“Fast” Applications: What to do when a college gives you the VIP treatment
When free agent Carmelo Anthony was being heavily recruited by the Los Angeles Lakers, the seven-time NBA all star entered the Staples Center to the ultimate red carpet treatment. A short film about Anthony’s life narrated by Tobey Maguire played on the Jumbotron, featuring computer-generated images of the high-scoring forward donning the Lakers’ purple and gold as Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson made a pleading sales pitch.
While receiving a so-called “fast app” from a college or university might be slightly short of NBA free agent courting, seeing your name pre-populated into a college application with promises of special treatment can still be highly alluring. Typically these applications offer VIP status which translates to no essays, no application fee, and an expedited admission decision.
Why do colleges offer fast apps?
Admissions offices are under intense pressure to generate an increased number of applications to their schools each and every year and sending fast apps to every student in a certain SAT/GPA range aids the cause. In the last decade, some colleges have managed to more than double their applicant pool by offering this targeted, quick-and-easy VIP option.
Why are they so controversial?
Many in the industry feel that fast apps cheapen the process and are a blatant attempt to drum up applicants in order to continue feeding the rankings beast. Few college admissions officials even bother to refute this characterization—that’s pretty much just what they are.
What are the disadvantages?
While some may view fast apps as unsavory, they are not part of any diabolical scheme. Fast apps are every bit as legit as a normal application. Danger only arises when students mistake this marketing ploy for genuine flattery and let the instant gratification that the fast app affords end up driving their entire college application process.
VIP status in the application process in no way suggests that you will receive a large helping of merit aid. In fact, they don’t even guarantee admission. Even if you choose to submit a fast app, still apply to every other school on your college list as though nothing was different. Having multiple acceptance letters will always put you in the best position to weigh your financial options come spring.
You may never be wined and dined by the Lakers, but you only get to be a college free agent once—don’t let the fast app become a diversion.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).