Correcting Mistakes and Second Chances: Misinformation in the Application Process

Vol. 12 No. 4


As hard as we try to perfect important school forms and paperwork, it’s inevitable that mistakes occur. Acknowledging this basic fact of life can make you more understanding when you notice errors in a student’s application. That said, you should make allowances for blunders made innocently while recognizing and confronting those made purposefully.

Depending on your mission, applications can be long and repetitive. Though you should work to remove superfluous redundancies, you’ll often have multiple entries for the same information such as parents’ names and marital status, addresses, and similar clerical data. If you notice a typo (i.e., the mother’s name is spelled as “Elizabeth” on one form and “Elizebeth” on another), it’s likely a transcription error rather than something nefarious and shouldn’t prevent the application from moving forward.

Say the mistake is something less innocent, though. Perhaps you have a family applying for financial aid, and you have evidence leading you to believe there may be a discrepancy between their reported numbers and their actual financial situation. You know your families better than any financial aid application ever could. So, if one of your applying families drops off their children everyday in a Lexus but only reports an family income of $90,000, there might be an issue, or at least a reason to question their reported financial information.

FAST – Powered by ISM, our financial aid software, will mark or “flag” discrepancies and chosen fields based on your school’s mission-based crafted formula for your Financial Aid Team to review. Once your committee has taken a look at all flagged fields, it’s left to you to contact the family and, in as respectful and polite a tone as possible, convey your findings and ask for further clarification, then deny or approve their application.

Something to consider may be the reason for the "flag." If the family omitted information on their application for fear of penalty but seems to grasp the gravity of the situation after speaking with you, continued consideration may be prudent. Regardless, the family should be made aware that inaccurate adjustments on their paperwork can result in immediate disqualification of their child from consideration, whereas if they had been upfront at the start, explanation of unique situations would have been considered.

Honest errors happen all the time. The lesson to learn is that you must ask for clarification when errors are found—rather than rejecting the application altogether—before re-evaluating your new findings against your school’s priorities for its new students. If moral integrity and honesty are part of your school’s mission, your prospective student and his/her family should demonstrate their commitment to that ideal from the very start.

Additional ISM articles of interest:
ISM Updates for Business Officers Vol. 7 No. 8 Simplifying Your Financial Aid Process
ISM Updates for Admission Officers Vol. 11 No. 5 Financial Aid Award Notifications

Additional ISM articles of interest for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 31 No. 6 Your Parent Education Plan: Predictability and Support

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