The preparation for applying to college successfully does not happen overnight. In fact, it is the culmination of years of work throughout high school. The most successful college applicants avoid these three mistakes:
Mistake #1: Blow off essay responses.
Successful applicants know that strong GPA and test scores are simply not enough. They invest time and thought in their essay responses and they don’t wait until the last minute to submit their applications. They keep deadlines in mind. They request letters of recommendation in a timely manner to allow a teacher/counselor time to reflect before writing a recommendation. They use their essays as an opportunity to demonstrate their specific interests, life experience, and aspirations not just to repeat information found elsewhere in their application. They share something that helps fill in the overall picture of who they are and how they can contribute to the overall college environment.
Mistake #2: Neglect to consider appropriate college fit.
Wise applicants’ initial lists might begin with colleges that family members or friends recommend but it doesn’t stop there. They apply to a range of schools that are a good fit for them – they include fallback and dream school options. They invest time to research which schools are the best fit for them on many levels (consider: size of student population, distance from home, financial obligations, academic interests, special programs, alumni ties). They use online resources to provide information and insight into the sorts of programs and activities available at a college. They schedule campus tours and reach out to college counselors whenever possible. They speak with current students and recent graduates. They ask their tour guides/hosts questions about how they selected a specific college and about experiences at the college that matched their expectations, as well as what they might do differently in hindsight. Successful applicants can articulate why each school they apply to is a good fit for them.
Mistake #3: Take it easy in senior year.
Applicants with the best chance of acceptance take a rigorous curriculum throughout high school, demonstrate an upward trend in academic demands, and maintain extracurricular involvement with increasing leadership responsibility. They don’t blow off senior year. Yes, of course they have fun, but they keep future goals in mind as well. They make sure to stay on top of assignments and prepare well for exams.
Although this discussion seems logical, nonetheless, these are common oversights. Successful college applicants just don’t make these mistakes.
By Marie Todd, Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.