My Angle: Common App needs to keep it simpler

There is a TV in my dad’s office at home, a massive, midlife-crisis-sized TV that looks shockingly out of place in that tiny room.

But why isn’t it downstairs? Why, when we have a four-foot-wide brand-new flat-screen upstairs, do we continue to watch TV on a ancient 2001 model?

Because between the four remotes, three cable boxes and a hearty mess of cords that seem to go nowhere, not one person in my family has any idea how to work the new one.

We are not technologically handicapped—okay I am, but my Apple-addicted father certainly is not.

And yet this TV with its thousands of functions and possibilities is enough to confound us all.

Yes, it can stream from the Internet. Yes, one of its remotes has a keyboard. But trying to turn it on? That’s just absurd.

And so it was with a familiar feeling of exasperation that I met college counselor Jane Bauman’s urgent announcement a few weeks ago.

It seems that the Common Application, in its infinite wisdom, had made itself just a little more complicated.

You see, in past years teachers simply uploaded their recommendations and students checked one box that allowed colleges to see them.

But now some colleges have added an additional option—they choose to have each student reselect which recommendations they want a school to be able to see.

Now I love having more options, yet in order to give a few people options, our entire senior class could have submitted the applications with no knowledge that colleges could not see their recommendations.

In fact, a student applying to Haverford was without recommendations in the middle of January because of this very problem, and another had five schools and encountered the same problem with every one.

Didn’t this occur to someone somewhere?

Didn’t one Common App staffer just step back and say, “Wait, guys, in order to give .01 percent of people something minimally useful, aren’t we confusing the remaining few million?”

It would seem the answer is no.

To be honest, I understand it from the Common App perspective.

The Common App is beholden to the colleges that use it, and it has been a hard fight to get those colleges to give up their independent applications.

And I can understand that colleges that want only one or two recommendations want the option to avoid seeing the dozens that some students send.

But lest we forget, without students this whole process doesn’t work so well.

And if those students cannot navigate the Byzantine labyrinth of the applications process to begin with, how can colleges get the qualified applicants they need?

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