Common App glitches affect Mac admissions

This year, both applicants and colleges have reported serious glitches in the Common Application (Common App) system. The Common App serves over 500 colleges and universities, and the glitches have affected thousands of applicants, admissions officers, teachers, counselors and anxious parents. Though issues were first reported in early August, problems continue to occur.

“On our end, the most significant [problem] was a delay in receiving submitted applications, a practice that normally begins in early August soon after the application is available to students,” said Jeff Allen, Director of Admissions.

“This year several additional weeks passed before the Common Application began delivering submitted applications to its member colleges and universities.”

In response to the issue, the Macalester Admissions Office has worked closely with both the Common App organization and individual students to resolve problems.

Though most problems have been solved, some students are still reporting difficulty with submitting their applications.

“Many Admissions Office employees have been working with the Common Application and individual students to resolve issues and address questions,” Allen said.

However, the Admissions Office does not plan to extend any deadlines. November 15 will remain the Early Decision One deadline. It is likely that January 1 will remain the Early Decision Two deadline, while January 15 will serve as the regular decision deadline.

“At this time we have no plans to push back any of our application deadlines,” Allen said. “Yes, we continue to have ongoing issues that require our attention, though none significant [enough] to change our application deadlines.”

Despite the problems and their resultant inconveniences, Macalester plans to continue its partnership with the Common App.

“While no one has enjoyed working on these issues,” Allen said, “It’s difficult to imagine Macalester discontinuing its Common Application membership. To a certain extent, it’s become the way students apply to colleges, particularly to selective colleges like Mac. To not be a member could potentially place Macalester at a strategic disadvantage.”

Though delayed application delivery has caused problems this year, in the past, the Common App’s delivery system has proved effective. According to Allen, in over 15 years of partnership, Macalester’s experience with the organization has been positive.

“Now, what’s most important is having confidence that they are doing what they can to resolve known issues,” said Allen. “On this, the Common Application is working incredibly hard and communicating regularly to key stakeholders on their progress.”

Danny Schneller, a high school senior who plans to use the Common App, said he ran into issues when attempting to submit applications through the Common App.

“They were not able to generate PDFs of applications for a couple days,” Schneller said. “I left the loading PDF screen up on my computer for two or three hours one night and nothing happened. It was exasperating.”

This year’s glitches are unique because they result from the use of a new online interface. Accordingly, the organization has drawn criticism for failing to adequately test the new platform.

“[Some have suggested] that they underestimated [the new system’s] technical requirements and the potential issues associated with any new systems implementation,” Allen said.

Regardless of the reasons for the problem, the Admissions Office continues to work with prospective students.

“We’re doing what we can to help students complete their applications in a timely manner,” Allen said.