Problems With Common Application Stress Out Students, Colleges

The Common Application, meant to streamline the process of high school students applying to college by using one application for a host of schools, has done the opposite for some students eager to move into higher education — and colleges are suffering, too.

The Common Application, which began in the 1970s, allows a student to fill out a single application for multiple colleges. The number of schools accepting it has more than doubled in the last decade and includes nearly all of the nation's most prestigious institutions. Over one million applications are processed annually.

Shared by more than 500 colleges and universities, the new version of Common Application is characterized by numerous malfunctions, alarming students and parents and putting admissions offices weeks behind schedule. This spells doom to stressed students, concerned parents and presumably disappointed college and university administrators who can't do anything about it.

"It's been a nightmare," Jason C. Locke, associate vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University. "I've been a supporter of the Common App, but in this case, they've really fallen down."

According to All Education News, colleges around the country have already warned on admissions website of potential problems encountered in processing applications. For instance, Georgia Institute of Technology has one of the earliest fall application deadlines — Oct. 15 — but it was not able to start reviewing applications on a large scale until last week and has postponed the deadline for some supporting paperwork until Nov 1.

This application problem is adding to already stressful surroundings among students. One student says that she entered her essays into the application, but what appeared on her computer screen was a garbled mess, with words smashed together, missing paragraph indentations and other problems.

"I was completely freaked out," she said.

"I spent the whole weekend trying to fix it, and I kept thinking, what if I can't fix everything by the deadline, or what if I missed something?" she posed.

According to Robert Perez Pena of the New York Times, Rob Killion, the executive director of Common Application Company, in an interview admitted to a wide range of failures in the application. However, he gave assurances that the failures were being fixed and that the number of applications was up more than 20 percent from last year, indicating that students were successfully navigating the system.

After being released in August, some students who thought they were through with the applications were shocked to learn that new questions had been added. As changes were made, some who had started their applications early found themselves locked out of the system.

Due to all these problems and failures, Nancy Griesemer, a college admissions consultant based in Fairfax, Virginia, feels that the software needs more time and testing.

"This software needed beta testing and needed vetting, and it probably needed to wait a year," she said.

Students, however, can ill-afford to wait.

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