College Admissions Coalition Comes With New Pressures

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a recently launched group that hopes to streamline the college admissions process, threatens to create headaches for students, organizations representing guidance counselors contend.

Some of the country’s most prominent educational institutions believe that the college admissions process is broken.

There are too many steps involved in applying to schools and not enough access to assistance for lower-income students. The question is, how can the process be fixed?

To address this, more than 80 colleges and universities joined forces last month to launch Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, which aims to simplify the application process for students. The group, which is creating an online application portal that will be ready next spring to provide free college-planning tools and advice from school counselors to assist with the application process, has some big names attached to it—including Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Yale, and numerous state universities.

I believe it only serves to up the stress for everyone.

But the group’s plan has already raised concerns from a variety of guidance counselor groups that are worried coalition members are forcing the college preparatory process on students too quickly and adding new confusion to the market. The coalition’s platform will enable students to upload samples of their best schoolwork, such as videos and term papers, as soon as they are in ninth grade, to show to colleges in the future.

“I believe it only serves to up the stress for everyone,” Katy Murphy, the college counseling director of Bellarmine College Preparatory high school in San Jose, California, commented to the Los Angeles Times.

What’s the problem? Well, the coalition’s effort mirrors that of another organization, whose product, the Common Application, is mostly used by smaller private universities. This application has proved popular because of its ability to streamline the process and boost the number of applications that schools receive. However, universities have had concerns about the Common App in recent years, according to The New York Times. Among them: Recent frustrations with its technology as well as the fact that the Common App is controlled by an outside organization.

However, the rise of a market alternative won’t kill off the Common App; in fact, schools such as Harvard and the University of Michigan, will offer both options to students.

Adding More Pressure?

Organizations representing guidance counselors are particularly skeptical of the new coalition, especially given that there’s already an established market leader. And they’re also concerned that the coalition is mostly made up of elite universities and large public schools, which may be financially out of reach for low-income students.

Members of counseling groups such as the Jesuit High School College Counselors Association, the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, and the National Association for College Admission Counseling have spoken up about these issues, along with the coalition’s approach of getting kids to start thinking about the college-admissions process when they’re just entering high school.

“Based on all adolescent development models, starting to ‘collect items’ and for parents to ‘obsess’ in the 9th grade will most likely produce significant concern/anxiety over the college process at a time when all of our students’ focus should be on the growth of their personal and academic selves,” the Jesuit High School College Counselors Association wrote in a recent letter [PDF] to the coalition.

Ultimately, though, coalition members say the portal came about because they didn’t feel like the applications they were getting offered enough information.

“I can go down the components of an application and I am concerned about every single one of them as showing the true voice of an applicant,” John F. Latting, Emory University’s vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admissions, told The New York Times.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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