This week in the Olin College Admission Office, we received a handful of emails from students encountering technical difficulties with our supplement to the Common Application
. The students are receiving odd character counts when pasting text into the answer fields to our two essay questions on the supplement. The first question asks students, "Why do you want to come to Olin?" and asks for a response that does not exceed 500 words. The second queries, "What is your passion?" and allows for answers up to 300 words*.
*The actual prompts are worded more eloquently than that, but you get the idea.
What's important to know is that the Common Application's web form does not count words**. Rather, it programs each field for written responses with character caps, which, unless regularly using words of inordinate length like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," easily allow for completion of the written response within the limit. The aforementioned applicants are experiencing problems because they are attempting to copy and paste their responses into the forms.
**What's even more important to know is that we in the Admission Office do not count words either - just keep your responses in the ballpark of the suggested word limits and you will be fine.
Web forms do not like pre-formatted text, and word processing applications like Microsoft Word layer text with all sorts of code. This code causes unforeseen, and sometimes unseen, problems when pasted into a web form hungry for unformatted verbiage. To avoid these technical issues, either write responses directly in the web form - and proofread carefully - or copy and paste writing from a Word file into a simple text application like Notepad to clean it up before then copying and pasting it again into the web form.
Completing college applications is stressful enough already, and we understand how frustrated these technical obstacles can be. That's why we are here, happy to respond to your emails and calls about any issues you may encounter.
P.S. The folks at Common App are great at assisting you through issues as well.