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The Common Application gets off to a smooth start

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About 12 hours before a very publicly announced start time, the Common App quietly launched the 2014-15 admissions season for its over 500 member colleges and universities.

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As promised in earlier communications to members, the Arlington-based online application system went live at 8:00 p.m. ET on July 31.

“Things in Arlington are going well,” said interim CEO Paul Mott, in an email to chief admission officers. “We continue to feel very good on all fronts about how we are tracking, and anticipation is building for this week’s launch.”

Counselors and consultants who had been tipped off about the early start immediately went to work combing through content and testing the system.

And first reactions were largely positive.

“It is moving very smoothly and quickly,” commented an Asia-based independent educational consultant. “I like incorporating supplemental essays in the questions section.”

Others were a little disappointed.

“Nothing has really changed at all,” said a Maryland-based consultant working late into the night. “Just the location of the essay prompts.”

Of particular concern among some of the early reviewers were limitations on the number of essay versions (only 2 edits allowed), poorly-worded questions requiring applicants to “confess” how many ACT’s or SAT’s they had taken, and the requirement for an application to be completed before a print preview can be generated.

In a document outlining expectations for launch, the Common App pointed to several key changes for 2014-15, including

  • Clearer instructions and status indicators to help applicants navigate from account creation to app submission with ease
  • The Common Application-Naviance integration will launch on August 1, allowing recommenders to begin completing their online recommendations and school reports as soon as the 2014-15 cycle gets underway
  • For transfer students, the Registrar Report will be renamed “Transfer College Report” and will become an offline form with expanded instructions (this part of the application continues to be evaluated)
  • Applicants are asked to identify which criteria make them eligible for a Fee Waiver, thus ensuring a more accurate representation of requests to waive application fees
  • The ratings grid has returned to recommendations forms

The Common App will also be piloting live support for recommenders through a chat feature, which will be available initially from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday beginning in early September.

For early birds who might navigate to a college’s member page that is not yet published (and there are a few), a message will appear explaining that the college and the Common App are working together to finalize the questions. You are encouraged to go ahead and work in other areas of the application

And should you need assistance, the Common App encourages you to reach out to the Help Center. You will find a robust FAQ’s resource covering all aspects of the application. And by clicking on the “Ask a Question” tab, you can contact a member of the Common App support team who will “be back in touch promptly.”

“Overall, I think it looks pretty good, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight,” said an independent college adviser in California referring to problems with last year’s launch. “It really looks like they’re going to do a better job at communicating and being responsive this year….fingers crossed.”

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