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Glitches in the Common Application Have Seniors Pulling Their Hair Out

Should the Common App fall down entirely, we'll probably hear the collective wail millions of high school seniors all over the country

smithsonian.com

Those who’ve applied for college in the last 38 years might remember the wonders of the Common Application. Rather than uploading your transcript and nearly identical personal statement to every single school individually, you upload it once, and the more than 500 colleges that use the Common App simply share that information. But now, that magical solution is failing millions of college seniors.

At Forbes, Maggie McGrath reported “mass panic,” showing a handful of Tweets from seniors who struggled with the site crashing just days before the first round of Early Action and Early Decision deadlines. McGrath writes:

Some colleges quickly jumped to action on Monday, either announcing an extended deadline, a laUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (see the announcement here; UNC Early Action applications are now due on October 21 at 11:59pm) or Georgia Tech. That means good news for Ms. Bailer, quoted above: her application is now due on October 21 at 11:59pm ET.

Other schools provided an alternate means of submitting an application, as didPrinceton University. Princeton recently registered with the Universal College Application, a site that serves as an alternative to the Common App. The two sites are not transferable — i.e, you can’t take a partially-completed Common App application and expect it to automatically upload to the Universal College Application — but if you are locked out of the Common App, the Universal College Application is accepted at 33 schools, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Tulane and Marquette.

This isn’t the first time the site has been buggy. Richard Perez-Pena at the New York Times reported in October that the Common Application website had been having hiccups for a while now. “It’s been a nightmare,” Jason C. Locke, associate vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University, told Perez-Pena. “I’ve been a supporter of the Common App, but in this case, they’ve really fallen down.”

At CNN, David L. Marcus, a high school teacher and educational consultant, says that it’s not just the Common App that’s failing, it’s the way we look at college applications in general. Kids (often driven by their parents) are applying to over twenty different colleges, which means writing 30-40 essays and incurring nearly $2,000 in application fees. That’s simply too much, says Marcus:

I urge 12th-graders to consider a gap year, combining working, going to community college and doing public service. Grow up, I say, and take a year to find your passions and to give back to the taxpayers who have done a lot for you. Parents in high-pressure communities usually dismiss that idea.

I’m secretly hoping for more delays with the Common App.

As of a few days ago, the site was up and running again. But should the Common App fall down entirely, we’ll probably hear the collective wail millions of high school seniors all over the country.

More from Smithsonian.com:

To Avoid College Admissions Scrutiny, High Schoolers Are Changing Their Names on Facebook
LinkedIn Has a Pitch for Teens: Create a Profile You Actually Want to Show Colleges

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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