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The 5 Most Common College App Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)


College application deadlines are right around the corner! But before you hit the submit button on your dream school’s application, you need to make sure you’re not making a mistake that could affect your chances of being accepted.  College admissions counselors read plenty of applications, so with their feedback below, you’ll be able to have a great application that is mistake-free!

1. Typos and grammatical errors

“The biggest mistakes continues to be very poor proofreading and editing of essays and other written material in the application,” says Jacqueline Murphy, the director of admission for the undergraduate program at Saint Michael’s College.   

Cindy Boyles Crawford, a senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Georgia, also stresses that students should “be careful when using ‘thesaurus words,’” or words that applicants get from thesauruses that makes it seem as if they have an extensive vocabulary.  An extensive vocabulary is great, but using a word incorrectly will hurt you more than it will help you.

In order to avoid grammatical errors and typos, Crawford stresses the importance of checking over your work. “Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then, proofread some more!” she says.

Reread your entire application before you send it in, not just the essay, to make sure you aren’t making any mistakes that could lower your chances of acceptance.  If you have someone else read it for you as well, he or she may notice an error that you missed.

2. Not completing all aspects of the application

If you forget required parts of the application, you application may not be considered for admission. Jane Crowley, the associate director of operations for the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Boston College, says, “Every college or university has its own requirements, and it is up to the applicant to know what those requirements are and complete the application appropriately.”

Murphy suggests that you “double and triple check everything you enter into an application before you push the submit button.  Follow the on screen instructions to a T, and if you do not hear back from the colleges to which you have applied confirming receipt of the application, you have probably done something wrong.”

3. Not telling your guidance counselor where you’ve applied

It’s not all about the application!  In order for an application to be considered, you also need to submit transcripts and letters of recommendation through your high school guidance counselor

Maureen Mathis, Assistant Provost at Saint Joseph’s University, stresses that “if your guidance counselor doesn't know where you applied, then they can't send your transcript or letters of recommendation.

“Stay in good communication with your counselors and pay attention to the guidelines and timelines they provide so you can be sure to get everything taken care of in a timely manner,” Mathis says.

4. Sending in too many letters of recommendation

If an applicant submits too many letters of recommendation, not all of them may be considered in the decision process.  According to Crowley, “If a counselor has time to only review two recommendations and the first two are chosen, they may not be the best ones.”

In order to avoid your best letters being cast aside, Crowley suggests that “if two teacher recommendations are requested, send two; not one or four.”  Quality, rather than quantity, is better in this case.  If you choose your teachers wisely, the admissions counselors will be able to receive the best letters.

You should also make sure you follow up with teachers who are writing your letters of recommendation to make sure they have sufficient time to write the letters and submit them to the schools.

5. Not showcasing your achievements properly

Don’t be afraid to explain things throughout your application in order to make sure your points get across.

“If you’ve made a mistake that requires an explanation in your application—own it!” Crawford says.  “For example, you made a C or D in your freshman year of high school. Explain what happened and tell us how you’ve grown from this experience.”

Crawford also suggests that you should be specific in your responses.  For example, “if you write, ‘Summer 2013: Went on a missions trip,’ tell us where.  What did you do?  What impact did this experience have on your life?” she says.

Crowley agrees with Crawford, adding that “if you are using the Common Application, be sure to complete the activities section.  Not everyone has the time to review comprehensive resumes, so this list is important.”

Any one of these application mistakes could make or break your chances of getting into your dream school, so staying on top of deadlines and making sure to complete your application properly will help the process run smoothly. The application process may be long and nerve-wracking, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be impressing admissions counselors in no time!  

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