SIG Focus: Universal College App

From the June 15, 2016 NACAC Bulletin:

Leader of the Universal College Application Special Interest Group
Joshua Reiter, Universal College App (MD)

NACAC Special Interest Groups (SIGs) nurture the growing diversity in our association by providing “micro” communities where members can network and add value to their membership experience. These smaller subsets of members are formed for the purpose of knowledge sharing and discussion among members with similar interests whether they are specific subjects, issues or type of institution, or students they serve.

The Universal College Application SIG provides a venue for members and users of the application to provide valuable feedback to the Universal College Application (UCA). Participants can provide information about program specifics and discuss issues from the industry with the goal of improving existing services used by members and to provide insight into potential services to meet the various needs of the colleges, counselors, and students

The Universal College Application is about to launch its 2016-17 online admission application on July 1. This is our ninth year (started in 2007 after nine years of being the original technology partner to the Common App Online) and we are very excited about the updates and changes our members and the industry requested.

In addition to the updates to our technology features and interfaces as requested by our beta testers (we allow college members as well as high school counselors and independent counselors to test our system prior to launch), we also modified some questions which have been on the minds of many in the industry.

This year the Universal College Application is proud to once again lead the industry as we added a gender identity question to our online application. As a leader in the online application industry, we listened to our member institutions as well as to advocacy groups in the industry (most notably Campus Pride and the Stonewall Center). Our optional Gender Identity question provides responses of “woman,” “man,” or “self-identify,” along with a free form text field of 50 characters. This is done so applicants may self-describe themselves more fully and in ways they may not have been able to do so in the past. In addition, we modified our “Sex” question to now ask for “Legal Sex.” This is a required question and the responses are “female” or “male.” This was done to more closely align with federal reporting guidelines. In addition, the federal government recently suggested colleges and universities modify their “discipline information question.” They made several suggestions, including “Ensuring the questions are narrowly focused, avoiding overly broad requests about criminal history.”

The Universal College Application asked its members and they concurred. They suggested we modify the question for the 2016-17 application season.  Therefore, this year’s discipline information question on the UCA will now simply ask, “Other than traffic offenses, have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony?” We will continue to ask our membership for their opinions and monitor their responses to see if the discipline information question needs further revision in the future.

Finally, the Universal College Application continues to provide the ability for applicants to include online web content within their application. In the UCA Multi-Media question, applicants can link to online content such as videos, art/performance portfolios, newspaper/magazine articles, or any other online web content. The benefit of this question is for those institutions who read online, the reviewers can simply click the “hot link” and view the content immediately within the application review.

We appreciate the feedback we continue to receive from our Special Interest Group participants and look forward to our next meeting in Columbus, Ohio at the NACAC National Conference in September. Our SIG meeting is scheduled for Thursday morning, September 22. The room is to be announced.  There is also a Universal College App SIG Group on the NACAC Exchange.

Learn more about the Universal College App and contact Joshua Reiter with any questions or comments.