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Annoying Application Quirks


rogue
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I've applied to ten schools, and the design of their online applications ranged from practically flawless to annoying mess. Perhaps this is because I used to design software and websites for a living, but I do have certain expectations regarding user experience.

Today, for example, I was trying to finish an app that asked me to list all colleges/universities attended, select from a drop-down which degree was awarded--or "no degree"--and enter a date for the degree. The problem? Although I noted that I did not receive a degree from three of my five schools, I still had to enter a degree date for them! This would've been a simple validation procedure to accept blank date fields when "no degree" was selected, but the developer didn't bother with it. Argh. I finally settled for entering the month and year I last attended each school.

Several applications have required that I enter an email address for each recommender, despite saying that hard copy letters were fine. I didn't want my recommenders (who sent me hard copies to include in my packets for each school, because I am a control freak) to be bothered by emails, but I didn't have a choice with some apps. Again, this would've been a simple fix: just add checkboxes to indicate the rec would be a hard copy and not require an email address.

Also, I've gotten to the end of a couple apps and been told I had to print something to include in my hard copy packet. Luckily, I was somewhere with a printer and was able to do this, but it would've been nice if there was advance warning about printing something when I started the app. What if I'd been at a coffee shop or something and couldn't print?

I know this is kind of petty and I think I'm just easily annoyed at this point, but still...

What technical/design annoyances have you stumbled across during the application process?

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I think there's a reason they ask for email addresses for your LOR writers...maybe they get notified if you do/don't get in or maybe the schools just want some contact in case they want to follow up. The reason I say this is because one of my apps asked for hard copies only and then asked for email addresses in a separate hard copy sheet I had to fill out.

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The thing I've found the most frustrating is how different each application is. Some want everything online. Some want half of it mailed in. Some want it postmarked by x date, and some want to receive it by that date. This process is so demanding, and I think the application part could be a lot easier. I honestly spent 4 hours one day organizing a checklist for each school.

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I think there's a reason they ask for email addresses for your LOR writers...maybe they get notified if you do/don't get in or maybe the schools just want some contact in case they want to follow up. The reason I say this is because one of my apps asked for hard copies only and then asked for email addresses in a separate hard copy sheet I had to fill out.

In this case, they were automatically sending a request for an LOR. Grr. Their LORs are all in a big envelope that's going to the post office on Monday--and all of the letters have contact info in them. Oh, well.

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Yes to the differences!

Iowa was the most annoying. The grad school application portion had to be submitted by 12/1 (the earliest of any application) but all the supporting info, which included the statement of purpose, wasn't due until 1/1, and it had to be mailed. And they stated strongly that they didn't want a writing sample. But needed two full copies of transcripts, one for grad and one for dept.

Another annoying thing was the need for the day of starting and completing a school. Month and year should suffice, and they all said if you didn't know the exact date, you could just enter the 1st of the month. So, why bother?

One of the schools only let me enter 3 of my previous schools. I talked to someone in the dept who said to just choose 3 at random. And I also hated having to choose 2 research or work experiences and trying to explain them in 200 characters, since I was also attaching a CV.

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I'm applying to art programs which means I have to mail a disk with my portfolio on it. The biggest problem that I've run into is that most of the time they don't tell you where to send it. Grad admissions office? Art school dean? Specific department? This has resulted in endless hours on the phone trying to ferret out who the proper contact person is and what address I need to send stuff to. And of course every school had a different answer. I've also found it irritating that some schools want hard copies of all supporting documents, and some want a file on the disk that has my portfolio on it.

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I share a lot of the frustration that you all have been experiencing. I wanted to add what I'm most frustrated by at the moment: how hidden the application due dates are! (I say this as someone who has recently decided that I should look for schools with a late application deadline incase I don't get into any of the schools I've already applied to!) I feel like the application due date should be clearly posted directly below the "Apply Online" link for all schools!

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oooh one of mine was a nightmare. can't remember which tho..

it wouldn't let me submit because I'd picked a province (BC) among their states/provinces list and Canada as a country. message went: "you cannot select a state if you have selected a country of residence that is not the U.S."

umm. ok. then why put Canadian provinces in your states list???

had to apply without a province. retards. :rolleyes:

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I ditto about all of this. I also want to add how annoyed I am by all the people who insist that I read the website carefully but their websites provide no valuable information! I think it is Cornell and MSU who have almost no information about the current research being done. So, how exactly am I supposed to determine fit? And then the websites where there is conflicting info from the grad school and the department you are applying to is just lovely. If you don't want a million phone calls then make the information easy to access and accurate! I actually deplore the telephone. I LOVE a detailed website. Let me just surf and read. But few schools made it this easy.

And Dear UNC: Your quasi e-application with damn near everything needing to be printed and mailed? Is CRAZY!!!! Signed, Me

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Yes, coyabean! Last fall I was researching a professor who had a ton of interesting papers, and I was really interesting in contacting him and possibly working with him. Before I emailed him, I met with a different professor from the same school who just casually mentioned that this other professor had retired two years ago! But his bio was STILL on the website! After that, every time I emailed a professor who didn't email me back, I tried to convince myself that it was only because he/she retired years ago, not because they weren't interested in working with me!tongue.gif

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I keep saying I am not going to add more to this thread, but yes coya!!

The one that drove me craziest is UW's. The school is half funded by Microsoft millions, but there are so many dead links on the sociology page, and the information hasn't been updated in who knows how long. There is one particular area of research that sounds interesting, and it is talked about as an upcoming project. It was talked about in that way last year, and they haven't updated! So is it happening now or not??!!

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I know others have mentioned this, but really, Indiana's online app is the WORST!! I swear the thing needs to be completely scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. Their website is almost equally as bad.

One of my most annoying things I've run into is (and this isn't quite about the online app, more like an SOP thing, but still...) the SOP prompt for one school wants to know which profs I'd like to work with and how their work relates to my own interests. Fine, no problem. Except that their faculty info consists of 100+ names and their corresponding departments. That's it! No info on what they teach, their research interests, their publications, CVs, NOTHING! I've literally had to Google every. single. freaking. professor. just to figure out basic info. Aaarghhhh!! :blink:

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Yes, coyabean! Last fall I was researching a professor who had a ton of interesting papers, and I was really interesting in contacting him and possibly working with him. Before I emailed him, I met with a different professor from the same school who just casually mentioned that this other professor had retired two years ago! But his bio was STILL on the website! After that, every time I emailed a professor who didn't email me back, I tried to convince myself that it was only because he/she retired years ago, not because they weren't interested in working with me!tongue.gif

I believe it was also UNC where THREE profs I contacted? Were either dead or retired. One man was nice enough to email me back and at least tell me that and he seemed very apologetic.

I also began to assume everyone who didn't respond was dead or in Florida retirement home. :D

I keep saying I am not going to add more to this thread, but yes coya!!

The one that drove me craziest is UW's. The school is half funded by Microsoft millions, but there are so many dead links on the sociology page, and the information hasn't been updated in who knows how long. There is one particular area of research that sounds interesting, and it is talked about as an upcoming project. It was talked about in that way last year, and they haven't updated! So is it happening now or not??!!

One school had links for the faculty bio. ONly every link fed back to the homepage.

My best friend is applying to comm programs with an interest in internet studies and her programs were the worst! LOL I don't get it. It's like KFC running out of chicken. If you cannot do your core business for yourself how are you teaching it?!

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I think my worst experience was with Rochester--they have an online app, but the only method of navigation is a series of numbered (read, numbered, not labeled) links at the top of the page. You just have to page through the whole application to find an individual section, which sucks if you're like me and completed the application piecemeal. Also, they didn't have a mechanism for printing the completed application for personal records after completion. They literally make you print out every screen. SO IRRITATING.

And I heartily second/third/umpteenth the comments above about the lack of updated profile/bio information on school websites. Its even worse when the school wants a list of people with whom you want to interview and you look like an utter idiot when you request someone who retired two years ago. UGH.

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My friend has a theory about this. He thinks schools secretly, intentionally make the application process difficult and aggravating as a way to weed out the faint of heart. (He also describes taking the GRE as hazing for wannabe grad students *lol*)

It's like their devious litmus test: if you can't face the Exam of Dooooom and the conflicting instructions/hidden deadlines/incorrect faculty listings, you can't handle being in our club, NEENER! :P

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My friend has a theory about this. He thinks schools secretly, intentionally make the application process difficult and aggravating as a way to weed out the faint of heart. (He also describes taking the GRE as hazing for wannabe grad students *lol*)

It's like their devious litmus test: if you can't face the Exam of Dooooom and the conflicting instructions/hidden deadlines/incorrect faculty listings, you can't handle being in our club, NEENER! :P

Exactly! I've been secretly wondering about this myself. It makes me feel extra triumphant when I finally manage to conquer each application--like ha! I beat you at your little game!

(On review, I realize this sounds a little pathetic. Ah, well.)

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I've applied to ten schools, and the design of their online applications ranged from practically flawless to annoying mess. Perhaps this is because I used to design software and websites for a living, but I do have certain expectations regarding user experience.

Several applications have required that I enter an email address for each recommender, despite saying that hard copy letters were fine. I didn't want my recommenders (who sent me hard copies to include in my packets for each school, because I am a control freak) to be bothered by emails, but I didn't have a choice with some apps. Again, this would've been a simple fix: just add checkboxes to indicate the rec would be a hard copy and not require an email address.

Yes! That bit of sloppy programming annoyed me, too.

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This will tickle your HCI bone, rogue: UMass has its own online app, which sports "Save", "Check," "Previous" and "Next" buttons. You'd think clicking "Next" will save whatever you filled in as it takes you to the next page. Not. You need to click Save for that. Click Next, and none of your hard work is saved. Very intuitive.

Totally ditto about Rochester's (probably cost-cutting) homegrown app. Their FAQ about not having a PDF-saving module bordered on ridiculous.

My own horror story would be Texas A&M. Hands-down dumbest design in online app history. You wouldn't believe it (my friend didn't, and she saw it with her own eyes). Since I said I was an international applicant, they presented me with a grid of 18 lines, each line having a mix of text fields and drop-down menus where I was to fill in the age, starting and ending month and year, grade level, and degree received for EVERY year I had been in school, starting in grade 1, six years old. Since I had been in school for 16 years to date (shocker I know), that's 128 form fields I had to fill in, very carefully they told me, because "mistakes are costly to correct". Took an entire Sunday afternoon.

I was also told not to attempt to translate my degrees to their US equivalent (we had a great laugh about my "small learn" and "middle learn" certificates, literal translations of the degrees I got). And the box where the degree name is to be put in? Has a 12 character limit. There were numerous other fails that pale in comparison but merit a mention, such as the fact that they have two text areas for entering the same statement of purpose, which the department then asked me to mail in again in a hard copy.

Second horror story: All my Embark-based apps refused to log me in in Firefox. Since my first Embark app was UMich, every Embark app after that logged me in to my completed UMich app, even if the page I logged in from was NYU or Cornell or what have you. I eventually figured out the golden rule: if it doesn't work in FF, it works in IE. A rare occasion when I was glad I had IE on my system.

Also, this is one quirk displayed by every single school I applied to. I had to tell the school app my GPA and GRE scores. Then I have to tell them to the department-specific app all over again. Really? What's an online database for?

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This will tickle your HCI bone, rogue: UMass has its own online app, which sports "Save", "Check," "Previous" and "Next" buttons. You'd think clicking "Next" will save whatever you filled in as it takes you to the next page. Not. You need to click Save for that. Click Next, and none of your hard work is saved. Very intuitive.

Well that's just piss poor design. UMass was actually the one I was referring to when I mentioned having to enter dates for not receiving degrees, but this is even worse. Luckily, it was one of my last ones and by that time I'd learned not to trust online grad school applications, so I clicked the save button on every screen before clicking next.

I swear, if I get across the board rejections, I'm going to start a consulting business for schools to improve their online apps.

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This will tickle your HCI bone, rogue: UMass has its own online app, which sports "Save", "Check," "Previous" and "Next" buttons. You'd think clicking "Next" will save whatever you filled in as it takes you to the next page. Not. You need to click Save for that. Click Next, and none of your hard work is saved. Very intuitive.

You can save it now??

When I filled out my UMass app last year it was the only one that didn't have a username/password, and didn't allow you to save anything. You had to fill out the entire form in one session. Of course I only figured that out after I started working on the app a few weeks before the deadline and filled out everything except the SOP. Then I get to the bottom of the page--did I mention that the entire app was on this one very long page?--and there's no save button. That was even moreso annoying because I had spent the time figuring out how to condense all of my information into their ridiculously small boxes. And then there's no way to print it out except for print screen. Ugh.

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You can save it now??

When I filled out my UMass app last year it was the only one that didn't have a username/password, and didn't allow you to save anything. You had to fill out the entire form in one session. Of course I only figured that out after I started working on the app a few weeks before the deadline and filled out everything except the SOP. Then I get to the bottom of the page--did I mention that the entire app was on this one very long page?--and there's no save button. That was even moreso annoying because I had spent the time figuring out how to condense all of my information into their ridiculously small boxes. And then there's no way to print it out except for print screen. Ugh.

Yeah. I saved this one for last because I thought you couldn't save it. When I originally read the instructions (probably around the end of the summer), it specified that you couldn't save your entries and had to complete it all in one sitting. I was really surprised when I went to work on it and saw that I could save and return later.

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Yeah, good luck selling schools on the idea of spending their shrinking share of funding on making life easier for us poor inconsequential applicants ;)

Sigh. Right. Maybe I could be funded by donations from frustrated applicants? Then again, it seems like we're all blowing our life savings on application fees, score reports and transcripts. Oh, and mailing all this stuff. Ugh.

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