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Why the Common App Failed Online Applicants

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Applying to college is arguably one of the most stressful experiences for any high school student. The pressure that comes with submitting applications to several schools can become overwhelming. The Common Application was developed, in part, to help relieve this stress, creating a standardized application that is now accepted at over 500 colleges and universities. But what was once a solution to the application process has now become a pain-point. Over the past several weeks, media reports have been detailing the enormous challenges students are facing this season when attempting to use the online platform. These failures in technology highlight a major issue within the current college application process: the failure to evolve with the times.

With the ubiquity of technology in modern day life, antiquated systems must adapt or risk extinction. Glitches in the Common App technology have sent ripples through the process for both applicants and schools alike this year. Take Georgia Tech, for example. With students unable to complete their online applications, the university has been forced to push back the entire review process by several weeks -- a substantial burden on both applicants and university staff. With an impact of such magnitude, it's time to re-evaluate the antiquated application process. Areas where the Common App failed are precisely the areas where alternatives will succeed.

Failure to Modernize
In its current form, the Common Application is simply a conversion of the print version of the application to a Web format. By simply taking the traditional paper application online, the transition process neglected technology native to the Web, resulting in several technology failures that are causing distress to those using the service. For a generation that has grown up with technology fully integrated into their lives, a lack of responsive and intuitive applications can be more than frustrating -- it can be debilitating. A modern application process must take advantage of current Web-based tools and protocols. Not allowing applicants to upload required documents or failing to integrate working ecommerce platforms is simply unacceptable.

Failure to Simplify the Process
Perhaps most important is the Common App's failure to simplify the process; the reason it was created in the first place. Inadequate or broken tools have hindered rather than helped students to finish their applications Schools continually search for better ways to encourage application completion -- the very reason that so many of them have turned to the Common App. Unfortunately, the lapse in Common App technology has produced precisely the opposite effect.

Failure to Acknowledge User Experience
The truth is, the Common Application was doomed for failure from the start simply because it neglected to factor in the student experience. The antiquated system no longer fits the lifestyle of prospective students, making the experience more stressful than it needs to be. As with any technology, it must be developed with the end user in mind. The failure to incorporate social media and sharing technologies in addition to the lack of video and multimedia capabilities fell short of the hype, and has resulted in a poor user experience.

Reliance on the Common Application must be reconsidered. With the technology available today, application platforms should provide students a place to showcase their skill sets and accomplishments. They should provide reviewers an opportunity to efficiently consider applicants in a reasonable amount of time. In its current form, universities cannot depend upon the Common Application as a reliable means for reviewing potential candidates in a timely fashion. For students in particular, the process of applying to colleges is stressful enough. They don't need a broken application process to make things even worse.