When you’re applying to college, there are so many moving parts that having a checklist of what you need to send is critical. Applications? Check. Supplements? Check. Counselor recommendations? Check. Teacher recommendations? Check. Application Fee? Check. Standardized tests? Check.
But, wait! Don’t check off those boxes too soon. While you may have made arrangements to send all of your important documents to your schools, and while you may even have verification that those documents were sent to the school (e.g., Common App notification, SAT or ACT order receipts), that doesn’t necessarily mean that the school has actually received them in good order. A few weeks ago, my colleague, Cara Ray, wrote a blog post about the need to check your application status before admissions decisions come out, and I can’t stress or reinforce this message enough.
In recent weeks, with my students now submitting their college applications, I have come across many errors in various schools’ processing of their applications. In particular, I’ve found problems with schools properly receiving standardized test results.
For the most part, colleges receive SAT and ACT scores via a system download. There is no hard copy of the scores that gets sent to the school and then correlated with an application. Instead, the College Board or ACT sends a transmission of your scores over to the requested schools, and then the scores get matched up to your application through personal information that is found on both your application as well as your College Board or ACT registration. Unfortunately, sometimes things can go awry when systems and matching are involved.
For example, one student checked the student portal for one of her schools and discovered that the test scores that she had sent in September had not been received by the school in November. When she contacted the school, she found that somehow her birthdate had been input improperly into the college’s database (it registered her as being born in 1900!), and though the school had her scores, it couldn’t match them to the rest of her file. A simple phone call cleared things up, but if she hadn’t checked the portal and contacted the school, her application would never have been processed.
Another student who goes by two last names had a similar problem with several of his schools. His applications were processed under one last name, but his test scores were under another. His schools couldn’t match them up until he called and notified them of the error.
The bottom line is that even if you do everything that you need to do to get your application materials done properly, mistakes can still happen. So, when your schools send you portal information where you can check to see what your application status is, use the portal!
Some students who aren’t used to checking their email frequently will often not even be aware that they’ve been given login credentials for a school portal. Still other students are inclined to dismiss use of the portal until they need it for decision time. Don’t do this! Remember that many schools won’t notify you of your application status. They will expect that you will be responsible and proactive and check the portal. So, look for and save that login information somewhere where you can access it easily and regularly.
If the school doesn’t use a portal for its students, then you may receive some kind of email or regular mail notification that your application is complete. If you don’t receive some kind of notice about your application being all set either by portal or otherwise, and you have checked everything off your list, you should contact the school to ensure that your application is, in fact, complete and ready for evaluation by the admissions committee.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to know that not only have you sent everything that needs to be sent, but also that everything that you sent has been received, too. Otherwise, don’t check it off your list!