Feb 4, 2014

Common App Board of Directors agrees to 5 ‘guiding principles’

The Common Application’s Board of Directors met last week to discuss preliminary results from an “independent” board review of Common App technology and organization, specifically focused on the release of CA4—the “new” Common Application brought online in August 2013. 

Although not all Common Application members took the time to complete the relatively short questionnaire developed by Censeo, a DC based management consulting firm, a fairly clear picture has emerged of the kinds of problems experienced by colleges over the past six months. 

“During the meeting we discussed the issues that need to be addressed immediately in order to release an improved version of CA4 for 2014-15,” explained board president Thyra Briggs, of Harvey Mudd College, in an email to member colleges.  “We have much to do in the coming weeks before we can announce the various improvements we hope to have in place for next year but, in the meantime, I want to assure you that the board is listening, and our direction is clear.”

Problems on the college side included but weren’t limited to technical difficulties uploading elements of the application at the front end of the process, faulty connections with Naviance (another Hobsons product used for transmitting application support documents), communications with Common App staff, and ongoing issues related to data collection on the back end of the process.

A separate survey sent to 55,000 school counselors addressed issues from the counseling perspective.  And as of this writing, neither applicants nor independent educational consultants have been included in the project.

While considering feedback from member colleges and universities, the board is looking at long term goals and planning for the future.  According to Ms. Briggs, they are focusing on “technology, staffing, communications and a shared philosophy that meets the needs of members.”

Additional urgency to the project comes as a result of Common App plans to make a clean break from Hobsons and bring all technology and services in-house over the coming months.  Effective July 2014, the organization will be centrally located in offices being renovated for this purpose in Arlington, Virginia.

To move forward, the board has established and agreed upon five “guiding principles” against which they intend to “test every decision.”  These include:
  • the technology will be reliable
  • service will be greatly improved
  • communication will be proactive and transparent
  • members’ needs will be heard and considered
  • the application will serve the needs of our constituents
The plan is to announce specific technology and organizational changes no later than mid-March, in advance of membership renewal and other processes that need to take place during spring and early summer in preparation for the August 1 launch of the 2014-15 application.

“While I’m certain we cannot please everyone with the changes we will make in the coming months, we are prioritizing those items that will add the most value to the largest number of members,” added Ms. Briggs.  “Our agenda is ambitious, and we are dedicating the resources to ensure that we deliver on these goals as we look ahead to launch year two of CA4.”

To begin the transition, member colleges are being invited to the second annual Common Application Member Conference on May 8 and 9, in Washington DC.

While promising that “many” board members are committed to attending the conference this year, Ms. Briggs underscored the purpose of this meeting as “…looking forward to re-establishing a common ground for our Common Application members.”

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