If you’re looking for a cheat sheet on how not to apply for college, look no further. We’ve got you covered.
In all seriousness, applying for college can be intimidating, discouraging, and downright confusing. That’s why it’s so easy to make crucial errors that doom your student’s chance of being accepted to their institution of choice.
So, beyond the obvious choices—such as misspelling a name, failing to meet a deadline, penciling in a cheesy email address, forgetting to add a signature, or putting Yale on an application to Harvard—what are some pitfalls that might destine an application for the reject pile? Here are seven of them:
1. Fail to proof read, spell check, and refine your writing
Your college application is like a job resume. Misspelled words, formatting errors, crammed-in information, and grammar faux pas don’t belong here. Don’t solely trust your word processor’s spellchecker, either. Be sure that recommended spellings are correct by cross referencing with Webster’s or another solid resource. Don’t try to sound like an academic by using big words when simple ones will do. Concise, straightforward writing will benefit you.
2. Be a helicopter parent
Always allow your student to take responsibility for the application process. Offer guidance, of course, but let him or her steer the ship. Admissions offices look askance at applications that are obviously entirely written by mom and dad.
3. Be unoriginal and repeat yourself
The old axiom from English writing class holds true: Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them. A skilled writer, however, always ensures that good doses of freshness and originality are thrown into the mix. Give the application enough time to come up with original ideas.
4. Try too hard to “make the sale” by exaggerating accomplishments
Be honest. At the same time, don’t go to the opposite extreme and down-play accomplishments (or leave them off the application altogether). Most universities love a well-rounded student and want a diverse student body. It gives them bragging rights. So be sure to represent accomplishments, but always do so honorably.
5. Fail to tailor an application to each school applied to
Just as with a resume, take each individual school seriously by writing an application just for them. Particularly for your top three schools of choice, have a clear understanding of what the institution is about and make a clear case for how attending there will benefit your student’s future life direction.
6. Blow the essay
Blowing the essay means you’ve blown the application. Definitely pay attention to word limits and don’t go beyond them.
7. Be unprofessional in easily accessible ways
If a student’s social media accounts have objectionable or unprofessional content on them, be sure to clean them up before beginning to apply. Admissions offices can and will check out these accounts.
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