Fast track application give colleges the upperhand

February 22, 2010 — by Synthia Ling

No application fee, no essay, no letters of recommendation and a decision within three weeks—fast track applications, also known as “snap applications,” seem like a breeze. In fact, with such lax requirements, they are a breeze. A growing number of colleges and universities have begun to send out these fast-track apps, hoping to entice essay-weary seniors to their school; however, students are should fill out these applications with a grain of salt.

Schools such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Vermont, Tulane University, and Baylor University send out partially filled out applications with information from College Board to attract desirable students who probably would not have bothered to apply to the school with the regular application system.

These colleges look primarily at PSAT and SAT test scores while deeming aspects such as extracurricular activities, jobs, volunteer work, awards and other things that are considered in regular applications unnecessary. The inclusion of these factors often augment a student’s otherwise mediocre resume—some may boast strong extra-curricular credentials but weaker academically. The fast-track applications hurt these students’ chances of being accepted, since the admissions officers are looking mostly at standardized test scores.

However, while essays seem more like a hassle than something beneficial, they allow student to reach out to the admission officers by sharing funny stories, life-changing events and their motivations for applying to the school. They help students show who they truly are and what makes them stand out. It does not happen often, but a good essay can sometimes make an otherwise unsatisfactory applicant become accepted. These fast-track schools waive student essays, thus missing an opportunity to understand the personalities of the students they may or may not accept.

While students may benefit from filling out these fast-track applications, the universities that send them out should not be considered with too generous a heart. They utilize the “easiness” of the applications to increase the number of students who apply to their school. They may send out hundreds and thousands of emails while only accepting less than a thousand students. This creates a decreased percent-acceptance rate, making the college seem more prestigious.

These applications, however, can be a huge source of relief for students. Some may already have wanted to apply to the school, but the fast track makes it much more simpler to. Others may be feeling the financial pressures from the expensive costs of applying to schools. Many students would not mind having one less essay to write and fewer recommendation letters to send out. The appeal that these fast-track applications hold for students is undeniable, and certainly understandable. But if a student only applies to fast-track app colleges in order to avoid the full application process, they will have used poor judgment in ensuring their future success in a school that is truly right for them.

So as students get e-mails every day from colleges with fast track applications, they should see that colleges are not always trying to be kind and considerate to students by making the application process easier. Colleges are using them to lower their acceptance rate and trying to make themselves seem more prestigious. These applications also leave colleges judging students by looking at numbers and not by their accomplishments and personality.

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