It’s David vs. Goliath. Confident in the quality of its product, the scrappy little Universal College Application (UCA) continues in its struggle for market share against the much larger and more pervasive Common Application organization.
Some of the biggest names in the industry—Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Wash U, Tulane, and Duke—use the UCA, and many quietly acknowledge the superiority of the application for ease of use and overall responsiveness to the consumer.
Yet the notion that the Common App brings in more customers—applicants—and carries with it a panache of superiority—membership has its benefits—has left the UCA to swim against the tide of colleges sheepishly rushing to join the ranks of the increasingly less “common” Common Application.
And no one stops to think what the impact will be on college admissions if one application product is allowed to force all competitors out of business by using aggressive pricing policies and wielding influence through organizations supporting the industry as a whole.
Colleges may complain off the record, but they continue to support an application that isn’t always responsive to them, counselors, or student applicants.
While the Common Application continues to tweak the multi-million dollar product it plans to introduce next year, the computer geeks behind the UCA have stepped up their game by adding a number of enhancements to their application this year.
And here are a few reasons you might consider switching to the UCA:
1. Membership. The UCA currently has 44 member colleges including recognizable and very selective institutions (see above). And the UCA is continuously open to adding new colleges any time during the application cycle.
2. Distinction. Using the UCA sets your application apart from the ubiquitous Common Application. Think what it must be like to read thousands of documents that follow the same format and look exactly alike. Frankly, it must be a relief to see someone thinking outside the box and going the extra mile to differentiate their application from the pack.
3. Functionality. The UCA website now automatically scales for tablets and mobile devices. Based on feedback from consumers, user interface has been improved and it’s now even easier to navigate and track progress. In addition, the UCA works just fine on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or Internet Explorer.
4. Customization. Applicants can easily create an application to submit to one or more colleges and can just as easily copy, edit or modify to submit to one or more additional colleges. And this is an amazing tool if you want to signal a little extra love in your personal statement or customize standardized test scores to reflect a college’s policy on Score Choice or test-optional reporting. By the way, counselors are also free to customize their recommendations. With the UCA, there’s no need for a counselor to remain tied to a “generic” document. If there’s specific information a counselor wants conveyed about an applicant to a particular college, they can submit one recommendation and then easily copy/edit to send something different to another school. And colleges really appreciate having a recommendation that speaks directly to them.
5. Autosave. UCA forms now autosave every few seconds so applicants don’t have to worry about losing data if something happens before they are able to save manually.
6. Express Delivery. Electronic recommendations and school reports/transcripts are delivered immediately to the college selected, as soon as the counselor or teacher clicks “Submit.” It is not the UCA’s policy to hold recommendations pending the submission of a completed application by the student. If an applicant never submits their application online or chooses a different product, the documents are still sent to the admissions office—free of charge to the applicant, the recommender, or the college.
7. Multimedia. Applicants can include a link within the body of the application to provide colleges with additional information that can be found online. This could be a personal website, video, news story, an art portfolio or any other online content.
8. Personal Statement. The essay prompt used by the UCA is sufficiently broad to include most topics including the perennial favorite, “topic of your choice.” There are no plans to change or otherwise limit this question next year, and the 500-word limit will remain a guideline and not a rule.
This year, the UCA added a First Marking Period Report and an electronic Early Decision agreement both of which come in handy for students applying early.
But most important, the UCA Technical Support team is at your service. In addition to providing a comprehensive “knowledgebase,” experts stand ready to patiently answer any questions you submit online.
For more information on the Universal College Application or to open an account, visit the UCA “new and improved” website at http://universalcollegeapp.com.
It’s just a different route to the same end.