College Admissions: The Common App 2013-14 Sneak Peek

Monday, August 12, 2013


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Controversy regarding the Common App has not been helped by the recent launch of its 2013-14 version, which is buggy and frustrating.

The 2013-2014 Common Application was released last week amidst a flurry of expectations and the earliest reactions have not been especially glowing. 

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The Common App truly revolutionized the college admissions process when it pioneered the idea of a single application form in 1975. Since then, its membership has grown from 15 colleges to more than 400. However, the organization is not without controversy. Its supporters tout it as an altruistic endeavor driven by member institutions for the benefit of students. Its detractors consider it a legal monopoly in which competitive pricing and strong arm exclusivity practices prevent colleges from joining competing application sites like the Universal Application.

The Common App's stumbling start for 2013-14

Regardless of your opinion about the Common App, chances are if you have a college-bound senior, they will use the site. This year’s release has had its ups and downs. Most users experienced technological problems which revolved around repeatedly being kicked out of the system on August 1, the first day of release. However, the Common App responded quickly, and by August 2nd, the site was much more stable.

Facebook postings on the Common App page indicate that an array of problems exist, and the counselor guide and other documentation is still inaccessible. Supplements, which had been promised to be loaded by August 1, are non-existent. Text boxes have flawed formatting, screen generation is slow, and some users are only able to have their password accepted if they use a particular browser. Still, students can register and begin to fill out their information, which is a start.

Offline when rising seniors need it most

However, in an era when millions of websites update their functionality overnight in a few hours, one has to wonder why the Common App must still shut down for an entire month each year. And then when it re-appears, why there are so many technical problems and omissions? The reality is that many students want to start filling out their apps over the summer, before they are deluged with sports practices, AP courses and SAT/ACT tests in the fall. Allowing them to do this when they have less on their plates, reduces stress around deadline season. For whatever reason, the Common App fails to recognize this, and applicants remain at their mercy for timing.

New to the Common App for 2013-14

This year’s enhancements include:

  • A new interface
  • New Personal Statement prompts with a 650-word limit
  • The elimination of the Short Essay on an extra-curricular activity
  • The ability to list step-parents and their contact info


Keep in mind that many state universities and some private colleges have their own application which is accessible from the admissions page of their individual website. Also, the Universal App now has 33 members and provides a very stable, user-friendly experience for applicants. Member institutions for the Universal App include local favorites like Bryant and Johnson & Wales, as well as popular national universities like Tulane and U. Tampa.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic college counseling, SAT prep and athletic recruiting services


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