The college application process was stressful enough before the meltdown. And that is not a reference to a teenage hissy fit. This time, the Common App has had a digital tantrum, and students, guidance counselors and parents are in a dither.
According to the Common App website, the membership association was established in 1975 by 15 private colleges, and now, 38 years later, serves over a million students and school officials annually. Common App, based in Arlington, VA, is accepted by 517 public and private colleges and universities, including international schools.
Locally, it is accepted by the University of Virginia but not the University of Maryland, though it is used by many other schools in Maryland.
This year, the Common App launched its fourth online version. And that's where the problems began.
The biggest glitch apparently occurs when an essay is pasted into the blank text field and paragraphs become jumbled. "It's a disaster," said Anne Beaty, who has been helping college applicants for two decades in New York and overseas.
Several universities have said they will postpone application deadlines due to the problems, according to The Washington Post.
"The blank spaces, juxtaposition of sentences, no paragraph breaks, no indents... It's crazy," said Beaty. "You can do some editing once the text is pasted in the box, but it's still not going to look pretty. I feel bad for the readers at the schools. Without the formatting, the essays are just difficult to read."
Nathan Myers, 17, of Gaithersburg told The Washington Post of his issues in applying to UNC-Chapel Hill.
The senior at Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County told the Post he tried for three days to get his application to load onto the web site.
His father said the whole family chipped in. "It was quite the journey," his father told the Post.Arjun Iyer, 17, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, VA, told the Post he tried to log in numerous times but was unsuccessful. “Of course I was freaking out a little bit,” he said.
The jumbled essays are the tip of the iceberg. Common App also published incorrect application deadlines, often indicating dates beyond the actual deadlines.
A New York Times feature on Sunday, Oct. 13, chronicled the stress of Lily Geiger a 12th grader in Manhattan who is in the throes of the application process. The article reported Common App failures that include glitches with paying fees online, and "meshing" with Naviance.
Naviance is a popular software used by high schools to facilitate a paperless application process. With Naviance, teachers submit recommendations online to be funneled through the Common App.
"The Naviance teacher recs didn't work weeks ago. They (Common App) kept pushing it back, saying try again, but we kept getting error messages. It has really been a source of angst for the kids, counselors and the parents," said DelAngelo.
Have you or your teenager encountered glitches with the Common App? Tell us in the comments.