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Oops! Now What?

Your heart skips a beat. You thought you’d checked your application meticulously—it seemed like hundreds of times (and, well, it probably was). You did what you were supposed to do: went slowly, pored over the PDFs, didn’t procrastinate. But even still . . .

You found a mistake on a submitted application!

Are your college dreams dashed? Is it too late to fix it?!

Well, in life and in college admission, I’m here to tell you that the answer is usually an emphatic “no.”

Mistakes happen. You’re not the first one to face this situation, and let me assure you, you certainly won’t be the last. But what do you do?

Now what?!

If you submitted an early action or early decision application—first, congratulations! Take a minute to celebrate. You made it this far. But if soon after, you find yourself in a panic realizing that you inadvertently clicked the wrong button (those pesky buttons really can be quite finicky), the problem really is quite often solvable.

Here are the 4 simple steps you can take to fix it:

  1. Don’t panic. Really—don’t skip this step. Try to stay calm. You’re never going to make a rational decision when your head is spinning so fast it makes you dizzy. Step back, take a deep breath, and collect yourself.

  2. Go back to your submitted PDFs. If you used the Common App, you should have access to the PDF version of the application that you submitted to each college. You’ll want to determine which of your schools received the error, since errors can also happen in between your many submissions. Review each PDF to see which application(s) contained the error.

  3. Contact the admission office for each of the colleges that received the error. Remember that this is an extraordinarily busy time of year in college admission. As such, a quick phone call to admission will likely do the trick. Email might take longer, depending on the school. When you call, remember that different parts of the country are on different time zones, so plan ahead. When you get a hold of someone in admission, politely ask about the best way to fix an error. (The answer might vary by school and could even vary by type of mistake.)

  4. Of course, fix it according to their directions . . . then take another deep breath. Your college dreams are most definitely not dashed.

BONUS TIP: Fixing an error on your Common App is not retroactive. That is, simply fixing the error within the Common App will not rectify the mistake for the applications that you’ve already submitted (hence why you need to follow the steps above). That said, fixing the error within the Common App will impact future submissions; the error will not appear on those applications that you have yet to submit.

And if you’re still in need of reassurance, I’ll leave you with this sage quote:

“You need to give yourself permission to be human.” - Dr. Joyce Brothers


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