First up, a question about essays:
At times, I'll mention a trend here and there when it comes to essay topics. However, there are some out there who think that mentioning a particular book will send applicants who used that book as a topic into a panic, convinced they are doomed because their choice wasn't unique. So, let's get to the bottom of that. Applicants, if I tell you that writing about Dave Matthews Band songs was common and you wrote about a Dave Matthews Band song, would you be upset? I'm not saying DMB topics are common, that's just a relatively safe example I'm using.
Second up, a few questions/comments about deadlines:
This is a long one and I'm hope I'm going to address all the issues here. If there are any outstanding questions, give our office a call during our normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). While many of us work far beyond those hours at this time of year, we don't keep the full staff in the office beyond the normal 40 hour work week.
Out deadlines are generally on easy to remember dates. Before we went to the Common App, our deadline was always a moving target, which was confusing. We had to make the deadline a day when post offices were open. I remember one year when we had to move the deadline at the last minute due to the closing of post offices for a National Day of Mourning. Anyway, our deadline is now January 1st and applicants don't seem to have a problem hitting the submit button before 11:59 PM on that night. Teachers and guidance counselors get a few extra days. Most credentials are submitted late at night, regardless of the day of the week.
Obviously, some people aren't comfortable with the submission system and we are flexible about that. If there's a problem outside of normal business hours, we will work with people. If a recommendation can't be submitted electronically at the deadline, a teacher or school counselor should put it in the mail or fax it.
Back when I was in school, it was common to furnish a recommendation writer with a stamped, addressed envelope. If you don't think the person writing for you will use the online system, perhaps that's the best way to ensure the letter comes to us (and not back to you, which seems to have happened in the case above).
I don't think our fax line was busy yesterday because most teachers submit through the online Common App system or mail documents over the holidays. Faxed documents aren't so common these days.
Hope that helps! If you have more questions, feel free to post them in the comments.