Applying to college can be challenging, to say the least. Many students begin to apply before entering their senior year, and while expectations are often high, having an educational path set to lead a student to the determination of their future career is a tall order all on its own. With college enrollment at an all-time high through the teens of the 2000s at record highs, applying is more important now than ever.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to the United States, 69.2 percent of high school graduates will immediately enroll in college. According to the NCES, between 49,839,400- 51,165,200 students are enrolled in public schools in the U.S., with a massive number of them moving onto further education. Massachusetts accounts for just under one million of those students, and according to the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, 25,479 of those students were enrolled in Worcester Public Schools in 2016. Many of those students will be staring down the college application process.
A system developed to simplify the process, the not-for-profit Common Application, started 40 years ago. The idea was for students to fill out one application that would work for a number of colleges. To date, the program has been used to submit four million applications, and includes 700 colleges and universities the world over.
Worcester has nine colleges, 10 if you include Paxton’s Anna Maria College. According to the WRRB, Greater Worcester full-time college enrollment (including Anna Maria, Dudley’s Nichols College and Grafton’s Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine) was 27,714 in 2015.
Anna Maria, Assumption College, Becker College, Clark University, Holy Cross and Worcester Polytechnic Institute all accept Common Application submissions, with WPI having the highest enrollment (as of 2015) of area colleges, with just under 5,000 enrolled.
A simplified — and uniform — college application process could be integral in continuing to foster a college-educated Worcester. In 2015 (WRRB’s most recent numbers, based on the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau findings), of the roughly 118,000 Worcester residents 25 years of age and older, 8.1 percent (9,578) attained an associate’s degree, 18.5 percent (21,755) attained a bachelor’s degree and 11.1 percent (13,087) earned a graduate or professional degree. That leaves 29.7 percent (34,910) with a high diploma or equivalent, 8.6 percent (10,118) with no diploma and 7.2 percent (8,564) with less than a ninth-grade education.
The Common Application has been used in 48 states and Washington D.C. and utilized by more than 947,000 students as of 2015-16, of which 33 percent were first-generation college students.
The Common Application process can be guided by an opt-in “Virtual Counselor” program that includes tips and videos for students on application preparation, resources, college search aggregation as well as other points of interest. Of the 947,000 students that used the app, 140,000 opted into the mentoring program.
“The Common Application and its comprehensive website are best bets for easing the way into and through the college research application process,” Forbes Magazine contributor Willard Dix wrote in June 2017.
With 20.4 million students expected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2017, according to the NCES, now is a better time than ever to find streamlined ways to enroll in college. Reporter Joshua Lyford can be reached at 508-749-3166, ext. 325, or by email at
Jlyford@worcestermagazine.com. Follow Josh on Twitter @Joshachusetts and on Instagram @Joshualyford.