Malfunctions Plague Common Application

Early decision/action deadlines loom for hundreds of thousands of students around the country. But what are students to do when their application is glitchy?

The Common Application, the college application that more than 500 schools use, has recently malfunctioned, distressing parents, students, guidance counselors and admissions officers alike. The New York Times reported Oct. 13 that students were experiencing difficulties when accessing previews of the application and the writing supplement, and when they did appear, spacing was incorrect between words and paragraphs. Other students experienced difficulty in the credit card payment process, resulting in confusion about whether payments had actually gone through.

There are also initial problems with linking the common app to a student’s Naviance account. This problem persists for senior Keith Hubbard, who is applying early action to several schools. “It said my name was misspelled even though it was correct. [The linking] is still being fixed right now. I don’t not know what I’ll do if my account is unable to link before the deadline,” Hubbard said.

Guidance Department Chairwoman Eileen Blattner explained that the guidance office is also experiencing difficulties. She said that there has been a lot of trouble with matching teacher recommendations to students’ applications and as a result, the recommendations could not be sent until Oct. 11, when the problem was finally fixed. She also said that an online form for early decision applicants will not be ready until Oct. 18, one reason why some schools have extended their deadlines to Oct. 21, including the University of North Carolina and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Senior Olivia Frierson, whose Oct. 15 deadline was extended, expressed her frustration with the Common Application’s difficulties. “I was already ready to apply last night and now, this just extends the stress and creates the fear of not being sure if my application will get sent,” she said. Frierson initially experienced trouble logging in to her account, but when she finally did, she encountered further problems. “Any time I hit submit, it wouldn’t load, and the page would freeze. I kept having to start over, so eventually, I gave up because it was taking too long.”

Frierson was eventually able to submit her application Oct. 15, despite the changed submission date.

These malfunctions have also caused stress for Shaker’s guidance counselors. “What is worrying me is that when I go to send stuff, it will take so long to go through and the system will crash,” Blattner said. In an attempt to avoid this, the counselors plan on sending applications as soon as they are ready, rather than near the deadline.

The Common Application’s Twitter account, @commonapp, has been reporting updates on the problems as they arise. The first tweet reporting significant problems was posted Oct. 3 and stated, “An important update from the Support Team regarding longer than usual response times” with a link to an article on the Common Application’s website.

Tweets continued addressing other problems; an Oct. 14 tweet stated, “We are aware of the login issues users are experiencing. Taking steps to address the problem as quickly as possible.” A similar post appeared on the Common Application’s Facebook page with several hundred comments about problems students were experiencing. The panic in the comments was apparent, with exclamation marks, question marks and an abundance of words in capital letters. For example, one parent posted “My daughter still can’t login – its been over 24 hours…PLEASE RESPOND AND LET US KNOW WHEN THIS WILL BE CORRECTED.”

The Common Application continues to assure that the problems will be fixed as soon as possible, but the window is becoming smaller and smaller. A Shakerite inquiry to the Common Application team elicited a press statement acknowledging users’ grievances. “None of these issues impacts all users, but each introduces a level of frustration for students, which adds anxiety to an already stressful process,” the statement said.

For those students with Nov. 1 deadlines, the Common Application assures students that their applications will garner adequate reviewing time. “As we approach the busy deadline season, we are fully committed to ensuring complete and timely review of applications for all Common Application members, particularly those with November 1 deadlines,” the statement said.

Blattner assured students that as long as “you are doing everything you need to do when it needs to be done, if your part won’t go through or if my part won’t go through, [colleges] will have to back up the deadlines.”


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