College Collaborating To Create New Application Platform

The Admissions and Financial Aid Office is in active discussions with other institutions about establishing an additional system for students to apply to college, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67.

“We are always interested in new initiatives that encourage promising students to apply to college, and we have been part of the discussions about a third way that students could potentially apply,” Fitzsimmons wrote in an email.

Last week, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a committee of several colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, are soliciting proposals for a new application system that would “improve the experience of applying for college for students and high school personnel,” according to the confidential proposal request, which is dated May 12.


Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 pictured here in 2010.

The request also stated that coalition institutions are aiming to create “an application solution” in cases of difficulties or system failure with other application modes, as well as establish “a new collaborative option for individual higher education institutions as they work in their own ways to enroll the very best and most diverse freshman classes they can.”


Currently, students may apply to Harvard through the Universal College Application and the more widely used Common App, which 517 colleges accept. Fitzsimmons wrote that the Admissions Office would continue to use the Common App for the “foreseeable future.”

“Whatever might happen with this third–still exploratory–possibility, we will, as always, encourage students to apply in the way that best meets their needs,” Fitzsimmons wrote. “We will also continue our longstanding policy of allowing students to personalize their applications by using the various optional features of Harvard’s portion of the application.”

According to the request, a public college can join the coalition of institutions interested in a new application system if it has in-state tuitions “that make attendance possible for large numbers of students.” Similarly, private colleges must meet the full financial need of their students, and all institutions that join the coalition must have high graduation rates and low loan default rates among graduates.

Technical mishaps on the Common App are not unheard of. After the Common App unrolled a new web interface last year, the company drew criticism from many students who reported trouble saving information to their application and formatting their essays. During mid-October, weeks before early admissions deadlines for numerous colleges, millions of students could not access the site. Though Harvard did not move back its early admissions deadline of November 1 last year, many colleges, including the University of Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Yale, did.

Fitzsimmons did not specify when he thinks the third application platform might go up, but the draft of the report indicated the new application system could go live as soon as Aug. 2015.  

—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.


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