By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
Seniors, as you navigate your college applications this Fall, be sure to avoid some of these common mistakes:
1. Writing “See attached” in Activities section of common app
Fill out this section, even if you upload your activities resume in the Additional Info section on the Writing page of the Common App. When colleges print your file, what if your resume page gets lost? Then all you would have written is “see attached” instead of taking the opportunity to list your accomplishments. This would be tragic, so take the time to carefully fill out the Activities page. Print preview it multiple times, too, because the boxes can cut off your data when it’s printed. Be sure to fill up the white space, and use bullet type descriptions to explain your activities, not full sentences.
2. Doing the apps the night they are due
This is an awful idea and you are sure to be rejected. Your apps will be messy and full of type-o’s so you will be an easy person for admissions officers to put in the trash can. I once saw a 4.0 kid with a stellar resume get rejected from every college except his safety school because he thought he could do his apps the night they were due. He was wrong, and he went to his safety school. I have never seen a first draft of anything that I thought was good enough to submit, so be sure to start your applications and essays now. To do these well, it takes weeks. Many of your peers have been writing and editing all summer, so get started now.
3. Not having someone else proofread the application before submitting
No one can edit their own work. Professional writers have editors. You are a stressed out high school kid, so you definitely want someone who cares about you to look over your essays AND your actual applications, before you submit. And ask them to do this at least a week before something is actually due, so they are not stressed and hurrying when they read for you. A great rule of thumb is to have all apps done by Thanksgiving, so make the best use of September and October. That’s how you can get great results!
4. Talking about the same thing in multiple essays
Watch out for this one. You have very limited space to sell yourself to your colleges, so the last thing you want to do is repeat yourself by talking about a certain activity twice. To avoid this, you need to look at each college individually and see which essays they are asking for. Make sure they are not getting duplicates, and also see #5…
5. Not talking about your strengths
Be sure that each college gets to read about your greatest strengths. The admissions officers do not know you from Adam, and they are not mind readers, so remember that you have to tell them that you are the best beekeeper within a three state radius. You might be famous in your county, but be sure to politely and humbly explain that on your apps, since people in other states won’t know.
6. Not checking the box for “Merit Aid”
Every, every, everyone should check this box. Merit Aid means “you deserve it” so don’t take yourself out of the running for free money. Let the colleges decide who should get it.
7. Not doing something optional
An optional essay is an extra chance for you to reveal another side of yourself, so you shouldn’t pass this one up. Many of your peers won’t do it, so it also makes you look like a kiddo who really cares, and that is a good thing. Just make sure you’re not repeating yourself with info you already stated elsewhere.
That covers some of the most common college application mistakes I see, so plan ahead, go slowly, and do a careful job. You’re sure to succeed!