10 College Application Mistakes You are Making

Jul 24, 2021

Once you have completed your high school education, you must enthusiastically plan to narrow down a list of your favorite colleges based on your interest and majors.

After certain times it gets stressful for a student while applying for colleges and preparing for entrance exams. It is essential to be very careful when filling the college admission application. A minor error or just a silly mistake can disrupt your opportunity to get into your dream college. 

Ideally, there is no one path to getting admitted to a particular school. Similarly, there is no single reason applicants get rejected. Generally, it is because of various factors, not all of which are in the applicant’s hands.

Although, applicants make many common mistakes that can be easily avoided by planning and being mindful of the information you are giving to the college/admission committee.

The mistakes or “red flags” might get your application rejected if you are not careful. 

College Application Mistakes that You are Probably Making

1. Not mentioning your necessary personal details: Context is the key.

Context is vital in the admissions process. Applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds or whose parents did not attend college have different measuring criteria than the affluent applicants. The latter has had many opportunities for personal and academic growth and exploration.

But context is much more inconsequential than socio-economic situation alone. Someone might have a learning disability or is physically handicap, or a parent has an addiction problem that has destroyed the students’ life. You are an ethnic minority in your context or the applicant pool for the college you are applying to.

Understand and reflect on your situation and try to see it from an objective perspective: What is your community? What kind of home life do you have? Then, let colleges know without any hesitation. Help the admissions committee to imagine you in your context, in a whole way as possible. Applicants who leave out this crucial personal backstory often lose out in the admissions game.

2. Lack of Vision and Self Confidence

One thing that would reject your application pretty quickly is when an applicant would say he wants to study at a specific college to get a good job upon graduation. 

Not everyone is destined to become an astronaut or a Nobel-prize-winning author or the United States president, but you definitely won’t get there. You need a vision and self-confidence to reach your full potential and achieve something. 

Remember, schools read applications contextually—for students going to a premier college and getting a high-paying, the white-collar job is ambitious. The admission committee knows this and adjusts their thinking accordingly. However, it’s easier to admit someone who has a compelling vision for his future will impress the reader that he will do something great with his education.

3. Scrappy activities list: You are what you do!

Many students are in the delusion that perfect grades and SAT scores will get them in the top colleges in the US; please get out of the illusion. What you do outside of the formal classroom—your extracurricular activities—is crucial to separate qualified applicants from desirable ones. So remember to fill out your activities list!

Mention the year(s) of participation, calculate the number of hours per week, and tell the school your role in each activity, mostly if you were a leader. Also, explain any unknown actions. Don’t forget to leave out something important to you because you think the admissions committee doesn’t care about your composting hobby. And, finally, do not submit a resumé instead of completing the activities list!

4. Writing a too-generic personal essay

A personal essay or statement is your chance to show the admissions officers who you really are. Give them some clear context of your life experiences to work with as they make their decision. Your essay should be as unique as you are. Share your perspective, your dreams, and your passion. 

Your tone in this essay is a delicate balancing act. Steer clear of being cliche, and be careful of sensitive topics, such as highly political or religious motives. You don’t need to confess your sins in this essay, but you also don’t want to exaggerate your experiences. Demonstrate your values, but don’t focus too heavily on just one. Help them see what makes you unique, but don’t make the essay entirely about you—share about the leaders, mentors, and teachers in your life who have made an impact on you. If you need some extra direction, check out these 6 steps to writing a personal statement

5. Minimizing or exaggerating descriptions of extracurricular

Detailing your extracurriculars through high school gives additional insight for the admissions board to understand who you are. Don’t be modest here—list all the activities you’ve been involved in, the hours per week you committed to it, and any significant achievements associated with those activities. 

But first, a word of caution: don’t exaggerate or appear too well-rounded. If your weekly activity hours add up to an impossible amount, the reader will question your honesty. And if you have a hand in every type of activity available, they’ll wonder where your passion is. It’s okay to have varying interests, but colleges also want to see that you have specific hobbies or talents that you can capitalize on. 

6. Lacking completeness and accuracy

Before you send in your application, be sure you’ve completed all the required fields and included all the needed documents. Many schools include financial aid applications in the admissions process, so ensure these are completed if your school requires them at this time. Or they may want to know of any scholarships or other financial aid you’ve already won, so see if you need to include this info, as well. (And if you’re still looking for scholarships to apply to, check out these easy scholarships from Bold and Wisegeek). 

Completing your application inaccurately is just about as bad as not completing it at all. Be sure you read and follow directions precisely. Proofread and edit—and have a parent, or other adult proofread too—till you have a refined finished product. Don’t just copy and paste answers and essays from one application to another. Instead, customize your responses to the specific school you are applying to.

7. Always answer each essay prompt individually!

It’s difficult applying to ten schools while you’re tossing a busy schedule. It’s tempting to try to answer the essay prompts for all ten supplements with that one great essay you slaved over, but be careful here. You can score low marks on the demonstrated interest test if it is obvious to the reader that you have repurposed an essay for another school to fit their prompt. Readers tend to be familiar with the prompts from peer institutions, so they could notice and be unimpressed with your efforts.

8. Keep the words simple

Avoid filling your essays with complex  words when simple ones will do just fine. If you have a large vocabulary, don’t dumb yourself down. However, remember large words improperly used won’t impress anyone, and could be enough to turn the reader off from you altogether. The words that come out will give your essays an authentic voice.

9. Make sure to avoid “Too much information”

Too much extra information doesn’t enhance the application, rather it makes it annoying. Don’t send in ten letters of recommendation, copies of every academically-related certificate or extra-curricular activities ever earned, and a bunch of press clippings from the local paper. In general, application readers have a lot of stuff to read in a very short window of time. Don’t annoy them—be thoughtful and strategic about what extra materials you submit.

10. Realize it’s not all about you

If you think that the earth revolves around you, then prepare yourself for a lot of rejection letters in the end. Be careful of the number of times you use “I” in your essays. Do you give credit to teachers, bosses, mentors and others who have guided you along the way, or did you do it all by your amazing self? Have you thought about what you can contribute to make the world a better place, or are you only concerned about what others (and colleges) can do for you?

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