What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing your college applications? The number one mistake seems easy and obvious, but it’s actually quite common: don’t miss deadlines! It’s useful to keep a spreadsheet so you can keep track of early deadlines, scholarships and special applications, and other elements of your application like letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts, portfolios, and financial documents. Be sure to proofread and check all of your materials carefully to ensure everything has been completely and correctly filled out as you can easily miss completing a section! These simple mistakes can be difficult to fix later on so pay attention to details and be organized! This is one area where you may find it especially valuable to work with an admissions consultant to plan out your application timeline.
On that note, your application needs to be highly specific. Submitting a vague or generic application that provides few details about your academic and extracurricular activities is unlikely to be successful. Support your candidacy by providing specific details of courses, awards, leadership roles and activities, and any significant projects or work experience. You should make sure that the information you provide in any questionnaires and short answer questions matches exactly with that in your personal statement, including details such as hours worked, role and supervisor. Make sure to check that the total hours you list for your various activities make sense and are physically possible; often students guesstimate their hours for extracurricular activities and end up with totals that are unrealistic.
Your character matters a great deal. Evidence of dishonesty, cheating, or other poor moral character will cause your application to be instantly rejected. While you can present your accomplishments in the best possible light, you MUST not plagiarize, falsify or exaggerate any information. If you have any disciplinary problems in your record, you must follow the college’s disclosure requirements, but you should discuss the best way to comply with a counselor.
One important issue that may come up is the question of recycling application material. While many colleges share the Common Application personal statement, and using the same core ideas for multiple supplementary essays may be possible, you should avoid recycling essays word for word. This can lead to repetition, vague and generic drafts, embarrassing errors, and essays that are not on point for the prompts. It’s extremely important to show that you’ve done your school-specific research and that you care about the school and its unique characteristics. Ultimately, your essay is a chance to showcase your unique profile and voice, and demonstrate why you’re a great fit for the schools you’ve selected!