The University of Virginia has joined a coalition of more than 80 top public and private universities collaborating to improve the college admission application process for all students. As part of the Coalition for Affordability, Access, and Success, U.Va. is helping develop a free platform of online tools that will streamline the application process and make it more accessible to all students.
“Building on the principles of our Affordable Excellence program, the University’s membership in this coalition is another demonstration of our commitment to ensure that high-achieving students from all backgrounds have access to a U.Va. education,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said.
Unlike existing application platforms, which usually allow students to begin in the fall of their senior year of high school, the coalition’s new application will be an ongoing process that students can begin as early as ninth grade. New planning and application tools will be unveiled later this year and will include a digital portfolio, a collaboration platform and an application portal.
The aim of these tools and of the earlier start is to give students more time to join the college conversation and document a more comprehensive portfolio of their high school achievements. The initial iteration of the platform will be available to high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors beginning in January.
With these tools, the coalition hopes to motivate a stronger college-going mindset among students of all backgrounds, especially those from low-income families or groups who historically have been underrepresented at leading colleges and universities.
“Research has shown that early intervention for low-income, first-generation students is very important for success,” U.Va. Dean of Admission Gregory Roberts said. “This would allow counselors to begin the college conversation much earlier in the process.”
The coalition will also offer a free counseling tool to all high schools. Other application platforms offer similar tools, but the cost is high enough that many public high schools, especially in low-income areas, cannot afford to provide it to their counselors.
The coalition’s new tool will help counselors begin promoting a college-going culture among all grades of high school and familiarize their students with the application process early on. Disadvantaged students who might not have been aware of the full range of financial aid and academic options available to them previously will now have years, rather than months, to learn the ropes.
With this expanded timeline and broader platform, the coalition aims to attract a diverse new wave of talent among student populations that were previously under-informed or unprepared for the application process.
Membership in the coalition is limited to universities with high graduation rates and a commitment to affordability. Public university members must offer affordable tuition with need-based financial aid for in-state residents, while private colleges and universities must provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit. U.Va. is also committed to meeting the full need of non-resident students.
Having the new platform option adds a level of security for applicants who previously could use only the Common Application; in the event that a student experiences technical issues with one platform, they have the option to complete their application on the other.
“We will accept both types of applications with no preference for either,” Roberts said. “We joined because we think it’s important to have a secondary option for students, but most importantly, we believe this will expand college access.”
UVA will begin accepting applications through the Coalition platform in the summer of 2017. More information can be found at coalitionforcollegeaccess.org.