Students may remember how difficult it was to apply to multiple colleges that all required different applications. But the process is about to become a little easier for students who want to apply to the University. Administrators recently announced that they intend to adopt the Common App, a standardized application already in use by many universities. By making it so that students don’t have to fill out so many distinct applications, the University will attract more applicants from across the country. As it transitions to the Common App, the University should simply make sure that it retains unique and important criteria from its existing application.

The Common App, which currently serves 392 other major private and public universities, provides a single, standardized application form for undergraduates and includes school-specific supplements. Admissions officials have applied to start using the Common App as early as this February. If everything goes as planned, students applying for the University’s late summer admissions cycle of 2010 will be the first to submit the popular application. Administrators plan to preserve the unique essay questions found on the current application by including these questions as supplements. The change will affect the format of the application, rather than the substance of it.

While proponents of the University’s exclusive application might argue that it separates the dedicated applicants from the uninterested, there is little reason that the application process should be made any more burdensome than it needs to be. The University’s move to the Common App reflects the realities faced by high school seniors today. The high-achieving students that the University hopes to attract shouldn’t have to fill out separate and redundant paperwork for every school to which they apply. And since the switch to the Common App is primarily a matter of reformatting the information on the application and can still include the essay questions that make the University application unique, there’s little benefit to using an exclusive application.

The switch to the Common App is a gesture of outreach that will increase the University’s visibility and attract a more geographically and socially diverse group of applicants. As a result, the University’s already massive number of applicants will almost certainly increase. Many similar schools have reported more applications after making the switch to the Common App. As the size of the applicant pool increases, the University can expect to have an even more varied group of applicants from which to choose. The result will be an even more diverse student body.

It may be true that the Common App could cause more students with less interest to apply to the University as a backup school. But the benefits in having a larger pool of applicants to draw from will more than offset this. And administrators can work to ensure that an increase in the number of out-of-state applicants doesn’t compromise the availability of quality education for students in Michigan.

The University’s switch to the Common App is a good move, promising a more diverse applicant pool and decreasing the burden on high school seniors applying for college.

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