Common Application Saturates the College Admissions Market, Critics Say
As the news rippled across the web last week that a Long Island student had won admission to all eight Ivy League universities, thousands of people reacted with messages of praise.
But when Peter Kang, a high school senior in Chantilly, Va., saw a New York Times article last week about the student, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, on his Facebook feed, he grumbled.
然而，当弗吉尼亚州尚蒂利的高中毕业班学生彼得·康(Peter Kang)上周在自己的Facebook上看到一篇《纽约时报》文章，从中了解到这位名叫奥格丝塔·乌瓦曼祖-纳(Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna)的学生后，他发出的是一通怨言。
“This is exactly what is driving down college acceptance rates and making university that much harder to get into,” he wrote on the site, setting off a lively discussion in the comment thread.
The crux of Mr. Kang’s complaint, one shared by many other students, is that he and his peers are applying to too many colleges, driving down admission rates and elevating the prestige of selective universities, which leads more students to apply.
“It just seems like a vicious cycle,” Mr. Kang, 17, said in an interview.
Admissions experts say Mr. Kang has a point.
Mr. Kang blamed the Common Application, the standardized form that has risen in popularity and is now accepted by more than 600 colleges, including all the Ivy League universities. The ease of using the form has led many students to decide almost on a whim to add one, two or even 10 more universities to their list.
Mr. Kang admitted that he, too, chose to “blast send” his applications. He felt as if he had to. “I was one of those people that took advantage of the system,” he said.
He applied to 21 colleges, all but two through the Common Application, and won acceptance to six. All the Ivy League campuses to which he applied rejected him.
The experience left him deflated, though despite his critique, he said he was happy for Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna (pronounced oo-wah-man-ZOO-nah), a child of Nigerian immigrants.
“She did the same exact thing I did and she got the results, but I can’t be mad at someone trying to improve their odds,” he said. “It’s so much easier to apply and there’s so much pressure to apply.”
Admissions experts point to a trend called application inflation. Students are sending off more applications than ever. In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more schools, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. By 2013, that group had grown to 32 percent.
招生专家提到了一种叫做“入学申请通胀”的趋势。学生提交申请的数量之多是空前的。据大学招生咨询协会(National Association for College Admission Counseling)的统计，1990年只有9%的学生会申请七所或更多的学校。到了2013年，这个比例已经上升到32%。
But experts note that universities have taken steps to help to offset this trend.
As an example, imagine that 20 years ago Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna had applied to just four of the Ivies. All things being equal, the universities would have had a one-in-four chance of her attending. Fast forward to the present, and that drops to one in eight.
To ensure that freshmen classes are filled, “somehow, those institutions have to compensate,” said David Hawkins, the association’s director of public policy.
They do that, he said, in part by accepting more students. They are also marketing their campuses more aggressively to widen the applicant pool while, when making admissions decisions, putting greater weight on how serious students are about attending.
In the latest association survey, colleges attributed more importance to applicants’ so-called demonstrated interest than in class rank or teacher recommendations.
At the same time, more and more universities are waiving application fees or buying the names of desirable students from testing agencies and sending them “fast track” applications that require little more than a signature.
Universities say the recruitment efforts are crucial to reaching students who might not otherwise apply as well as increasing campus diversity.
Critics, however, note that a more cynical motive is certainly at play.
“Colleges like to trumpet that they have record numbers of applications,” said Kent Rinehart, dean of undergraduate admission at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “They like to turn away more students. It looks good to the alums, it looks good to the people on their campus, it looks good for rankings and ratings.”
“大学喜欢大肆宣传自己的申请人数屡创新高，”纽约州波基普西市玛利亚教会学院(Marist College)的本科生招生主任肯特·莱因哈特(Kent Rinehart)说。“他们喜欢拒绝更多学生。这对它们的毕业生来说是好事，对在校生来说是好事，对学校的排名和评级也有好处。”
The result of the shifting landscape in college admissions is more confusion and more anxiety for students — what one columnist called “The Great National Freak-out.”
But admissions advisers say most students have reason to calm down. Even as competition has grown more fierce at the elite institutions the average acceptance rate at four-year colleges nationwide has remained fairly consistent at about 65 percent.
“The core message is that the number of students and the number of openings at colleges has not changed in some dramatic function,” Mr. Rinehart said. “What’s changed is the number of applications that students are submitting.”
For her part, Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna reiterated on Monday that she was not trying to run the board when using the Common Application to apply to all eight Ivies, along with four other colleges. She just hoped to get into one.
As for Mr. Kang, who was rejected by the Ivies, he says that in the fall, he expects to attend Clark University in Worcester, Mass., an alma mater to judges, business leaders and rocket scientists.