Document Tracking and the Admission Deadline

The most common inquiry we receive before and after the admission deadline is, “I have submitted a document via postal mail or the Web site but it does not show as received when I log in to check the status of my application. Can you please tell me if it is has been received and if my application will be impacted?”

First, let me start by stating the following – it is not important that an application be listed as complete on the application Web site by January 5th, 2009.  It is important that applications be submitted by this date and we hope that all documents are uploaded or received by this date.

Our office is happy to work with applicants to ensure the application is completed, but please understand it does take our office time to process the thousands of documents submitted on the application Web site and sent to our office. The date each document is tracked into the system is not important – it is the receipt date that is important. Here are a few important insights regarding processing.

First, do not be surprised if it takes up to two weeks after the deadline date for documents to appear as received on the application site. It is completely normal for documents to appear as not received on the Web site and this may be the case up to January 19th.

Second, we do not begin to track documents until an application is submitted. It takes us three to five days to set up an application file from the time the application is submitted.  Therefore, if you submitted your application recently and documents were sent some time ago, it will likely take at least two weeks to complete the matching process.

Third, even though you may have sent a document to our office via an express courier and we have signed for it, this does not mean we immediately track it. All documents received are first sorted alphabetically and then enter the matching process.

Fourth, as explained in a recent blog entry, there is always a slight delay in the receipt of postal mail that is not sent to our office directly by an express courier (UPS, FedEx, etc.). This is due to the fact that general mail that is addressed to our office is first sent to a central Columbia post office for sorting. This process can add three to five additional days to the delivery of documents to our office. We are aware of this delay and we account for this when tracking documents. Documents delayed by the internal sorting process are not negatively impacted.

Fifth, if there is an issue beyond your control that has resulted in the late submission of a document to our office, please feel free to send an email to sipa_admission@columbia.edu to let us know the specific details.

Sixth, please do not panic and request that another copy of a document you feel has been sent to us but not tracked be sent again. This will result in even more mail to be sorted when it is likely that we have already received the document, it has just has not been matched to your file.

Finally, if there is an issue regarding document receipt we will be happy to work with you, however we may not know this until up to two weeks after the deadline.  If there is good reason to believe an issue outside of your control has taken place we will do everything in our power to ensure your application is completed and forwarded to the committee for review. Please see our blog entry for information on standardized test score receipt for an example of issues we take into account.

In summary, do not panic if you feel you have done everything required and yet your application status still shows as incomplete. It is normal for this to be case up to two weeks after the deadline date. We appreciate your patience and look forward to reviewing your file.