Although it hasn’t generated as many headlines, the Common Application website has caused just as much frustration for college applicants as the healthcare.gov site has caused for healthcare consumers.
The Common Application, or Common App, is an online application that’s accepted by over 500 colleges. The appeal is simple: fill out one form, and you can use it to apply to multiple schools. But the simplicity of the Common App vanished when the company released a new version on August 1. Not only did the website immediately crash, but since then, users have experienced dozens of glitches, including slow load times, loss of data, formatting issues in the essay section, inability to submit the application…the list goes on and on.
High school teachers and counselors who’ve tried to upload recommendation letters, transcripts, and other documents to the Common App have faced additional problems.
Many colleges have responded to these issues by extending their deadlines. As of November 1, 46 colleges had extended their early action or early decision deadlines. More have since followed suit.
While the extension of deadlines undoubtedly has helped ease some stress among college applicants, the Common App website is still a mess. Indeed, one need only visit the Common App’s Facebook page or search for “common app” on Twitter to get a sense of the problems and people’s annoyance with them.
Common App can be given some credit for posting on its website which issues have been resolved and which ones are still being worked on, but many would argue that the company isn’t acting fast enough. Indeed, just the other day, I was working with a student as he filled out a college’s supplement to the Common App and promptly lost everything he had entered. This happened not once, but twice. Then, when we tried to preview the writing supplement on my computer, we kept getting a blank screen. Luckily, we were able to preview it on his computer.
Needless to say, my student was aggravated, and so was I. Applying to college is stressful enough as it is; encountering frequent technical problems while trying to submit your applications is downright exasperating. Given that many of these problems are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, here are a few tips to hopefully make the process a little easier:
- If you’ve written an essay in Microsoft Word, copy and paste it into Notepad or TextEdit, then copy and paste it into the Common App. This will resolve many of the formatting issues, such as random large spaces between words.
- Preview and proofread your applications before submitting them. Although you should always proofread applications, doing so is even more important when using the Common App.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your applications. Submit at least a few days in advance in case there is a delay in the college’s receipt of the application.
- Don’t assume that colleges will extend their deadlines. While many colleges have done so, you should still aim to complete and submit your applications by the original deadlines.
To quote the popular catchphrase, “Keep calm and carry on!” Hopefully, most or all of the Common App’s issues will be resolved before regular decision deadlines. And for those of you who are high school juniors, keep your fingers crossed that everything will be completely fixed by next year!
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