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Your Top 5 Application Season Questions—Answered

It is crunch time. The November 1st deadline is days away and most high school seniors are applying to at least one college by that date. The Application Nation - Class of 2020 discussion board is busier than ever as families have so many questions for me right now. I am furiously answering them to alleviate their concerns and stress.

I bet you have the same questions that the Application Nation families have. So here are my answers to the most popular questions being asked of me.

1. What if my college counselor or teachers have not submitted their letters of recommendation yet?

Believe it or not, most counselors and teachers write or submit their letters of recommendation at the last minute. For most colleges (especially the private ones), letters of recommendation, score reports, and other materials out of the student's control will be accepted and used in the evaluation even if they are submitted after the deadline. However, it is important that the student's portion of the application is submitted by the deadline. Keep in mind that there are certain colleges, like the University of Michigan, that have strict deadlines and won't accept late materials from anyone.

RELATED READING: Who Submits What During the College Admissions Process?

2. If a college requests self-reported test scores, should I send official score reports from the College Board or the ACT in addition to self-reporting test scores on the application?

No! More colleges than ever before are moving towards self-reported test scores. The reason for this is that it saves the family money and reduces the processing of tens or hundreds of thousands of score reports for the admissions office. However, keep in mind that students will need to send official score reports after they are admitted to confirm the scores that they self-reported on the application.

3. What should I do if I notice a mistake or I need to add something to my application and I already submitted it?

Contact the admissions office directly to find out how you can submit updated information. Sometimes it is done via email and other times the admissions office encourages the student to make any changes/updates through the admissions portal.

4. I submitted my application, but I have not received portal information, a confirmation, or an interview request. What do I do?

As dutiful as some students are in submitting their applications well before the deadline, it doesn't necessarily mean the college's admissions office is as dutiful in response! Some admissions offices are receiving thousands of applications and application materials a day. It can take days and sometimes weeks for them to "process" the materials, which can cause delays in the student getting a response back immediately. You can contact the admissions office to find out when you will be notified, especially if it has been several weeks.

5. What are colleges looking for in the "Why Us" supplemental essay? 

This is a common supplemental essay that many selective colleges will require the student to write. It is important that the essay is written specifically for that particular college as admissions officers can tell when the student is recycling information from other essays. The best "Why Us" essays discuss specific academic (and, to some extent, extracurricular) elements of that college and how the student will engage and contribute to them. It is not just about a student talking about their own interests or what's available at the college in this area. It is about how the student and those available options will harmonize. 
There are so many questions that arise in these last few days before a big deadline. If you can't find the answer on a college's website, the student (yes, it's important that the student does this!) can call or email the admissions office to get clarification. The fact is that a lot of requirements are not delineated in clear language on a college's admissions site. You will feel better getting the answer right from the horse's mouth. Giddy up, everyone! It's going to be quite a ride from now until decision day.