For many high school students the stressful process of applying to college has become even more nerve-wracking as major technical difficulties continue to plague the Common Application, the online college application portal used by over 500 colleges and thousands of students each year. After significant “upgrades” were made to the website’s software in early August, users began experiencing some alarming difficulties that are persisting through the early deadlines of multiple colleges. Common Application officials claim to have fixed two of the major bugs affecting students and school administrators, but many continue to experience significant glitches with the site.
Admissions officers have reported numerous problems with importing student applications, particularly the supplemental materials such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and additional essays. Unfortunately, the bugs do not end there; students have also encountered serious malfunctions with the functionality of the Common Application web site. Essays copied and pasted into designated essay boxes are often transmitted without proper formatting, leaving perfectly created essays without spaces, paragraphs, or indentations. Many students have reported that application payments have reportedly taken days to register with the system (rendering an application incomplete), or instead, registered duplicate payments for the same application. Some students have been unable to log in to their application, while others have been repeatedly logged off for inactivity after waiting hours to submit their application. These technical issues are not merely frustrating; they can be the difference between an application making or missing a deadline.
With early admissions deadlines looming and software bugs continuing to disrupt the application process, individual colleges have decided to proactively address the issue. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech have pushed early admission deadlines back from their October 15th deadline to October 21st and The University of Chicago, and Northwestern are extending early decision application deadlines to November 8th. Princeton has not altered any deadlines, but is allowing applicants to apply via the Universal College Application, a competing (though far less prominent) non-profit college application portal. Multiple other institutions are assuring applicants that technical hiccups will not hurt or affect their admissions decisions, but these problems certainly add an extra layer of anxiety to an already high stakes game.
Stuck in a PR and technical nightmare, the Common Application brass has issued more than one mea culpa via Facebook and Twitter. These apologies have mostly fallen on deaf-ears of the overstressed affected students and families. One student graded the organization’s recent performance a C- and cleverly quipped, “good thing you’re not applying to college”. While taking to Facebook and Twitter to denounce the Common Application as “the enemy” may very well seem like an appropriate and, at times, comical response to the situation, the only really proactive step students can and SHOULD take is to be overwhelmingly prepared ahead of deadlines.
Simply put, this is not a timely snow day that offers an extra day to study for a test. With all of the Common Application problems applicants are facing, procrastination is no longer an option and hitting submit at 11:59pm is more foolish than ever. Do not wait for the school of your dreams to extend its deadline, only to be caught off guard when they do not. Instead, students should make a concerted effort to have application materials completed well ahead of deadlines, just in case. This strategy should provide students with some semblance of a safety net, allowing ample time to contact schools and discuss other options for sending your complete application… without sounding like your dog ate your homework.