Preparing for College

Should We Send Application Materials as Certified Mail?

Question: Should my daughter send supplementary materials to colleges via Certified Mail so that she will know they have been received?

No! Most colleges don't like having to deal with certified mail at a time when a gazillion other envelopes are pouring in ... and even when the stuff is received, it can get lost in the filing process afterward, so any peace of mind you get from springing for certified mail could be premature. What I recommend, instead, is to wait 10 days to two weeks after you've mailed materials (or submitted them online) and then telephone colleges to confirm that everything arrived safely and made its way into your daughter's folder. Don't worry if those 10 to 14 days take you beyond the application deadlines. If materials are missing, and your daughter replaces them promptly, she will not be penalized. Also don't panic if you're told that something that you're sure was sent never arrived. This happens all the time. Usually it's due to admission-office backlog, and the materials do turn up eventually. But, again, don't freak out if you get a missing-materials notice.

Some colleges will notify you when an application is complete ... either via postcard or e-mail or by posting the information in a password-protected place on their Web site. (Your daughter should know if any of the schools on her list have asked her to register for online notification. This notification might just be for her final admission verdict but often can include materials-tracking as well.)

If you don't hear from colleges with a couple weeks of sending materials, then it's your daughter's responsibility to follow-up to ascertain that everything arrived and found its way to the right file.

Of course, in order to expedite this process, make sure that your daughter's name, school name, and date of birth are on every scrap she sends to every college. Some admission offices also appreciate it when students mark the outside of the envelope with an indication of what's inside (e.g., "Supplementary materials for Alex Alexander. Early Action applicant to the Class of 2013. Chester A. Arthur High School, Backwater, Vermont)

Good luck with all of this ... and, remember, don't panic when those "Where the heck is your _____ ?" notices roll in!