Twihards, Gleesters, and Senior Stress

Thanks to the strange convergence of Glee and Twilight/Vampire Diaries mania, the incredible pressure of high school is clearer than ever (would it KILL Bella to think a little more seriously about college? Well maybe, but even so…). And if the danger of Slushies-in-the-face and the undead aren’t enough, you seniors have the added exasperation of the admissions process.

First, of course, you are all but required to agonize over where you will apply. Unfortunately, getting your applications submitted doesn’t usually ease your burden in the least. Apart from the stress about whether or not you’ll get admitted (more on that soon) you have the awful, gut-wrenching torture of messages from colleges about your applications – messages seemingly designed for the express purpose of driving you into therapy (or possibly a relationship with the undead).

A recent discussion on the e-list of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling focused on one perennial source of this exasperation, commonly referred to as “lack letters.” These are messages, sent through the postal mail along with email, text and, quite possibly, directly into your brain letting you know that materials MIGHT be MISSING from your application.

A good friend, Patrick O’Conner, guidance counselor at the Roeper School in Michigan and former president of the admissions association posted a breakdown of one such message and the explanations he provides to his students. It is so good (and translatable to pretty much any high school) that I asked his permission to include it for your enjoyment. Sample message excerpts from the college/university are in italics, with Pat’s response below:

“Our Records Indicate…”

It seems pretty amazing at first. You just sent your application in last week, and the day after you hit “submit”, you gave your counselor the form they need to mail in to complete your application. Now there’s a letter from the admissions office waiting for you at home. Did they say yes? Did they say no? It’s a thin envelope, and people say that’s usually bad news from a college, right?

Yes, but in this case, it’s not the bad news you think it is.

“Thank you for your application. Our records indicate we have not received your high school transcript. Please contact your high school counselor and have them submit a transcript just as soon as possible.”

You’re confused at first-you did that already.

Then you’re really confused-you did that already.

Then you’re angry-you did that already! What’s going on here?

What’s going on is you’re part of a large number of students who are getting these letters needlessly. There are three reasons why:

1. When you submit your application electronically, the admissions computer checks to see if your transcript has been “checked in”-in other words, if the transcript has been sent, opened, and entered in the computer. When does this check happen? About the same time you give the paper form to me-so of course it’s not there. The computer then generates the letter, and it’s nightmare on your street.

2. If you sent your application by snail mail, it’s part of a mountain of letters in the admissions office (remember, everyone tends to apply at the same time) that can take the college up to a month to open. Your transcript is in that mound of mail, as well – it’s just that they happened to open your application first, and it may take another 3 weeks before they happen to open the letter from me.

3. With 49 other seniors applying to between 6-8 colleges per person, you may be number 30 or 35 in line for transcript requests. Since most colleges want me to answer some questions as well as send the transcript, this can take time, along with the other duties I have– like hosting the college reps that visit Roeper, so I can tell them in person how great you are. As the College Counseling Web site states, transcript requests will generally be sent out in 10 school days after they are received. It might be that yours goes out the next day-but at this time of year, it’s more likely to go out on day 9 or 10.

So what do you do? If it’s been less than a week since you sent in your application, wait a week, then call the college (or check online) to see if your transcript is there. If the letter says “We must have your transcript in the next 3 days”, call the college immediately to see if the transcript was checked in after the letter was mailed. Either way, if it’s still not there when you call, bring the letter to me…

…and don’t go crazy. 95% of the time, the transcript is there in Mount O’Mail waiting to be opened. The rest of the time, the college will gladly wait for a second copy to be mailed or faxed. In any case, I’ve never had a student’s decision impacted by a transcript that wasn’t checked in-so it’s still important to get the information in, but it’s not a deal breaker, no matter what their well-meaning records indicate.

Great advice, and my thanks to Pat (and a shout-out for checking out the website for his book, With that in mind you can go back to your regularly scheduled stress – wondering whether Bella will manage to date Finn and whether they’ll win the regional show choir competition or get eaten by werewolves…or both (now THAT’S a show I’d like to see!).

Shameless Plug: Speaking of Glee (sort of…indirectly…not really) I attended one of our phenomenal student dance concerts last week, with some amazing choreography by our own students (way to go Caroline!!), which again confirmed for me that Mason is THE premier dance program in the D.C. region!

Be seeing you.


6 Responses

  1. Thinking about college has been stressful for every generation. Making the decision of what college to attend, what to major in, what to take for general education, are all stresses that have been around for a long time. Your advice is very good and your detailed instructions of how to make the admissions process easier is a very useful tool. Thanks again.

    • thanks – although I do think the stress levels have changed considerably, largely fed by marketing efforts from colleges and universities creating a perception of scarcity (despite data clearly to the contrary) and by media reports pandering to this misconception.

  2. Dean Flagel,

    I just want you to know that while I do not have a high school age child yet, I love reading your blog every once in a while to see what you have to say. I think everything you say will be a great help when we send our oldest off to college.

    Love it!
    Michelle W.

  3. I am a high school senior currently going through every stress you have mentioned throughout your blogs and it is rough at times, but your blogs have helped clear many complications up for me.

    Plus, I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading each and every one of your blogs. I live in California and I, naturally, am not too interested in Mason, but your relaxed approach to applications is a great way to attract the students who will understand your wit and appreciate your sarcasm.

    Keep up the sarcastic remarks,

    • Thanks, but don’t let being from California stop you – it’s our fastest growing application and student source!

  4. “Premier” dance program, not “premiere.” Premiere means to unveil, like the dance troupe premiered “The Nutcracker.” “Premier” means first-rate.

    –sorry, I’m a word nerd.

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