So you’ve sent in your applications and now you’re nervously waiting to hear back. You might be wondering if there’s anything more you can do to help sway the decision. The answer is yes! While we don’t recommend inundating the admissions office with updates (there’s a classic story known in college admissions circles about a kid who sent postcards to the admissions office every week), in some cases it can be helpful to send an update to the schools you’ve applied to.
Should I submit an update?
You should submit an update to colleges if you have made significant progress in some aspect of your candidacy story, whether you’ve greatly developed your Spike, won a major award, received serious recognition from a well-known website, etc. If you haven’t done anything noteworthy, an update email is unnecessary, as it will be unlikely to move the needle on your application and may actually annoy admissions officers (they have a massive amount of reading to do this time of year). You don’t need to send an update on grades (unless it’s requested of you), since that will be in your counselor’s midyear report. We particularly recommend an update if the college cares about demonstrated interest.
Can I submit more than one update?
In most circumstances you should only ever send one update. If you know you’ll be hearing back from a competition or about a conference paper you submitted on a specific date, we’d suggest waiting until you hear and then sending the update. However, it’s fine to submit a second update if something particularly notable has happened. They should know about it, but make sure it’s very notable and not just something relatively minor. The second update better be impressive or else it might hurt your profile.
So when should I submit?
The middle of February is when admissions officers are hunkering down to make final deliberations on regular decision applicants. We’d recommend sending your update no later than the end of February.
Will they definitely review my update?
There’s no guarantee that colleges will review your update, and it’s even possible they’ve already made a decision on you (if your application was an immediate yes or an immediate no this would likely be the case). However, if your application ends up in committee (most applications do), then they will look at any additional materials you’ve sent and those may help sway the decision.
What makes a good update? What format should it be?
Treat the status update as you would the Additional Information section. Keep it short and to the point:
- ClockIt, the iOS productivity app I was working on in the fall, was published to the App Store on January 5th.
- Received 2,000 downloads in a month and maintained a 4.8 star average.
- Elected as code lead of school’s FIRST robotics team for this year’s competition.
It could be as short as that! The best updates are straightforward and easily readable. Some websites will suggest sending an updated resume, but we don’t recommend this. Updated resumes take much longer to look through in order to see the difference from the original. A simple PDF document with just the most important points is much more straightforward.
How do I submit an update?
Unfortunately every school handles updates differently. Some colleges, like Harvard and UChicago, have specific portals where you can upload a document. Usually this will be part of the applicant portal. Other schools will request documents be sent as an attachment by email. We’d recommend first checking in the admissions portal to see if there’s a page for this. If not, try googling the schools you’re interested in updating to see if they offer instructions. If they don’t, reach out to the admissions officer responsible for your region and ask politely and succinctly if you would be allowed to send an update.
It’s also worth noting that every college has a different name for updates. Harvard calls them “supplementary materials.” Princeton calls them “optional supporting documents.” Northwestern calls them “additional applicant info.”