So that moment has come. The culmination of months and months of filling out fields, of writing and rewriting essays, of checking and double checking and triple checking to make sure everything is as you wish to present it. You click submit. You sit back. You breathe deeply. You sigh. This is what relief feels like. Five minutes pass. Then ten. Maybe an hour. Maybe a day. And that sense of relief starts to fade. Now there’s a different type of anxiousness making its way into your psyche. What if there’s a glitch? What if there’s some unknown new computer virus that only attacks college applications? What if your application gets lost in cyberspace? What if your transcript and test scores don’t arrive? And then, ding. A new email. College one thanks you for applying and asks you to send your transcript. Ding. Another new email. College two thanks you for applying and invites you to an online portal where you can check the status of your application. You log-in and whew, your application has arrived. But there are no checkmarks next to your other materials. Ding. Another new email. This one from college three…
Let me paint you a picture. It’s the processing room at a college admission office. It’s the day after the early application deadline. Each and every electronic machine in that room is running on full steam and on overdrive. Printers, faxes, scanners, computers…each doing work to bring all the components of your application together into one complete file. Then you’ll see the assembly line of staff members uploading, downloading, collating, alphabetizing and filing. While technology has vastly improved this process, it’s still not as simple as clicking submit and voila, the college to which you applied has an application ready to review.
Once you have sent a college your application (say through the Common App), the admission office will need to download that application from the Common App server. It will then need to upload that application to its own software. That part is generally the easiest. Although in the lead up to and days following a major application deadline, even this process can take several days if not a week. But that’s just step one. Once a college has your application, they then need to match it to your test scores (which come from the SAT’s or ACT’s server), your transcript (which in our case came from Naviance’s server), your recommendations and so on. And they need to do this for hundreds if not thousands or tens of thousands of other applicants. The process simply takes time. In many cases, it can take up to a month for a college to compile all of your materials into a complete application that is ready to be reviewed.
Additionally, know that many colleges have automated emails that they send to every student who applies reminding them to submit the additional required materials (transcripts, recommendations, test scores, etc.). These emails are often generated even though we have already submitted everything through Naviance. Likewise, recognize that colleges are not likely to start a file for a student until they receive your actual application. For example, say you sent your SAT scores to a college when you took the October exam. Then we submit your transcript and recommendations to that same school on October 20. But you don’t actually submit your application until October 26. Prior to October 26, the college just set aside your test scores, transcript and recommendations. They had them in a holding area waiting to match them to an application. They did not upload them in to their system or even note that they had arrived. Believe it or not, colleges get thousands of test scores and transcripts for students who never end up applying. So best practice dictates that they not begin to process anything for a student until the student themselves submits a formal application. That’s why you might get an email requesting a transcript even though Naviance shows we sent it. That’s why you may log on to a site and not see that your test scores have been added to your application. They simply haven’t yet matched each application component to the other.
So as your email dings, as you fail to see checkmarks next to required components, please do not panic. Continue to check your email and online application portals regularly for updates. If you have any questions, please seek out one of the college counselors. But know that you and we have done everything to ensure a timely delivery of your materials. Now we all just need to sit back, and breathe deeply, and most importantly, trust in the processing. Give it the time that it needs. And slowly but surely your email will ding, and you’ll have a message letting you know your application is complete. Or you’ll log-in and see checkmarks next to every component. At that point, you’ll sit back. You’ll breathe deeply. You’ll once again feel relief. And that will be a good feeling indeed.
Mrs. Wendy Livingston, Associate Director of College Counseling