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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Time to Give the Common App Some Competition?
It's been three weeks since healthcare.gov was rolled out, and things still aren't looking good. Glitches usually resolve quickly. Three weeks spells systemic problems, which calls for wide-scale solutions. And as John Dickerson of Slate noted yesterday, "It's hard to untangle Christmas lights by committee".
The Common Application should take note. With the Early Decision deadline of November 1st looming, the website is a mess. As if college applicants needed something else to worry about. Over the past two weeks, the website has been plagued with problems. Students are being double-charged for application fees. Applications are failing to submit, confirmations aren't coming, and web support is failing.
On its Facebook page, the Common Application has been posting daily updates on the system disruptions. They are being flooded with comments and complaints. People are not happy. Students and parents alike are not impressed with the Common App's slow and perhaps inept reactions to solving the problems. Lots of promises to fix, but no fixing.
In response, universities using the Common App have extended filing deadlines. Some have threatened to jump ship. In an application environment where the Common App is pretty much the only game in town, universities are starting to get a roaming eye.
Certainly, the government and private enterprises alike ran into broad operational problems. Part of their job is to learn how to allay the concerns of the public and how to remedy messes before the wake of destruction gets too unmanageable. But the consumer expectations in our internet society make all of us more impatient with imperfection. We're particularly peeved when we have to wait. This site took 7 1/2 second to load? Seriously? I don't have all day.
There's a lot of puffery without follow-through from agitated consumers. On my last international flight, for instance, I spent hours (literally), plotting my angry complaint letter to the airline for a litany of customer service offenses. By the time I got home, life got in the way, and I never sat down to write it.
Whether or not students or universities will be dissuaded from using the Common App long term-that's something that remains to be seen. But in an era when working websites are pretty darn important, it may be just the shake-up that's needed.
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