3 College Application Mistakes

It’s safe to say that high school students in generation Z are staying busier and accomplishing more than ever. Between academics, extracurriculars, and demonstrating sufficient passion for achievement, teens are starting college well prepared and driven to succeed.

Yet no matter how many A’s you’ve earned or hours you’ve volunteered, admissions counselors only have a few moments to review your file before making a decision. At the most competitive colleges and universities, acceptance or rejection sometimes hinges on trivial details – details you can’t afford to ignore.

Don’t submit your common app until you’ve reviewed this list of preventable mistakes and checked your application for these all-too-common errors.

Ignoring important details

Don’t hit “send” until you’ve answered all of the questions on the application. You want to give your admissions counselor as complete of a picture as possible. Failing to submit supplemental essays, for example, is an easy way to give a school a better chance to get to know you as a person, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Also, never submit an application before you’ve had a chance to review it for typos and glaring errors. Writing about how you want to attend Harvard when you’re sending an application to Yale probably won’t go over well with your admission counselor.

Make sure you:

  • Read directions. Don’t miss important deadlines. They’re different at each school, so consider tracking them on your calendar or a spreadsheet, giving yourself several days’ notice to complete essential tasks. Create an application timeline, and don’t wait to apply at the last minute.
  • Proofread thoroughly. Print your application and look for mistakes on paper instead of trying to find them on-screen (and definitely not on a mobile phone).
  • Pay attention to scholarship directions. Some schools make scholarships easy and will automatically consider you for a merit award. Others won’t, requiring you to submit a separate application. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply since award money is often distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Missed a deadline? Consider applying for a private scholarship instead.
  • Truthfully enter activities information. Don’t assume your resume will suffice. Also, don’t exaggerate your role or how much time you spent participating.

Failing to demonstrate an authentic interest

Demonstrating interest is a great way to tell admissions counselors that you may actually attend if admitted. It used to be that visiting campus, taking a tour, and speaking with an admissions counselor were important ways to accomplish this, but in 2020, a virtual visit will suffice.

Specifically, you can:

  • Go to the information session at your high school’s guidance department. This is an easy way to meet your admissions counselor in person. Remember, this is the person who will be reading your application, so this is a great way to make a memorable, and hopefully positive, impression.
  • Complete any supplemental essays. Answer additional prompts and customize your responses to the specific college.
  • Take a department tour, either via Zoom or in person. Come prepared with a list of thoughtful questions and take notes. When you write your supplementals, include information learned from the tour in your essay.

Waiting until the last minute to apply

Don’t procrastinate. According to Business Insider, colleges track when they receive your application.

The earlier you apply, the better off you are, the thinking goes – and that’s especially true if the college you love uses a rolling deadline. “Rolling” means they admit students as they apply instead of releasing decisions all on the same day, often in the spring.

The same goes for financial aid. There’s only a certain amount of money to go around, and filing late can affect how much money you’ll get. You’ll complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, as a first step. But don’t worry if you don’t qualify for need-based aid because many private scholarships that don’t take income into account are available

Last Updated on November 23, 2020