Mistake on app
January 9, 2017 8:47 AM   Subscribe

I made the mistake of reading a completed app for graduate school after submission. I re-read an essay and it has a missing verb and period. I am freaking out that it will jeopardize my entire app, and it's one of my top choice schools. What do I do next?

I made the mistake of reading a completed app for graduate school after submission. I re-read an essay and it has a missing verb and period. I am freaking out that it will jeopardize my entire app, and it's one of my top choice schools. What do I do next?

Can I submit a revised essay? I submitted it online right before the deadline, and I don't want my app considered in the next cycle. Do I mail it in? Email the committee? Or does that draw negative attention?

Or should I just accept that it's over and call it a day and view it as a learning experience?
posted by pando11 to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
accept that it's over and call it a day and view it as a learning experience?

Yep.

(Professors leave out verbs and punctuation all the time too, even on important things like research papers and grant applications. It happens. If it's a good review process, the work is judged as a whole, not by a typo or two.)
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:49 AM on January 9, 2017 [23 favorites]


What kind of program? How many applications do they usually get? What is the likelihood your application will be read with that degree of scrutiny?

As a admin for graduate admissions I would hope the lesson learned is not submit right before a deadline, but instead take care of it a day or two early.

In any case, if you are applying for a program where you think this will be very important, you should reach out the admin or chair of the admissions committee and inquire about updating your essay.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:51 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


It depends on your program, but in the vast majority of cases the decision will never come down to a single essay, much less a single error in one.
posted by Behemoth at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Although I obviously can't speak to your specific program/situation, I am a professor who reviews application materials. At least in our program, contacting me or our admin person to request special treatment (i.e. submitting a revised essay late) would draw much more negative attention to your application than a single error in one essay. I can't remember a time when a typo was the deciding factor in reviewing an application, but there are times when an applicant's demanding, "I'm a special snowflake" behavior has caused us to decide they are just not worth the trouble. To be honest, it is quite possible that no one will even notice this typo, and if they do, it's not a particularly damning one like getting the name of the school wrong (yes, we've had this!).

The lesson I would draw from this is to try and put it in perspective -- your record will rise or fall on its own, not on the basis of a minor typing mistake. I see students obsess over the tiniest details, when really it's the bigger things like your academic record, letters of recc, how interesting we find your research project, etc. that really matter.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:11 AM on January 9, 2017 [46 favorites]


FWIW, I know this is not exactly the same thing, but my doctoral thesis contained at least 10 minor typos like that (a few found by the reviewers but most not noticed by them and found by me after submission, ugh) and more than one reviewer commented on how impressively few typos there were.

In other words, typos are definitely something that (some) people notice, but they don't expect you to be perfect. Unless it is something very short and important that should be proofread many times (like maybe a resume), people will be fairly understanding about a single typo or even two. If it's riddled with typos it won't look good, but even then, you should see some of the work produced by actual grad students and profs, many of whom managed to get accepted into grad school with horrific writing (including but going far beyond mere typos). Writing ability is a desired skill for grad students, but not the only factor.

Also, I bet many of the other students have at least one typo in their essays too. I wouldn't worry too much about it and would definitely not contact the university asking to submit a revised version, because that will look far, far worse than a mere typo, as others have said.
posted by randomnity at 9:31 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another prof, I review apps for a couple of grad programs in arts/humanities. Seconding rainbowbrite's advice. If I noticed the error I might say "ouch" or even remark on it, but it would have basically no bearing on my evaluation of the file. Of course, ymmv in other fields or if you're in the hands of uptight pedants...
posted by Mngo at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2017


raonbowbrite has it. I've read over 1500 PhD applications in my 23 year graduate teaching career, by my rough estimate. I've *rarely* seen one without a typo or two. If it's otherwise competently written no one will notice or care -- unless you make an issue out of it by sending a revised version (which is likely not allowed anyway).

You're fine, deep breaths, it's nothing. You're displacing anxiety.
posted by spitbull at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


Consider it training for the day you find typos in your papers after they are already published.
posted by ktkt at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


In relationship threads here, women will occasionally ask questions about asking men out and what to do if the man feels emasculated and rejects her invitation. The response often given is that she should be thankful that this man revealed their insecurity and misogyny so early. If a graduate program would exclude an otherwise excellent candidate due to a small typo in one essay, it's not the type of program that you would want to attend for 2+ years.

I agree with others that it is likely go unnoticed. For better or for worse, the applicant will almost always be the person that reads their essay most closely.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:50 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


I had a missing word in the first sentence of one of my application essays to a very competitive grad program. I still got in. The whole process is super stressful, and it sounds like you're using this as a focus for your anxiety now that the rest of the process is out of your hands.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 2:55 PM on January 9, 2017


To be honest, it is quite possible that no one will even notice this typo, and if they do, it's not a particularly damning one like getting the name of the school wrong (yes, we've had this!)

For what it's worth, that happened to a friend (wrong name of school), who was still invited to interview at that school. Nthing all of the above, it's a holistic review process, and unless you're applying for a degree in perfect typing always, you'll be fine.
posted by telegraph at 3:15 PM on January 9, 2017


I came in to say exactly what rainbowbrite said more cogently than I was going to. I am a professor, have been doing this as graduate faculty for 15 years, and I frankly can't imagine one of my colleagues even mentioning a typo in even our most in-depth discussions of the applications. It would be really strange for this to even come up at all.
The only other important element that rainbow brite didn't mention (if this is the humanities or social sciences , that is -- I don't know about criteria in any other disciplines) is reaching out to a couple of professors in the dept. whose work you admire (if you don't know any of their work, look on the website to see whose research area is close to your own and then read something they wrote!) and try to show them why you'd be an intellectually appealing and enthusiastic, hardworking and interesting person for them to mentor. Mention them in your application. Probably the main thing that sets one grad student apart from another with similar recommendation letters, grades, and writing abilities is that faculty want to work with them -- in part just bc we of course don't want students to find themselves adrift.
posted by flourpot at 9:49 PM on January 10, 2017


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