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Trouble At The Common Application Website

In Common Application 2013-2014, Common Application Glitches, Problems Uploading to the Common Application, Problems with the New Common Application, Uploading the Common Application Essay on October 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Problems at the Common App, from Scary to Simply Irritating, With a Few Suggestions on How to Deal With It.

For an 11/7/13 update on conditions, read the whole post or just scroll right down to the bottom.

So by now you’ve probably heard that the so-called Obamacare rollout has been a bit of a catastrophe due to the website failures.  The reasons are many of course, and many of those are political–poor funding, the late release of some important rules (timed to miss the last election) the incredible decision by Health and Human Services to try to coordinate the contractors and to ensure that all the software works together themselves, etc.  A large part of the problem is that phenomenon called “managing up,”  which may also explain the dumb decision by HHS to attempt to manage the program so directly:  Sure, Boss, we can do it! The other big problem is the number of politicians and states who want to destroy the program, or at least hinder it as much as possible.

What a mess, bordering on a catastrophe, but I would cut them some slack as they have more or less been trying to run their insurance exchanges in enemy territory, politically.  This is not true of the Common Application, which has no known enemies, which makes their own failures  even less excusable.  You could  say that the new Common App website is a bit of a mess as well, but it won’t become a catastrophe until November 1st;  if they don’t work it out by then, it’s going to look like a five alarm fire meeting a flood of the ages at the hundreds of admissions offices served by the Common App, and if  that continued through November, it could be curtains for the Common App itself–they do have competitors, like the Universal Application, and you could expect other folks to take an interest in this “market” as well.  The Common App  may be a nonprofit, but their people are decently to very well paid, and others will take notice.

So what are the problems students are having with the Common App site?  You could have a look here at the Common App’s own ongoing list of problems, fixes and apologies here, or you could simply read on below for the, uh, lowlights, as well as a few suggestion on how to deal with them.  If you do click the Common App link to have a look, I would suggest that you take some phrases like “in rare instances problem x has occurred” with a shaker of salt–it’s not looking so rare to my clients, and I am asking everybody to give their deadlines a bit more leeway.  Just in case.

Let’s start with the scary and move to the frustrating.

Scary:  The Signature Page that confirms payment may not show up for as much as a day or may prompt repeated payments.  When you pay by credit card, you will get a signature page on which you must type the name to confirm payment.  You MUST type in this confirmation, or you have not paid.  The problem is that this page may not show up right away–in fact, it has taken as much as a day to pop up, and in that case, you have to check back to do it.  It won’t prompt you at this point.  So if you made a payment and didn’t have to respond to a prompt to type the name to confirm it, go back and look.  You may also find that you are prompted to pay multiple times–if you’ve paid, typed the name in the signature page and successfully submitted it, you should be done.  On the other hand, I’d rather pay twice and deal with getting the money back later than not be sure I paid.  I like to prioritize my headaches by their threat level.

Frustrating (And Time Consuming):  

Uploading Essays Has Been A Royal Pain In the Keister.  Formatting is scrambled or lost, including paragraphing, and my clients, along with, it seems, many other folks, are having to painstakingly go over their essays once again to correct formatting, et al.  This seems to be resulting from both problems that various operating systems are having in interfacing with the Common App site, as well as some specific problems with word processing programs–in other words, despite its ubiquity, the Common App people don’t seem to have done an adequate job of vetting their site’s interactions with Microsoft Word.  One work-around to try is to save your doc as a text doc, double check it in text edit, then upload it.  It may not work, especially if your browser or operating system has trouble with the Common App portal, but it’s worth a try to avoid reading, correcting and rereading what you have already perfected–try multiple browsers before moving on to a different computer.

Naviance was not meshing well with the Common App, as of the beginning of October, and while things are improving, not everything is available even now.  Be patient, but if you have an app  soon (I am writing on Sunday, October 13th and some apps are due by Tuesday, the 15th–Yes, I’m talking to you folks, especially) show up early to school and politely insist on an appointment with your counselor, asap.  And again–be polite.  This has really created a nightmare for you average high school counselor, in your average understaffed and overworked high school counseling office.  Be compassionately persistent.

The Preview Function is not working well or is balky.  Some of my clients are reporting blank pages when they try to preview.  This seems to be affected by web browsers, so try a different browser, then try a different computer.  Do not wait until the last minute to submit.  That advice applies all the time but even more now.

And Finally, Be Aware of This:  To my knowledge thus far, only Georgia Tech has pushed back some paperwork.  And even in that case, GT, like all the rest of the universities in the Common App, plan to issue all their decisions on the same timetable, with no extensions–they are busy hiring people to handle the extra workload now.  Don’t count on a break if you are doing things late.  Submit ahead of time.  Getting a break after a deadline that you missed is unlikely to a high degree, and you’ll be left with only this:  Bummer.

I say be proactive instead and leave the bummers to The Dude.   Good luck and contact me if you need any editing or advice–though rush jobs come at a premium, just like at Fed Ex.  Oh, and on a different topic, if you see an ad below, I did not put it there.  Wordpress did, and the proceeds go to supporting them, and I myself am all for supporting WordPress, though I do not choose nor am I advised ahead of time about  any ads that may appear below.

11/7/13 Update:  In many cases, my clients are finding that they if they log on then log off again, whatever function was stalled will be complete.  Others have used text edit, et al, to ease copying and pasting essays into the Common App.  Naviance now seems to working better as it interacts with the Common App, but it’s still balky at times.  Overall assessment:  Not great, but you can work with it, with patience.  If you are lucky, it will work as it is supposed to.  If not, log on and off, etc.

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