College Application Horror Stories: What Went Wrong

Improve your chances by learning from others’ mistakes.

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With millions of college applications being sent in every year, it’s inevitable that some mistakes will happen. Whether it’s something the student forgets or a mistake made by the admissions office, these issues are difficult to prevent. However, it’s always helpful to learn from mistakes that others have made. We’ve dug up some college application horror stories to help give you an idea of what NOT to do when applying to college.

Story #1: Waiting Too Long

Got a dream school in mind? If you do, it might be a big mistake to not take advantage of early decision admissions. Students don’t typically realize that many schools have higher acceptance rates for early decision applications than for those submitted at the regular deadline.

Be smart about what you post and utilize the privacy settings on your social media accounts

For example, consider American University in Washington, D.C. While only 52.9% of students are accepted overall, 75% those who apply via early decision admissions are accepted. At Columbia University in New York City, 23.8% of early decision applicants make the cut, while just 10% of all applicants get in.

If you’re sure that you would go to a certain school if you get accepted, don’t make the mistake of waiting until the regular deadline to apply.

Story #2: Social Media Spying

These days, most teens are posting pictures to Facebook, Tweeting about their daily activities and uploading photos to Instagram. Unfortunately, using social media sites like these could hurt your chances of getting into college.

According to a nationwide survey, about 10% of college admissions officers admitted to using social media sites to review individual applicants, including some of the country’s top universities. Those searches can directly affect your chances of getting into college. In 2011, a national survey revealed that 35% of college applications had been negatively affected by social media searches, up from just 12% in 2010.

Think about it – do you want someone reviewing your college applications to see your status update about blowing off your homework? Are you comfortable with an admissions officer looking at photos that make you look irresponsible or reckless?

Students should be proactive when it comes to maintaining their social media presence. Be smart about what you post and utilize the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Do a Google search for your name to see what’s out there and take down anything that college admissions officers might deem inappropriate.

Story #3: Accepted Then Rejected

It’s true: your acceptance to college could be revoked. In January 2012, dozens of students who applied for early admissions to Vassar College received an email noting their acceptance to the school. Students celebrated with friends and family, but the joy didn’t last long. Out of the 122 who were told they had been admitted, only 46 were actually accepted. The rest were sent an apology message that blamed the incident on a lousy computer “system error.”

It’s not just Vassar that has provided this unique kind of torture to students. Similar incidents have occurred at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University of Delaware and the University of California, San Diego. Though computer errors can’t be predicted, it’s still smart to wait for an official letter from the school before ending your college search.

Application Horror Stories: Quick Tips

  • If you’re not willing to commit to early decision admissions, find out if the schools you like offer early action admissions. In many cases, your chances of being accepted are better than with regular admissions, but you won’t have to commit to enrolling.
  • Social media use isn’t all bad. You can utilize sites like Facebook to highlight your achievements and strengths. Doing this could improve your chances of acceptance rather than diminish them.

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