Common app adds stress

Students are finding frustration with the common application website.
By Abigail Cianciolo

The college process has been a particularly stressful situation for all high school seniors at Westford Academy and across the nation this year. Popular application website, The Common Application, underwent a system overhaul recently that has been leaving students and guidance counselors with many issues adding even more anxiety for both parties.

For guidance counselors, the setbacks have been especially disruptive to the process for students applying schools with deadlines that were as early as October 15th.

“We’ve been very concerned about the fact that we had students with October 15th deadlines and the website wasn’t allowing us to send anything until the eleventh of October,” said WA Guidance coordinator, Wendy Pechacek.

Due to the overhaul, many students across the board have been experiencing similar problems with the Common Application.

“I tried to get on this weekend and the site kept telling me my password was wrong, and I knew it was correct after trying multiple times,” said senior, Olivia Peterson.

“I needed to go back in and edit information on my Common App, and the website made it difficult for me to make any changes to my wrong information,” added senior Stephanie Janeczek.

Pechacek added that many other issues are being revealed with the application process on the guidance end of the situation.

“One of the things they’ve done is set limits on the software so that if a school says that they only want one letter of recommendation we are only able to send one,” said Pechacek. “We used to just click and send the additional letters, and now we are going to have to go out to the students and find out what their primary recommendation is going to be if there are more than one on file.”

Another issue has been that students who started working on the Common Application early on are having trouble accessing their applications. Furthermore, those who submitted their applications early are finding that the submissions are not really going through.

“Some of the kids that made payments early didn’t go back into check and make sure it was finalized and that the application was actually sent. In some cases, it didn’t go through and the kids are just thinking they’re all set and they’re not,” said Pechacek.

Other issues involve the essay components and writing supplements. In the past, students could cut and paste their work into the Common App. However, this year many students have experienced issues in doing so, and end up with essays with incorrect formatting and not looking like their original submissions.

One of the frustrations is the lack of information being passed along to students and guidance counselors from the Common Application company.

“I had to go all over the place to find out there was technical issues since they never send out a message or announcement to those of us who could not get on the website,” said Peterson.

There are a lot of changes within the new system that guidance counselors were never alerted about before the application season began. This becomes a larger problem for the guidance counselors who must direct students to the Common Application help desk, rather than being to help their students out with their information.

“There are a lot of things that make us feel like our hands are tied to do the one thing we really want to do which is be helpful to our students when they’re feeling stressed and anxious,” said Pechacek. “It’s hard for us, because we like to fix things for our students and be able to answer questions and a lot of these questions we can’t answer.”

One of the largest issues with the malfunctions of the Common Application is that most colleges no longer offer a separate application through their website, providing no other options for students when applying to college.

“I did not use the common app and I have had zeros issues sending in and applying, so that is looking like the better option here,” said senior Alexandra Houghton.

After being notified of the issues, many schools have pushed back deadlines for their early action and early decision applications. However, this presents even more issues for both the applicants and the schools.

“I’m worried that even if everything with the Common Application goes through to the schools, that the issues will cause admissions decisions to be delayed from those schools,” said senior Meghan Potter.

Going forward, the guidance department hopes to inform students of any new information they receive from colleges and the Common Application company. Right now, however, it is hard to pass on much knowledge when the state of the website changes day to day.

“We are definitely putting together communication to our seniors with what we know, but we feel like it’s a changing landscape. Everyday, we find out a new difference, a new thing that is a problem on their end,” said Pechacek.