College Corner: The importance of follow-through

Published on Monday, 28 July 2014 18:06 - Written by Donna Spann, Guest Contributor

Throughout the 11-plus years that I’ve been working with college applicants, I’ve seen many changes in the process, especially when it comes to technology. What was once done via printed applications and snail mail has moved almost completely online for almost all colleges.

In most respects, this has made the college application process simpler and deadlines easier to meet. After all, you can push send at the very last minute and still get in under the wire.

But waiting until the last minute — or failing to properly shepherd your application through the entire process, including monitoring it after submission — can have devastating consequences.

First, there’s the matter of those deadlines. Be sure you understand exactly what needs to be complete when. The instructions for the Common Application, for instance, warn that it can take up to two days for your application fee payment to process — which can be a surprise to those expecting it to process instantaneously.

Because some schools may not see the details of your application until the payment is processed, it’s a good idea to monitor your bank account to confirm the fee has been deducted and follow up on the application itself to see the “paid” status. That way, if there’s a problem and the fee isn’t received within the allotted window, you can address the problem immediately — instead of being surprised six weeks later when the college has no record of your application.

That may seem extreme, but mistakes happen even in this digital world, and you need to stay vigilant until you’re certain everything is in order.

One student I know submitted his application to his top school in plenty of time, but waited until the last minute to actually send the required transcript. This might not have been a problem — except the student had never set up his application-tracking portal. (Typically, once you’ve submitted the application, the university will send you an email advising you how to set up this system, so you can make sure all pieces of the application, such as transcripts and test scores, have been received.)

The university sent this student several messages via this portal, advising him that the transcript had not been received and asking him to re-submit it. But because he never set up his portal, he never saw them — until it was too late to fix it.

Again, this isn’t meant as a scare tactic, but because you’ve put so much effort into getting into the school of your dreams, I would hate to see a little carelessness wreck your chances. Top universities often get more than 40,000 applications a year, and even if only a tiny percentage goes astray, you don’t want yours to be one of them. Read instructions and follow through so it won’t happen to you.


Donna Spann is CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising in Tyler. A college adviser for 11-plus years, Donna leads a team of professionals who take a personal approach to advising that helps students navigate through career and college exploration, admissions, financial aid, and find the college that’s right for them. Have a question for Donna? Send it to You just may see your question answered in a future column.