Blog 🍎 School 22nd March 2024

How Incomplete Applications Keep Students From Their Top Choice US Universities

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Rebecca Hambery Schools Content Writer

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or early in your career as a counsellor, navigating the admission process in the United States is no easy task. For the last 10 years, BridgeU has helped international school students embark on a journey to find their best fit universities.

We know students spend a lot of time researching universities and once they narrow down their options, they will take the leap to apply. But, incomplete applications are a common reason students do not receive offers from their top choice universities. 

So, what is an incomplete application?

Students applying through Common App or directly to the university are able to submit their applications even if there is missing information. This means the universities won’t be able to fully process their applications until they’ve received the correct documentation. These applications would then be considered incomplete.

We have found that on average, 40% of BridgeU student applications to our partner universities in the US are currently incomplete.

Common reasons an application is marked incomplete are due to missing or incomplete…
  • Academic records or test scores
  • Application fee
  • Recommendation letters
  • Personal essay
  • Financial support documentation
  • University-specific questions

Often, students are unaware that their application is incomplete because each university’s application checklist has different criteria for completing their application file. And, unfortunately, that means your students could be left wondering why they never heard from some of their top choices or why they received a rejection letter.

“The US process has many quirks, and from my 15+ years of experience as an international admissions officer at a variety of US universities, I think it’s a topic that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be! Like all parts of the US process, there’s not a standardized approach to the threshold a university has for what they consider “complete” for the purposes of reviewing applications.”

Jen Mathews, Head of Student Engagement and Partner Success, BridgeU

We recommend asking the admissions officers you’re communicating with if there are particular documents they need to move your students’ applications out of the incomplete status and on to the admissions committee for review.

Even if the application deadline has passed, students still have the opportunity to complete their applications if they were submitted on time. However, they’ll need to be completed as soon as possible to ensure the student does not miss the admission review window.

How you can support your students through this process
  • Understand what makes an application incomplete
    • Use the information you have learned above to create a guideline on what to check for students who have applied to US universities. For example, when it comes to the application fee, a student may have a fee waiver as classified by Common App, but there are some universities that do not accept the waiver for international students. In those cases, all it would take to move their application forward is paying the application fee.
  • Check-in with your students
    • Students can check their application status through the university student portal and it’s possible the university has emailed them about their missing documents. Encourage your students to check their spam folders as these automated emails may end up there.
  • Make sure the School documents have made it to the right university in a timely manner
    • Predicted grades and recommendation letters are among the items students may need from their school in order to complete an application.
  • Communicate with parents about their involvement
    • Documents that parents are responsible for, like financial support forms or application fees, can hold up the admission process for their child.

This is just one step in the US admissions process, but it is a crucial step. Counsellors and students work hard on applications to universities and we don’t want that hard work to go to waste.

BridgeU is a trusted careers and application platform used by over 1,000 international schools in over 140 countries. To learn more about how BridgeU can help your school, reach out to our Education Partnership team below.

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