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Early decision applicants face Common App site glitches

The U. has not changed its early decision deadline, despite the tech problems applicants have faced

Though applicants for the class of 2018 have faced difficulties related to the Common Application’s new website, the Admission Office will not extend its Nov. 1 early decision deadline, wrote Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73 in an email to The Herald.

The Admission Office has received numerous phone calls and emails over the past few weeks with complaints about the Common App, Miller wrote. He added that though the office will not formally postpone the early decision deadline, admission officers are “dealing with inquiries on a case-by-case basis” and will consider applicants’ individual requests for more time.

The Common App launched a new website in August — the first time the site has been revamped in six years — and has since plagued users with a variety of problems, the New York Times reported Oct. 12.  Such problems include delayed document-uploading times, supplemental formatting glitches, website crashes and repeated payment prompts.

In addition to changes in content this year — including the removal of the “topic of your choice” essay option and a shorter activity question — the Common App’s digital format differs from past years. The site’s boxes for submitting responses often reformat users’ pasted answers in a way that erases the responses’ previous structure, multiple users said.

The University began using the Common App in 2008 and is among close to 500 member universities, according to the Common App website.

Two Ivy League institutions,  Columbia and Dartmouth, have extended their early decision deadlines to Nov. 8. Barnard College, Northwestern University, Tufts University and the University of Chicago have also pushed their early decision or early action deadlines back a week, according to these institutions’ admission websites.

Given the high number of technical difficulties faced by Common App users this year, the site does not have enough web developers and producers to address the problems, said Michele Hernandez, a college consultant and former assistant director of admissions at Dartmouth. Students who work on their applications with Hernandez are often unable to preview or change their uploaded essays, Hernandez said.

Though Hernandez has contacted Common App staffers about these problems, she has received limited responses, she added.

“The problems with (the Common App) definitely will affect the early round,” Hernandez said, adding that the site may be fixed in time for regular decision deadlines.

Hernandez expressed frustration with the Common App’s transition process to its new website.

“I can’t believe they didn’t test-drive it,” she said.

Long uploading times and online page freezes have posed problems for high school students like Zack Shakked, an early decision applicant to Brown who attends Colts Neck High School in Colts Neck, N.J. Shakked said he dealt with formatting errors when he tried to paste supplementary responses to the Common App site and that his web browser often flagged the site for being a digitally insecure page.

“I want to study computer science, and the website is just so terribly made,” Shakked said. “They have disgustingly ugly animations. The whole website makes me want to throw up.”

This year marks the first time that the Common App required teachers writing letters of recommendation for applicants to digitally submit their letters through Naviance, a website designed for high school counselors to streamline college admission forms. Naviance has crashed multiple times, many high school guidance counselors said.

College counselors at the Pingry School in Bernards, N.J., have offered to transcribe recommendation letters for the school’s teachers because so many have had technical problems with Naviance, said Tim Lear, the school’s director of college counseling.

“Teachers are all doing this as kind of an extra — they have their own jobs to do, papers to grade, etc.,” Lear said. “Every hurdle we erect in front of teachers is unfortunate.”

Richard Jiang, an early decision applicant to the class of 2018 from Brooklyn, N.Y., said his teachers are receiving the brunt of Naviance’s technical issues. He added that when he searched for Brown and began working on supplemental questions, the website’s formatting confused him so much that he did not know if he had completed certain sections.

Though Miller acknowledged that applicants and their recommenders have faced significant problems navigating the revamped Common App website, he wrote that the Admission Office anticipated the site’s updates would cause technical issues.


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