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The Common App Daily Updates

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM

November 15, 2013

Updates Going Forward. Readers of these messages know that we started each one with a promise to continue the daily communication as long as we had news to share. Based on your recent feedback and the advice of the counselors on our Outreach Advisory Committee, we will be scaling back these communications to twice weekly. Beginning next week, you'll find updates in your inbox each Tuesday and Friday morning. As always, we will continue to share news and advice on a regular basis through Facebook and Twitter.

Maintenance Reminder. The Help Center will undergo a planned maintenance outage from 9PM ET Saturday 11/16 until 3AM ET Sunday 11/17. During that time, visitors to the Applicant and Recommender Help Centers will see a web page instructing them to contact us by email. Despite the outage, the support team will be staffed 24/7 as normal and will be responding to all inquiries.

Deadline Reminder. Since November 15 marks another significant deadline, we would like to remind you and your students that deadline is 11:59 PM applicant's local time.

November 14, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.Student Tip of the Day #1. The Testing section of the application asks, "Do you wish to self-report standardized test scores?" Students should answer Yes to this question if they wish to report any of the following scores: ACT, SAT/SAT Subject, AP, IB, TOEFL, PTE Academic, and IELTS.

Student Tip of the Day #2. Because the Activities section contains no required questions, it defaults to green check status. We encourage you to advise your students to review their application carefully before submitting to ensure that this important section is completely to their satisfaction.

Recommender Tip of the Day. You cannot edit or replace a submitted school form. If you discover an error or need to update information, you can either submit the Optional Report or you can contact colleges directly with your corrected information.

November 13, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Help Center Maintenance. The Help Center will undergo a planned maintenance outage from 9PM ET Saturday 11/16 until 3AM ET Sunday 11/17. During that time, visitors to the Applicant and Recommender Help Centers will see a web page instructing them to contact us by email. Despite the outage, the support team will be staffed 24/7 as normal and will be responding to all inquiries.

Student Tip of the Day. Applying to a test-optional school? Here's a tip on how to manage your scores.

Recommender Tip of the Day. Problems uploading a file? Here are some troubleshooting ideas.

November 12, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Student Name in Support Requests. If you submit a question because you are having a problem with a particular applicant account, please include the name of the student in your message. We want to assist you as quickly as possible, and we can't research the problem without that the name of the applicant.

Student Tip of the Day. Students can edit their Common App at any time--but they can't make changes to an application they've already submitted.

Recommender Tip of the Day. Don't forget the Training Resources section of the Help Center. There you will find several tools to assist you in advising students and teachers, including interactive videos on completing recommendations and submitting applications.

November 11, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Recommender Invitations. Misspelled or inaccurate email addresses account for nearly all unreceived recommender invitations. If you have not received an invitation from a student who has invited you, ask the student to confirm that the provided address is correct.

Student Tip of the Day. Can one college see the other colleges to which students have applied?

Recommender Tip of the Day. When you use the Common App Recommender System to submit a School Report or Teacher Evaluation on behalf of a student, that form and the accompanying letter are sent to all colleges to which the student submits a Common App. Since you cannot retrieve a form once you click submit (it's like dropping it in a mailbox), make sure you understand that anything you put in your letter--including the name of a single institution--will be seen by each and every college to which that student applies.

November 8, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

"Missing" School Forms. We understand how critical it is for you to have confirmation that your school forms have been submitted successfully. Please know that if your Common App or Naviance account displays confirmation of submission, then we have your forms.

In some cases, we experience an error when matching school forms with applications during the process of delivering files to a college. This error presents itself to colleges as a missing document. In reality, the document is securely housed within the Common App system. The problem is with the delivery process, not the document itself, and we are resolving these incidents as colleges report them to us.

We have already implemented improvements to reduce the occurrence of this error, and we are in the process of developing a permanent fix. Once that is in place, our member colleges will be able to confirm receipt of your forms.

Colleges request that you do not contact them to inquire about the status of forms while we work with them to correct these records. They will communicate directly with you and your students in a timely manner if needed.

Student Tip of the Day. We can help with all Green Check problems.

Recommender Tip of the Day. If you have problems uploading a file, please make sure the file name does not have any special characters. If uploading a pdf, make sure it is saved as .pdf (lowercase) and not .PDF (uppercase).

November 6, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Submission Button For Recommenders. You won't be able to submit your school forms until you have completed and saved all required questions on both the form and your Profile screen. The SUBMIT button will not show on the recommendation until the Profile screen is complete.

Student Tip of the Day. Payment showing as $0? Here's why.

Recommender Tip of the Day. Trouble logging in? Try these suggestions

November 5, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Green Checks. There have been a few cases where a recommender completes a form but does not see a green check for one section. If you encounter this issue, please submit a ticket to the help center so that the team can resolve the issue for you. Be sure to include the full name of the applicant whose form you are attempting to complete.

Recommendation Submission Status. In some cases, there may be a difference between the recommendation submission status displayed on the Student tab and the recommendation status that the applicant sees within the Dashboard. For example the applicant may see that a recommendation is in progress even though the recommender correctly sees that the recommendation has been submitted. We are working to resolve this high priority issue as soon as possible.

November 1, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

PDF and Submission. We have upgraded our PDF generation tool, which should resolve most upload issues pertaining to transcripts and recommendations with elaborate graphics. The upgrade will also help improve the performance of the PDF generation process that applicants and recommenders encounter in the submission process.

Assigning vs. Inviting. There is a difference between inviting a recommender and assigning a recommender. Inviting involves entering the recommender's name and email address. Assigning involves selecting the "assign" button at the bottom of the Assign Recommenders page. This assignment must be done before teachers and other recommenders can see a student on their list.

October 31, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Deadline Prep. As the November application deadlines approach, we have taken steps to prepare for increasing submission volume. On Tuesday we saw 67,000 application and 150,000 school form submissions in a single day with no slow down in system performance. We will continue to monitor the system in the coming week.

Additional Staff. We have added several new staff members to the support team. This addition will allow us to respond more quickly to questions and requests from students and recommenders.
File Uploads. When uploading a file, please ensure that it is 500kb or smaller in size and that the file is in a supported format (.pdf, .doc, .txt) prior to upload. If you are unable to upload in one browser and have access to another, please try uploading in that browser. We have posted an article with additional details and suggestions for uploading files.

Form Submission. There have been a few cases where a recommender completes a form but does not see a green check for one section. If you encounter this issue, please submit a ticket to the help center so that the team can resolve the issue for you. Be sure to include the full name of the student whose form you are attempting to complete.

October 30, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Fee Waivers in Naviance. Due to an unexpected development delay, counselors at Naviance schools will not be able to confirm Fee Waiver eligibility until mid-November. This delay will not impact a student's ability to submit an application, nor will it impact a college's ability to see that the student has requested a Common App Fee Waiver. The delay pertains entirely to the counselor's ability to verify the eligibility and thus submit a signed Fee Waiver form. We have informed our member colleges of this delay.

Essay Formatting. We have informed all member colleges that errors in the text-to-PDF conversion process have the potential to produce essays that contain unusual formatting, including inconsistent fonts and errant paragraph breaks. We have assured colleges that students have no control over this formatting and that these types of errors are our fault, not the students'. We have heard confirmation from many colleges that they will not in any way penalize students for a technical problem that is out of their control.

October 29, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Error Page upon Submission. On occasion, an applicant may see an error page upon submission. If this happens, the applicant should log out of his or her account and then log back in and go the Dashboard. The Dashboard should display confirmation that the application was submitted despite the error message observed during the submission process. The problem is with the page redirect, not the actual submission. We are working to fix this issue.

Unable to Create Account. There are some cases where recommenders are not able to create an account after clicking the here link within the recommender email invitation. If you encounter this issue, please contact the Help Center at recsupport.commonapp.org so that the support team can resolve this for you.

October 28, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Status of Submitted School Forms. Today's update contains important information about the status of school forms you may have already submitted on behalf of your students. We invite you to share this update with students, parents, school administrators, or anyone else who might benefit from the context.

The Common Application has 517 member colleges. Of these, about half download forms manually and then mark those forms (applications, school forms, etc.) as received.

The other half use a daily automated process to retrieve their files. Of these, about half are live and downloading their files, which they can mark as received. The remainder are either testing or have been waiting to go live until we could fix a problem that was causing errors in the downloading/printing of school forms. That fix rolled out on Thursday.

Some counselors have expressed a concern that they have not been able to confirm receipt of submitted forms. This can be attributed to two factors. First, Naviance accounts are not accurately reflecting form status. This is a known issue on their end that they are working to resolve. Second, the 25% of our members who have not yet gone live with their automated process cannot yet convey to applicants and recommenders that forms have been received.

It's important to draw a distinction between not receiving a form and not being able to confirm that a form has been received. What some counselors and applicants are encountering is very much the latter. At the moment, many of you are experiencing the electronic equivalent of admission offices' not being able to find your envelope in an Everest-sized pile of unopened mail. That is frustrating. Based on the hard work of our development team and the college's operations teams, we are almost past this hurdle.

October 25, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Green Checks. Occasionally, a green check might not display even after a section is complete. Students who encounter this problem should contact the Help Center. The Support Team can fix the issue quickly.

Date Stamp Questions. As a rule, submission date and time stamps are recorded in Eastern Time. In some instances, these time stamps are defaulting to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Since GMT is several hours earlier than Eastern Time, some late evening submissions may display as the following day. Do not be alarmed if you see this. The submission time stamp will always be recorded accurately, even if the time zone reflected is incorrect.

(Email updates will resume on Monday. Should we need to alert you to developments over the weekend, we will do so through Facebook and Twitter. Both of those feeds are also available on our website.)

October 24, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Student List. When using the Recommendation System, counselors, teachers, and other recommenders may notice that a student name does not appear on the student list under the Students tab.

  • COUNSELORS: Make sure that the student has invited you and not just listed your name in the Education tab of the application.
  • TEACHERS/RECOMMENDERS: Make sure that the student has invited AND assigned you from within the application.

No Visible Submit Button. When using the Recommendation System, counselors will be able to submit school forms only after all required questions on the form and on the Profile screen are completed and saved. The submit button will not be visible on the recommendation until the Profile screen is complete.

Unable to Login to New Account. We have received reports of cases where recommenders are able to create an account but are then not able to log in via the Recommender tab. If this is the case for you, please contact the Help Center at recsupport.commonapp.org for assistance.

October 23, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Help Center Information. We are responding promptly to new applicant and recommender tickets, and we continue to work through a backlog of older tickets. You can help us help you in two ways:

  • Please do not submit new requests about an unresolved, existing issue.
  • Please do not reply to messages about unresolved issues and request progress updates.

Both of these actions will slow down our ability to help you and your students. The first introduces confusion to the process. The second resets your place in the support queue. If you have an outstanding issue, we assure you we will respond, and we request your patience.

Recommender Accounts. Earlier today we identified the cause of a problem that is preventing some recommenders from creating accounts. We are developing a fix for this issue and expect to release it later this week.

Internet Explorer 9. Some recommenders have reported that they can only see two colleges listed for each of their students. This issue is unique to IE9. If you encounter this situation, please try another browser.

October 22, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Recommendation System Interruption. On Monday morning some recommenders using the Common App Recommendation System experienced system slowness. As a result, recommenders using the My Students tab may have seen time-out issues or an unsuccessful login error. The issue was resolved during the day on Monday.

Deadline Changes. Some colleges are extending their deadlines to alleviate the anxiety that students and counselors are feeling in trying to meet application deadlines. The deadline dates in the Common Application system and on the Requirements Grid are updated daily and reflect the latest information that we have received from our members.

Application Submitted. Given the issues that some students experienced with the payment submission process, we want to help ensure that all students who think they have submitted an application have actually submitted. Please have your students confirm that their applications have been submitted by checking their Dashboard. There will be a green check mark in the "Application" column for each submitted application.

Parchment. As we announced yesterday, Parchment integration with the Common App is complete. Students are able to select Common App as a transcript destination on parchment.com and sending institutions may send transcripts to Common App via Parchment Exchange

October 21, 2013

As promised, we are sending daily updates regarding system performance and support. We will continue this communication as long as there is news to share.

Parchment. Parchment informed us this weekend that it had completed the work necessary for its counselors to be able to submit transcripts to our system.

Preview PDF Progress. Last night we released a fix to address the problem that has been preventing some applicants from seeing the Preview PDF during the application submission process. As with all new releases, we will monitor this one closely over the next several hours to ensure that it is working as intended.

Help Center Interruption. On Saturday night, the Help Center was unavailable for approximately 3 hours due to a service interruption at the third-party vendor that operates our support software. The vendor worked quickly to identify and resolve the problem, and they join us in apologizing to users who were impacted by this delay. The vendor has taken extra precautions to avoid any future interruption in service.

Editing/Saving Errors. On Saturday night and again on Sunday morning, some students encountered errors when trying to edit and save their applications. None of our internal monitoring indicated a problem, which suggests the issue was isolated to a particular server or part of the system. That would explain why most users did not encounter any difficulty. In all, we received about 100 support tickets on the topic

October 18, 2013

The last few days have comprised the most difficult period in The Common Application's nearly 40 years of service to the education community. You have no doubt read news stories and social media conversations about the challenges facing applicants, recommenders, and member colleges. As an organization, we have been too slow to respond. That ends today. We have written this communication to highlight three core values of our mission, explain how we have fallen short in realizing them, and provide details about how we pledge to do better.

Reliability. For many users, the new Common Application has not been a reliable service. We have tried to be transparent in other communications regarding the various issues users have experienced since the August 1 launch. Many have been solved for all users, and others have been solved for most users. Nonetheless, individual applicants and recommenders are still encountering problems related to account logins, application submission, and document uploads. In some instances, our support team can easily solve these problems for users who contact us through the Help Center. In others, we continue to research patterns among the individuals affected to ascertain where the root cause lies. Further details about support volume and response efforts appear below.

Beginning next week, we will be using our School Officials newsletter list to send daily updates to the counseling community, and we encourage you to subscribe if you have not already done so. Counselors, we ask for your help in sharing these updates with your students and families. As much as we would like to communicate this same information directly to applicants, messaging 800,000 registered users would create too big a strain on the system, exacerbating the very problems we are trying to solve.

Our member colleges have faced similar disruptions in reliability, which have adversely impacted their internal processes. Members rely on us for the transmission of the documents and data needed to evaluate candidates, and each college has its own unique process and needs. We are in constant communication with these colleges to ensure they are prepared to receive and process applications and school forms, and we are confident that members will be able to do so successfully as major deadlines approach. To help you understand the complete landscape, we want to reinforce the following points:

  • Students are successfully submitting applications in record numbers.
  • Counselors and teachers using the Common App Recommender System are successfully submitting all school forms.
  • Counselors and teachers using Naviance are successfully submitting School Reports, Teacher Evaluations, and Early Decision Agreements. Implementation of Fee Waiver forms and Optional Reports is imminent for this group.
  • Final integration for Parchment users is imminent.
  • All member colleges have access to every single application document that has been submitted to them, though some are not yet able to import application data into their internal information systems, which is a critical processing step.
    By highlighting these successful processes, we do not wish to minimize the challenges and frustrations of individual users and colleges, nor do we wish to paint a picture of a flawless system. Rather, we hope to convey in a responsible manner how the Common Application is functioning for the majority of users.

Service. Our online Help Center for applicants and recommenders has been operating 24/7 since October 1. Historically, our average response time has been well under one hour. In the past few weeks, our response time for many users has exceeded this average by an unacceptable level. This increase is due to the complexity of some of the issues mentioned above. The time-intensive research required to investigate certain payment and login problems has created a backlog that has extended to all users seeking assistance.

In the past 48 hours, we have released fixes that have resolved two of our most complex issues involving payment and the Chrome browser. The payment problem required intense collaboration with our third-party vendor. The browser challenges, which resulted from the unexpected release of a new version, prompted immediate collaboration with Chrome support. The solutions we implemented to address these issues resulted in a steep and immediate decline in new support requests. From Tuesday to Wednesday, applicant requests declined 73%, and recommender requests declined 43%. Also, prior to the payment fix, we were researching and reconciling thousands of payment records on a daily basis. On Thursday, that number was 6. This significant progress will assist us in addressing the backlog and return us to a more normal response time.

Many applicants, parents, counselors, and teachers continue to call for phone support, and we understand why. Speaking directly to a support representative is an assurance that one's problems and frustrations are being heard and addressed. Unfortunately, given the volume of users who interact with our system, phone support would immediately become unsustainable. In addition, the system information that is transmitted when a user submits a request through our Help Center is often critical in helping us identify and solve the problem.

We assure you that every message submitted through our Help Center is evaluated by an individual member of our support team. These professionals work diligently to provide the most accurate and efficient assistance possible. There are times when the complexity of issues prevents them from responding as quickly as they or you would like, but they strive to provide the timeliest responses possible.

Accuracy is also a central component of service. To that end, our member services team will work closely with any colleges who wish to adjust their deadlines to ensure that the new dates are reflected within our system.

Integrity. If we lose sight of this value, the others cease to matter. Despite all the challenges we have faced, we have not forgotten the principles that guide us, even as we have struggled to attain them. We are unshakably committed to the mission of this association, and we pledge transparency and diligence as we work to fulfill it.

Many of you have grown weary of our continued pleas for patience and our assurances that we are working as quickly as we can to resolve outstanding issues. Your requests for precise timelines are understandable, and we would provide such details if we could. To do so, however, would be to make commitments that we might not be able to honor. With that in mind, we pledge to communicate as openly as possible regarding the challenges we face and our progress in addressing them. Moving forward, should we observe a widespread problem, we will inform you immediately using social media, even if the only information we can provide is an acknowledgement of the issue and a promise to share updates as they become available. For those of you who do not regularly follow social media, you can view our live Facebook and Twitter feeds directly on our website.

All of us who work with and for The Common Application--from the Board of Directors to the staff to our technology partners at Hobsons--understand the significance of this moment, both for the college application process and for the reputation of the association itself. To those of you who have offered words of support and encouragement, we thank you. To those of you who have lost faith in our ability to adequately meet the needs of you and your students, we understand. We need to regain your trust, and we know that the burden is on us to make that happen. We are confident that we will.

 


Topics: Common Application

 

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