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Technical glitches slow college application process

College application site increases stress

Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 9:06 PM
Last updated Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 12:37 AM
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A widely used process designed to make applying to college easier has caused big headaches for some local guidance counselors and high school seniors.

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High School senior Katrina Petersen has experienced glitches with uploads while sending in applications to prospective schools with Common Application.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
High School senior Katrina Petersen has experienced glitches with uploads while sending in applications to prospective schools with Common Application.

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.”

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avidreader 11/11/13 - 07:56 am
Big Mess!

Nine seniors asked me to send recommendations via Common Application. I could not log on for any of them, even though I have an account. I ended up giving them hard-copy letters. The website is a big mess.

It's nice that the Chronicle is involved. Thanks!

Bizkit 11/11/13 - 09:13 am
The Common Application

The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 517 member colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. It is managed by the staff of a not-for-profit membership association (The Common Application, Inc.) and governed by a 13-member volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the ranks of college admission deans and secondary school college guidance counselors. Its mission is to encourage the use of "holistic admission" a process that includes subjective factors gleaned from essays and recommendations alongside more objective criteria such as class rank and standardized testing.

Bizkit 11/11/13 - 09:17 am
"Under a holistic admissions

"Under a holistic admissions policy, a student with a 3.8 GPA might be turned down while an award-winning trumpet player with a 3.0 GPA might get accepted. The student who wrote a stellar essay might get preference over the student who had higher ACT scores but a bland essay. In general, holistic admissions take into account a student's interests, passions, special talents, and personality." So basically schools can discriminate or pick students by ideology or any thing they desire.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 11/11/13 - 11:31 am

If I were a senior, I would send in a paper application first, and then worry about navigating the Common App web site.

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