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Penn's admissions office is changing how prospective students can apply to the University.

For the 2008-2009 admissions cycle, Penn is eliminating its own application and adding the Universal College Application as an option for students. Applicants will be able to use either the UCA or the Common Application, the latter of which the University first accepted last year.

Like the Common App, the UCA is an application consortium that allows students to apply to multiple colleges using a standardized form.

The UCA allows any accredited college that is in good standing with the National Association of College Admissions Counselors to join its consortium. In contrast, only schools that require essays and letters of recommendation can join the Common App.

"It was all about access," said Interim Dean of Admissions Eric Kaplan of Penn's reason for joining the UCA.

Kaplan said he hopes that allowing students to apply using the UCA - which includes some public universities ineligible for the Common App - will attract students who would not otherwise apply to Penn.

Kaplan said the University decided to drop the Penn Application because applicants felt that admissions officers preferred it over the Common App, which he said was not the case.

Kaplan added that the admissions office did not want to manage three different application options. However, Penn-specific supplements, including essay and short-answer questions, will be required for students using both the UCA and Common App.

Admissions experts said Penn's acceptance of the UCA would help the University attract a more diverse student body, but the buck doesn't stop there, they say.

"I think the Universal Application is the way to go because it uses a broader range," said Bari Norman, the director of the private college counseling group Expert Admissions. "For a school like Penn that's trying to increase its diversity, it's a good option."

However, "the burden is going to be on the University to recruit students from the wrong side of the tracks," said education consultant Steven Goodman.

Kaplan said the admissions office decided to add the UCA before the University announced its new financial aid policy, but added that he hopes the two initiatives will both attract more students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to Penn.

Goodman added that he believes using the UCA will help Penn generate more applications and subsequently lower the acceptance rate.

Penn is the UCA's 57th member. The University of Rochester and Hobart and William Smith Colleges also joined for the 2008-2009 cycle. The UCA launched last July, with members for its first year including Harvard University, Duke University, Washington University in St. Louis and Johns Hopkins University.

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