GW drops self-reporting grade feature on Common Application

Media Credit: Max Wang | Staff Photographer

GW will no longer use the “Courses & Grades” feature on the Common Application after launching it last year alongside five other institutions.

After an unsuccessful pilot period, GW will no longer utilize a self-reporting grade feature on the Common Application.

Dean of Admissions Costas Solomou said officials will no longer require applicants to manually report their grades on the Common App after users reported to officials last year that the process was “cumbersome.” GW was the only institution of the six that piloted the feature last year to drop out of the program, according to the Common App.

“Seeing this new section as an additional barrier to completing an application for admissions, we decided to opt out of the self-reporting grades section this year in an effort to make the application process as smooth as possible for interested students,” Solomou said in an email.

The University first launched the “Courses & Grades” feature last year alongside five other institutions, including the University of Southern California, one of GW’s peer schools. The form allowed students to self-report grades without waiting on a guidance counselor, but high schools were still required to submit transcripts to verify the data.

Solomou said officials sent information to potential applicants and high school counselors ahead of the change last year knowing the feature would be more time-consuming, but users reported they were unsure how to navigate the form.

But a year later, 30 colleges and universities have signed on to use the Courses & Grades feature, according to the Common App.

“The introduction of courses and grades reporting was made to provide those members that allow for self-reporting of transcripts in their admissions process to have the flexibility to collect that information easily from applicants via the Common App,” Daniel Obregon, a spokesman for the Common Application, said in an email.

Obregon declined to say how the feature has affected the number or quality of applicants at institutions that use the form.

Admissions officials at schools that debuted the feature with GW last year said the process improved the quality of applications by enabling students to be more proactive about completing their application.

Tim Brunold, the dean of admissions at USC, said the feature made it easier for officials to review applications because it standardized transcripts across the entire applicant pool.

“The same can’t always be said for official transcripts – we receive applications from students at more than 10,000 high schools around the world,” he said in an email.

At Purdue and Chapman universities, which both piloted the program with GW last year, the number of applicants rose after implementing the feature on the Common App, admissions officers said.

Mitch Warren, the director of admissions at Purdue University, said the form streamlined the application process for prospective students.

“The saving grace for our admissions staff for Purdue is it allows the applications to be complete to complete them more quickly so that students don’t need to work through their high school to get a transcript,” he said.

Warren added that when the feature was first implemented at Purdue last academic year, admissions officers were initially worried that students would submit falsified grades. But after requesting official transcripts from Class of 2022 applicants, “we found not a single major discrepancy” among students’ grades, he said.

Katie Condon, the assistant director of admissions and recruitment at West Virginia University, said the number of applicants at WVU dropped since introducing the feature – but the quality of applicants improved.

Because students are reporting their grades without oversight from their high school, they became more efficient about checking in with admissions offices on the status of their application, Condon said.

“With our standard application timeline, a lot of it is dictated by how well they can talk with their high school guidance counselors and get their transcript,” she said. “A lot of it wasn’t dictated by the student, necessarily, but a lot of bureaucracy at high schools. Now it’s the students’ responsibility.”

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