Technical glitches slow college application process

College application site increases stress

 

A widely used process designed to make applying to college easier has caused big headaches for some local guidance counselors and high school seniors.

When the Common Application, a college admissions application used by more than 500 colleges and universities, revamped its online site this fall, the new version was filled with glitches.

Problems faced by prospective college students included trouble uploading documents, unrecognized log-in names and incorrect formatting of essays.

Academy of Richmond County senior Ka­trina Petersen spent hours waiting for screens to load when she was trying to meet early application deadlines for Mercer
Uni­ver­sity and the University of North Carolina.

It was an added stress she didn’t need during a pressure-filled senior year.

“Even when I think I’m done, I’m not,” she said. “What if there are glitches somewhere along the way that we aren’t even aware of that would affect the college admissions process?”

Petersen also ran into issues submitting teacher recommendations. When she used the site to send a link to her teachers that allows them to submit recommendations directly, they couldn’t open the link.

The slew of problems came as many students were on tight deadlines to submit early applications by Oct. 15 or Nov. 1.

Some colleges extended their deadlines, including Georgia Tech and UNC, which changed their deadlines from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 for students unable to submit an application because of site problems.

Another round of early application deadlines for some colleges is approaching Friday.

Richmond Academy guidance counselor Peggy Grant said issues with the application sent students and some parents into a panic. She worked with three seniors in the International Bac­ca­lau­reate program, including Petersen, who were applying to prestigious schools such as Duke and Emory universities.

“We were at a critical point for some of my students to get their early applications in,” Grant said. “If this doesn’t work, it’s time consuming and monetarily draining to complete all those separate applications.”

The Common App has posted daily updates about the system flaws along with troubleshooting tips for students.

Many students said the nonprofit organization was helpful solving issues when contacted.

Grant said she never had problems with the Common App before, but after problems during the early application period, she isn’t recommending students use it for regular decision applications.

Laura Johnson, Augus­ta Preparatory Day School’s director of college counseling, said she met with many students to sort out issues and stayed in contact with parents and college admissions offices.

Spencer King, an Augusta Prep senior, experienced slow uploads and trouble with the teacher recommendation system called Naviance that connects with the Common App. He
was nervous and stressed, even thinking about starting a new Common App account, before the issue was resolved.

For students who still need to use the Common App, Johnson recommends saving essays in a separate document and contacting colleges if there are questions about whether they
received a complete application.

Johnson’s final piece of advice: “Be patient.”

WEBSITE: Common Application

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