By the time we process the thousands of pieces of information that come in on the final day, the actual deadline has come and gone, and it's possible that something is still missing. We try to give a few days' grace period, but colleges and universities expect you to confirm that your application has been received and that it is complete.
Assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, University of California—Berkeley
Repeating yourself: When I keep hearing the same thought over and over, I really feel like it's a missed opportunity. In the application, real estate is so valuable!
Each part of it should be telling us something new ... If you've told us in one essay how you live with your extended family and how important that is in your life, don't tell us in the second essay about how the person you most admire is your grandmother ... You want us to think: "That brings a new piece to this puzzle. I like that."
Associate dean of admissions, Emory University
Asking for information easily found: When you're visiting colleges or meeting a visiting admissions counselor, ask for information you won't be able to find out anywhere else: the personality of the campus, the counselor's favorite things about the school.
If you're asking us about test scores, it sounds like you haven't done your research or like you're asking a question just to ask a question, maybe because your parents told you to. We're not keeping track of who asks ridiculous questions. But if you ask thoughtful questions, it's a chance to wow us.
[Check out 10 tips for an effective college visit.]
Dean of admission, College of William and Mary
Giving colleges what you think they want: Please, please don't give us the personal statement that opens with a couple of minutes left in the game and ends with how winning isn't everything or how you learned the value of teamwork!
Or the classic service trip essay that's about how everyone can make a difference. Or how if everyone just rolled up their sleeves and worked together we could solve everything. We're a lot more interested in the rough edges. Tell us something original.
Vice president for enrollment, Rice University
Writing a one-size-fits-all essay: If you write an essay for a university, and then you write that essay again and it's just a matter of changing the name of the university, then it's probably going to be a poor essay. And yes, we have gotten students who forget to change "Northwestern" to "Rice."
It's not just about name-checking a faculty member or academic program, either. How does a faculty member's work speak to you as an applicant? Why, specifically, have you chosen us? Demonstrating true interest and care can make a difference on the margin. And when you're talking about universities that admit under 20 percent of applicants, you may need it.
Director of admissions and scholarships, Creighton University