Have you won an award or achieved something significant since submitting your application? You can — and, in many cases, should — send this update to your college admissions officers to add to your application file. Here’s how you should send colleges updates on your college application.
Most high school seniors submit their college applications around the New Year, but by mid-February, they may have received new awards, honors, scores, or another achievement that would make a significant impact on their application. Especially for students who were deferred in the early application rounds, submitting these updates can show colleges admissions officers that you’re still working hard and excelling in your academic and extracurricular life.
Which updates should I add to my college application?
The answer to this question is subjective, but the important thing to remember is you should only send the most important and meaningful updates. And, if you’re emailing your admissions officer directly (more on how to do that later), you should only send updates once or twice at the most. Avoid annoying or overwhelming your admissions officer — they can only spend a limited amount of time on your application, so make the most of all the contact you have with them.
For example, if you participated in an in-school debate competition or completed 25 service hours at a local community center, these aren’t necessarily major updates that could sway your application, especially if these are accomplishments you’ve had in previous years. However, if you placed high in a state or national debate competition or won a prestigious award for 100+ hours of community service, that would be something to include in an update. And in the latter scenario, you could lead with your most significant accomplishments and then briefly mention some of the smaller (a.k.a. school/regional) achievements toward the end. Imagine that they’re only reading the first few sentences — what do you want them to remember most?
Other things you could send include new letters of recommendation or an updated score report. Some schools have deadlines for when you can send the score report, so make sure you’ll receive new scores by that time. You can also send arts supplements, but usually sending those kinds of supplemental materials have a separate process and timeline that would fall soon after the application deadline.
But it’s important to note — this is not the time to send in the required materials that you may have left off of your application or that included errors, like an essay. If it’s possible to change, you’ll have to contact admissions directly and tell them you made an error. This is just for completely new information or materials that you would not have been able to include on the original application due to the time you received them.
How do I submit updates to my college application?
Your school counselor will take care of sending your Mid-Year report with your first semester grades, so no need to worry about that. However, you’re responsible for submitting other updates to your application if the college or university allows it — and it’s crucial that you make sure you’re allowed to send updates in the first place! Most colleges will make this clear on their admissions page, but if they don’t, you can contact the office to clarify their policy.
You will most likely be submitting your updates via email or through an applicant portal that you should already have access to. The UC Application System, for instance, gives you the option to update personal info, standardized test scores, and external exams after submission. If you’re submitting your updates via a direct email to your admissions officer, you can find their contact info on the website. It’s usually divided by location, so double-check that you’re sending it to the right person.
In the email, which should be structured like a formal letter, you should include the following:
Date of birth
University or applicant ID (like your Common App ID number) so that they can efficiently match the new info with your files
A clear explanation of what you’re updating
Attached documents if it is an updated or new score report or a new letter of recommendation
Make it short and sweet. It’s not time to write a new “Why School” essay or send an additional personal statement. This is the busiest time of year for admissions officers, so try to make it easy for them to understand what you’re adding and be judicious when deciding what to include. Make sure to thank them for considering your application as well. And, most importantly, send the update out as soon as you can after submitting your application!