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The Common Application: What a difference a year makes

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The 2014-15 Common App has been processing electronic applications for a little over a week now. And a year after the initial launch of CA4, satisfaction with the new management team is up while complaints about the system are down—way down from last year.

“…things here are percolating along nicely,” said interim CEO Paul Mott, in an email to member institutions a week after launch. “As you likely know, we hit our internal target for launch with the system going live at 7:58 p.m., on Thursday, July 31.”

By the end of the week, the Common App was able to report

  • 164,618 prospective applicant accounts created
  • 2,712 applications submitted (600 on the very first day)
  • 1,524 e-payments received
  • 14,716 recommender accounts created
  • 1,761 recommendation forms submitted

And as of August 11, 512 Common App member colleges and universities were fully live—a vast improvement over this time last year when only about 135 members were able to accept applications.

Naviance also went live on August 1, initially providing teachers and counselors with the ability to prepare recommendation forms. By August 4, recommenders were able to actually begin submitting these forms. This didn’t happen until early October last year—and even then the system experienced a series of hiccups that effectively prevented some teachers and counselors from sending recommendations electronically.

In another area of the application, a brief glitch appeared with Slideroom on August 4, which temporarily prevented applicants from submitting portfolios. Within an hour of being alerted to the problem, the technology staff communicated with Slideroom and a fix was in place.

Similarly, a problem cropped up on August 2 causing applicants to have to log back into the Common App after submitting a payment. Higher One was alerted to the problem and by the next day the issue was resolved.

For all the effort, the Common App has been rewarded with a significant decrease in the number of complaints via the Help Desk:

  • 1,086 prospective applicant ticket submissions (2,889 a year ago)
  • 24 minutes average applicant response time (55 minutes last year)
  • 192 recommender ticket submissions (476 a year ago)
  • 35 minutes average recommender response time (98 minutes last year)

And counselors who are already hard at work with applicants have noticed.

“The Common App has redeemed itself after last year’s debacle,” said Charlotte Klarr, an independent educational consultant with offices in Maryland and Virginia. “I think the change in leadership has a lot to do with it.”

On the west coast, Archana Sudame reports, "So far my students have encountered one or two irritating glitches but it's certainly much better than last year—oh what a difference!"

Yes, what a difference a year has made for the Common Application.

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