You’re a high school senior using the Common Application. Suddenly, some colleges that you have listed on your dashboard as “My Colleges” are reaching out to you by mail and email with offers of fee waivers, priority admission, and scholarship information. How do they know that you have listed their schools before you have even applied, and what do you do with this information?
According to the Common App, once you have placed a school on your My Colleges list, that college or university can see the information you have filled out on the application and the school’s individual supplement. They can read your profile information, and if you have given them permission to communicate with you, they will also have access to your mailing address, phone numbers and email. They do not have access to the names of other schools to which you are applying unless you answer that optional question in a supplement or mention the name of other schools in an interview. It is possible that a counselor or recommender might mention another school by name, but that is generally unlikely. And even if the schools do see their competition, it rarely has any bearing on whether they select you for acceptance.
What do you do with some of the early offers of quick and easy acceptance? Some schools will buy lists of names of students and their standardized test scores, and then they will send promotional literature about their schools, sometimes with offers of easier applications and fast decisions. Although this marketing tool is intriguing, it does not guarantee admission or even signify an interest in you as a student. You certainly can explore the benefits of applying to these schools and there may be no harm in using what is often termed a priority or VIP application, but by no means does that increase your chances of admission.
What it does increase, however, is the numbers of students who apply to the school, which gives the school a bit of a boost in its rankings in resources such as US News and World Report. This increase in applications gives the school the opportunity to be more selective and accept a smaller percentage of applications!
As you research your college choices for their location, size, student life, academic strengths and extra-curricular activities, be sure to evaluate carefully any offers that you might receive. Be a knowledgeable consumer, just as you would for any other product or service. Don’t be shy about asking questions and making informed decisions!