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Rethinking the university application process.

The lengthy, cumbersome and expensive application process is a bottleneck for affordable college education.

Photo of Parth Darji
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I interviewed three international students from India to gain insights about their views on college education in USA. Two of them are undergraduate students at Columbia University and one is a graduate student at NYU. Out of all the answers, the most interesting and strikingly common  insight that I found was about the application process to the university.

Here is how a typical application process to a US university looks like - take one of the standardized tests (GRE/SAT/PSAT/other), non native English speakers have to take language fluency tests(TOEFL/IELTS), select universities to apply to (usually 3-10), apply to these universities and pay the individual application fees (usually between $35-$100), send official test scores to each of these universities (~$20 each), convert official scores to a 4 point scale(~$200), send hard copies of transcripts/degree certificates to universities that ask for it (~$20 per package), wait for university decision.

All this is even before a guaranteed admission to a university. So, assuming that a student applies to 5 universities with average application fee of $50 and 3 of them ask for hard copies of transcripts, the total cost of application fees would be $980. This is a really big cost specially for students from third world countries and specially for those from low-income families. More so because there is always a risk of not getting into any of the universities, in which case, the investment goes to waste. Its interesting to note that this is the cost of the process and doesn't involve the cost of tutoring for the tests and paying for services of education consultants.

Can we think of a centralized system for college admission where the student is not burdened with redundant payment for the same thing?

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

A centralized admission system all across the US would reduce the application cost for applicants and help them ease through the process.


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Photo of Nathan Lucy

Parth, I'd love to see this insight developed in the ideas phase.

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