Top 10 Tips for 2012 Application – #5 Submission of Documents

This is the fifth entry in our “Top 10″ list to assist you with understanding the process of submitting your 2012 admission application to SIPA.  This tip is closely tied to one that appeared in our other Top 10 Series focused on communicating with our office.  This important tip directly relates to the application process so I am including it in this list as well, along with some additional important insights.

I want to emphasize once again that our preference is that all applicants submit 100% of the documents and information required to apply via our application Web site.  In a “perfect world” if all of your information and associated documents are submitted online, they will print out in order all at one time and we can review your application for completion without having to look for documents that have been mailed.  This is the fastest and most efficient way for us to process applications.  Remember that we ask applicants to self report test scores on the application and we accept/prefer uploaded copies of transcripts.  We also encourage letters of recommendation to be submitted online.

We do understand that some applicants will have to mail transcripts or that letters of recommendation may come in via mail.  Some schools will only mail transcripts and some individuals are not comfortable with technology and wish to mail letters of recommendation.

If something does need to be mailed we highly recommend using a private mail courier.  Columbia is a huge university with one central mail room.  All “standard” mail is funneled to the main mail room and it can take a week or more for mail to be sorted and sent on to us.

By utilizing a private mail carrier the parcel will be sent directly to our office, avoiding delays.  Also, we highly recommend getting a tracking number whenever something is mailed to our office.  This way, the moment we sign for the package the courier will log delivery and you will be notified if you have signed up for email notification.

If you know that a letter or transcript will be mailed to our office, I offer the following advice – provide the recommender or school with a prepaid envelope for mailing.  For example, if a recommender tells you that s/he will not be uploading their letter, visit a mail carrier and prepay for an envelop addressed to our office with a tracking number.  Then give this envelop to the recommender or school that is going to mail the document.  This simplifies the process for the recommender or school and provides you with a tracking number so that as soon as we sign for it, you will know.

Question:  If all of my documents are NOT submitted online, will my application review be impacted in any way?

Answer: The answer is both yes and no to this question.  First the “No.”  How documents are submitted has no impact upon the decision the Committee makes.  So although we prefer that documents be submitted online, we do not penalize applicants in any way if a document is received by mail.

Now the “Yes.”  If documents are mailed to our office it will take us longer to track them in our system.  Again, when we complete an application has no impact on the ultimate decision, as long as all of your documents/information is submitted by the deadline.  However, if documents are mailed it will likely take us longer to complete the tracking process.  This means that you will likely have to wait longer for us to confirm that all of your documents have been received.

In summary, how documents are submitted has no impact on the admission decision, however it can impact how long it takes us to inform you that your application has been completed.

Question:  Is it okay if I mail my personal statement and résumé in addition to submitting them on line?

Answer:  No. Please upload your two résumé documents and your responses to the personal statement.  DO NOT send paper copies of these documents to our office.

Question:  Can I mail other documents to your office?  For example, a copy of my undergraduate thesis or a policy memo I composed?

Answer:  No. Please only submit the documents we ask for on the application site.  I know this may sound harsh, but we want treat all applicants the same and we only have roughly six weeks to review several thousand applications.

However, we do encourage applicants to list relevant skills/experience/projects in the résumé, and if this means your résumé is longer than a “typical” résumé that is fine.

So for example, if you completed a thesis would like to provide a brief synopsis in your résumé, that would be completely acceptable.  For full details on our résumé preferences, see this entry.

On a final note for this entry, even if 100% of the documents/information required to apply are submitted online, it can take us up to two weeks to send out a confirmation message stating that an application is complete.  Documents submitted are not automatically marked as received because we need to review each document for readability.  We appreciate your patience as we work as quickly as possible to make sure all of the information submitted is readable and complete.  When a file has been certified as complete, we will send an email message.