University Updates Application Process for Undergraduates

GW to become Common Application exclusive, announces new application deadlines and effort to expand campus visit experience.

August 28, 2013

Updated: October 31, 2013

The George Washington University will streamline the undergraduate application process by becoming Common Application exclusive, updating application deadlines and expanding the campus visit experience.

This summer, Laurie Koehler joined the university as senior associate provost for enrollment management, overseeing undergraduate admissions, student financial assistance, the Registrar’s Office, Graduate Enrollment Management and Graduate Student Support. She talked to George Washington Today about efforts underway to streamline and enhance the process of visiting and applying to the university for prospective undergraduates.

Q: What is new about the application process for prospective undergraduates?
A: More than 500 colleges and universities across the U.S. and the world are members of the Common Application, and the George Washington University has joined nearly 200 of those schools in adopting exclusive use of the Common Application for prospective undergraduates. Previously, there were two distinct applications for admission, whereby students could either submit the GW Application or the Common Application with the GW Supplement.

By becoming Common Application exclusive, the process of applying to George Washington will be much clearer and less cumbersome for prospective students and much more efficient for our admissions staff. It will also make it easier for high school guidance counselors and teachers to support applicants by allowing them to submit supporting materials like transcripts and recommendations online rather than having to print and mail them. Finally, maintaining two different applications meant Admissions and Information Technology staff had to spend twice the time keeping business processes updated and running smoothly. Our Common Application is now live and can be accessed at [].

Q: What should prospective applicants expect with the Common Application?
A: GW has been a member of the Common Application for some time, and most of our current students actually applied using the Common Application. However, this year’s Common Application will be different from previous years with the roll out of its fourth generation online application system, “CA4.” It will further simplify the application process for students, as well as including new features like smart questions and more intuitive help functions.

Q: The Common Application has let members know that many schools may actually see their application numbers decline this year. Why is this the case?
A: This year, the payment or fee waiver process for students is now a “hand-in-hand” process with application submission, which will eliminate extra steps and confusion for students. One consequence of this and some other changes to how institution-specific questions are collected is that a there may be a decline in application numbers for many schools. In addition, because of the change in process, member institutions won’t be able to accurately compare previous year application numbers with this year’s. However, this will have the positive effect of discouraging students from submitting applications to schools they are not serious about attending.

The more comprehensive submission requirements of the CA4 system are not the only reasons for our likely decline in applications. More specifically, both the GW Application and the Common Application previously had two distinct parts and an application only required the first part to be considered. We have completely eliminated the GW Application, and the Common Application has effectively folded the two parts with the exception of our GW essay into a single application. Because we limited the routes one can use to apply and raised the application bar, I anticipate that we will build a more serious, but smaller, applicant pool.

Q: Will you be able to compare this year’s application numbers with previous years’ numbers?
A:  Unfortunately, we won’t have a good apples-to-apples comparison.  The best we’ll be able to do is compare total Common Applications received this year with total Common Applications received in previous years. Even this number won’t be an exact comparison given changes to submission requirements with the new CA4 system.

Q: How are application deadlines changing?
A: The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is revising the application schedule for undergraduates to bring our deadlines in line with those of peer institutions. Students applying under the Early Decision I will now have to apply by Nov. 1. Early Decision II will now have a deadline of Jan. 1 and the regular decision deadline will be Jan. 15. Please note: GW has extended our Early Decision I application deadline to Nov. 11, 2013 to provide students more time to apply using the Common Application. We hope this helps any Early Decision I applicants who may be experiencing technical difficulties. 

Q: What is happening with campus visits?
A: Research about recruitment practices tells us that a student’s visit to campus is one of the top three influencers in the decision whether to apply as well as whether to accept an offer of admission. Recognizing how critical the visit is, we are looking at how we can engage the entire university in the campus visit experience.

One of the things that led me to accept the position at GW is the interaction I had with faculty, staff and students. It was clear to me that people from across the institution greatly enjoy showcasing what is special about GW to prospective students. They see prospective students as they visit classrooms and walk through buildings and want to know more about how they can aid those visits in a meaningful way. It really does take a university to recruit a class, and we look forward to engaging with the GW community through forums and other outreach over the course of this academic year to exchange ideas. We already have a great visit experience, and we want to make it even better. We want ours to be a model that other schools benchmark when they are looking to strengthen their practices.