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Application Processing and Receipt of Documents Update

I just wanted to provide a quick update regarding the tracking of application documents.  If documents are still listed on the application site as not received you do not need to panic and email or call our office.  The processing of files in our office is partially driven by when certain Committee members can read.  We thus expedite the processing of files that meet a certain set of reader criteria. For example, we want readers to be able to review applicants that share a common academic interest.  The timing of when a file is completed and then read has no impact on the admission decision.

If you are confident that you have sent materials you can rest assured that your file will be completed and forwarded for review.  We still have several thousand documents that need to be matched to files and we are working as quickly as we can.  Because of internal processing requests we are unable to respond to individual requests concerning the receipt of documents.  Rest assured that if we need anything from you we will let you know and we will be happy to work with you to make sure your file is complete and forwarded to the Admissions Committee.

Thank you for your patience and we look forward to completing and reviewing all files.  Decisions will start to go out in March and will be available via the application site.

37%

Early January is always a busy time in our office. I know many applicants are anxiously awaiting news about the processing of documents and I thought I would provide some insight into what we are doing right now to make sure files get ready for reading.

I will start with a statistic:

37% of the people who submitted applications for fall 2009 did so in the five days prior to the admission deadline.

There is no problem with submitting an application anytime prior to the deadline, but here are some insights into how the process works. It can take us anywhere from three to five days to print an application once it has been submitted. Once an application has been printed a file must be created and then the matching process starts.

The matching process involves combing through all of the mail we have received and documents that have been uploaded to our site and then printed. I would hazard a guess and say that we process well over 75,000 pieces of paper each application season. We have letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores . . . well, you are well familiar with what we ask for at this point in time.

I hope these numbers give you a picture of the process in our office. If you submitted an application slightly before the deadline, it might be a few weeks before we are able to complete the matching process. If you submitted an application well before the deadline the same may still apply. Even if you have submitted an application and several documents well before the deadline, the final matching process can take time.

Stayed tuned and keep up-to-date with the progress of your application on the application Web site.  When the Web site indicates that all of your documents have been tracked into the system this means your application has been sent to the Committee for review. 

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.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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