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Common App Board of Directors launches 'review' of technology and organization

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In separate emails to member colleges and school counselors, the Common Application Board of Directors announced that the Board has retained the services of a third party consulting firm, Censeo, to conduct a “complete and expeditious review of the Common Application both in regards to technology and organizational structure.”

On December 18, the Board met “off-cycle” in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues faced by both the organization and CA4, the "new" Common Application.

Acknowledging that this has been an “uncharacteristically difficult year,” the Board “had a highly productive discussion” and decided to launch an independent review of both the Common Application organization and technology.

“To be clear, this is a board initiative, but The Common Application and Hobsons’ staffs have welcomed the outside review and are fully cooperative,” according to an email sent to members on December 26, by board president, Thyra Briggs, of Harvey Mudd College.

The email, which went out before the application experienced problems on New Year’s Day, outlined efforts made to adjust the system since its capacity was challenged on Columbus Day. Member participation and feedback was requested for a project designed to improve the application process going forward.

“Our goal is to acquire an authoritative, independent expert report identifying the root cause of issues and making specific recommendations as to how we can improve and regain the confidence of our members,” added Ms. Briggs.

A subsequent email to school counselors last Friday clarified that the first phase of the project would be limited to member colleges and those school counselors who have submitted online forms.

“At this point in time, our focus is on obtaining input from users for whom CA4 represented significant change.”

So for now, Censeo is charged with mainly looking at comparisons between the old application and the new. Because this year’s student applicants only have experience with the new application and can’t draw comparisons, their feedback will not be immediately sought.

Counselors were told, “...the nature of student feedback, while helpful, is different from the feedback on changes that we are seeking to gather at this moment. We will seek input from students at a later time, and we look forward to hearing about their experience with the application.”

Censeo, a D.C. based consulting firm specializing in strategy and operations, has already forwarded a brief survey to representatives of member colleges and universities. Counselors were advised that they could expect to hear from Censeo "very soon."

So far there has been no public announcement of the Board’s initiative. For now, there is no indication how many surveys will be sent, who among counselors will be contacted, and whether or not the feedback solicited will be totally “random.”

Both members and counselors, however, have been assured that findings would be shared in “various forums” later this spring.

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