What Are Some Mistakes to Avoid in the College Admissions Process?

Allow enough time to complete your applications, don't make assumptions, and be sure you know yourself.


This week, Elizabeth R. from Omaha, Neb., is doing her best to start her college search off on the right foot. For those of you who don't have older siblings, hearing about mistakes other college-bound students have made can be a huge time saver. Take a look at some of these mistakes that are completely avoidable, and if you have some of your own, share them in the comment section below!

Q: In your experience, what are some of the most significant and avoidable mistakes students make throughout the admissions process?

A: Don't make assumptions, look for short cuts, or second guess!

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University With so many options and choices, students often look for shortcuts and make incorrect assumptions regarding institutions that seem similar. Don't fall prey to these pressures! Research policies, requirements, and deadlines—college by college. Find the distinctive characteristics of each school on your list; respond to and communicate about those things that resonate for you, not what you think someone wants to hear or expects.

[Search for the right school for you.]

A: Avoid these avoidable pitfalls.

Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Do not wait until your senior year to start your college search; you aren't giving yourself enough time to construct an appropriate list. Do not apply to schools to which you would not want to go. There are enough options out there and you have no excuse for not having a list full of schools to which you'd love to go. Make it happen! Finally, do not try to lighten your academic load in your senior year. Additional free time may be tempting, but colleges will wonder why you are suddenly taking four academics when you've taken five all along.

A: Don't forget your online identity.

Jolyn Brand, founder and director, Brand College Consulting One of my past clients looked great on paper and I thought he was a shoe-in for his selective colleges. Then he "liked" my Facebook business page and I clicked on his account. Wow! College admissions officers may check applicants' online identities, meaning their MySpace and Facebook accounts. Students should delete anything that they wouldn't want their mom or a prospective college to see, whether that be sarcastic jokes, bad pictures, or political cartoons. Be cognizant of what your "friends" post of your wall and check tagged pictures to make sure you want to be identified. Just remember to present the best 'you' in the application and online.

[Read about how scholarship applicants can harness social media.]

A: Know yourself and take time to build a strong application.

George Mills, vice president for enrollment, University of Puget Sound Three easy steps lead to reducing mistakes in the college application process: 1) starting the application process early enough to complete it with time to review and edit your responses; 2) taking the right courses to prepare for college admission; and 3) knowing oneself. Students who don't have a basic understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests have difficulty communicating themselves to college admission officers. Not taking the right courses in high school will lead to foreclosing on options for a college experience. Finally, shoehorning the completion of a college application into too little time to complete it is a sure recipe for failure.

[Learn 8 strategies for starting your college application process.]

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for 30 more experts revealing avoidable application mistakes, and to have your own questions answered.