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What To Do About Mistakes in College Applications

Question: My son submitted his college applications early, but accidentally sent three before they were ready. Some answers are wrong and some don’t present him in the best light. What do you recommend we do to fix the situation? I’m concerned that calling the colleges will start him off with them on a bad note.


Answer: I am sure this is causing you extreme stress, so let’s first assess the situation. You and your son first will want to decide how minor or major the errors were. Think through these questions:


• Are there blatant mistruths on the applications?

• Are the errors minor grammatical ones?

• Did he omit relevant and important information?

• Can the errors be reversed by a school counselor or teacher’s letter of recommendation?

• Is it worth drawing attention to the errors?

• Will the errors damage his chance of admission?


If the errors are minor, it is best to leave the applications as they are. Admissions officers realize that simple errors happen and that the applicants are 17-year-olds. They don’t tend to judge these mishaps too harshly. Make sure your son makes the appropriate corrections for future applications.


If the errors are major, then he should take some steps to make corrections. Since he cannot submit two applications to the same school, he will need to contact the admissions office by sending an email or letter. In the letter, he should include his name, application ID or birthdate, state that there were errors on the application and indicate the corrections he would like to make. If an essay needs to be modified, attach a corrected essay. Request that this information is reviewed rather than the content originally submitted and give a brief and apologetic statement about what caused the errors to happen in the first place.


He should also talk to his school counselor and let him or her know what happened. The counselor, if willing, can also send in a letter or call the admissions office on his behalf. It would also be a great opportunity for the counselor to really play up your son’s strengths and explain that his haste in submitting the application was simply because he is so excited about the college. Admissions officers do value any information that counselors can provide, so reach out to him or her.


It is important that your son be the one to take charge and contact the admissions office, though you certainly should feel free to be in the background guiding him through. Mistakes do happen and many students are sometimes trigger-happy when it comes to applications. While admissions officers do try to always look at the newest information, there is always a possibility that the original information will be read. How much it will impact an admissions officer really depends on the admissions officer and the gravity of the errors. That is something you will not have the privilege of knowing. So the best thing is to send in the corrections and hope that the right information and the explanation will portray your son in the best light possible.


At the same time, do make sure he applies to additional colleges just in case. Rather than getting surprised down the road with bad news, get prepared now. And you never know, he might find some schools that are an even better fit for him.


Most importantly, after you have done what’s needed, it is important to relax. No good will come from stressing about these errors for the next several months. If he gets accepted, celebrate. If he does not get in, do not assume that the errors were the sole or specific reason why he was denied. And be sure not to mention these errors then — it will only make him feel worse. Rather, focus on the acceptances and the decision at hand, which is picking the best college for him.


All the best,

Team Insight 

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