Office of Admissions
One Dent Drive
October 18, 2021
A lot of emotions go through a student's head as their mouse cursor hovers over the "submit" button on a college application.
There's excitement. There's hope. And yes, there's probably a fair amount of second-guessing, anxiety and maybe even a dash of all-out panic.
To be fair, that's a pretty important click in the life of a college student. But if you have prepared in the right way, it doesn't have to be so terrifying.
That's where College Admissions Insider is here to help. In this episode, we'll cover all the last-minute reminders students need before clicking "submit." What should you double-check? Who should you trust to review everything? And when is the right time to start all these final checks?
To help us cover all our bases, we're joined by Kristin Morrow, Bucknell's Assistant Director of Admissions.
If you have a question, comment or idea for a future episode, email email@example.com.
[0:00:07.0] BW: A lot of emotions go through a student’s head as their mouse cursor hovers over the submit button on a college application. There’s excitement, there’s hope and, yeah, there’s probably a fair amount of second guessing, anxiety and maybe even a dash of all-out panic.
[0:00:23.6] BT: To be fair, that’s a pretty important click in the life of a college student. But if you have prepared in the right way, it doesn’t have to be so terrifying. I’m Brooke Thames from Bucknell University, and in this episode of College Admissions Insider, we’ll cover all the last-minute reminders students need before clicking “submit.”
[0:00:39.8] BW: I’m Bryan Wendell, also from Bucknell. Today we’ll cover those final steps you’ll want to take before sending off an application. What should you double-check or triple-check, who should you trust to review everything and when is the right time to start all these final checks? To help us cover all our bases, we’re joined by Kristin Morrow, Bucknell’s assistant director of admissions. Welcome to the podcast Kristin.
[0:01:01.9] KM: Thanks Bryan and Brooke. I’m so glad to be here and to be talking about this. It’s definitely an exciting yet potentially anxiety producing time. As admissions counselors, we have the distinct advantage of seeing many applications both comparatively and contextually as well. From that perspective, I’m happy to share any insights, thoughts, helpful hints and feedback.
[0:01:23.5] BT: We’re calling this episode, last-minute reminders but is there a preferred timing for putting the finishing touches on your application? I imagine it’s not, like, 11 p.m. on deadline day, which is Nov. 15 or Jan. 15 in the case of Bucknell.
[0:01:38.1] KM: Definitely not. Apart from the actual application deadline, there is really no preferred time to submit your application as long as it’s on or before those deadlines but there is a preferred time for putting the finishing touches on an application.
Before you click “submit,” you should be reviewing and reading again and again. The best thing you can do for yourself during this process of preparing your application is to not procrastinate. Don’t give in to the temptation. If you start the application process early, you give yourself plenty of time to think creatively, clearly, comprehensively, and it works so much better to do your application in stages with some space in-between each stage. When the final stage comes along, you’ll feel confident that you’ve completed all the stages fully and accurately. Every day that you procrastinate, you will add to your anxiety. Don’t do that to yourself.
Another thing you can do is to create a timeline or a spreadsheet of all the facets of the application that need to be completed so you can capture all of them and make sure you don’t miss anything.
[0:02:43.8] BW: Yeah, that’s good advice. I know I’m somebody who tends to procrastinate, and I needed a deadline so that I know, “Okay, this is the time that I need to start working on this and that.” But in the case of a college application, you kind of want to back up from that deadline a little bit, it sounds like.
What types of things should students keep in mind as they’re doing that final review, which, again, we’re hoping is not the night before the deadline. What should they really be looking at? What are the main things?
[0:03:08.1] KM: Let’s take a step back first. In reading your application, we’re trying to build a narrative about you. What makes you tick? What are you all about? What are your passions, your hobbies, your goals? Keep that in mind as you do your final review. Are you conveying that narrative accurately? Make sure that you’re not telling us what you think we want to hear but, rather, what you want us to know about you.
Another thing I would say is read your application through in the third person as if it’s not you, as if it’s not familiar language to you. Does it make sense? Is it compelling? Is there at least one part that makes you stand out in some way? It’s important to remember, at least for Bucknell, we read every application, and we read everything in your application, which means roughly 11,000 applications. Is there any way to make your application unique or to stand out in some way? That makes it all the better.
Finally, I would say, make sure that there are no syntax errors, grammar misspellings, no casual language. Absolutely no texting language or abbreviations. Your application is definitely not a place for any of this.
[0:04:21.3] BT: Yeah, those are all really great considerations. There are unfortunate cases though where mistakes do get through, right? I think it would be helpful to talk about those. When you are reading application, what is it that you see that makes you say, “You know, if the student had just given one more glance or taken one more extra minute, they would have spotted this”?
[0:04:39.3] KM: Great point, yeah. We’ve read enough applications to know or have a pretty good feeling that student has rushed through their application or perhaps didn’t review it. So here’s some examples that we found.
Short abbreviated answers to the prompts in the application. The downside to this is we don’t get a good understanding of you, and we’re left wondering how invested you really are in this process. Another one is, abrupt stops in the middle of a sentence with nothing following it, which usually means it wasn’t proofed. You were starting a thought and you didn’t finish it, and you went on to something else. You got distracted but you left that back there.
Again, another example is texting language, grammatical or syntax errors, misspellings…tells us that maybe you didn’t care enough to reread your application or have it reviewed. Another one is, not capitalizing proper names and all those words that should be capitalized that aren’t. We get a lot of I’s that are small I’s. It needs to be capital if it’s referring to yourself. That would be something to check.
Forgetting or not listing your activities and then finding out in the councilor or teacher recommendation that you're involved in many activities. We’re not really sure how to take this. Is it because you were rushed going through the application that you forgot to list your activities, or did you just forget about them?
Then finally, I would say, not directly or not at all answering the prompt, or being so vague that it’s not an accurate answer. That would be another thing that indicates that perhaps you didn’t review it.
[0:06:13.6] BT: Yeah, to follow up on some of those points about capitalization and those kinds of things, is there a particular writing style that students should or are required to use on their application, whether that’s MLA or AP or Chicago?
[0:06:27.1] KM: There really is not, Brooke. We let students use however they feel comfortable and however they’ve been taught to do, and we just flex with it. A lot of students nowadays are using texting language or tend to revert to that, and we’re trying to encourage students not to do that. Does that answer your question?
[0:06:47.3] BW: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. Obviously, the college application isn’t a spelling exam or a grammar test, but what does it signal to you when you do see that texting language that you’re referring to, or you do see a lot of what I would call preventable errors. As an application reader, what does that signal to you?
[0:07:07.9] KM: When you are applying to college, it’s a rite of passage in a way, and we’re trying to prepare you for what’s ahead. By breaking out of the abbreviations and the grammatical errors and that sort of thing, we’re trying to get you to write on the next level and recognize that you’re preparing for college. So you really need to present a polished front as much as possible. I mean, we don’t get overly hung up on the small details. We want to see that it’s polished and that you spent some time on it.
[0:07:42.4] BW: Yeah, so one typo isn’t necessarily going to doom you, but it does show that maybe you didn’t have somebody proofread it, for example. Which really brings me to the next thing I want to talk about. I know that when I wrote papers, like in high school for example, I would print it out and ask my parents to take a look, and sometimes they would catch something that — just for me being so close to it — I was completely oblivious to. With something as important as a college application, is that a time when you would want to print it out or share it with somebody, and if so, who might be a good person to trust?
[0:08:15.8] KM: Yeah, most definitely, Bryan. That’s a good point. I would say, print it out, pick a teacher or a counselor who you trust will be candid and who will do a thorough review of content, technical aspects and accuracy. Also, that person should really know you and know about your goals and aspirations.
Parents are okay, however we can’t stress enough that the application needs to be the work of the student. If your parent may tend to want to change content, it’s better to ask a teacher or a counselor. And a good reminder is that your application really appears to us as a bunch of numbers and words that all come together really to explain you. However you convey that most accurately is the true success of your application. Whoever reviews it should review it with that goal in mind.
[0:09:06.7] BT: Yeah, that note about parents maybe being a little bit too close to the process, I think, is really important. And of course they want to be involved but they don’t want to be a snowplow or a helicopter parent. Can you elaborate on their role, and what is the best role for a parent to play during this process?
[0:09:22.9] KM: It’s important to remember that the student is the one going to college, not the parent. The best role for a parent here is in a support or advisory capacity, and certainly from the backseat. A good example is many times we can tell when the parent has written the essay. The application needs to be initiated and completed by the student, so your college application should be a reflection of you and only you, and really you are in the best position to complete your own application. So the parent really should serve to support in a secondary way anyway they can.
This process kind of reminds me of taking your driver’s test. It’s only you. Your parent can’t and shouldn’t do it for you. You have to do it yourself. They can teach you how to drive and support you through it, but the test has to be done by only you.
[0:10:11.5] BW: Can we talk about the technical side of reviewing? Let’s say we do find that teacher, or that counselor, or even a peer that we really trust, and we’re saying, “Okay, I want you to read over my application for me.” How do they actually do that? I am not as familiar with the current interface of the Common App or the Coalition App, so can you have like a reviewer or do you…I guess you wouldn’t give them your password, but would you paste it into an email? What do you recommend there for the actual process for reviewing?
[0:10:40.8] KM: There is a couple of things here. I would recommend that the student has the person come alongside if they can at their computer and read it at their computer. If they can’t, they can print it out and give it to somebody to read it. The other thing I wanted to mention is when a student submits an application at Bucknell, they obtain a Bucknell portal, which is unique to them. And this enables them to not only submit materials but also to receive communications from us. They can give access to this portal to a family member or a trusted friend but it is not encouraged. So the best way for reviewing is to have them either look at your computer or to print it out and hand it to somebody for review, which would be more likely if it was a counselor or a teacher.
[0:11:26.7] BT: Let’s talk about the point where students are ready to click “submit.” In the beginning of the podcast, we talked about how there is no advantage to submitting your application super early, but you definitely you don’t want to wait until the last minute. Should students maybe give it an extra day or two to breathe before they actually send that off to admissions?
[0:11:46.5] KM: Yes, Brooke, this is a great point. Absolutely, highly, highly recommend. And this applies to everything, not just your college application. Let it sit, let it simmer, let it breathe — whatever metaphor you want to use. Go back the next day or two later and read what you wrote. Is it accurate? Is it creative? Is the information communicated well? Is it unique to you? I personally do that with anything that involves writing content for something, and this method has really proven its worth over and over again.
I have another great example. Personally, I have been making custom-designed quilts for people as a business for years. Woven into my procedures for making these quilts for customers is periods of time where I put the designs up on my design board, walk away from it from a day or two and then come back to look at it anew. And this method has really proven itself out many times. Sometimes I change the design. Sometimes I’m really satisfied with it, and I don’t change a thing. But it always has helped to build that time into the creative process.
By walking away from your application, your brain clears all that it has been concentrating on, and then when you come back to it, you can see it with a fresh lens.
[0:13:02.2] BW: That’s great, and sometimes you might decide, “Hey, this is good as is.” Because you don’t have to make tweaks just for the sake of making tweaks, but you may spot something that you say, “Hey, I forget to mention this or I could have said that in a better way.” I think that’s really smart, and I love that metaphor. Thanks for sharing that.
There’s the application, but then there’s also all of the extras. We should also really kind of go through the checklist there because you want to make sure all of that is on time too, and it might be easy to forget about things like letters of recommendation, financial aid, scholarship applications. I know that at Bucknell, the deadlines are the same, right? What’s the recommended process there?
[0:13:41.1] KM: As I mentioned earlier, a Bucknell portal is established once a student submits an application and in this portal is a checklist that the student can use for making sure that all paperwork gets submitted. We encourage you to review your checklist for any items missing from your application. We send out regular communications and reminders of anything that’s missing. It is really hard to miss if you’ve forgotten something.
I’ve heard of quite a few students who create their own timeline for important deadlines just to make sure they don’t miss any. It is especially important if you are applying for one or more scholarships that you put some reminders in your calendar to get that paperwork in on time. And make your deadline one week in advance of the real deadline just to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to collect the information.
We do communicate really well and frequently with our applicants, so unless you are not opening the emails, it’s really hard to miss a deadline.
[0:14:37.4] BT: Speaking of communication between applicants and admission folks, once the student sends off that Common App or Coalition App, is there any chance to communicate with admissions if you forgot something really important, or need to add or possibly subtract anything from your application? Is that possible?
[0:14:54.7] KM: Phantom regrets. Once a student clicks “submit,” the application really can’t be changed by the student. If they need to correct something — for example, maybe they realized their birthdate is incorrect or something else — they can email our general admissions email and submit a request to change the information. That’s not a problem at all. Once our data team receives that email, they go in and change the application.
And if the student would like to add another document or anything else that they think might help their application, they can send it via our appdocs email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll add it to their application. Our data team is phenomenal at keeping track of everything and updating applications. Once you send in a change via email, it gets changed pretty quickly, so no worries. Don’t fret about it, and you can always be in touch with any of us counselors in our office if you wanted to change something or add something.
[0:15:55.0] BW: That might come into play if you get an award maybe in early December, and it is after the deadline. You’ve already submitted but you think that might help your case. Is that something that a student would then go ahead and say, “Hey, by the way my school gave me this honor and thought you guys might like to know,” or is it really too late at that point?
[0:16:13.6] KM: Oh no, absolutely, and that happens a lot. Students will reach out to the counselors in our office. We are divided up into territories, so you would just have to go on the website and look up the admissions counselor for your territory, and then just write them an email and attach that award or scholarship, and we will make sure that it gets into your file.
[0:16:36.5] BW: Then how about getting on the other end of it, if you say, “Hey, I realized I accidentally pasted the wrong version of my essay”? I know [for] a lot of students, we actually recommend that they write their essay in a different document, not in the app itself. But if they say, “Hey, I accidentally pasted the wrong version of the essay. That was version one. I had meant to send you version 21” — is there any recourse there if they realize that or is it just kind of, “Hey, sorry”?
[0:17:02.4] KM: Yes. Yeah, you can send in the correct version, and we’ll see that it gets added to your file. Yeah, absolutely.
[0:17:09.2] BW: Finally, kind of just thinking bigger picture now, after you click “submit” I can imagine that there is some natural anxiety that’s going to come up in that moment — like, “Did I mess something up? Have I done enough here? Did I say the right things? Did they even receive my application?” How do you kind of ease that anxiety that every student is naturally going to have in such a high-pressure moment?
[0:17:32.4] KM: First and foremost, take a deep breath. That was a major project, good for you. And this is a stepping stone. Remember that you can always add supplemental material if you want. You will know that we received your application because we will send you confirmation of that.
A good thing to remember is your college application is a culmination of all your accomplishments and your abilities, as well as the synopses of who you are and what you are all about. This is why it’s important to make sure you’re represented well through your application. Portray the best version of yourself, I can’t stress that enough. A big thing to remember is that there are humans on the other side of that application who will read your information. We’ve been there, and we’ve been through it. If you can honestly say that you gave it your best shot then relax in that and let the process unfold from there.
As I mentioned before, this really is a rite of passage, and at the very least, it is a really great experience to have done it. As I mentioned before also, it’s like taking a driver’s test or flying somewhere by yourself. Both are growth experiences and rites of passage in a way. And then, “Have I done enough?” Again, if you gave it your best shot, then you’ve done enough. What is the old adage? “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
[0:18:54.8] BT: Yeah, well I think those are some awesome comforting words to leave this episode. Thank you, Kristin, for being our guest and sharing your advice.
[0:19:01.6] KM: You’re very welcome.
[0:19:02.9] BW: Yeah, I think it is cool to see one of those humans behind this and remember, like you said, that you’re not just launching this application into space and never hearing from it again. There is a real person there that you can communicate with. And we also want to thank our listeners out there for being loyal fans of Collage Admissions Insider. We love it if you’d take a moment to share, rate, subscribe, do all those podcast things to share this podcast with your friends and family.
[0:19:27.9] BT: We’ll be back with another episode in just two weeks. In the meantime, send your questions, comments and episode ideas to email@example.com.
[0:19:36.1] BW: Finally, be sure to keep up with Bucknell on social media. You can look for @BucknellU on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and now TikTok. You can also follow our student-run Instagram account, which is @iamraybucknell.
[0:19:50.1] BT: The TikTok is really fun, definitely go follow it.
[0:19:52.0] BW: Yes.
[0:19:52.8] BT: Until next time, keep on reaching for your dreams and your dream school.
One Dent Drive
Want to learn more about Bucknell?