If you don’t have a senior applying early to college, Halloween may still feel like a fun, family holiday. But for those families dealing with early decision/early action applications, Halloween can feel like a nightmare. So if you’re in the former group, have sympathy for those students skipping Halloween to do last minute revisions and making sure nothing has been overlooked before pressing the submit button.
For everyone else not dealing with early college admissions, the following list highlights application mistakes nightmares are made of, but boo-ti-filly, they are all avoidable.
1. Waiting until the deadline: Unseen spirits wreak havoc, computers and websites go down. Many students who wait for the last minute to submit their applications find that all their hard work is not received on time. Colleges and universities expect students to confirm that their complete application has been received. Students who wait until the last minute to submit everything have no time to follow up. Make sure that the application has been received or be afraid.
2. Saying the same thing again and again: There is only so much space on an application. Use that real estate wisely. With so little space, students need to make sure that every part of the application adds to the story, and doesn’t repeat it.
3. Asking bad questions: Yes, there are questions that will spook the admissions team or a college interviewer. Do not ask for information that is easily found on the Internet. Good questions are the ones with answers not found anywhere else. For example, ask the counselor what his or her favorite things are about the school. Do the research and ask thoughtful questions.
4. Asking the wrong teachers to write recommendation letters, or asking too late: Teachers need to know a student in order to write the kind of recommendation letter schools want to see. Translation: students should only ask for recommendations from teachers who like them and know them well enough to write about their particular strengths and specific abilities. Students should not wait until the deadline to approach these teachers either. If they do, they will not get the thorough and thoughtful letters colleges want to see. Students should choose their teachers early, talk with them, and provide them with information on each program they are applying to.
5. Missing the curriculum requirements: Interested in a school? Learn what that school’s specific curriculum requirements are before senior year. Students who look into the course requirements too late risk not having the time to take them. Start researching colleges as early as freshman or sophomore year.
6. Making Messy Errors: Make sure the name of the college is correct on the application and in the essay. Do not leave any part of the application blank. Read everything carefully and respond appropriately. Do not make grammatical errors or misspell words. Reread each application carefully, and have someone else proofread it, too.
7. Writing a generic essay: Poorly written essays will not trick schools into handing out acceptance letters. Schools want to know that a student really wants to attend and is ready to attend; the essay factors into this decision. Essays provide applicants an opportunity to share more information about themselves with a school. Also, don’t get tricked into thinking optional essays are optional. They are never optional. Take the time to provide a thoughtful answer.
8. Using more than one name: Rebecca, Becky, Becca… Only a student’s legal name should be used when completing a college application, and counselors and teachers should be asked to use the same name. Using variations of a legal name may result in materials being filed in different places.
9. Prioritizing quantity over quality with extracurriculars: Schools want to see that a student uses time out of school to pursue passions. Show consistency and commitment by choosing a few activities and sticking with them. Do more than the minimum required and take on leadership roles. Students with an idea of their career path (i.e. health care) should take part in at least one activity that demonstrates interest in the area (i.e. volunteering at a hospital).
10. Missing Deadlines: The college admissions process is filled with deadlines, and missing a deadline can mean rejection or lost financial aid. A typical college applicant has dozens of dates to remember from application deadlines to financial aid and scholarship deadlines. It’s a student’s job to keep track of them all.
11. Failing to demonstrate interest: Somewhere along the way, a student needs to get on a college’s radar. Fill out a request form for more information, visit a college fair and sign their sheet, talk to an admissions officer on the phone, attend a campus visit, or do a combination. Schools are tracking this sort of thing.
12. Catching Senioritis: Do not slack off during senior year. After 11 years of hard work, this is the final year, and colleges are watching. Keep up the grades and don’t start taking easy classes. Most college acceptances are provisional, meaning the admissions team will review final transcripts after graduation. Do poorly and schools have a right to withdraw acceptance. Senioritis can be fatal.
13. Being dishonest: If a college finds out that a student was dishonest on his or her application, that student will not have a ghost of a chance getting in. If dishonesty is discovered after an acceptance, this can lead to rescinded admissions.
Guest post provided by INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS
Last year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.