds to be able to choose from.” And, she believes that “each [application] will be even better because there is competition.”