The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success has launched…almost…any day now. Like a freshman telling his history teacher that he will turn his term paper, just as soon as he finishes his bibliography, the coalition keeps hinting that a really great thing is coming.
After following the various news stories and trying to guess both what the coalition is and why it might be important, I wonder if I can just ignore it for a year. Tantalizing tidbits emerged. The mantra of increasing access for poor teens is clearly a noble one. So what if Amherst, Rice, Stanford, Davidson and Ponoma have already shown us they can do this with the existing application. In fact those five schools are so good at it they are vying for a million dollars.
While all five are inaugural members, one wonders how putting another platform in front of students helps decrease the stress? The common app has already increased the number of colleges a typical student is applying to. The percentage of students submitting seven or more applications has risen from nine percent to 22 percent since 1990. The common app actually limits a student to twenty. The Coalition has no limits. While virtually all the colleges in the coalition will take an application fee waiver, they have not actually designed one for the students. But, you know, there is still time.
Don’t worry. It will be ready. Along with the application essays. Wait? There will be different essays than the common app? Anyone? Hello?
So it looks like, just maybe, there will be different essays. So we are simplifying the college process by increasing what they write? Wait a minute…not quite fair. Because you see some colleges may decide not to ask for an essay…or an extra essay (Am I really the only one that is having trouble following this?). Instead they could say send us a video from your lockers. Or a grader writing sample (like that freshman term paper that you got in 6 days late). Or you playing the bagpipes because nothing says I am college material like I play the bagpies.
They give college scholarships for this?
You see this is all in their 50 Gig locker that every kid gets for free. 50 Gigs? Seriously? That’s like 25,000 songs. Or 10 movies. Not that we are condoning file sharing. Just what are they thinking kids will be putting in this thing? Well they said graded writing samples. This document is currently 1 MB, including the cartoons. That means I could save this like 50 thousand times. Oh I probably need space for my bagpiping video. I mean I could just put it on Youtube for free and entertain the world at the same time, but I get it. You want me to post work I am most proud? Work that shows my development as a student. Seriously, that ten grade Rolaids lab in Chemistry will help you understand me better as a a humanities candidate? My 9 grade Julius Cesar test I aced will showcase how I get the bard? Perhaps the pastel of the fox I did as a freshman art would be a good thing? I mean both my mom liked it and the principal wanted to buy it (his nick name was the fox—mom won for some reason, crushing my professional artist dreams).
And I get to share. Unless they ask me to share in which case…And I can share it with anybody and my nosy counselor has no idea who I am sharing it with. I mean my private agent/ ghost artist needs freedom to create, right? And of course my counselor is so excited about uploading her letter of rec and my transcript to my locker so I can send it…to as many (well 90) colleges. Take that application limits. Application limits are so un-American. I mean how can a college tell they are getting better unless they can deny reject, waitlist more students. And of course the counselor cannot see my resume in which I may have embellished my accomplishments—everyone does it right? Thank good ness they are not making the college counselors verify anything I am submitting. That may work for the British, but not us Americans.
In fairness, the Coalition is partially aimed at overworked counselors with huge caseloads. Not the 8500 schools already using Naviance (which may sort of work with Version 1.0…or not). It allows counselors to track their students, much like Naviance, well at least for the 90 schools, not the thousands. But naviance costs a lot of money and the Coalition is free, like the common app is free. But the coalition has the locker, which is also free like Goggle docs is free.
The college admission folks who are in the know are far more excited about the locker than any counselor I know. Clearly they understand that it will house tools that will transform counseling. Essay writing help? Career development tools? Financial literacy? Goal setting? Self awareness? SAT/ACT prep? Well this is version 1.0. Perhaps in version 2. Actually, it is not really version 1.0. It is not even Beta. It is conceptual…or perhaps private beta. Apparently 65 counselors are involved in advising, so we counselor should not worry too much. Even though we are worried…161 have signed a petition calling for more details and a proper beta test, carefully studied before releasing.
Some have noted that the driving forces in admission are idealistic, which is wonderful.
Clearly they are designing the application system they believe will work for them. They got burned badly by the common app’s redesign. They really should have complained to…themselves. After all, the common app is a membership organization. The fact that the board and executive director were not particularly responsive. So now they have taken their ball and gone to play a new game. One they are making the rules to as they go along, but don’t worry counselors, we will let you know, in plenty of time, like in August. You know when the kids are starting their applications. And you can play with the locker in April. Oh, wait it is April. Well not early April…or mid April…Late April.
And feel free to ask questions to someone, somewhere. We will answer them. Sometime. Maybe.
I have asked the questions and I am waiting. Will Dix asked the questions and is waiting. Hamilton Gregg asked the questions (and he was a panelist on webinar).
Want to improve access colleges? Hire more people from poor backgrounds:
Support initiatives like University of Southern California’s College Advising Corps.
My questions, some of which are starting to be answered
- Will the coalition app talk with naviance? Please say yes. Many of us?our wedding to Naviance as it helps with our workflow. If kept separate it?adds one more element. Parchment is the same back bone of Naviance edocs.
- What security measures are in place to certify schools? I worry that?someone could clone my school and submit documents fabricated to look like?my school. Unless there is a control built in, it will happen. It sounds like Parchment knows?
- I am unclear of parental access and controls? Can parents see the kids?stuff? Can they add stuff?
- I am concerned that the search function focuses on the same narrow?lines that too many other existing services (Size, location, Major). Is a tool being developed that would actually help kids narrow down what sort of experience they want to have?
- Is the coalition app open to non us citizens? Sounds like yes.
- Drop box is blocked in China. Will the coalition website work in countries such as China? How is this being checked? Not just China but other firewall countries like Iran, Venezuela etc.
- How about test prep linkage? At least the SAT and ACT question of the?days. Many of the coalition applications require testing. Seems like if?your aim is to make it all accessible, then better take care of all parts.
- What about supplementary parts of the app like Slideroom for artist? Does this replace that?
- You showed a SAT range. Is this common data set information? While that is useful it is even more useful to have specific school information.
- will the essay prompts be the same or different that common app?
- is the coalition app asking about disciplinary infractions?
- When specifically can we see the application—especially what questions you are asking?
- Can a student use the locker and share with colleges but apply via common app?
College admissions is not as much broken as it is conflicted. Get more poor kids into elite higher education slots, but keep the Alumni happy. Find the best and brightest, but make sure we have a winning football and basketball team. Challenge kids to take a rigourous course load, but not that rigourous. To contribute to their communities authentically and show us you mean it so we can value it, but perhaps not as much as your SAT and ACT scores, even if those are flawed. But above all else, get them to apply.
If the coalition for application stress must go forward, I offer some solutions:
- Have an opt in button for schools that want to take a more active roll in supporting the student in their process. I imagine this would work like the UCAS system. Kids can apply one of two ways: Through a center or through their own means. I, as a school, can become a center by filling in some details. This would also solve the problem of fake schools. Now the bosuness from the college standpoint is I can actually see what the kid sends you. We have even take it a step further and have me, as school counselor, validate the claims the student makes. This would go a long way in fixing the system. For overworked school counselors, they can opt out and the system can be used as the admission folks currently conceive it.
- Limit the number of applications. Force the choice up front. Loading up shotguns is not helpful. Both the UK and Korean strictly limit the number of colleges a student can apply to. While I think 10 is more than enough, some might feel a little more room is needed. Fine. 90 is too many. And under the present system, this does not stop the kid from applying to 20 more common app schools and a whole bunch of other places that use their own system. The UK even takes it a step further and only allows a students to apply to one of two elite universities (Oxford and Cambridge).
- Six months is what is needed minimum for proper lead time for schools to work with this. Ideally a year. Coalition you are taking the exact same plays from the common app that you so detested. Some call it arrogance. So why not do this: Release the locker now. Release that application in a year. Scale it. Perhaps the three Coalition app exclusive users become the beta testers.
- Develop a more robust college search engine. I bet the search engine is the same as everything else out there. It focuses on misbegotten elements we now lump together with fit. This system needs to focus on values. Why do you want a alrge college? How will be in a city serve you?
- Get strategic partnerships embedded into this system. Specifically:
a. Test preparation
b. Self discovery tools Like the Values in Action Character assessment tool.
c. Career development tools.
d. Essay writing tutorials and support. What is all 90 colleges committed to finding 100 students on their campus to provide, for free, essay feedback through the system. Say 40 hours each. That’s 360,000 hours of real help.
Now that would actually improve success. As for affordaibility…that is a whole other issue.