Prospective students struggle with Common App glitches

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Michelle Banayan, news editor

A series of glitches in one of the nation’s major online college application programs has college-bound students across America frustrated, and has prompted several universities to postpone their fall deadlines.

The Common Application, used by more than 515 colleges and universities, receives millions of applications annually.  With the advent of the 2013-2014 school year, the site was remodeled in an attempt to make it more user-friendly.  However, this version of the Common App, which was released on Aug. 1, seems to have only added more stress on prospective students.

Technical difficulties and software malfunctions have left students on campus staring at frozen screens as they try to deal with the website’s glitches.

“I’m feeling really aggravated at the moment because the Common App should have been prepared,” one senior, who wishes to remain anonymous, said in a Highlights survey. “Now other students and I are confused and annoyed because one site isn’t able to get its act together.”

This year, Beverly decided to work with Parchment, a program that facilitates the order of transcripts. The Common App, however, had been resistant toward allowing transcripts from Parchment to upload to its site.  Though this problem has since been resolved, it pushed back the application process for several students.

“For the longest time, I couldn’t send my transcripts directly to the Common App, which in turn made it impossible for my counselor’s letter of recommendation to be sent in,” senior James Fast said.

Furthermore, additional complaints regarding the website’s refusal to let students submit applications or inability to let counselors and teachers upload their recommendations have been circulating on campus.

“My application is complete, but the Common App isn’t letting me submit it.  I also can’t assign multiple recommenders,” senior Adam Steinberg said.  “One of the universities I’m applying to extended its deadline, but I don’t know what I should do about the others.”

In fact, as the key Nov. 1 deadline for early action and early decision approaches, a handful of universities, such as the University of Chicago, Brandeis University and Duke, have opted to push back their deadlines to Nov. 8 in light of the Common App difficulties.  Princeton University, which has been a member of the Common App since 2004, even offered its prospective students a different online application: the Universal College Application.

In a recent blog post, the Common App published a Statement of Commitment to its users, apologizing for being “too slow to respond” and aiming to better live up to its core standards of reliability, service and integrity.

“For many users, the new Common Application has not been a reliable service. Individual applicants and recommenders are still encountering problems,” the Statement of Commitment read.  “Our member colleges have [also] faced similar disruptions in reliability, which have adversely impacted their internal processes.”

The post continues to state how users with personal questions regarding the application can contact the site’s Online Help Center and will receive prompt responses, many of which have provided the solution to problems that users are currently experiencing.

“In some instances, our support team can easily solve problems for users who contact us through the Help Center.  In others, we continue to research patterns among the individuals affected to ascertain where the root cause lies,” the Common App wrote.

Despite the site’s multiple glitches, more than 229,000 applicants had been filed successfully as of Friday, Oct. 18.  Still, students and counselors alike worry that the flaws in the Common App’s program will prevent them from submitting applications in a timely manner.

“My biggest concern has been that students, teachers and counselors would all have trouble submitting on time to meet deadlines, so it’s very important that students don’t wait until the last minute to submit and that they use the help features for support,” counselor Celeste McDonald said.

In addition to consulting the Online Help Center, users can visit the Common Application’s Facebook page to receive frequent updates on problems and/or solutions to the system.

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