Weekly College Column

Common application mistakes – 5 big ones and more to come…

I know you’re rushed, you’re sleep-deprived, and you’re anxious, but, please try to avoid the following application mistakes:

  1. MISSED DEADLINES: It’s easy to miss a deadline when you’re juggling so many different applications and supporting documents. Get the ball rolling early for letters of recommendation, test scores and transcripts to make sure that these documents make it into the right hands at the right time. Also, be aware of hidden deadlines; we call these “stealth” programs and deadlines, i.e., you only find out about them if you click certain boxes. This frequently happens with Honors College essays and scholarship opportunities.
  2. EXAGGERATING EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Admissions counselors are wary of the star athlete who is also a musician and community volunteer and fits the exact mold of the well-rounded college applicant. Colleges aren’t looking for the old laundry list of a dozen clubs where you just showed up, they’re looking for commitment and impact. List the extracurricular activities that are most important to you and the length of time you’ve been involved in them. The goal is to communicate that you’re devoted to a particular pursuit and excel at something.
  3. GAMING EARLY ADMISSIONS PROGRAMS: Some application advisers see an advantage in applying for early admission, since it indicates commitment to a particular school. But college counselors caution students against using the policy as an admissions strategy. If you’re only. doing it because you think it will give you a leg up, don’t do it. Early application designations can also trip up well-meaning applicants; before you apply for an early admissions program, make sure that you understand whether your acceptance is binding.
  4. FARMING OUT YOUR PERSONAL ESSAY: Be yourself; yes, of course, it’s challenging, so don’t pretend you’re “the ideal college applicant.” Colleges aren’t likely to believe you. This important work of original writing is the place to express your hopes, dreams and experiences — not your parents’. Admissions counselors read so many of these essays, they’re good at spotting those that have been crafted by parents, or worse, bought online.
  5. SABOTAGING YOUR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Many students make the mistake of targeting high-profile recommenders, rather than choosing the mentors that know them best. Name-dropping will get you nowhere, say admissions counselors. Opt for a solid, enthusiastic recommendation from a teacher who knows you well. Waiting until the eleventh hour to request a favor doesn’t usually sit well with stressed Counselors and teachers.                                                                                                                    College admissions are more competitive than ever. Your application is an opportunity to showcase your talent and hard work. Take care to avoid these 5 mistakes, and you may improve your college admissions outcomes. More mistakes to come in the next few weeks.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@bierercollegeconsulting.comwww.bierercollegeconsulting.com





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