University Affairs | Jan. 5

With Common Application technical difficulties, U. extends regular decision deadline to Jan. 2

Due to technical difficulties with the Common Application website on Jan. 1, the regular decision application deadline, the University decided to accept undergraduate applications processed on Jan. 2, according to messages posted on its admissions website and social media pages.

The Common Application website was down from about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 until 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 2 EST, according to Scott Anderson, the director of outreach for the Common Application. While not all users were impacted, the Common App received 4,000 support tickets during this time frame, all of which were addressed by the end of Jan. 2, Anderson said.

“On Jan. 2 we heard from many concerned students who had aimed to meet our Jan. 1 application deadline but could not access the application. Because the circumstances were beyond their control, we informed them that we would allow them to submit their applications through Jan. 2,” University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said. “This technical difficulty is among a number of problems applicants have experienced with the Common App this season.”

The Common Application’s development team is still working to understand what caused the problem.

Anderson indicated this was a unique problem that the Common Application has not encountered before. The Common Application adopted a new website this academic year that operates under a “completely new cloud-based system architecture.”

This is the second time technical difficulties with the new website have caused the University to extend its application deadlines. The deadline for early action applications was extended beyond the original Nov. 1 date due to technical problems earlier this fall.

Through Jan. 1, the Common Application received 2.6 million applications this admissions cycle, a 12 percent increase over the prior year. On Jan. 1 alone, it received 124,000 applications, but Anderson remarked this was still fewer than the 450,000 forms submitted on Dec. 31.

“Even if volume was a contributing factor, we know that it’s not a one-to-one causation, because we did not see anything similar the day before with a higher volume,” Anderson said.

One Princeton applicant, Brandon Mayo of Santa Margarita, Calif., found himself unable to submit his applications on Jan. 1.

“I had gone online around 8:00, you know, tried to submit, and at least tried to log on, and was unsuccessful in just logging on correctly and obviously in submitting my application. So of course I was freaking out,” Mayo said. “I went back an hour later and it didn’t work again, went back an hour later and it still didn’t work.”

Mayo said he submitted his writing supplement to Princeton one minute late and that his applications to Harvard University and Dartmouth University were late as well.

In response to reported problems accessing the website, the Common Application released a statement that it was doing everything in its power to address the problem and that deadlines would be extended.

“Member colleges with a Jan. 1 deadline will accept any app submitted on Jan. 2,” the Common Application Twitter feed stated.

“We’ve always had for most of our colleges and universities contingency plans to ensure that students are able to submit after a deadline has passed in a situation that warrants it,” Anderson remarked.

Several schools, including Columbia University and Cornell University, made even larger allowances that extended their deadlines to Jan. 6 and Jan. 9, respectively.

This year marked an all-time record for college applications processed through the Common Application, according to Anderson. He reported that the site saw about five submissions per second on Dec. 31 and four submissions per second on Jan. 1.

74 out of the 570 colleges and universities partnered with the Common Application had Jan. 1 deadlines, Anderson said.

“It’s something [universities] need to be prepared for,” Mayo said of the high volume of applications received on Jan. 1. “I’m sure that many students were freaked out.”

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