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When to Update Colleges After Your Applications Are In

Bravo to the high school seniors who submitted Early Decision, Early Action, and Rolling Admissions applications these past few weeks!

It is such a great feeling to know your application has been sent in. But what happens if something changes or a new achievement occurs after the application is submitted? 

Most colleges have an admissions portal to provide "updates" about your application. However, what is worthy of an update and when to make that update can be confusing. Students should never overload their applications with a ton of updates on unnecessary things. They must be judicious when it comes to adding information to their application. Admissions officers can easily get annoyed when a student serially updates the admissions office on things that they deem less important. And you don't want to annoy admissions officers if you can avoid it!

Here is what warrants an immediate update to all colleges if an application has already been submitted:

  • Changes to the student's senior classes. If a student drops a class previously listed on their original application or replaces it, they are required to notify all of the colleges to which they have already applied. And for future colleges, they must make the change to their applications to reflect the most up-to-date schedule.
  • Improved test scores. If a college permits a student to submit late test scores (and most do!), they should self-report or request an official score report to be sent to the college.
  • Disciplinary action on the student's school record. If a student finds themself being suspended or expelled, they need to notify all of their colleges and provide an explanation. The more transparent the student is, the better.
  • Changes to the student's email, address, or phone number. This is how the colleges contact the student so if any information changes, they need to know to update their records.
  • Switching admissions cycles (Early Decision to Regular Decision, Early Action to Early Decision, etc.), majors, or programs. If the student changes their mind about applying early, or to a certain major or program, they should contact the college directly. Usually the admissions office needs something in writing.
  • A change in the status of whether or not the student is applying for need based financial aid. This status change can influence admissions decisions as some colleges are need aware in their admissions process.

Examples of less urgent instances when the student can update the college:

  • Received state or national recognition for an activity or honor.
  • Exceptionally strong first quarter senior year grades for an ED or EA applicant. This can be sent by the college counselor of record if the college permits first quarter grades. 
  • Elected to a major leadership role like president or captain. 
  • Named to an honor society, like National Honor Society or Cum Laude Society.

Consider holding off for now or possibly incorporate the following updates in a "letter of continued interest" if the student is deferred:

  • New internship, activity, or experience that directly relates to the student's chosen major or program.
  • New realization or confirmation that the college is their top choice. This can be especially helpful to mention in a "letter of continued interest" for a student who gets deferred to Regular Decision.
  • Any familial or health-related obstacles overcome since submitting an application. 
  • Plans for the summer, especially if it is a special opportunity.
  • Willingness to start college in the summer, following spring or academic year. Many colleges offer pre-college programs in the summer or a later start to students in their applicant pool who may have some limitations in their applications (lower grades, scores, etc.). 

Related reading: The One Piece of Your Application You Didn't Know Mattered So Much

It is extremely important for students to find out from each college how updates can be made. Admissions officers typically do not like students emailing them directly with updates. Instead, they prefer that students follow the proper procedure if an update is actually necessary. And remember, less is usually more in this case. Make sure the update is absolutely necessary and if so, do it thoughtfully in the manner each college prefers.