The Common Application was created in 1975 by 15 private colleges with the goal of consolidating and streamlining their undergraduate admissions processes. Today, its membership has grown to 517 colleges and universities, and it serves over one million applicants on an annual basis. This year, the Common Application eliminated its paper format, settling on an entirely digital design. Though the online application has been used in some form since 1999, this year’s Common App has been causing headaches for students, college counselors and admissions officers alike.
Senior Cory Bush had planned on submitting her Early Action application to New York University in early October, several weeks before the deadline. But when she attempted to process her payment, a necessary step before the Common Application can be submitted, she encountered a technical glitch. “I paid with my mom’s credit card, and then it took me back to the payment page, so in all I had to pay twice for the NYU application,” said Cory. In order to mend the problem, Cory was required to submit a help ticket to the administrators of the Common App. “They ended up reimbursing me, but I couldn’t apply until about a week and a half later.”
Cory is one of many Pace seniors who had to deal with a Common App mishap this fall. According to College Counseling Assistant Shannon Meyring, the problems were remarkably prevalent: “I would say at least 70% of the kids have had some sort of issue, whether it be they couldn’t submit, or they ended up paying two or three times, or they ended up submitting everything, but then getting an error message later.” The problem, it seems, has been the server capacity of the Common Application. Most students encountered issues at times when deadlines were looming; the server was unable to process the magnitude of applications being submitted from around the country, and technical problems ensued. “When you take something that big, and you put it in this new technology, it’s going to be a disaster,” said College Counselor Amy Secor.
Despite the complications, no Pace students missed application deadlines this fall. “We were constantly worried that something bad was going to happen for one of you,” said College Counselor Lee Nuckolls,” and then nothing bad happened.” For that, Pace seniors can thank the college counseling office. “You guys are all OK. The reason you’re OK is there’s one of me for every 30 of you,” said Mrs. Secor, “What I feel for are those schools where there’s one counselor for 500 students.”
Another major deadline is quickly approaching. Most colleges require Regular Decision applications to be received by Jan. 1, and there will assuredly be another wave of Common App submissions in late December. Nonetheless, Pace’s college counselors are confident that the Common App will be sufficiently patched by the regular decision deadline. Because of this, they hope that students will be able to focus on the substance of their applications, rather that a technical circus, in the coming months. “The last thing in the world you should be stressed out about is whether when you hit submit your application is going to go through,” said Mrs. Secor, “There’s enough other stuff in this process to stress out about.”