Common App woes: how online glitches make applying to college a nightmare

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Julia Kranzler, Staff Writer

Technical difficulties arise with the Common App as seniors rush to submit college applications.

In an era where college applications are submitted primarily online, most would expect the process to be more user-friendly. To seniors, the Common Application became known as the “Chaos Application” when the site experienced its first crash on Oct. 14.

“We have informed all member colleges that errors in the text-to-PDF conversion process have the potential to produce essays that contain unusual formatting…We have assured colleges that students have no control over this formatting and these types of errors are our fault, not the students,” said the Common Application support team in a direct email to college counselor Connie Dominguez.

With deadlines for the first round of Early Action and Early Decision approaching, students were infuriated by the inability to work on or submit their applications. Common App addressed the issue and hoped to resolve it, however, the cause nor the solution has yet to be found.

According to, the Common Application, accessed by millions of students across the world and used by over 500 universities, is the most widely used college application website. Teachers and counselors can submit letters of recommendation for students applying to both private and public schools through the website.

“Most of the schools I’m applying to take the Common App which is really nice and saves a lot of time. It isn’t that bad of an application. My least favorite part is the irritating process of entering each of my classes into the system,” said senior James Schulte.

For those applying to private schools, the Common App can probably be found as a top site in their browsing history. The application itself is very lengthy and time consuming. It asks for personal information, test scores, and most importantly, a personal statement.

The Common Application’s personal statement is an essay following one of the five prompts a student self selects. The essay cannot be shorter than 250 words but no more than 650 words. The essay is the applicant’s opportunity to tell  a story and discuss why they stand out from the rest.  Students spend months formulating the perfect essay to grant them admission into college. Private college counselors also provide students with insight on how they can improve their essay.

 “So far, I haven’t had any complications with the Common App. I just think that there are so many questions that are difficult to answer on your own if you don’t have a college counselor outside of school to help you out. For example, putting in your activities or work experience, or knowing your class size or ranking. There are just a lot of questions to fill out in addition to the individual school’s questions,” said senior Sydney Levine.

For those applying to UCs or CSUs, the Common App is the least of their concerns. California State Universities, otherwise known as CSUs, have their own online application website, The application is completely self-reported and does not require a personal statement. The University of California, or UC, application is separate as well but does require a writing supplement.

“I really appreciate how the UC system allows me to fill out one application and then send it to multiple colleges,” said Schulte.

NCAA Division I and Division II students aren’t required to access the Common Application if the college they’re being recruited to is not a member college.

Student athlete Jessica Levesque said, “I don’t need to use the Common App because I’m signing a National Letter of Intent to join UC San Diego’s women’s crew team. All I need to do is fill out the UC application.”

College applications have grown increasingly difficult over the years as the need for a college degree has risen. Colleges are more selective than ever, some offering less than 5 percent admission.

As application deadlines draw near, senior stress is higher than ever. However, the stress may be worth it when that acceptance letter comes in the mail.