7 Common College Application Mistakes to Avoid
Skip these simple mistakes when filling out your college application.
Completing your college applications can be as easy as filling in little boxes with basic information about yourself. But sometimes, answering those simple questions can be tricky. With so much information to input, it’s easy to make mistakes along the way. If you’ve heard stories about students who downloaded an old application or accidentally sent UCLA’s essay to Eckerd College, you realize mistakes happen every year.
The most common mistakes can be avoided with a little preparation. Double-check your own applications to avoid these common application mistakes.
1. Using an Unprofessional (or Inappropriate) Email Address
Think it’s okay to use the email address you made in fourth grade for your college applications? Students often start their applications with their primary email account, but if your email is unprofessional or just plain inappropriate, don’t use it. Colleges will notice. You definitely don’t want to be remembered as LuvSparkles26@hotmail.com or Bieberfan4vr@yahoo.com. Create a separate account just for college applications and information – and make it something simple, like your initials or last name.
2. Missing Application Deadlines
One of the easiest mistakes to make is also the easiest to avoid. With long college lists and a lot of dates to remember, it’s no surprise that students often mix up application deadlines. To avoid missing important due dates, make a list of deadlines and schools. Jot down the school name and the date your application must be submitted by. As backup, set reminders in your phone so you’ll get an alert as your deadlines approach.
3. Under-explaining Your Extracurricular Activities
Listing your extracurricular activities takes a little more effort than entering the sports you’ve played. Colleges weigh the extracurricular section of applications alongside your grades, test scores, and essays. Take the time to make them stand out – the activities you describe will help colleges get to know you. Use the space provided to describe your sports, clubs, and volunteer work in detail. Brag about the awards you’ve won, how you became captain, and anything else that shows personal responsibility and leadership.
4. Writing Essays Based on Old Essay Prompts
Getting a jump-start on your applications is never a bad idea – unless a school’s application hasn’t gone online yet. One of the worst mistakes you can make is sending in an off-topic essay. Colleges won’t understand that you used last year’s prompt; they’ll assume you didn’t read the application or (even worse) chose to totally disregard their instructions. Save yourself from a huge headache by waiting to write your essays. Applications go online as soon as the school year starts, so you’ll still have months to get that essay finished.
5. Forgetting to Save Online Applications
Tired of hearing parents and counselors tell you to save your application every page? Even if you’ve heard this advice a million times, it’s easy to forget in the moment. Sure, online applications often auto-save when you move on to another page, but that isn’t something you should count on. Make sure that you hit the “save” button every time you finish filling information in.
6. Sending Essays to the Wrong Schools
If you have a number of schools that require multiple essays, it’s easy to get what you’ve written mixed up. Colleges often have similar prompts, and it’s no secret that using the same essay for multiple schools is an easy way to cut down on your application workload. But beware: many students forget to change school names in their essays before submitting. It’s also very easy to upload the wrong essay. Prevent this problem by clearly labeling your documents. Put the college name in the file name so you’ll never send the wrong essay to the wrong school.
7. Letting Your Parents Fill Out Your Applications
If you’re overloaded, letting your parents help with your applications might seem like a great idea. Yet having a parent fill out your application can be a big problem. Colleges know the difference between a parent’s application and a student’s. Your application is supposed to sound like it came from a 17 year old, not a middle-aged mom. Parents use different words and write in a more sophisticated style, and colleges can spot a parent-completed application from miles away. Take the time to fill everything out yourself. Feel free to take suggestions from Mom or Dad into consideration – as long as you put everything into your own words.
College Application Mistakes: Quick Tips
- Always print preview your application before submitting. What you see in the print preview is exactly what colleges will see.
- Avoid abbreviations (like cpt. for captain or NHS for National Honor Society) even if you’re short on space. Your application should sound like you – but a professional version of yourself.
- Don’t forget to keep your essays within the word count. In this case, the more doesn’t mean the merrier.
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