Admissions & Student Aid

Common Application Says New Transfer App Will Better Serve Nontraditional Students

May 10, 2017

The Common Application has long been used primarily by teenagers planning to enroll in college full time right after high school. But soon the online platform will evolve, its leaders say, to better serve the majority of undergraduates who take different paths.

On Tuesday the Common Application announced plans for a new transfer application, scheduled to debut next year. At the organization’s annual summit of members, Jenny Rickard, its president and chief executive, said the revamped application would help "a very important but underrecognized group of learners … by actually acknowledging their diverse backgrounds and experiences." That group includes veterans, adults returning to complete a degree or certificate, and students transferring from a community college.

The Common App’s current transfer application closely resembles the version that high-school seniors use to apply to four-year institutions. Yet asking a 35-year-old with a full-time job and two kids for the same parental information that teenagers provide isn’t an ideal way to engage so-called nontraditional students, Ms. Rickard said. "That’s not acknowledging who they are and where they’re coming from."

The organization plans to develop the new app with input from member colleges, and in collaboration with Liaison International, a Boston-based company that helps graduate and professional schools manage applications. The company is also developing analytical tools that will provide real-time enrollment data to Common App members starting this fall.

“This is about helping the transfer process.”
Currently, just 4 percent of applications sent through the Common Application’s platform are completed by transfer students, who, on average, apply to two colleges. Ms. Rickard said she hoped the number of transfer applicants using the Common App — about 100,000 a year — would grow over time. "This is about helping the transfer process," she said, "be as accessible as the first-year process."

Eric Hoover writes about admissions trends, enrollment-management challenges, and the meaning of Animal House, among other issues. He’s on Twitter @erichoov, and his email address is