College admission can feel confusing, stressful and complicated at times, but for most students, things ultimately work out well. However, your journey to college will likely go smoother if you avoid making these seven common mistakes.
Lying on your college applications. When you’re worried about getting into college, it can sometimes be tempting to stretch the truth on your applications. May-be add a few extracurriculars that you haven’t really actively participated in, or exaggerate a bit in your essay to make it sound like you’ve faced more challenges or accomplished more than you have. Or, go even further, as one student did, and create a false homeschool transcript to overcome your poor academic history. There is no bigger mistake you can make than to lie, stretch the truth, or exaggerate on your college applications. Admission officers are masters at spotting half-truths and things that don’t add up on applications. And, all colleges reserve the right to rescind admission offers and expel enrolled students when lies are discovered. Don’t risk it. Be absolutely honest in all of your college application materials.
Forgetting to build a safety net into your college list. Many students (and parents) over-estimate their (or their child’s) chances of being admitted to a particular school or group of colleges. The truth is that even superstar applicants can be rejected, especially at highly competitive schools. So, every college list needs a safety net: a school or two that you love just as much as the others on your list but where your chances of being admitted are excellent. At the same time, don’t let fear stop you from applying to schools with lower acceptance rates if your grades and test scores are in the ballpark. The only sure way to not get in is to not apply in the first place. If you have a good safety net built into your list, taking a chance on some more selective schools is fine.
Applying to a college without an estimate of what it might actually cost your family. The published prices on college websites can be both scary and over-whelming. However, the published price may not be what your family will actually pay after financial aid and scholarships are deducted. Before scratching any college off of your list because it seems too expensive, use the college’s Net Price Calculator (found in the financial aid section of every college website) to get an estimate of the cost based on your family’s financial circumstances. At the same time, avoid the “apply and hope for the best” syndrome. If the net price estimate is a small amount more than your family can afford, there may be room for negotiation if you’re admitted. But, if it is wildly off, a miracle is unlikely to happen after you’re admitted.
Failing to do your own homework on every college you apply to. Solicitations from colleges offering “free,” “easy” or “priority” applications might seem attractive, but there is no sense applying to any college if you haven’t done at least some basic research on your own to see if it is a good fit. For every college that makes your final list, you should at least be aware of each college’s academic programs, likely net price, and unique characteristics. Don’t waste your time applying to colleges that you don’t know anything about. By the same token, don’t apply to a college just because someone tells you it’s a good school; do your own research and make your own determination. After all, you’re the person who will be spending the next four years of your life attending that college.
Waiting until the last minute. While filling out college applications isn’t exactly as difficult as conducting neurosurgery, a good, complete application does take time and thought. If the deadline is tomorrow, and you’re just starting the application at 9 p.m. the night before, it’s likely you won’t do the best job. Strong essays also require thought, editing, and proofreading. So, give yourself more time than you think you need, and get down to work as early as possible.
Making your recommendation writers’ jobs tougher. Teachers and counselors are busy people, and often have dozens – if not more – letters of recommendation to write in the Fall. If they agree to write a letter for you, they want to do the best job they can. But students often make writing recommendations harder than they have to be. When you request a recommendation, ask the person who will be writing it what additional information about you might be helpful and then provide it in a timely manner. Be clear about your application deadlines and what the recommendation writers need to do to submit their recommendations. Politely check in with your chosen teachers and counselor to see if any questions or problems have cropped up, and help your recommenders get answers, if necessary. The easier you make the process for the people writing your letters of recommendation, the more time they’ll have to craft letters that sing your praises to admission!
Relying on the advice of strangers on the internet. The internet is an invaluable tool when it comes to gathering information about colleges. How-ever, some internet resources are better sources of information than others. Social media sites and college discussion forums in particular are ripe with inaccurate information. Strangers on the internet do not know you, haven’t seen your transcript, and probably don’t know as much about how admission works at colleges as they claim. When in doubt, It’s always better to rely on the advice of your independent educational consultant and your school counselor than it is to trust what strangers on the internet say about your chances of admission. This goes for both students and parents.