Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Common College Admissions Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Applying to college can be a complicated process. But, the reality is, if you take your time and do things right you can get through it. Applications should not be completed overnight and the entire college search and application process should begin well before the fall of your senior year. The keys are planning and organization.

Even if you’re careful though, there are many different mistakes you might make that could ruin your chances of being admitted into your top choice college. We’ve come across a lot working with our students. Here are a few common application and admissions mistakes that we hope you won’t succumb to…

Forgetting Supplements:  Every college has a general admissions application. In addition, some colleges will also ask for a Supplemental Application, or Supplement. On the Supplement, your college may ask additional questions about your family, intended major or even housing preference. They may also ask you to write an additional essay.  Make sure that you do not forget to submit this! Missing a supplement means an incomplete file, and incomplete files have no chance for admission.

Missing Deadlines:  Whatever you do, do not miss an application deadline. Colleges are not flexible with this. Most applications will become available in August before senior year. If you can, make sure to have everything submitted to your colleges at least two weeks prior to the deadline. This will ensure that the college receives everything in time. Missing deadlines shows that you are irresponsible, not an attractive quality for a prospective freshman student.

Not Managing Social Media Accounts Properly:  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it, social media is everywhere and no one is more adept at it than teenagers. Unfortunately, it is also teenagers who most often mismanage their accounts. Students should not assume that colleges won’t see your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other accounts. Admissions staff may not have the time to actively seek out all of their applicants to check their Facebook pages.  However, if there’s a red flag on your application or something questionable about you, they’ll check it out for sure.  You should expect that if there’s anything public, it’s possible that admissions may see it and you should do everything you can to clean up your profile before you get into the admissions process. 

One admissions rep at a recent event shared the story about how a student had been admitted to their college and he had posted on his Facebook about how he had gotten in and about all the drugs and alcohol he would engage in over the next four years.  Someone at the school saw it and notified admissions.  They rescinded his application.  Colleges are trying to create safe and supportive residential communities, so anything that would be concerning to the community well-being is a huge issue.

In the end, you should be comfortable letting anyone (your mom, your grandmother, an admissions officer, potential employer) see your page. You don’t want the reason you were denied (or application rescinded) to your number one school to be because of a status you posted or a picture you were tagged in.

Not Applying to Reach or Safety Schools:  Don’t limit yourself unnecessarily by only applying to schools where you are on target with their requirements. Apply to a variety of schools. This means safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. Safety schools are colleges where you have a very good chance of getting in because your academic profile is clearly stronger than most of the applicant pool.  Safety schools make for a good “Plan B” and are likely to award Merit-Based Aid since you will be a sought after applicant. You also shouldn’t limit yourself by not applying to reach schools. Reach schools are schools where your academic record and profile may be weaker than what the college is typically looking for. But, there’s not always a guarantee you won’t get in. Some schools look at special qualities and certain characteristics when admitting students (like a legacy student).  Or, if you are a highly recruited athlete, a first class Cello player, and it just so happens the college needs to fill the spot of lead Cellist, they could come to you. You just never know. Even if your GPA and test scores aren’t as high as they need to be, a spectacular and moving essay could blow the admissions officer away. Astound an admissions officer during an interview, too, and those test scores being low might not matter anymore. Keep your options open.

Using The Wrong College Name in the Application Essay: This one kills me.  If you write an essay for a specific college (usually in the Supplemental Application where you are allowed to name a college by its name) and decide to copy and paste the essay to use for another college (which you shouldn’t in the first place), remember to change the college name!  Unfortunately, many students will just copy and paste the essay and use it for another college and forget to change the name… so the essay with the line, “I can’t wait to join the rest of the freshman class at UMass Amherst in the fall” goes to UNH.  Admissions officers hate this.  It shows that you aren’t truly interested or invested in the college, not enough to write a separate essay for that college and not enough to proof read your application or re-read your essay before submitting.

Admissions applications aren’t always easy, but it doesn’t mean that they have to be difficult. The more you know about the process and the more research you do, the better off you’ll be. Using tools like our Admissions Assistance component or our Student Positioning component can make the process a breeze and really help to eliminate unnecessary stress. Take our advice here and you’ll be well on your way to admission as your top choice college. Until next time, best of success!

About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.

About the author: Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with the College Resource Center, LLC. Laura has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Boston College and a Master’s degree and license in School Guidance Counseling.  She also holds a certificate in College Admissions Counseling.  Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of The Smart Track™ Toolkit.

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