‘Tis the season for paper and whining…

…and for my regular, always much anticipated, blog post on submitting your application materials successfully.


If you follow any of the other admission blogs (no reason you would, since you’ve discovered this one, other than morbid curiosity) you’ll see post after post complaining about all the mail us poor overworked admissions officers receive this time of year as application deadlines approach (cue violins).  If you’re anything like me, your natural response to this is, “stop whining, put on your big boy pants, and go open some mail instead of typing on your blog.”

Unfortunately, the chaos can have a negative impact on you.  Colleges seem to be getting worse and worse at matching documents you send in with your application.  This seems to have several sources:

A)    Most material used to come in with your application, but now that most of you apply online, most transcripts, recommendations, and even many essays come in separately;

B)     This is complicated by the lack of social security number – as a universal identifier, SSN was great. All the identity theft stuff caused universities to stop using them. As a result, we have to go by name, leading to more confusion since;

C)    You all have nicknames, multiple spellings, and worst of all – some of you share the same name!!! Yes, it’s true – you may not be quite as unique as you think.


All of that is compounded by the rapid increase in application volume.  I’ve written about this before, but all the hype about how INCREDIBLY COMPETITIVE college admissions has become has led many of you to apply to more schools, making the process look even more competitive, leading you to apply to MORE schools…you get the idea.
The bottom line is that colleges misplace documents ALL THE TIME.  I hear about this constantly for my own institution, and believe me I understand.  Even though our error rate is incredibly low (yes, I’m enough of a geek to track these things) every lost document leads to round of anxiety for students, parents, and guidance officers.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things to help you avoid these situations:

1)      Submit your application before you start sending other documents. This means you need to get your application in well before any deadlines (Mason’s December 1 deadline for scholarship consideration is almost here! Don’t Panic!).  That may be harder than you think.  Most high schools want you to request your transcript (and teachers want you to request your recommendation) well before the deadline.  Many of these great educators are so on top of things, they get the transcripts/recommendations, etc. right out to us, even while you’re still procrastinating right up to the deadline.  Then your documents come in before your application and go into some scary file called “orphan documents” (shudder), which we check regularly as best we can, and where periodically some employee goes to look for the document your calling us frantically about, sometimes never to be heard from again… This can be fixed if you get your application in well BEFORE the deadline.  Once you’ve gotten that application in, you’ll still have plenty of time to request your other documents, and you can implement idea number two:

2)      If the college or university gives you any kind of student number during the application process, include it on any (and EVERY) document you send.

3)      Try to make sure the name on your application is the same (including first and last name in the same order) as the one that you give for the SAT or ACT and the one on your transcript. If they don’t match, they might not be found.

4)      If you do have different names (hyphenated last names, changed order, used a stupid nickname when you took the SAT) include the other names as Previous Names on your application.

Of course, keep copies of everything you send and a record of the data you sent it, and check in with the college to make sure they get them (please give them TIME – Mason will receive over a million documents around our deadlines – it’ll take a few days to catch up – AT LEAST!!!).

Follow these rules and you’ll be all set – to be considered. Then you just have to worry about being good enough to get in!

Be seeing you.


2 Responses

  1. I read many admission blogs and have never seen anyone complain about the amount of applications they get. A few give updates about how many applications arrived, but none complain about that.

  2. They complain about MAIL not about applications (although many individual counsellors faced with their reading load do complain long and loud). I don’t know what blogs you’re reading (besides this one, and good for you!) but look for the many many pictures of mailrooms blitzed by paper, buckets of mail, and sad looking mail processors. The whining usually sounds like, “Don’t be mad at us that we can’t find your essay or that your recommendation hasn’t been added – just look at all that mail we received. Poor us – we are SO popular we just don’t know what we’ll do.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: