Common App problems: she got it done [but it wasn’t easy]

Allow me to lead with the best part of this story:  Mod Squad Julie successfully submitted one early college application around midnight, October 26.

Getting ready to submit. The past couple of weeks had been stressful–Julie tried to complete final edits of multiple essays and short answer prompts, working around all the other stuff going on in her life. Around the 19th or 20th she thought she had completed all the writing. We spent part of a Sunday afternoon reading the app, page by page. Julie double-checked everything.

Just after she breathed a sigh of relief that the main part of the application was done, Julie ran into one more short answer prompt on the writing supplement, one that she had either missed or forgotten. We reacted like mother, like daughter: !%#&*@!

The Fusco Brothers by J. C. Duffy, via

The Fusco Brothers by J. C. Duffy, via

The prompt offered a great question, providing her an opportunity to write about another aspect of herself and her interests that hadn’t been covered elsewhere. But the timing was lousy.

While another few days flew by, drafting and editing that final one hundred and fifty word essay crawled. Nothing like thinking you’re done and finding out you aren’t.

Getting the app to work. By Saturday, the final essay was done–and Julie had re-checked the college requirements to avoid any new, nasty surprises. After a full day of gym workout, homework, soccer game, and work, she was ready to get this thing one.

The only part left:  copying and pasting the essays into the application interface.

We had both read a number of articles about the problems with this part and how to deal with them. And guess what:  it still was completely stupid and problematic.

We read this, by Nancy Griesemar, including:

Any formatting (italics, bold, underline only) should be done on the document and not in the box. Once you are satisfied with the document, then copy-and-paste it directly into the box. Don’t touch the box. Yes, it may look funny and a warning may appear. Simply hit continue and work toward producing a Print Preview.

And it didn’t work. The main common app essay, around 550 words, showed up on-screen and in the printed preview in one very long paragraph with no edits, no line breaks.

We read this, by Rebecca Joseph, including:

4. She copied it from TextEdit into the Common Application.

5. She fixed spacing issues but made no text or formatting changes.

6. When she went to the Preview page, it was double spaced between paragraphs as she wanted.

It that didn’t work, you unintentionally made a change in TextEdit. Go back and follow these steps again.

And it didn’t work. Oh, yes, Julie went back and followed those steps again. And again. She restarted the computer, she cleared the cache, she tried it on another computer.

Did I mention that, as much as I love Julie and wanted her to get this thing done, what I really wanted to be doing at 11 pm on that Saturday night was watching the World Series? In which my two favorite teams were battling it out?

And somewhere along then we read this by Zach Schonfeld, including:

Relax: if your application glitch is the fault of a Common Application error and not your own procrastinatory negligence, the office of admissions will almost certainly understand. They’ve dealt with this before, and you are clearly not the only one facing these hurdles. Just have your guidance counselor write a polite letter or email.

You don’t need to apply anywhere for Early Decision. In fact, for financial aid reasons, many (smart, successful) students don’t.

Safety schools are your friend. Find several you could actually see yourself attending.

If you are a parent, step away from the laptop. Let your student do the heavy lifting—they’re going to college, not you.

Oh, yes, that’s helpful. Effectively: “Chillax, dude! No big deal!”

Fortunately, when I was ready to give up and suggest submitting a 550-word block paragraph, Julie kept plugging away. What worked:  using Safari instead of Foxfire. The formatting provided in TextEdit didn’t show up on the screen, but it did show up in the print preview. Done.

Huge disclaimer: if you are reading this because you are having trouble with the Common App, I can only offer sympathy. Try the suggestions offered by Nancy Greisemar in the link cited above and here. Try restarting, clearing your cache, using a different computer, using a different browser. Keep trying.

"We've successfully processed your application payment." NOT your application.

“We’ve successfully processed your application payment.” NOT your application.

Not done yet. The actual submission requires a number of steps. The first, not surprisingly, is the credit card payment, which requires a second step to submit a signature (by typing your name into a window). [Note that it may take up to 24 hours for the signature request to appear. Meanwhile, the application is not yet submitted.] The third step: submit the Common Application. The fourth:  submit the college’s supplement.

When do you know you’re done? I would say when you receive an email from the college acknowledging receipt. Oh, and save that email, since that’s where the college explains the procedure for finding out their decision.

I wish it were easier. I wish it were less stressful, since every other part of applying to college is already stressful enough.

Good luck.


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