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University switches to Common App

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prospective students will apply to Notre Dame through the Common Application next year as the Office of Admissions abandons its custom application for the first time.

The change was made to ease the rigorous admissions process for high school seniors, said Dan Saracino, director of the Office of Admissions.

Students will be able to access the Common Application on July 1.

The Common Application originated in 1975 when 15 private universities agreed to accept a single, standardized application for admission. More than 300 universities and colleges in the United States are now members of the Common Application.

The Common Application is designed to let admissions officers evaluate all aspects of a candidate’s record, Saracino said.

“You, as an institution, have to be committed to viewing application files holistically – not just looking at numbers – and be committed to diversity,” he said.

Though Notre Dame has been asked to join the Common Application several times, the University said joining before this year “didn’t seem necessary.”

The Common Application was once considered new and experimental, Saracino said.

“Now they have gotten all the kinks out of it,” he said. “I have heard nothing but good things about it recently. Students and colleges are happy with it.”

Now that the Common Application is completely online and supported by strong software, its use will allow elimination of paper waste and confusion from written applications, Saracino said.

“It will be much more efficient,” he said.

The Common Application will also simplify the admissions process for students who can use the same form for the majority of their applications, he said.

“Virtually all of the schools that our students also apply to are members of the Common Application,” he said. “We know the schools our students also apply to. If a student applies to Northwestern, or Stanford, let them for convenience sake, be able to apply to Notre Dame the same way.”

Northwestern and Stanford, along with the University of Chicago, are among a number of schools that recently joined the Common Application, Saracino said.

“Joining just seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.

Notre Dame’s Common Application will have a supplemental application, which will contain “more information that we want.”

For example, Saracino explained that the University is interested in the religious background of the applicants, but religion is left out of the Common Application. The supplement will also contain an additional essay question, he said.

The decision to join the Common Application was not made to increase the number of applicants, though that may occur.

“Universities always report that with the Common Application, their number of applicants go up,” Saracino said. “But we are not interested in more applications for the sake of it … I am not interested in sending out any more ‘no’ letters to students,” he said.

Although the Common Application may cause a rise in applicants, the overall profile of the student body is not expected to change significantly.

“[Admissions] is quietly getting more competitive, and the overall profile of incoming first year students will probably increase, but that has been happening anyways,” said Saracino.