How user-friendly is the Common Application?

Not everyone has access to help (Sybren A. Stuevel via Flickr)

I’ve just gotten off the phone with William Mullen, the VP for enrollment management for Augsburg College.

I asked him whether he’s concerned about nationwide glitches in The Common Application, which Augsburg uses.

Mullen said staffers have run some test applications, and so far have seen no problems.

But he did say students will find the system “a little clumsy.”

“It doesn’t seem like it was user-tested very well. … My feeling is that there will be students who start it but don’t complete it.”

Our conversation reminded me of a comment made earlier today by St. Olaf College‘s admissions chief, Jeffrey McLaughlin.

He told me that students from upper- and middle-income families have access to a lot of academic support at school, as well as college-educated family members who know the application process.

Those students, he said, should be able to navigate computerized applications and any snags they encounter. They also have no problem calling colleges for help.

But McLaughlin said he worries about students from inner-city and rural schools:

“There just isn’t as much college guidance. And those families just don’t have the right understanding about how to navigate the system.”

And many students, he said, are afraid to call for fear of annoying admissions officials — and hurting their chance for acceptance.