Imagine you’re a high school student coming up against the first of a series of early college application deadlines. And the “exclusive” application provider on which you must depend slowly grinds to a halt and eventually crashes—simply crashes—a little more than 24 hours in advance of deadline.
And you can’t submit your application.
This is exactly what happened earlier today as thousands of applicants and recommenders were unable to log-in to Common Application accounts and work on pending submissions.
“I don’t even own a computer at the moment so I’m at the office in my complex trying to apply and can’t,” said one young woman on the Common Application Facebook page. “Please fix the problem my life depends on it. I need to go to college so I can better my situation.”
Faced with hundreds of emails and calls from applicants and counselors unable to log-in the day before October 15 early action deadlines, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech almost simultaneously announced extensions to Monday, October, 21, at 11:59 p.m.
“Please know that we’re very sorry for any technical difficulties you may have experienced while trying to submit your application,” apologized UNC Chapel Hill. “We are in regular communication with the Common Application, which is doing their best to resolve these issues.”
“We completely understand what’s going on and want to reduce stress in any way possible,” said a representative of the Duke admissions office. “October 15 is no longer a priority.”
“Restarting my computer, switching browsers, and updating Adobe all did nothing,” said one frustrated applicant on College Confidential. “Just in case it has something to do with the amount of traffic on the site right now, I'm going to try again late at night when less people are likely to be up.”
And as it turned out, once traffic decreased after midnight, applicants were able to generate Print Previews and complete the submission process.
But the relief was short-lived. By early morning, the system was so jammed with applicants and recommenders trying to submit documents, that log-ins became impossible. This finally forced a response from the Common Application on a forum sponsored by the National Association of College Admission Counseling:
“The slowness is due to a spike in activity among recommenders, which is having an impact in system performance for all users. The result is a time-out issue, which presents itself to users as an unsuccessful login error. We first observed the issue around 9:00 AM ET. Troubleshooting allowed us to resolve the problem within about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the issue cropped up again about 30 minutes later and continues to persist.”
And students hoping to use the Columbus Day weekend and holiday to submit college applications through the Common App system were forced to temporarily sit it out.
“At this point, I think I might as well just email my colleges a screenshot of the buffering page,” concluded one student.