What Not To Do On Your College Applications

By Sam Rosensohn

Since students are really good at making unnecessary mistakes on their college applications, we’re going to review some of the more prevalent errors that can louse up an application.

For starters – don’t skip the directions. Just because your dad never reads directions isn’t going to help here. Print out the full application directions so you can check off tasks as you complete them.  This will save you big time.

September is the ideal time to start on your applications. You’ll have more time to   polish the essays, spot mistakes, and position yourself for early admission if you so choose.

Students who leave their applications until the week before they’re due often make these unnecessarily costly mistakes:

Students will miss the supplemental essays on the Common Application or slip the mouse and click on the wrong item on a drop down.

It’s startling how many students say they’re from Afghanistan – which is listed right below the United States on many applications.

In the last-minute rush to get things done students sometimes forget to tell their counselors where they applied, and the transcripts, recommendations, and student profiles never leave the building.

See your counselor the day after you click submit to be certain that the transcripts and supporting materials will also arrive on time. Colleges do not notify a high school that a student has applied – that’s your job.

Students who start early have the opportunity to review their transcripts before they’re sent out to see if the following areas are completed correctly: Spelling of name, correct address, social security number, phone number, course name, credits received, and final grades. Same for GPA and class rank if your school still has a ranking system.

Keep your username simple on your electronic application (first initial and last name will do) because if you forget your username you may have to start a new application.

On each electronic page make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page, and to the bottom of each pop-up to avoid missing any questions or directions.

Don’t forget to save your work. Generally, you will be timed out after 40 minutes. When you move to a new page your work is often automatically saved, but why take chances. If you take a call or go for a snack, use the save/logout feature.

Don’t write your essay online. Make sure you review it several times and have an adult review it as well. What you think is cool might be and it might not. Get a second opinion, but don’t let an adult take control of it, it’s yours and it should reflect who you are. And don’t overwork the thesaurus.

Don’t get into the blame game. Don’t single out a teacher for a poor grade. Rather, state what you did after you received the poor grade: went for extra help, took a summer course. The application is no place to whine.

Carefully review the summary page. Look for any place that reads, no information added, click modify and then complete that box.

Ask for help. Don’t be shy. Click on Help Desk, Technical Support, or use the contact links.

Print out your receipt. You will have a record of your application ID number and a complete summary of your application.

Spellchecking and proofreading are not the same. Students are famous for misspelling their intended majors.  Have a parent or teacher proof what you’ve written.           Don’t forget to sign and date the back page of a paper application. Don’t have mom write half of the application and you write the other half; they’re either going to think split personality, or lazy.

You wouldn’t go to the prom with a nasty stain on the front of your dress or drippy red sauce spots on a white shirt so be certain that there are no soda or coffee stains on the applications, and don’t fold it over and over so you can compress it into a business envelope.

Be careful not to mix up county and country. Many of you live in Middlesex County; none of you live in a country called Middlesex.

This next mistake was made when your parents went to school and it will be made when your kids apply to school. A student will try to customize the essay by stating toward the bottom of the essay that he really wants to attend UConn and then sends the essay to Bentley.

Use the correct browser. Most online applications function only with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, or Netscape 5.0 or higher. You can usually download them from the application site.

Pay the admission fee by credit card if possible, checks can delay the processing of an application. You will also have another receipt.

Look for e-mail confirmation that your application has been received. Print out and file the application acknowledgement. Call the college’s Office of Admission if you do not receive confirmation of application in two days.

It’s important to be aware of the impression that your e-mail address makes. One admission officer shared that a student was rejected because his e-mail address suggested sexist, violent behavior toward women. An easy solution, create a hotmail address for all college applications, SarahStudent@hotmail.com.

While many e-mail addresses are not ugly, plenty of them are silly and immature, and while I know this sounds a little over the top, the tiniest thing can pull you out of the race. So don’t let a meaningless moniker stand between you and the college of your choice.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at sam@satprepct.com