Internet confuses applicant process

Students applying to GW graduate programs in the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences said online applications have hampered the process and believe the school lost some of their application materials they submitted.

Maureen Fleming, a current GW senior majoring in political communications, said the CSAS office had no record of her application as of March 14 after she submitted it to the Graduate School of Political Management Jan. 30.

After calling CSAS March 14, she discovered that CSAS also did not have her GRE scores, which were sent separately in mid-February and are required to apply. The online company that handles GW’s online applications confirmed that the University downloaded her application in January, and Educational Testing Services confirmed that the company had sent her GRE scores to GW in February, she said.

Associate Dean of Graduate Affairs Chris Sterling said the CSAS office sometimes loses parts of graduate school application materials because the application process is extensive.

“Applying to graduate school is very different than undergraduate,” Sterling said.

Students submit parts of their packets to the CSAS office, which then sends the materials to individual departments that students are applying to. The faculty of that department reviews the application packet and then sends their recommendation to CSAS, Sterling said.

Sterling said the CSAS graduate school receives about 3,000 applications a year and accepts about half of the applicants. About 800 to 900 accepted students usually enroll at GW in the fall, he said.

“All the parts of the application are turned in at different times, so it can take quite a while to assemble all the pieces of it,” Sterling said. “It is a tremendous job to keep track of all that comes in.”

A GW senior majoring in international politics who applied to the CSAS public policy program and wished to remain anonymous said it was difficult to get her GRE scores to GW. Although ETS employees confirmed they sent her scores Feb. 16, CSAS did not have record of them by the last week of March, she said.

Students and administrators said online applicants sometimes encounter problems, especially as the online option becomes more popular. Few students applied online when the service debuted three years ago, and those who did were mostly science and engineering majors, Sterling said. About one-third of this year’s applicant pool in the Columbian School used online applications, and the transition to the use of online applications has been rough, Sterling said.

“We found out from the online company that runs this service that the site went down for two days in January,” Sterling said. “The students didn’t know this and neither did we until recently.”

Sterling said snags in the system also occur when students do not click on the right icon to send their application to the University. CSAS is in the process of contacting students who might have done this, he said.

Some students said they understand that the application process for the graduate school is complicated, but wish the University would communicate better when it recognizes a problem.

“I realize that it is the students’ responsibility to call the University and check on the status of their application,” Fleming said. “However, it does not seem that my experience is isolated. In which case, it becomes the University’s responsibility to at least post on their Web site that there was a problem with online applications and encourage students to call.”

Fleming said she found out Wednesday that she was accepted into the GW’s Graduate School Political Management.

Sterling said CSAS does not post the status of each student’s application on its Web site because the University does not have the staff to do it.

“It would take a full-time person to keep that information posted and up to date on a Web site,” he said. “We have been trying to send out letters informing students that we are missing parts of their applications and also responding to phone calls and e-mails as quickly as possible, but we have not been doing that as good as I would like it to be.”

Students who had trouble said they encourage other applicants to call GW to make sure the University received all parts of their application.

“Call even though they say there’s no need to,” the anonymous senior said. “Check up on them. You may feel like you’re baby-sitting, but sometimes that’s necessary with the GW administration.”

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