What to do if you notice a mistake on your college applications

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mistake on college applications

mistake on college applications

So, you just submitted your college applications. You double and triple-checked each essay, and you were positive that everything was perfecto. But then, you reviewed your submitted materials and — gasp — you noticed a mistake!

Don’t panic. One mistake is not going to jeopardize your admission. Before you head into a tailspin, here is some concrete guidance to help you assess the situation and (if appropriate!) take steps to correct the error.

1. Minor snafu or major oversight?

Take a breath and remember that college admissions officers, who have to read your whole file in a very short time, are not going to nit-pick over a minor error! They realize that applicants are 17-year-olds; a typo is not going to spell doom for your application. Yes, you can send the admissions office an email to correct an error, but first consider: is it necessary? If you wrote “too” instead of “to,” probably not. If you looked at your PDF preview and realized half your essay got cut off, then you’ll want to correct it.

2. Patching up a minor snafu

If your mistake is fairly trivial, you have two choices: you can leave your application as is (trusting that admissions won’t judge little mishaps harshly!) or you can send in corrections.

For example, if you made a copy-paste error in one of your college essays, it should be a relatively simple fix. Send admissions an email, including your name and application ID; explain that you found an error on your application (because you were just too darn excited to apply!); and indicate the corrections you would like to make. Attach the corrected essay, ask that the new essay be reviewed in lieu of the original essay submitted, and — most importantly — sincerely apologize for the hassle! Some colleges may also ask you to upload an updated version in the portal.

Another common error is realizing you made an error in the SRAR (self-reported academic record), if a school uses it. Reach out to the admissions office and they can reactivate it for you so that you can correct the error. If you enroll at a school that uses SRAR, they will compare your final transcript to the one you self-reported to confirm that you were honest, so it’s essential to be proactive if you notice an error.

3. Navigating a more significant oversight

Some errors do need correcting! For example, maybe you are applying test optional to some schools and not others, and forgot to indicate that you wanted your scores considered for a certain school — reach out to the admissions office right away, and check your applicant portal to see if there’s a way to change your status (sometimes you can do this directly). Or maybe you filled out the Common App current courses section in August, forgot to change it when you dropped a class in October, and realized you just told colleges you’re taking AP Calc when you’re not. Your first stop should be to talk to your school counselor, who can advise you on whether and how to communicate that to colleges, and may be willing to call the admissions office on your behalf to explain the mix-up. That kind of advocacy can go a long way.

4. Take charge as the applicant

In situations like these, it’s important that you — the applicant — be the one to spearhead the corrective efforts. You can certainly rely on parents and friends for guidance, but it should ultimately be you (not Mom!) who sends the email to admissions or picks up the phone to clarify something with  your dream college.

Most importantly, breathe. Different schools may handle the situation differently, but most schools want to work with applicants to ensure they have the best possible chance of admission! If you need more specific guidance, our college admissions team is here to help.

Caroline Hertz