What Do I Do if I Forgot Part of My Application?
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Putting together your college applications is a great deal of work, and it’s a huge relief to finally be done. But what if you’re not actually done?
Despite the fact that you’ve put tons of time and attention into your applications, occasionally, something will slip past you. Realizing that the application you’ve submitted is missing key items is the opposite of relaxing – you may even be worried that you’ve ruined your chances of acceptance.
If you’ve encountered this moment of dread, you’re not out of the running for admission just yet. However, you’ll need to work quickly to rectify your mistake and update your application. In this post, we’ll go over how to ensure that your application is complete, how colleges will consider your application if it’s clear that something is missing, and exactly what to do once you realize that you’ve forgotten something important.
What do I need to submit to complete my application?
First of all, every school’s application process is slightly different, as you can see from our blog posts on various colleges. Sometimes there are even different application processes for different programs at the same college or university. You’ll need to make sure that you follow the directions for your specific program within your chosen college.
Typically, you can find a list of all the materials you’ll need to submit on your chosen college’s admissions website. The Common Application also includes similar lists in the My Colleges section. Different parts of your application materials will need to be submitted using different portals and methods, so make sure you keep track not only of what to submit, but how and where to submit it.
Required portions of the application usually include the following:
- All portions of the Common, Coalition, or Universal College Application.
- All portions of the school-specific supplements to the Common, Coalition, or Universal College Application.
- School report, submitted by your guidance counselor.
- Transcript(s), Mid-Year Report, and/or Final Report, submitted by your guidance counselor or other school official.
- Counselor recommendation, submitted by your guidance counselor.
- Teacher recommendation(s), submitted by one or more of your teachers.
- Test scores for the ACT or SAT, requested by you and submitted by the testing agencies directly to your colleges.
- Test scores for the SAT IIs, also known as the SAT Subject Tests, requested by you and submitted by the testing agencies directly to your colleges.
- Test scores for the TOEFL or IELTS (if you’re an international applicant.)
- Arts supplement (if you’re applying for a program in the arts.)
- Application fee or fee waiver.
Optional portions of the application might include:
- Additional standardized test scores, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate scores, submitted directly to your colleges by the testing agency.
- Resume. For more information on why and how to include your resume in your application, check out our CollegeVine blog posts on why you should submit a resume and how to create a compelling, professional resume.
- Additional supplementary information. In our CollegeVine blog post on What Can I Send as Supplementary Materials, you’ll find more details about what you can submit in this category. However, you’ll want to think carefully about whether submitting supplementary materials will actually benefit your application, as we cover in another blog post.
- Interview request, depending on the college’s interview procedures.
- Financial aid application, possibly including the CSS Profile, the FAFSA, tax documents, and/or school-specific forms.
What will colleges think if I’m missing part of my application?
It depends. Obviously, if part of your application is missing, that doesn’t reflect particularly well on your skill at organization and attention to detail, so it’s best to avoid this situation. Application systems like the Common App system will generally allow you to review your application before you hit “Submit,” and this is a feature you should make use of, but you’ll also need to independently keep track of what information you’ve submitted to whom. A spreadsheet or checklist can be very helpful.
If you handle your application situation well, you can mitigate some of the possible negative impression that forgetting part of your application might make on colleges. If you notice that you’ve forgotten something before the college does, and if you proactively reach out to remedy the situation, that can make a better impression on the people who will ultimately evaluate your application.
Colleges tend to be more forgiving when your application is incomplete or late due to circumstances beyond your control. If there’s a clerical error, or if your teacher neglects to turn in your recommendation letter, for instance, your college might be willing to cut you some slack. (For more information on what to do if one of your recommenders doesn’t do their part on time, check out our CollegeVine blog post on this topic.)
However, even if it’s not your fault that part of your application wasn’t submitted correctly, you’ll still need to step up and take personal responsibility for making sure the problem gets fixed.
So what do I do once I realize I forgot something?
First of all, review the policies and procedures of the college or colleges in question to ensure that you know exactly what you’re missing. As we mentioned, you can typically find a list of requirements on the college’s admissions website and/or within the Common App system.
You’ll often be able to check the status of your application and related forms through an online portal specific to that college, which you’ll be able to access once you’ve submitted your application. This portal may be able to help you determine which, if any, parts of your application didn’t make it to the school.
Once you’ve determine exactly what information is missing, contact the admissions office of the college in question via phone or email. Explain that you forgot to include certain information on your submitted application and you’d like to correct your mistake. Make sure you’re clear about what happened so that the admissions office can give you the correct advice about what to do next.
Contacting the admissions office and explicitly telling them about your predicament serves two purposes. One, if you do this, the admissions office will know to expect more information from you. They may be able to put a note in your file to that effect so that anyone who reads your file is aware that your application is known to be incomplete.
Two, the admissions office for your particular college can tell you exactly how to submit the information that you forgot to include on your application. You should specifically ask the admissions office where you should send this information. They may provide a fax number, an email address, or a mailing address to which you should send the information you forgot to include. Follow their instructions exactly to prevent your information from ending up in the wrong place.
In order to get the issue resolved as soon as possible, especially if deadlines are looming, you should specifically ask the admissions office how urgently they will need your information. If you’re sending in documents through the physical mail, be prepared for the possibility that you’ll need to send them via a faster option like overnight mail.
When you contact the admissions office to discuss the part of your application that you forgot, you’ll need to be especially polite and appreciative of their help. Remember, you made a mistake, and you’re asking someone else to assist you in fixing it. Most admissions staffers will be willing to help you figure out this situation, but behaving in a pleasant and mature way will help the interaction go more smoothly.
You may wonder if you can or should submit the information you forgot using your chosen college’s portal for submitting supplementary information. Don’t take this shortcut— it’s not the appropriate place for that information, and it will hurt you in the long run. These application portals are intended for supplementary material only, and often, this supplementary material is evaluated by specialists other than the regular admissions officers. Even if the person receiving your materials routes them to the correct office, this process will take time and delay the completion of your application.
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and admissions officers are aware that the college application process involves juggling many different documents and pieces of information. Your college applications are very important— possibly the most important documents you’ve handled in your life so far— and deserve your full attention, but if you do slip up, it won’t necessarily derail your entire application.
The bottom line is this: make sure that you deal with any missing information promptly, politely, and according to the directions you’re given by your admissions office. Coping well with this mistake and working to rectify it will help demonstrate to colleges that you’re a candidate who can handle setbacks with maturity and strong problem-solving skills.
To sum up, if you forget some part of your application, you’ll need to do the following:
- Determine exactly what you’re missing.
- Call or email the admissions office(s) in question.
- Ask the admissions office(s) specifically how, where, and when to submit your missing information.
- Follow their directions exactly and submit your missing information as soon as possible.
- Check back with the admissions office or online application portal to make sure that your missing information was received.
- As always, be polite and appreciative!
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