11/07/2013 07:14 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Incomplete College Applications? Been There, Faxed That

"Hu -- hello?"

"Dr. O'Connor?"

"Last time I checked, yes."

"Dr. O'Connor, it's Robert again."

"Hello Robert. What time is it?"

"It's two AM, Dr. O'Connor. I'm sorry I woke you up."

"Not a problem, Robert. I had to get up to answer the phone anyway. What's up?"

"I felt so much better after I left your office -- I really thought everything was going to be OK. But then I started talking to some seniors, and I got worried all over again. What if something didn't go through? What if one part is missing? What if -- ?"

"Robert, I appreciate your concerns at this late hour, just as I appreciated them when we talked at a more civilized time of day."

"I appreciate that, Dr. O'Connor. But do you think you could tell me the story again?"

"The one I told you today?"


"All right. But remember, I'm on the counselor advisory board of Common App, so this is confidential stuff."

"I'll take it to my grave."

"Very well. Once upon a time, there was a magical device called the Common Application. High school seniors from far and wide valued its healing powers to alleviate the tedious, boring parts of applying to college..."

"...not to mention writer's cramp."

"Robert, it seems you remember this tale well. Perhaps I could hang up, and let you tell it to yourself."

"No, no. Please go on."

"Rather than devote hours providing separate colleges with the same basic information of name, address, and current class schedule, seniors wrote that information on just one paper form, and made copies of it. This gave them more time and energy for the crafting of thoughtful, creative essays, which are the most important part of any college application form."

"I love this part."

"Students put copies of their part of the Common Application in stamped envelopes, which would wing their way to colleges across the country. Teachers would do the same thing with their letters of recommendations, and counselors sent transcripts the same way, until every part of a student's application was transformed into a complete file, thanks to the nimble envelope-opening skills of a cadre of vastly underpaid, cold-pizza eating, work study students."

"But it wasn't a perfect system."

"Indeed it was not. Parts of applications sometimes never reached their rightful file, even though they were sent with best intentions, and in a timely fashion. When this happened, the university would notify the student, causing enough well-meaning anxiety in the student to ask a teacher or counselor to provide the missing piece of the application by sending another copy -- "

" -- by fax."

"By fax, dear Robert. The colleges gladly received these vital but slightly fuzzy copies, placed them in their logistical homes, and the files lived complete ever after."

"I love that part."

"I'm glad you do, Robert, since that is exactly what will happen this year if most Common App colleges are missing any part of the electronic version of a student's application."

"And it won't impact the student's chances of admission?"

"Not in the least."

"Wow. I'm going to have to learn how to work that -- what did you call it again?"

"Fax machine, Robert. And I'll be happy to show you how it works, when we're in the office -- "

"Tomorrow morning?"

"Later this morning."

"Right. Thanks, Dr. O'Connor. I'm sorry I bothered you."

"Robert, now that you're also a school counselor, you can call me Patrick."


"Unless you think about contacting me again at two in the morning, in which case -- "

"I shouldn't call you at all?"