More students than ever are applying to our nation’s college and universities, and that means the competition for places in the Class of 2018 will be tougher than ever. As prospective collegians work on their applications and burnish their essays, admissions officers are bracing themselves for the onslaught of over-the-top college recommendations and 11th hour phone calls from frantic parents. What are some of the college application pitfalls to avoid? We’ve asked some admissions officers to weigh in with some of the most common mistakes made by college applicants. Here’s your chance to get smart!
1. Leaving stuff out. Believe it or not, the most common mistake is omitting key information. Check and double check the requirements of each college, and make sure you include all the information and documentation requested. And if you are a transfer student, make sure you accurately list your previous education and provide sealed transcripts in order to receive credit transfers.
2. Relying on the Common Application. With the Common App, you can apply to many schools with a click of your mouse — but one size doesn’t fit all and many colleges require supplemental material. Check the requirements of each school carefully and make sure you include everything when you submit your application.
3. Beware the ‘cut and paste.’ Sure, the cut and paste function is a time saver — but it also is the harbinger of many a typo. And heed the warning of one admission director who cautions, “Don’t mention how badly you want to be admitted to School X when you’re actually applying to School Y!” That mistake will probably cost you a letter of acceptance.
4. The wrong recommendations. When it comes to college recommendations, name dropping is more of a liability than a plus — so getting a rec from a high-profile alum (unless it someone who knows you well) can not only be a waste of time, it can backfire. Instead, opt for a teacher or mentor who knows you well — and remember, don’t wait ‘till the last minute to ask.
5. Missed deadlines. This is another admissions pitfall. Review the deadline dates for each school, make a calendar and then get busy compiling all the necessary documentation for each school. And be aware that scholarships and honors and other academic programs may have separate deadlines than the one for general admissions.
6. Padding extra-curriculars. Put simply, don’t fall into the laundry list trap. It isn’t the number of extra-curriculars that impress admissions officers, it is the passion and time you bring to outside activities.
7. Gaming early admission policies. Sure, apply for an early decision, early action or early admission program can take out a lot of anxiety. But before you send in your application, be sure this is your first choice school and check the terms.
8. Who wrote this essay? Admissions counselors are professionals — and they’re very good at spotting essays that are authentic and those that have been heavily edited or even written by well-meaning parents, college ‘coaches’ or another third party. Your essay is important — so write it yourself.
9. The Facebook faux pas. Social media has established itself in our culture, so you can bet college admissions officers are checking out prospective students on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Check your on line profile — and remove any content that might be questionable.
10. Missing financial aid opportunities. Filing a FAFSA is essential, but then it is up to you to hunt down niche scholarships and things like in-state tuition reciprocity for some out-of-state applicants. And remember, never, ever pay for financial aid or scholarship advice