Yes, horses and bayonets have, in our technologically advanced military, been replaced by aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, much like the paper and pen have been supplanted (if not supplemented to near death) by the Common App and Naviance.

And while we're all pacifists here -- and to borrow from Albert Einstein, we don't know how the next war will be fought, but the war after that will be fought with sticks and stones -- as a strategy and a matter of military advantage, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines trump horses and bayonets every time.

As for the Common App and Naviance, both as college application stratagems and integral tools of the admissions process, we wonder -- as do countless students and parents -- whether, in many ways, we weren't better off when college applications were prepared with good, old fashioned pen and paper.

No, we're not suggesting that we go back to your father's college application, or that we abandon 21st Century know-how. Still, if you're going to create and put in place a cutting-edge system for applying to college, there are several things you ought to do.

1. Keep it simple.
2. Don't reinvent the wheel.
3. Make sure the darned thing works!

Keep it simple. If there's one word users (both hands on and incidental) mutter to describe their reaction to the modus operandi of Common App and Naviance, it's "FRUSTRATING!"

One can easier, and with less stress, navigate the ocean off the Somali coast than one can find his or her way around Common App and Naviance. Instead of streamlining a cumbersome and confusing process, Common App creates a maze that is confounding and a matrix that is convoluted. And when linked (assuming the link works correctly) to Naviance, it is, more often than not, trouble with a capital "T" -- not only for students, but for Guidance Counselors, teachers and, of course, parents, who can turn gray overnight just staring at the screen, trying desperately to find their alma mater's college code.

The proof of Common App's complexity is, as they say, in the pudding. The folks at Common App hold seminars, webinars, conferences and Q&A sessions by the dozen for counselors, teachers and professionals on the many and varied nuances of the application and its processes. If it is so complicated that the grown-ups in the room are scratching their heads and begging for help, how the heck do they expect 16 and 17 year olds to figure this out?

We say, KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Make our lives easier, not more difficult!

Don't reinvent the wheel. If the question has already been asked and answered (perhaps several times) on the common part of the Common App, why ask it again -- and again, and again -- on the Supplements? Don't the colleges read the main portion of the Common App? How many times do they have to ask for your Social Security Number, you cell phone number or your email? And how many writing samples of 1000 characters do they really need?

If you want to have a Common App, great. Just keep it COMMON. There's no point to uniformity when every college insists on wearing its own uniform!

Make sure the darned thing works! Getting kicked off line, without any warning, losing that which you may have worked on for hours. Ouch! Trouble copying and pasting into those little boxes. Ouch! Endless tribulations as Common App decides which browser -- Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Google Chrome -- it will refuse to work with today. Ouch! A server at Common App that seems to be incapable of supporting more than two students online at the same time. [Like they didn't know 30,000 people would be logged in just prior to deadline.] Ouch! A system that requires students (parents) to submit the Supplements followed by Payment, with absolutely no warning, admonition or pop-up to follow, advising the tired, the forlorn, the huddled students yearning to be free of this inane process to actually submit the Common Application itself. [How many students have missed application deadlines as a result of their failure to submit the common part of the Common App?] Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

We're certain that, if asked to comment, students, parents and Guidance Counselors could go on ad nauseum about Common App's shortcomings. They certainly have to us.

And yet, when queried by The College Whisperer as to the Whys and Wherefores, the response from the folks at Common App was as follows:

The layout and overall flow of the application is decided by the board and member schools. Some schools prefer to get the supplement prior to the application etc. This is the last year for this version of the Common App as a new one will be released next summer. Next year the process will be different. 

They just don't get it, do they? It's almost as if the folks at Common App have never actually sat down to use their own tools -- or, as many students refer to the Common App, a "weapon of mass distraction" -- let alone to come out of their cubicles and ivory towers into the real world of angst-ridden high school seniors and their harried and distraught parents.

Yes, "next year the process will be different." Common App 4.0 descends upon us like a drone out of the blue. Different? As in, new and improved? One can only hope.

A foreign policy out of the 1920s may work for some among us. But a college application process stuck in the stone age while pretending to be state-of-the-art works for no one.

Bring on the aircraft carriers and nuclear subs. Just do us all a favor and leave the pens and paper!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer. 

Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . . 

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