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Lessons Learned From The 2017 College Application Season

Updated: Feb 28, 2018

The 2017 College Application Season has come to an end for most of my students. In every cycle, issues arise that must be researched and addressed. I record the issues and solutions and hopefully students/parents in the following year will benefit from having this information.

1. There were many errors and inconsistencies on college applications this year, which required considerable time and effort to resolve - especially the University of California and California State University applications. Therefore, applicants for Fall 2019 should begin completing applications as soon as possible after the applications are released. This gives the student the maximum amount of time to figure out work-arounds if there are problems with the applications.


2. Certain courses from middle school must be included on Cal State and UC applications.


3. READ, READ, READ instructions on how to complete applications. For example, on the Common Application, students needed to invite and assign teachers. This was a two-step process and frequently overlooked by students. Submitting the application

and supplemental writing section was also a two-step process on the Common Application and one that was easy to miss.


4. Make sure you review the checklists for “how to apply” on college websites. Don’t rely on the Common Application or CollegeBoard (although very accurate, they are not without error. If you rely on information from one of these sites, versus the college website, and there is a discrepancy, the college will still hold you responsible).


5. Make sure you follow the instructions on each college website for "how to apply for financial aid." Each college has a different protocol.


6. Different high schools have different protocols for how students are to request letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors. Some of these protocols are extensive and time-consuming and include providing information packets, sample essays, pre-addressed stamped envelopes, and more. I advise students in their junior year to check with their guidance counselor to find out what if anything is required to get the process started. Also, students should check with teachers from whom they want letters of recommendation to find out what those teachers require before they will write the letter and how much lead time they will need.


7. Early application deadlines put extra pressure on teachers and school counselors to submit letters of recommendations and school reports. Students need to give recommenders as much lead time as possible so that letters are not rushed.


8. The process for sending transcripts is not standardized. Some colleges will allow your high school to upload forms electronically, others want transcripts to be emailed, still others want transcripts sent by standard mail. I advise all students to keep a chart of the delivery methods required by their colleges.


9. Early application deadlines attach to early financial aid deadlines. Parents need to be aware of their child’s timelines as completing financial aid forms can also be time-consuming and create a level of family stress all on their own.


10. For many colleges that require the CSS Profile financial aid form, the non-custodial parent must also complete it. Although a student may apply to have the financial aid information of the non-custodial parent waived for personal reasons, there is no guarantee the college will grant it. The sooner these issues are discussed in families, the better. FYI - The FAFSA does not require financial aid information from the non-custodial parent.


11. Colleges that require the CSS Profile may also require that tax returns and other financial documents be submitted to the college. Some colleges require the documents to be uploaded electronically, others by fax, others by email, and still others, by standard mail. Again, planning ahead can avoid last minute rushing to submit the documents as directed.


12. You must list all of your colleges on the FAFSA form. There are ways to add colleges if you have more than 10, which is all you may list on the original form - see this link for adding additional colleges: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotwfaq14.htm


13. I recommend students add financial aid deadlines to their organizational timeline charts.


14. Students who take standardized tests more than once often forget to send later SAT/ACT and/or SAT Subject Test scores to all colleges on their list that require them. In addition, sometimes students add colleges at the last minute and forget about sending test scores. There is also a lag time for CollegeBoard to send the scores, so students often have to the use the rush ordering feature, which costs additional money.


15. It is imperative to check email (including spam and junk mail), texts, standard mail, and the account that is set-up with each college to which the student applied. Colleges may communicate by any or all of these methods. You have to stay on top of it. They may be requesting information from you that they need before they make your admission decision.


16. The Cal State Application stated that a student needed to send test scores to only one Cal State and all other Cal States to which he or she applied would also receive the scores. However, this did not go as planned this past year with Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. Students who had scores sent to Cal Poly expecting Cal Poly to forward test scores to other Cal States got a shocking surprise. Cal Poly abdicated their responsibility to forward the scores causing students to scramble and send their scores again to individual Cal States at the last minute. This caused a lot of stress for students. Eventually Cal Poly reversed their view on sending scores to other Cal States, but it was very close to test score deadlines. I trust that this will not happen with Cal Poly going forward. However, each student must be responsible for checking with each Cal State to which he or she applies that the college actually received his or her scores.


17. The UC pre-admission application verification process caught many students off guard. The verification process occurs when approximately 10% of applicants are randomly selected to verify information in their application, usually about an item in the Activities and Awards section, but they may also ask for verification of some academic, work such as 7/8th grade geometry. In essence, they are requiring PROOF of what was stated in the application. They will provide a student with instructions regarding what documents will suffice as proof. If proof is unattainable - a teacher moved, a coach retired, etc., and these individuals are not reachable - you should respond to the verification request with that explanation and if accepted, you will be asked to verify another item from your application.

This request is not voluntary. IT IS REQUIRED. If the student does not comply, his or her application will be withdrawn and cancelled.


Students were notified of the verification request during the first week of January. The deadline for response was January 31st. Again, failure to respond to the request by the deadline resulted in withdrawal of the application.


18. The UC Augmented Review process is used by several of the UC campuses and students must be on the look out for these requests. See this link for detailed questions about augmented review -


http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/counselors/files/augmented-review-policy-2017.pdf?mc_cid=057d692882&mc_eid=9680ebd255


The UC Augmented Review Policy, effective for the 2018-19 admission process, allowed campuses to request supplemental information from no more than 15 percent of its applicants. However,

  • The vast majority of UC applications (98%) are complete as submitted and do not require additional information.

  • The three types of supplemental information that may be requested are seventh-semester grades (i.e., the first semester of senior year), response to a questionnaire, and/or letters of recommendation.

Students should check their email regularly and respond by the indicated deadline if asked by a campus to provide supplemental information.

For Fall, 2018 admission, the campuses that chose to conduct an Augmented Review were: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Merced did not use Augmented Review but did request first semester senior grades. Irvine used Augmented Review for some engineering applicants.

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