Found a Mistake on the Common App after Submission? No correcting it.

Oct. 20, 2013  UPDATE:  This post refers to the 2011-12 Common App. A brand new interface, introduced August 1, 2013 has rendered some of this information out of date. The 2013-14 Common App has proven to be buggy and unpredictable. See Got Common App problems? Here’s what we’re trying for updated information for the new Common App.

I’m trying to figure out if I should add a new category to this blog for all these things we’re learning by doing.

What we’ve learned:   you can read instructions for each of the various college-related, online, multi-part applications — the Common App, supplements, the CSS Profile, the FAFSA — but there are aspects to each of them that cannot be figured out until you actually work your way through the process and/or user interface and…just do it.

So, for that new category, what do you think:  D’oh! or Learn + Do Better Second Time Around?

Here are a few things Mod Squad Pete and I learned about the Common App:

  • When proofreading the printed pdf preview of the completed application, some parts of the application will appear to be blank. The student completes all parts of the Common App online, but if ABC College does not require the student’s social security number, for example, the space where it would go will still appear on the pdf, just without any number. When you preview the app for XYZ University, which does require the SSN, it will appear completed on the pdf.
  • Some colleges will require payment prior to the submission of the Common App and any supplement; others will ask for it the other way around.
  • One supplement could not be submitted without information completed in a section below a yes/no question, even though the “no” response should not have required further information.
  • The Common Application itself, once it has been submitted to one school, cannot be changed for any subsequent submission. Say you decide to use an essay on hockey for ABC College. A week or two later, you came up with a much more brilliant idea on cricket and you’d like to use that for the main essay for XYZ University. Cannot be done. After the first submission, all areas of the Common App are greyed out and cannot be edited.

Most colleges provide information on their websites about how to submit corrected information if anything on the Common App was incorrect. Those corrections must be sent to the colleges; they cannot be submitted through the Common App interface.

Better to proofread a number of times before hitting the send button. And be sure to avoid these mistakes:  6 Worst College Application Mistakes.

Finally, here’s an excellent article by Unigo on how to make each application specific to that particular college, in How Much Should You Personalize Each College Application?

Even before my students add a college to their wish list, I have them complete an “Imagining I’m There” exercise picturing freshman year at that school. I ask them to consider the three Cs—classroom, campus, and community. What courses would they take and with which professors? Which organizations/activities would they join on campus? Which research and study abroad opportunities are of interest? Which school traditions do they want to maintain? How would they volunteer and get involved in the larger campus community? This information also should be reflected in each college application.

Ok, there are some good ideas for Pete to use in his regular admission apps and for Mod Squad Julie to use in a couple of years. Just don’t tell her yet; let her focus on basketball tryouts for now.

Update:  Please see correction on this post here [as provided in comments below].

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19 responses to “Found a Mistake on the Common App after Submission? No correcting it.

  1. Kim

    Regarding the problem of wanting to change the essay for another college after you’ve already submitted the application to one school: While trying to find an answer to a problem my daughter was having with the Common Application, I searched all over their website one day and stumbled upon “alternate version”. Here’s how I got there: On their website, go to “Contact Us” for a drop-down menu, then click on “Support Center”. Then click on “Application Support Center”, then “Completing the Application” (on the left), then “General Questions”. Number 7 says “I want to create another version of my application”. In the instructions it specifically says, “All data will be transferred from the original version to the alternate and it is all editable. However, any uploads you’ve done (personal essay or additional information) will not be transferred.” It appears this is how you would solve the problem of wanting to change your essay. Haven’t tried this ourselves, but let us know if you do.

  2. Yes, there is a way to create alternative versions for different colleges. Kim is right. You create one version to begin with. Then you go to a special url, and login with your existing username and password.

    That will take you to the Common App page, where you will see info about the app you’ve already submitted. Click on the “replicate” link to make the alternate version. When this is complete, a second version will appear on your screen and a drop-down list will appear in the upper right hand corner so you can toggle between different versions.

    You only need to go that tinyurl link the first time. If you want to create further versions, you can do it from the Replicate link on your main Common App page.

    You will have a separate MyColleges page for each version. To move an institution from one version to another, select the college an click the “move colleges” button.

    • Thanks, Ilana. I’ll post a pointer to both your comments. I appreciate the help!

    • Andy

      Where is the “Move Colleges” button? I can’t seem to find it 😦

      • You definitely have to work to find it — and you have to trust that it’s there. In the original Common App, after you’ve made a new version, click on “Remove Colleges.” This brings a drop-down menu asking if you want to REMOVE? or MOVE? Then you can click on MOVE to move your colleges to the new version. According to Mod Squad Pete: “It’s really counter-intuitive. You’d never click on REMOVE unless you know the MOVE option would come up.”

      • Andy

        Wow. That really is counter-intuitive. Haha. 😛
        Thank you sooo much for your help. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.

      • I’m just glad you got it to work. Good luck with your applications!

    • Ena

      Thank you so much for your help!!! I was really worried and almost had a mental breakdown when I spotted a few mistakes on my already submitted app and thought that I could no longer make changes and would be forced to submit the same version to other colleges. Alternative versions have really saved me! I did not know about them until I read your comment. Thank you so much!!!

      • Thanks, again, to Ilana and Kim for their comments correcting this post. Please see the following post (Correcting myself…) for more information. And good luck on your applications, Ena!

  3. Pingback: Correcting myself… on correcting the Common App. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  4. Gisell is Irritated

    Glad I found this. Except I have a question: I’ve submitted the common application plus supplements to two schools so far. Now, I’m in the process of applying regular decision to other schools. Upon reviewing my application, I realize I’ve made a mistake in my academics portion!

    So I create an alternate version and fix the error. But now, since I’ve already submitted the supplement, the site says I can’t change the application. Is there any way to fix this?

  5. Pingback: Working through Common App mistakes, corrections and changes. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  6. Pingback: Goodbye 2011: Most popular posts and searches and a gratifying thank you.. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  7. Anita

    Mu daughter submitted her app in a rush and did not realize there is a fix. You can create another version of the app then go to the original version and press on remove colleges then it gives you the option to move or remove so u press move and move them to the new version. You only need to keep one college on the old version . Voila fixed

  8. marine

    I made a mistake on the essay section of the common app but the alternate version won’t work for me because i have submitted it all the schools i wanted to submit it to. i want to know if there is ANYTHING i can do to change it. Is it worth it to contact the schools individually and ask if they will accept another essay as an alternate and disregard the previous one ?!

    • Marine,
      I do not know if the schools will accept it, but when you ask if it is worth it to contact the schools to ask: absolutely. Try, especially, to ask the question via any direct contact your selected schools may offer. DeanJ from UVa admissions, for example, answers questions sent to her blog Notes from Peabody.
      If you don’t mind and if you do contact the colleges, please let me know what happens.
      Good luck!

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