Why Do Colleges Ask if You've Applied Before?

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Question: I am an international applicant. I applied to a few US liberal arts colleges last year but they either wait-listed me or rejected me. I have to decided to reapply this year, but the Common App asks if I've applied to that school before. Why do they want this information? Will they compare my old application with my new one? I would like to change some things on my application, but don't want to hurt my chances if colleges look for inconsistencies.

While policies do vary, colleges typically save applications for at least a couple years, and when a student has applied in the past, most admission officers will revisit the old application or at least parts of it. The college officials will usually compare the two applications to see if any issues that concerned them the first time around have been resolved and also to ascertain whether information on the second application seems to conflict with earlier data.

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