If you have submitted college applications that were due January 1st, you may have received letters, postcards, or e-mail notifications that a part of your application is missing. While you may have submitted your application online, teacher recommendations and evaluations, school reports, transcripts, and standardized test score reports are, for the most part, sent via regular mail. However, if you have received a letter, e-mail, or logged on to see your application status and found out that a part of your application is missing, just know that it usually isn’t missing. Most likely, it just isn’t filed yet. Sometimes, though, it’s misfiled.
It might help to know that colleges face a MOUNTAIN of admissions mail every day – mail that requires very systematic and careful handling. As a result, there is typically a reasonable delay between the time your documents arrive at the admissions office and the time they are processed and placed into your file. Here are some responses from admissions counselors:
“I wish I had a photo that I could send you of thousands of pieces of mail sitting in the mail bins waiting to be processed. Maybe this bit of information will help… we employ an “army” of students to help us process the mail. We receive so much mail that all some students do is simply slit open envelopes, other students will date stamp the materials, and another student places the information in the proper bin (Part I- Early Decision, Part I- Regular Decision, High School Transcript- Early Decision, etc.) From the bins, our processing staff enters the information into the computer.
We estimated that we received over 100,000 pieces of information for our freshman applicants alone last year (each application requires Part I & Part II, or the Common App and our Supplement, the Secondary School Report, the HS transcript, test scores, and at least one letter of recommendation.)”
“This morning the U.S. mail delivered 30 tubs full of applications, counselor statements, and teacher recommendations to our office; two staff members spent all day just opening the envelopes, another fifteen concentrated on logging everything in, and yet our mail room still looks as though a paper bomb went off in it.”
“We never receive a complete application all in one envelope since we require that ACT/SAT scores be sent to us directly from the testing agency. There always are sorting and matching processes that must take place daily since we receive hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. each and every business day!”
“Typically we receive more than half of our applications right at the deadline. They are processed in the order in which they arrive, and it takes us about three weeks to get all of the applications processed and in files. We do enter quite a bit of data on each applicant into our student database, so for most of our data entry people it is physically impossible to process more than a certain number of applications in one day.”
So if you get a note from a college saying that a piece of your application is missing, DON’T PANIC! The material in question is usually in the admissions office, somewhere in those sacks of mail. Admissions offices, too, are under pressure to get all of the folders complete so that applications can be read and evaluated in a timely manner and so, as a result, the letters regarding missing information go out automatically. If your transcript is missing, speak with your counselor. If a letter of recommendation is missing, speak with the teacher who promised to send a letter on your behalf. If your official standardized test scores are missing, check with collegeboard or ACT. In the meantime, keep checking your online application status and, if necessary, call the college and ask the receptionist if they can look through your file.