The Common App has decided to remove a question from the general application that asks students to report their high school disciplinary history, citing racial disparity as a key factor the decision.
Until now, the general portion of the Common App shared by nearly 900 colleges asked students to answer the following question: “Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action? These actions could include, but are not limited to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution.” A similar question was also asked in the school counselor’s section of the app that they fill out on behalf of their students.
Through analyzing past data, the Common App discovered that students who filled this section were discouraged from applying to colleges. In 2019, more than 7,000 students who declared a disciplinary record did not submit their college application to any school. Black students and Latino students represented a larger percentage of that 7,000 than the number of Black and Latino Common App applicants overall. Furthermore, independent studies show that minority students – especially Black and low-income students – are twice as likely to be disciplined in high school as their white, wealthier peers, even for the same infraction. The Common App recognized that asking students for their disciplinary history repeated this pattern of unequal discipline practices in high schools, which spurred their decision to remove it from the 2021-2022 application.
Individual colleges may opt to add the disciplinary history question back into their supplemental portion of the Common App. The supplemental application is unique to each college. Schools can use their supplemental app to ask students questions that do not appear in the general portion of the Common App. When the Common App removed a question asking students to report their criminal record from the general application in 2018, about 50% of colleges included it in their supplemental application.
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