The dog ate my application


College-application time can be stressful as students touch up their essays, collect recommendation letters, and rush the whole package to the mail (or e-mail) by the January 1 deadline—all during the holidays. Given that January 1, 2006, fell on a Sunday and the next day was a federal holiday, the College took pity, extending its deadline to midnight January 3—not Central, Eastern, or Pacific time, but anywhere in the world.

On the U of C’s Uncommon Application Web site, Associate Director of Admissions Gerald Doyle, AB’81, explained that if potential undergraduates wanted to submit their applications after midnight in their own time zone, they simply needed to e-mail him and tell him which zone they were using. So he’d get notes saying, “I want to let you know that I live in the Pacific Time Zone but I will be submitting my University of Chicago application under the Hawaii-Aletian Time Zone, which extends it by two hours.” To Doyle, it’s a matter of understanding. “The application process is fraught with anxiety,” he says. “It just seemed like a small thing to do.” And Chicago applicants, he notes, “never take more time than they need.”

In the days before last night’s deadline (one of the last times midnight hit, he notes on the site, was central-Pacific Baker Island), Doyle stayed up late answering student and parent questions on the Admissions Office blog, set up with NSIT’s help. For instance: “My brother went down to the post office on 33rd Street in Manhattan to mail my application, and he got stuck in a long line and it is now January 4 in New York.” Doyle replied: “This is fine. To anyone else driving this evening to reach a late night post office, drive safely.” A student from Karachi Grammar School wrote: “My computer had crashed yesterday and I have only managed to fix the problem right now. All my application data was on my PC and I had no hard copy of it. I am sorry about the delay in submitting my application but it could not be helped. I will be submitting my application shortly.” Again Doyle found compassion: “No problem,” he wrote. “If you need to take an extra day...say into the 4th...that would be fine as’s been awhile since I’ve been to Pakistan and Karachi Grammar but it remains one of my favorite schools....”

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday (CST), 567 applicants had taken advantage of the extension. Now Doyle and the rest of the office start reading, a process that will go through the end of March, when they begin mailing decisions to the Class of 2010.


Photo: Gerald Doyle

January 4, 2006