Several selective universities are accepting alternative application options after last year’s technical problems in the Common Application, but Penn has not changed its admissions policy.
The new version of the Common App caused many universities to push back their application deadlines last year because of website glitches. Since then, several universities — including Cornell University and the University of Chicago — began accepting the Universal College Application, a competitor to the Common App.
Penn also pushed its early decision deadline last year from Nov. 1 to Nov. 11. But Penn still only accepts the Common App, citing low usage of the UCA in the past.
“There are various ways an institution can decide how students apply,” said Admissions Dean Eric Furda, who is also the chairman of the Common App’s board of directors. He added that some colleges prefer having multiple avenues to offer more accessibility to applicants.
But having multiple application options can cause complications in managing the applications, Furda said. Penn used to be a member school of UCA when the service launched in 2007, but decided to discontinue its membership four years ago. UCA was not a big channel for Penn in receiving applications. Before opting out of the platform, Penn received a few hundred applications each year through the system, Furda said.
“Penn’s not being on UCA will not affect its applicant pool at all,” he added.
The alternate application system has more flexibility, allowing applicants edit their essays for each college — whereas the Common App allows only one version of the essay. UCA currently serves 45 colleges, including Harvard, Princeton and Duke universities, compared to the over 500 that the Common App serves.
“Our membership has grown thanks to our reputation for reliability in service and software,” said Joshua Reiter, the President of ApplicationsOnline — the company that launched UCA.
Furda expected the Common App to be more stable this application cycle, though nothing can be without any flaws. “There can be system challenges whether you are talking about major post offices or websites,” Furda said.
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