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Application Anxiety

Are you sure you sent my application?

After application deadlines pass, seniors may worry that their applications or supporting documents have gone missing or never arrived at colleges. Some students may be panicking because a college has notified them that elements are missing from their application.

With students' applications, test scores, transcripts and other information arriving at colleges at different times and in different envelopes (or online), how can you help students prevent, minimize or solve any "missing document" problems?

Reminders to give your students

  • Keep copies of all components of the application that they're responsible for (for example, the essay and the main body of the application).
  • Print out hard copies of online applications, if possible.
  • Save any postal or electronic proofs of mailing and receipt (for example, a confirmation email or an assigned tracking number — print out a hard copy, too).
  • Use the U.S. Postal Service's Delivery Confirmation service for each application they send through the mail. This service gives the time and date of delivery, but does not require a signature at the receiving end (admission offices may not have the time to sign for every piece of mail). 
  • Inform you and those writing their recommendations when and where they have applied online.
  • Remind anyone who is writing a recommendation to keep a copy of the letter.
  • Establish a line of communication with each college to which they apply. Ask for the name (during a campus tour) or get the card (during a college visit) of the person who will be reading the application.
  • Ask admission representatives (at open houses, campus tours and college nights) questions about their institution's process: what the timeline for application processing is, how long they should wait before calling to ask about applications and so forth.
  • Prepare to be patient. Processing applications takes time; students may not get any news for several weeks.

Tips for counselors

  • Keep copies of all parts of students' applications that pass through your hands, all electronic and postal proofs of receipt and notifications, and all letters of recommendation that you write.
  • Record the dates that components that you're responsible for (for example, transcripts) were mailed.
  • Ask admission representatives questions to clarify the specifics of application processing at their colleges.

Did the college get the application?

Some colleges send a letter or email to confirm receipt of each mailed application. Other colleges only contact students when elements are missing. Students applying online will receive some kind of notification of receipt.

Many colleges now have websites where students can sign in to check that the college has received their applications and supporting documents.

Your student can also email or telephone the admission department of the college to ask if everything was received. Some colleges have automated phone trees for checking on applications.

Is something missing?

What if your student checks and finds that one or more documents is not in the list of received item? Or what if the college notifies the student that a part of the application is missing?

Even if the college has written to the student saying that a document is missing, it's quite possible that the "missing" document simply hasn't been entered into the system yet. The truth is that many colleges send out these letters before the admission office is done with the process of sorting and filing all application documents.

Every year, colleges receive a huge number of applications and supporting documents. Each document (whether an application, a transcript or a recommendation) must be processed and placed in the applicant's file (along with any online components). It may take several weeks to sort and file all these documents.

Advise the student to call the admission department about missing documents only after at least three weeks — or any waiting period specified by the college — have passed since mailing. Students may want to make this call from the counseling office, so that the counselor can confirm the mailing dates for documents that left that office.

Next steps

If the student has copies of all documentation along with proof of mailing and confirmation receipts, the college will work with the student to resolve any missing-documents issue.  

Most paper components (such as letters of recommendation or the main body of the application) can be resent. If an online application seems to be lost, the student should contact the college to ask how to proceed, and have at hand any tracking number or email confirmation receipt.

Test scores are usually sent by the testing companies (for example, ETS or ACT), via email, to whichever colleges the student specifies. The most likely reason for missing test scores is that the student failed to request that the score be sent to that college, or used an incorrect code. The student can have the scores resent, if necessary.

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