It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The Common Application made great fanfare of what was touted as the "new and improved" application. Completing and submitting applications was to be made easier for students, high school counselors and colleges.
Let's just say it didn't work out so well. Here is a sampling of some of this past week's headlines regarding the Common Application debacle: "Halloween Tricks Come Early at Common App," "Common App-oplexy, Redux," "College application insanity gets worse," "Mass Panic as Common App Crashes" and "Application Armageddon."
The Common Application, with more than 500 college members, shut down completely on Oct. 14, the day before several schools' Early Action deadlines. Some colleges extended their Early Action deadlines to Oct. 21.
The crash happened just as a long weekend had many high school students around the country working on their college applications and trying to submit them. The frustrations made the weekend seem even longer.
The mid-October deadlines should have been a great testing ground for Common App to prepare them for the onslaught of applications with Friday and Jan. 1 deadlines. Students are still reporting problems with the site.
The pressure on families has been tremendous, according to Nancy Griesemer, an independent college counselor in Northern Virginia. "The Common App nightmare has produced enormous amounts of unnecessary anxiety. It is time-consuming, frustrating and complicated. Combine this with everything else going on in a high school senior's life and it's a great recipe for stress," Griesemer says. "The Common Application software wasn't ready for prime-time, it wasn't Beta-tested, wasn't vetted, and it was pushed to market before it was ready."
One student blogged, "WHY? WHY? WHY?" And another shared, "Had a pulmonary collapse when I heard the Common App was down …"
Some technical difficulties have been addressed by Common App, but many of the bigger issues of capacity, log-in failures, endless buffering, essay formatting, double payments, problems submitting recommendations and an inability to preview applications remain largely unresolved.
Common App customer service cannot be reached by telephone, so a family's only recourse is to file a ticket and wait for a response. That's not a very satisfactory arrangement for families already stressed out by the process.
This column was written by Lee Bierer, an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.