New application format available

Caitlyn Lear, News editor

Mercyhurst University has now joined more than 130 other distinguished colleges and universities in the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, an organization founded in 2015 with the goal of increasing students’ access to higher education.

“The founders recognized that the admissions process can be daunting, particularly at their institutions. The Coalition provides an alternative application format — similar to the Common Application —that allows universities to conduct a holistic review of applicants,” said Joseph Howard, vice president for Enrollment. “They also provide a whole host of college-planning tools to set students up for success during the college search process.”

Mercyhurst was invited to join the coalition in March. Howard explained that getting invited to the coalition was a rigorous process, but Mercyhurst officials were glad to be welcomed in.

“We’ve been in discussions for nearly a year as the Coalition evaluated Mercyhurst’s qualification for eligibility,” said Howard. “Their board of trustees wanted to see demonstrated commitment to serving low-income, underrepresented, and first-generation students; need-based financial aid provided by the institution; and statistics that show that our students succeed.”

The hope is that with the new application format, more students will apply.

“We hope it allows some students who might otherwise think of Mercyhurst as ‘too expensive’ or ‘too prestigious’ to consider applying to Mercyhurst. Many people might not realize it, but about a third of our student body receive federal Pell grants to help fund their educations,” Howard said.

Mercyhurst wants to streamline the application process for all students, but particularly for those from underrepresented groups, including low-income and first-generation households.

“During its 92-year history, Mercyhurst has strived to live the mission of its founders, the Sisters of Mercy, who believed that a college education should be available to all who seek it,” said President Michael T. Victor in a Mercyhurst University news release. “Joining the ranks of the Coalition is closely aligned with that mission and provides us one more tool to reach a diverse community of learners.”

“As a first-generation college student myself who came from a low-income background, I’m very proud of Mercyhurst’s socioeconomic diversity,” Howard said.

The Coalition also provides high school students a free platform for them to create an online portfolio starting in ninth grade. These portfolios can include a digital locker that students can share a library of materials to colleges, a place for counselors and students to interact and the application.

“They also provide a whole host of college-planning tools to set students up for success during the college search process,” Howard said.

Students can work on college essay prompts and save them for when they are applying. There are also application fee waivers for certain students, and financial aid help is available.

Howard suggests that when applying to schools in the future, students choose the option that will best show off their achievements.

“Evaluate the different application options (Coalition, Common App, institution-specific app) and pick the one that suits you best,” said Howard. “Admissions officers really want you to put your best self forward during the admissions process — pick the application that lets you do that.”