We are officially in the midst of the college admissions season! Millions of students across the world have been and will be submitting applications. And while technology is making submitting easier, there is still room for human error.
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Below are the 6 worst college application mistakes that you want to avoid before you actually hit SEND!
1. Misspelling your own name.
Make sure that your name is spelled correctly on all your applications and official documents Simple typos and misspellings—Daneil versus Daniel, Cathy versus Kathy, or Smith versus Smiht—can cause colleges to think that two different people exist. Problems can also arise when you alternate between your full name and nickname. As a result, they will have a harder time completing your files. Incomplete files don’t get read. So triple check even the basic information—name, address, social security number and birth date. In the same vein, make sure that your email address is correct and while we are at it—appropriate.
2. Ignoring application deadlines.
There is absolutely no reason for a student to say that he does not know when an application is due. These deadlines are plastered across the Admissions Office websites. If you miss a deadline, forget about that school. In fact some applications will close down and it will be impossible to submit. It is not urban legend that websites slow down and servers crash. This happens every year with multiple colleges. Submit early to avoid the stress of seeing your application timeout each time you try to submit.
Storms can and have knocked down Internet and power lines for days at a time. While many schools on the East Coast extended their early application deadlines because of storms, don’t expect that this will always happen. And if you live in an area unaffected by these extreme weather conditions—do NOT take advantage of the extended deadlines. Also remember that deadlines for scholarship, interviews, and special programs might be earlier than the general admissions due dates.
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3. Not previewing your application before submission.
Many applications will allow you to type as much as you want into different fields—especially essay boxes. However, you should do a PDF view to make sure that your complete answer shows up. If you don’t see it there, the admissions officer will also not see it. Also keep essay lengths to the guidelines specified by individual colleges. If you are unsure, contact the admissions office. Common Application caused a stir this year when they listed that the personal statement should be 250-500 words. Many colleges, however, are okay with essays that are one page.
4. Copy and paste disasters.
You may have written several essays about why you want to attend a particular school or study a particular major. And some of those essays may be similar. But do not accidentally tell Santa Clara University that you are really excited by the opportunities available at Boston University. Or tell Cornell about the amazing programs at Carnegie Mellon.
Admissions officers understand that you are applying to more than their college. They, however, don’t need to know the details and that another school is your number one choice. This is a mistake that is made repeatedly and one that annoys admissions officers the most. If you don’t take the ten minutes to check your application, you are sending the signal that you don’t care about the school to which you are applying.
5. Not submitting all parts of the application.
If you are applying through the Universal College Application or Common Application and do not submit the supplement, your application is incomplete. And if you miss the deadline, you may never have the chance to send it in. And don’t forget to send official test scores, transcripts from all schools you have attended, and recommendation letters as required by individual schools.
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6. Sending in additional materials.
I know it is tempting to send in copies of the certificates you have received since elementary school or the 20-page research paper you wrote in your history class, but refrain unless a school specifically will accept it. This also refers to letters of recommendation. I know you might have ten people that can write you great letters, but colleges simply do not want to read letters that all say the same thing. Follow the guidelines on how many letters you can send.
The most important rule is to follow directions. Not doing so sends the wrong message to the admissions office. And since your application is the first formal interaction you will most likely have with any school, it’s better to start things off on the right foot.
Purvi Mody is the co-owner of Insight Education and is an education contributor to the Daily News, Mercury News, and StudentAdvisor. She has been interviewed for several articles and books, as well as radio and television shows. She has worked with students across the United States and other countries including India, China, Korea, Dubai, and the UK on the increasingly complex college admissions and financial aid processes.