College application is a task that should be taken by every student. Once you submit your application to a college, you enter the pool of thousands of applicants from around the world. In the age of fierce competition, admissions committees of colleges will be looking for better candidates than ever. In a condition when it is difficult to get admission when you do everything properly, what would happen if you make mistakes in a college application?
Mistakes in the application could put you in trouble, or at least ruin your impression for the admission committee just when they are reviewing your application. Here we have identified 14 common mistakes that you, as a college applicant, should avoid:
1. Unattractive Background
Your image in the minds of the admission officer depends upon how uniquely you have presented yourself. If you appear as another typical student, with average academics and extracurricular activities, you are just an average Joe. In such conditions, the admission office will forget you before even considering. Work to highlight something unique, exciting, and different about yourself. It depends on you how you present you and your background. It depends on you how unique or exciting something is; it’s your judgement. Presentation also matters here. If your application looks just like the previous student’s, there is no reason for admissions officers to advocate for you. Unattractive background is the main reason why most of the applicants cannot stand out in the crowd.
2. Unoriginal personal statement topics
Admissions officers read thousands of personal statements each year. Some essay topics have become cliché over time and will instantly make you a forgettable applicant. One of the most common college application mistakes is selecting one of these overused topics. Students often write on how they were afraid of giving speeches, but eventually overcame; their support towards people like beggars that made them more committed to the society, and so on. Such personal statement topics do not reflect your originality. Choose such a topic which is not cliché, but your own story that does not fit in someone else’s life.
3. Weak letters of recommendation
This is not the student’s fault and admissions offices won’t blame the applicant in anyway. Recommendation letters written from the general point of view are often poor. Admission officers lose a chance to learn clearly about you when your recommender has made too general remarks about you like ‘hard-working’, ‘diligent’, and so on. Such poor letters of recommendation are drafted often when the recommender and the applicant have not interacted properly. Make sure to ask teachers with whom you have a genuine connection, and don’t hesitate to provide specific information about yourself that might make their letter writing easier. For example, tell them why you enjoyed their class, what a piece of work you are most proud of, an example of a time you felt like a leader in class, etc. If applicants don’t have glowing letters of recommendation on their file, it can definitely make admissions officers think twice.
4. Use of same content in many places
Too often, students recycle content from their personal statement and use it in supplemental essays throughout the application. Using the same content to explain different queries of the essay prompt is quite dull. Use every opportunity to share something new and/or corroborate your interests – don’t just repeat. The same goes for your letters of recommendation. Admissions officers want to see you have a clear passion, but don’t want to read the same thing over and over again. You have every opportunity to showcase your personality, interests, and impact. The more diverse your application is, the stronger it is. But, beware, coherence is also important.
5. Poor Grades
This may seem obvious, but your grades are an extremely important component of your application. A student with ‘A+’ is obvious to get a preference over a student with ‘C’ even if they are equal in all other aspects. However, admission Officers can be a little forgiving when it comes to testing scores, as such tests for measuring intelligence are flawed and only represent performance on one day. But of all the college application mistakes, poor grades can rarely be overlooked. Your grades are the reflector of your academic activities in a longer time frame than the test scores.
6. Nearly Empty Activities List Entries
Too many students take the Common App activities list for granted, treating it as simply a form they need to fill out. There is just a small space per activity (150 characters to be exact), but the words add up. Each entry allows the student to share how they spend their time and the impact they’ve had on their community.
Moreover, failing to take advantage of your activities list can really hurt you in the end, as admissions officers will only have a title or general description to learn about your passions. Use every character of your activities list descriptions to make a strong impression!
7. Mediocre Interviews
A college interview is an opportunity for admissions officers to know you as a human. Use this opportunity to demonstrate why you would be a great candidate for the school, show different sides of you, and add a bit of color to your profile. Applicants who have a bad attitude in the interview won’t be taken seriously.
8. Being Too Well-Rounded
This is one of the greatest myths that need to be busted. Often, students have this impression that if they take part in various activities then it makes their application look good. They cannot be any more wrong. While this may seem counterintuitive, admissions officers look for passionate individuals who have been committed to these passions in meaningful ways. Involved in too many things without excellence in one is really bad. It is enough if you are involved in very few activities of your interest and are doing well. One of the most common college application mistakes that students fall into is attempting to highlight too many things. This essentially ends up highlighting nothing. Lack of a clear, focused passion can end up being a weakness.
9. Vague Achievements
There are opportunities for you to show admissions officers your most significant high school contributions. In some cases, this might be an art portfolio; in others, it’s a research paper you helped author; at the very least, it’s something you describe in one of your essays or others describe in your letters of recommendation. Specific anecdotes throughout your application make all the difference between a vague and abstract interest and one that is brimming with commitment and potential. Be specific or you’ll likely stay sitting in the pile!
10. Inappropriate Behavior
You never know what sort of person reads your college application. That person is obvious to have views, judgments, and values different from yours. So it is a risk to present controversial views or reference misbehavior. It is better to stay away from others and avoid emphasizing personal disregard or hatred towards a person or anything else.
11. Pretentious and exaggeration presentation
Your application should be written in a natural way that comes in your mind. It should be your authentic expression. Using random words that you really don’t know how to use in the name of making your application standard has no meaning. Be genuine, be yourself.
Similarly, exaggeration can put you in trouble. The most common exaggerations usually appear on the Activities List. Don’t inflate your title and definitely don’t stretch the number of hours you devote to an activity. Yes, admissions officers know how to count and will add up your hours if they seem questionable! Unrealistic content and numbers leave a bad impression—be honest. The problem with exaggeration is that it is unnatural.
12. Failure to demonstrate that you are a good fit
MIT likes hands-on learners who love math and science; Swarthmore appreciates applicants who are passionate about learning (a bit of quirkiness helps too); Stanford students drive significant change in their communities. Whatever school you hope to enroll in, you need to understand the culture on campus and indicate how you’d contribute once you arrive. If you fail to show how you’ll vibe with the community, admissions officers will question your intentions.
13. Lack of Application Cohesion
To ensure your application stands out from the crowd, think about how you’re marketing yourself to admissions officers. “Check the box candidates” are often lost in the pile, while applicants with clear stories and passions rise to the top. Make sure your application is focused and follows the idea of an “application persona.” Admissions officers need to be able to remember you and your interests, and crafting an application persona can help distinguish you.
14. Negligence to the importance of the process
All sections of your application are equally important. Each part needs to be thoroughly reviewed and edited. Silly college application mistakes like typos, faulty capitalization, erroneous punctuation, the wrong school in an essay can create a bad impression. So, you need to be conscious of them as well. When admissions officers read 1,000 student files over the course of an application season, they look for students who care and put a lot of effort into the application. While applicants aren’t expected to be flawless, it’s easy to tell when an application was just thrown together, and that won’t result in good news for the student.