Common Application Advice: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Dr. Dean Skarlis on October 20, 2013

The following post was written by Kate Burkart, one of our Admissions Coaches and Application Expert Extraordinaire.

The old adage: “The Early Bird Catches the Worm” is crucial when working on the Common Application.  As if visiting, researching, and deciding where to apply isn’t stressful enough, the launch of the new Common Application (CA4) hasn’t made this year’s application process any easier.  Fraught with technical issues from the launch on August 1st, the support personnel working for the Common Application have not able to keep up with the technical troubleshooting demand. With 517 colleges and universities now accepting the application, it’s no wonder that without proper technical support, families, secondary schools, and colleges are feeling the burden.  Common App staff are working hard to eliminate problems with a recent statement of commitment to their clients promising to work on reliability and service.  Students can now follow the Common Application’s live feed on both Facebook and Twitter for the most current updates.

Given this chaotic situation, my best advice is:  Start your application early!  Become familiar with the application, and don’t rush through any section to simply “get it done.”  The Common Application is a tool to make the college admission process easier, so take advantage of putting the time into this one application that will be submitted to many colleges on your list. Read, re-read, critique, and scrutinize every question and essay, regardless of how mundane it may appear. You want to present your best self to every college for the greatest chance of acceptance.

Most importantly, I urge you to avoid traffic jams!  Try to work on your Common Application during non-peak hours, and avoid heavy traffic times such as weekend afternoons and the day leading up to a major deadline (November 1st, November 15th, and January 1st). Many colleges are extending their Early Action and Early Decision deadlines to accommodate the current glitches. However, this does not mean you should wait until the new deadline; plan on submitting applications at least 3 days prior to a school’s deadline. There have been reported issues with the payment feature, potentially taking up to 48 hours to process a payment, and double charging some applicants. The take home message is:  the earlier the better! Take your time to carefully review all aspects of the application by using the print preview function once your application is complete. We suggest printing out a hard copy of your application prior to submission for your records, just in case.

The key to success with the Common Application is early and consistent progress, as well as paying careful attention to detail!  Good luck!

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