The very first assemblies of the school year this year, I shared with seniors that our school policy is that you need to meet with me prior to submitting applications and that you should build in about two weeks of processing time for your school documents after you submit a transcript request form.
I gave this advanced notice and I include these instructions, in writing, on the transcript request form because I want to be crystal clear about what I'm able to guarantee to you as your college counselor.
Let's break it down:
Why do you want to meet first before I press submit?
- I want to meet with you before you press submit for a few reasons. The most important one is I want to make sure that if there are any tips that I can share that will improve your application, you have time to make those changes prior to sending in the app. I also talk with you about things like if you are getting an Advanced Regents Diploma, if you press submit without touching base with me you might miss out in remembering to include things that will strengthen your application.
- I also want you to use your time and resources to maximize your college outcomes. I want you to be able to reflect on the advice I give during your meeting so that if you need to cut a school or add a different one you can without having paid for applications you end up not wanting.
- There are 146 of you and 1 of me. I encourage 10 apps or less, but some of you don't take that advice. Long story short, the amount of time I have does not correlate super well to the amount of tasks I need to do. In an average week in the fall, I'm working about 20 additional hours on top of the 40 that I get paid for, in order to make the college office run smoothly. This is not a complaint. I love my job. I share this so you can understand the context. It is because of this that I need to work efficiently. That means I need to know that if I send in a transcript for you, it is going to a real app that already exists. Teens have a habit of changing their minds, I don't have the ability to do work for apps that don't already have active files at the college.
- I also ask you to attach proof that you've applied because I'm trying to protect you. Even with this system, we once had a student who forgot to submit a supplement and didn't realize it until March. That meant that student's app was incomplete and they were not longer able to be considered for admission at that school. There are a lot of things to organize in this process, I want to force you to verify that you've applied so you can prevent silly mistakes (like forgetting to actually apply) from happening.
- The final reason I ask for the application to be submitted before requesting the transcript to be sent is that I'm trying to look out for you and your application file. I've worked at a college before. The number of documents looking to be matched with files is mind boggling. When you send a document for a student who doesn't have an application it has no where to go once it arrives at the college. It just floats around in the admissions office ether. However, when I send a transcript to a college for a student who has already applied, their computer system can automatically recognize the student's name and info and the document can be put directly into the appropriate file.
- Let's first start by making sure you understand that I would NEVER intentionally hold on to documents for 2 weeks in order to start processing them. This 2 week window is not a minimum processing time, it is a maximum processing time. I put that on the form because I need you to understand that there are many many days where even when I put in a full school day and an additional 3 hours after school, I still can't always get to everything on my 'to do' list.
- But, I can confidently say that if you give me a transcript request form and then you contact that college 14 days later, your transcript will be there and be fully processed.
- Believe it or not, this college application process is also about your becoming an adult and your building habits that you'll continue to use into adulthood. I'm trying to urge you to complete things in advance of deadlines because that is a good habit to be in for your life in general. Completing your taxes the day they are due is a bad idea. Waiting to renew your passport until right before an international trip is a bad idea. You see where I'm going with this . . .
- The answer here depends on your personal comfort level. A lot of ElRo students do not like the idea of calling a college on the day of the deadline and hearing that their application is incomplete. If this is you, you need to give me 2 weeks processing time.
- The good news though is that for 99% of colleges, deadlines are for the student portion of the application. They will happily accept (and actually expect to see) lots of supporting documents roll in after deadlines have passed.
- Exceptions here are: University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and University of Texas at Austin. These three places are more strict about deadlines and really do want files completed by the deadline.
- The moral here is the longer you wait to submit and the closer to the deadline you request documents, the lower the chance of me being able to guarantee that your items will be processed by the college by the deadline date.
- Please don't invent additional document information on the transcript request form. You don't need to tell me on the form about final reports. Final reports are automatic for every student for the place they enroll. I don't ask about it on the form because I don't need to know about it right now. Just follow the instructions and respond to the prompts on the form.
- Please don't staple multiple colleges' forms together. The form is a coversheet and should be separate for every individual colleges. No binder clips. No envelopes. Every time you do this you slow down my processing because I need to manually remove each form and search for the proof and attach it.
- Please don't print proof of multiple schools on the same page. I love being green and I totally understand why you'd be motivated to do this, but I really need the proof attached individually and the coversheets to be individual. The only exception to this is CUNY and that is stated on the form. Because that is one app for 6 schools, you can do just one coversheet and one page of proof for CUNY schools.
- Please complete the forms with care. Every time you phone it in and don't actually read what you are filling out you slow down my processing. When you check the box for senior grades to Maryland, I know you are not taking care. Maryland doesn't allow senior grades. When you write two teachers instead of one for Indiana University, I know you aren't taking care. Indiana only allows a max of one teacher letter. It is your responsibility to know what each of your schools requires. If you don't know what is required, look it up on their website (or the Common App).
If you don't see any hard copy blank transcript request forms in the guidance office, you can always print them from the College Office website.