Application issues complicate admissions process

by Martha Schick / Beacon Staff • November 21, 2013

With high school seniors all over the country rushing to beat the early action deadlines in early November, missing supplements and recommendations can bring the application process to a grinding halt.  

The Common Applicationa standardized college application website that handles applications for 537 collegeshas been experiencing technical problems since the relaunch of its website in August, prompting Emerson to add the Universal College Application as another way to apply a week before the original early action deadline.

After the Common Application changed its platform to try to better accommodate the increasing number of applicants, issues arose.  These included colleges being unable to retrieve transcripts and recommendations uploaded by guidance counselors through Naviance, a website that allows counselors to submit required documents to colleges, according to Scott Anderson, senior director for policy at Common Application. Anderson said that Common Application is still working to fix these problems, which are affecting many of the colleges that use the service.

Emerson is now one of 40 schools that added the Universal College Application as another way to apply, according to MJ Knoll-Finn, vice president for enrollment.  

Knoll-Finn said that adding the Universal College Application was a way to make sure students were still able to apply, despite the difficulties with Common Application, which the College has been using since the 2007-2008 school year. 

The admissions department also extended its early action deadline from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8, and is still working with those who had trouble with their applications, according to Knoll-Finn. 

“The Common App was assuring everyone that they were fixing these problems, but because it’s so stressful for students, we felt like it would help if we gave everybody a little more time,” Knoll-Finn said.

Knoll-Finn said the college plans to continue allowing future applicants to use either application, instead of just one. 

Instead of applying through only the Common Application, prospective Emerson student Alex Sieklicki is taking extra precautions to ensure his application arrives at Emerson.  Sieklicki, 17, is a high school senior at Farmington High School in Connecticut and is applying regular decision to Emerson, although he’s already started his application. 

“I haven’t had any issues [applying through Common Application], but I have a lot of friends who have,” Sieklicki said.  “I’m thinking about applying through both.”

While Sieklicki said any problems with Common Application wouldn’t deter him from applying to Emerson, he said it could keep him from applying to other schools that weren’t his first choice.

In light of the Common Application’s issues, Suffolk University is also taking extra steps to ensure that prospective students can apply. In addition to applying through Common Application, applicants can continue submitting materials after the deadline over email, according to the university’s website.

“We are very supportive of colleges if they choose to use other application vehicles,” Anderson said. “This year we’re especially supportive of whatever decisions colleges feel need to be made in order to serve their applicants.”

Despite the problems associated with applying, Knoll-Finn said applications were up.  Although she could not provide exact figures, she said that the admissions department anticipates a 10 percent increase in applications from last year by the January 15 regular decision deadline.

“[The changes Emerson made are] working for us and we do have our applications now,” Knoll-Finn said. “We are working with students as they need us, so we’re being flexible with students who are still struggling.” 

Tom Little, a freshman journalism major at Emerson, said that in such a stressful time for high school seniors, he thought the school made the right decisions.

“[Emerson] didn’t penalize people for the website not working and they made a different outlet that hopefully will be more effective than the Common App,” Little said. “I think the college handled it well.”