CA4, the “new and improved” Common App, launched August 1, 2013, after great fanfare and anticipation.  The goals of CA4 are to handle increased user capacity, to improve the content and design of the application, and to allow more customization of Supplements by the Member Colleges. Unfortunately, users and college admissions officers have experienced ongoing glitches throughout the first few months of implementation, ranging from system crashes to the inability of some colleges to retrieve submitted applications and recommendations.  As a result, several colleges have extended their early admissions deadlines.

Early Application Deadline Extensions

Of the colleges with a November 1 early deadline, Boston University and Yale extended to November 5; and Barnard, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, New York University, Northwestern, Tufts and the University of Chicago extended to November 8, and the University of Pennsylvania to November 11. The Common App organization has been working to resolve high priority issues for the 2014 application cycle, and will examine non-critical suggestions for improvement for implementation in the 2015 application cycle.

Common App Problems

Recently, I attended a fascinating NJACAC (New Jersey Association of College Admissions Counselors) College Admissions Trends session, held at Princeton University.  The panel included heads of admission from Princeton, Villanova, Muhlenberg, Drexel, University of Maryland, University of Delaware and Rutgers. When the topic turned to the implementation of the new Common App, both colleges and counselors (combination of high school and independent educational consultants) were extremely open about ongoing frustrations.  All shared a positive spirit of working together to resolve challenges in order to support students and to conduct timely and informed college application reviews.

Counselors asked colleges for their preferences in how to handle (1) the inability to know what information has actually been received; (2) the continued inability for students and guidance offices to consistently and reliably transmit information and for colleges to consistently and reliably retrieve information.

How Should Students Proceed?

Here are the conclusions and recommendations of the admissions officers on the panel regarding how students should proceed in light of the Common App issues:

  • There is a general consensus among Common App colleges that students will not be penalized if they are a few days late in submitting their application due to technical challenges, but of course students should still strive to submit by the application deadlines.
  • Students should check each college’s online portal after all the components of the application have been submitted. If the college does not confirm receipt of items sent, call the Admissions Office.  Ask each college if it would prefer that you send paper copies of any application components it has not received.