Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Transcript Frustration? Tell the Colleges

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

It’s that time of year again. Students submit applications on Tuesday, and get an email from the college on Wednesday, saying “We don’t have your transcript.” Trouble is, the student—and more likely, the parent—reads it as “WE DON’T HAVE THE TRANSCRIPT!!! GOOD LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVORS.”

And do they call the college? Uh, no.

Counselors flock to social media and beg colleges to stop this process, all to no avail. Why? Because colleges are convinced the counselors are just blowing off steam.

One very thoughtful enrollment manager has suggested it would only take about ten school counselors to contact the colleges who engage in these counterproductive behaviors and ask them to stop. Of course, this entails counselors finding the time to write the letter (you can use the same one with different colleges—like the kids!), and the restraint to craft a tone that isn’t along the lines of “You do realize you’re ruining my life?”

You’re busy folks, so I’ll tell you what. Here’s an example of a letter addressing this issue. It would be better if you didn’t send this one to the colleges—unique submissions are always best—but if you’re hard pressed, I think they’ll understand. I’m going to send mine along, but you’ll need to tell me what colleges should get this—you know, the ones that practice this odious policy. Email me here, and I’ll get it away right away. But make sure you do your part and send your letter—you are in the field, and that makes it real.

Dear Bill (Hint: you lose them if you don’t address them by name):

I’m writing to ask you to modify part of your application process that I believe is causing a great deal of excess stress among students. This is the practice where, within 1-3 days of receiving the student’s application, you send them—and only them—an email saying their application is incomplete, and you need their transcript, letters, etc.—things sent by the student’s school.

I don’t know what it’s like in other schools, but at my school, nearly all the students request their materials to be sent only after they send in the application. Under the current process, this usually means they ask me to send their materials within a day or two of when they apply. Meanwhile, they get the email from you that tells them things are missing before the school has the chance to send the materials, and both the student and their parents panic.

We all know the application process has its own challenges, but I can’t overstate how much anxiety this causes students. Just when they think they’ve done everything they’ve needed to do, they get a message suggesting they haven’t, even though most of the time, they have. I know it’s important to get a complete file to you right away, but given the caseloads and other duties most counselors have, I really think the transcript system we have in place gets things out as quickly as possible—in most cases, within a week (NOTE: say this only as long as it’s true).

If you could set up your application review system to send the counselor an immediate reminder of what’s due, then only send one to the student if you’ve received nothing after ten days, that meets everyone’s needs in a clear, sane way.

I’d be happy to talk about you more about this. Here’s my contact information.

Please understand, I am writing in the best interest of my students, our mutual focus of attention.

Thank you for all you do,


  1. I'm now happy to know I'm not the only one!

  2. Agreed, this is a significant issue. Both the parents and the students contact me, exceedingly frustrated...

  3. Northern Arizona U has been the worst for me. I sent the transcript through the SendEDU link the day it came to me. One month later, they're still sending the student "We don't have your transcript" letters. Yes. You do. Check your records. I sent it again anyways. But, sheesh!

  4. While you're at it, let's add something to the letter--let's add the SRAR reports and how difficult it is to find the SRAR link. Sometimes the university says they'll send the link to complete it after they receive the Common Application, sometimes you have to discover it on the website, sometimes a link is in the My College section of the Common App. It's nuts. Common App should include it in their application so student only need to type it in once. (Isn't that why they created a "Common" App in the first place?)