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5 Mistakes to Avoid on Your College Application

July 22, 2009 By: Category: Admissions insider, Application tips, Best College Tips, Get into College

As summer is coming to an end, high school seniors will begin to think about applying to college.  Having worked in college admissions for over 10 years, I’ve seen my share of stupid mistakes from students in completing their college applications.  While many professionals will give you advice on how to construct the perfect application,  few will share the unfortunate errors with you.  Today’s blog will cover the top 5 mistakes that I’ve seen.

 1.  E-mail addresses:  While some individuals might want to assert their originality and their independence with a unique e-mail address, think carefully about which address you share with colleges.  When it comes to communicating with colleges and universities, use a general, plain, yet professional sounding, e-mail address.   [email protected]… is probably not a memorable e-mail address you want to provide colleges with.

2.  Proofread the essay:  Too many students fail to closely proofread their essay.  While students might attempt to personalize the content of their personal essays, it can also backfire.  I remember an essay in which a student concluded a decent essay with “And it has been my life long dream to attend {INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL HERE}.”  Obviously, the student was using this for multiple colleges.  Call me old-fashioned but the “{INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL HERE}” didn’t seem to genuine to me.   

3.  Campus visit attire:  This might be a personal pet peeve, but there are two aspects of people’s attire that I find unnerving.  1.)  Students who do not dress nicely for their visit.  Students should consider a campus visit as a potential job interview.  While students don’t need to wear a coat and tie or a dress, dress respectfully.  Cut-off shorts, a tank-top, and flip-flops don’t do it for me.  2.)  While this might seem petty, I don’t like it when students show up on campus wearing a t-shirt or a sweatshirt from another college.  Think about it:  If I were applying for a job with Coca-Cola, I won’t show up to the interview with a Pepsi can in hand.  Not a good idea. 

4.  Letters of Reference.  Students should carefully select who writes their letters of reference.  Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of reference letters.  Reference writers should know the student in an academic, professional, or extracurricular fashion.  Reference writers should not be family members.  I can remember at least 3 mothers writing letters of reference for their children, and I can recall a transfer students whose wife wrote a letter of reference for him.  Fortunately, I haven’t seen any letters of reference come from the pet dog or cat.  Or, at least not yet. 

5.  Parental Involvement:  Speaking of parents, I encourage students to take ownership for the college search and application process.  When it comes to corresponding with admission officers, unless there is a unique situation, the student should be the one contacting the school-not the parent.  During an information session, parents should allow students to ask their questions first, and when it comes to a personal interview, unfortunately, the parents aren’t invited.  I once had parent so angry with me because I wouldn’t allow her to sit in on an evaluative interview with her son that she threatened to contact the President of the university.   I wonder if that parent will be there for the student’s first college exam, taking the exam for the student. 

 Again, please remember not to repeat any of these mistakes.  While following these rules won’t necessarily guarantee admission to your top-choice college, it will prevent your mistake from being posted in a similar blog in the future. Good luck with the application process, and if you have any other mistakes in the application process that you’ve come across, please post them here.