Mar 8, 2013

College Counselors React Favorably to CA4

Reactions to a series of Common Application (CA) advisories released yesterday describing specific elements of the new CA4 application software were generally very favorable.

“One of the things that made me happy was that colleges must have supplements ready by August 1 and not delay as in the past,” said Charlotte Klaar, an independent college consultant with offices in Maryland and Virginia.  “This will be a tremendous help to my students.”

Evelyn Alexander, of Magellan College Counseling in Los Angeles added, “I am especially happy that they have included non-academic recommendations in this new version.  This will give students the opportunity to ask employers, coaches, supervisors at long-term volunteer jobs, etc. to share information about the student with colleges.”

The Common Application has spent somewhere in the vicinity of $8 million to develop new software and bring all application operations in-house by July 2014.  

It’s a huge project which colleges, on-deck college applicants, and college counselors have been watching closely for impact on the admissions process.

“It’s apparent that the Common App people have been working hard and I’m looking forward to seeing some of these improvements,” said Marilyn van Loben Sels, a California-based educational consultant. "I am really looking forward to a new, improved Common App and hope/think it will be easier to navigate."

Despite initial concerns about essay prompts and enforced word limits, most counselors expressed relief at the topics announced last month as they seemed to offer a wide range of options and cover most of the adolescent “experience.”

Other issues involving questions about “text-only” entries and the ability to upload or provide resumes to colleges also seem resolved as the Common App is providing for basic formatting (bold, italics, underline,  and accented characters) in the required essay and allowing for resume uploads in the new Writing Supplement—if colleges want them.

But not everyone has been so quick to jump on the CA4 bandwagon.

“The big test, of course, will be the implementation, as we always have issues,” commented Sandy Furth, an independent college consultant in Colorado.  “I think the greatest frustrations seem to be with the tech and what works and what doesn’t when students start cutting and pasting from a variety of on line operations.”

References made by the Common App to improvements in the application “experience” and support for “mobile/touchscreen devices” seem to hint at better interface with Apple computers and web browsers—a consistent headache for users of these popular products.

And many reviewers expressed concern over how colleges will use the new Member Page and the Writing Supplement, which will allow for uploads and college-specific essays.

“Questions that are college-specific must be chosen from a menu of options, and all must follow the NACAC SPGP,” commented a west coast college consultant.  “I hope this means that there will be no more questions about where else the student is applying.”

Concerned about how little room CA4 appears to be providing for extracurricular activities and work experiences, Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Florida asks, “Which colleges will encourage the upload of a resume?” She adds, “If a college doesn’t encourage uploading a resume, will that be a deterrent to kids who want to email a resume to the college?”

An experienced counselor in Florida zeroed in on similar concerns, “I think the colleges may not be happy when they see how CA is going to handle the supplements.”

The Common Application will be debuting CA4 at the 1stAnnual Common Application Member Conference, scheduled here in May.  High school and independent college counselors are encouraged to attend a series of workshops being scheduled through the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and regional NACAC-affiliated organizations. 

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