USC switches to Common App for 2012 applications

The dreaded college application process has caused sleepless nights for many high school students, but students looking to apply to USC in the future might be able to breathe a little easier.

USC will be joining the Common Application’s 2011-12 admission cycle, along with 48 other institutions.

USC’s Office of Admission, lead by Dean of Admission Timothy Brunold, has been working with the Common Application for many years to switch from the in-house online application to the Common Application.

“[The USC admission staff] wanted to be more responsive to the people we work with,” Brunold said. “High school guidance counselors and students would ask why we didn’t accept the Common App and when we were going to.”

Changing the application procedure is expected to increase efficiency and make it easier on students and guidance counselors, according to Kirk Brennan, USC’s director of Admission.

“The Common App will save [guidance counselors and prospective students] from many steps and from repeating themselves [in applications],” Brunold said.

In applying to multiple institutions, high school guidance counselors and teachers will only have to submit letters of recommendation, transcripts and evaluations once through Common Application’s online portal.

Brunold said there will be a USC supplement to the Common Application.

“The form is a starting point and we are in the process of creating the supplement … it will be very similar to what we are already asking students,” Brunold said.

Current USC students agree the switch will bring increased efficiency to the application process.

“I wish the Common App was available when I applied because it always felt like I was filling out the same form twice,” said Kathleen Colao, a freshman majoring in heath promotion and disease prevention. “It will be beneficial for applicants and relieve some stress in applying to college.”

USC has been fine-tuning its own online application for close to 20 years, and the new Common Application form will take significant work to perfect, according to Brennan.

“If you look at the top 20 universities according to US News [& World Report,] all of them, except MIT, participate in the Common App. It has become a growing trend over the years,” said Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs.

In switching to the Common App, USC’s admissions office hopes to increase the number and diversity of students from different geographical locations, ethnicities and economic backgrounds, according to Brennan.

“By joining our not-for-profit association of colleges, USC will have access to 700,000 college applicants next year, one-third of whom are students of color, one-fourth of whom are first generation college students and one-tenth of whom are international students,” said Rob Killion, executive director for Common Application, Inc.

Some USC students said they think the transition to the Common Application will enhance the students USC can attract.

“Converting to the Common App is a good thing,” said Meredith Reed, a sophomore majoring in philosophy. “The new application will make it easier for more students to apply, which will result in a greater student body diversity.”

The Office of Admissions is confident in its decision to switch to the Common Application, according to Brunold.

“[The switch] was not an easy decision,”Brennan said. “If we [USC admissions] don’t do it carefully we will lose the personalized feel of our application.”

Applicants will be able to access the Common Application beginning August 1.

Prospective graduate students will continue to use USC’s online application portal.

7 replies
  1. James 2
    James 2 says:

    I think there is nothing wrong with USC trying to expand their applicant pool and lowering their admissions rate. Obviously, that is not the primary and sole goal of the switch. But, it will inevitably increase USC’s lay prestige and ranking in the famous US News Best College Rankings. Every university does it — especially the ones in the Top 25. Fight on!

  2. C/O 2012
    C/O 2012 says:

    Disappointing. I actually really enjoyed USC’s application. It was comparatively fun and differed positively from the common app, UC apps, etc.

  3. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    Filling out a college application, once the essay is written, is not that hard. It takes a few minutes to fill in your name, big deal if you have to do that more than once. Want to know the REAL reason USC is moving to the Common Application? Boosting application numbers. Now, thousands of high school students who have no real interest in USC will apply because they filled out the Common App and will just send it everywhere it’s accepted. USC will still accept the same number, but from a much larger pool. Then, USC will go from a 20% to 15% acceptance rate (or whatever), boosting US News rankings, which universities, students, and parents are all secretly obsessed with. It really is just a sort of backhanded marketing move.

    • James
      James says:


      I’m sure your point part of it, but it’s a decidedly cynical view to take. If you can remember back a few years, you’d know that filling out multiple applications was more than simply filling in a name. USC’s current app included several parts: all of your personal information, electronically-submitted grades for each high school class, a separate and specific essay and short answer questions, and often manually-submitted supplements for a specific major.

      The acceptance rate is just part of it. There’s nothing bad about streamlining a process that can take several hours for busy high school seniors.

    • So true
      So true says:

      While it will lower the acceptance rate, I think it will also lower the yield rate. If more students are applying to USC “just because,” then they’re less likely to enroll if accepted. USC needs to work on its yield rate before it tries to break into the sub-20% acceptance rates. There are other universities with sub-20% acceptance rates but they also have very low yield rates, so they’re perceived to be a “notch below.” Yield is really the root of perceptions of quality… but USC sees what Columbia did (switching to the Common App, getting 30%+ more applications, and having an acceptance rate lower than any school except Harvard) and wants to do the same.

      • To each his/her own
        To each his/her own says:

        So “yield rate” just means “safety net” right?..I was at the gym several months ago, and I overheard some high school guys’ conversation regarding which universities they applied to. These guys all seemed bright, articulate in speech, and competitive. One guy’s answer to which schools he applied to went like, “Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and USC…” No public schools were mentioned. And yes, USC was the last on his list. It doesn’t bother me that USC is still perceived as “safety school” among elite private schools. Honestly, after college (undergraduate) most people nor employers don’t care where you got your degree…it’s not that big of a deal.

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