The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

Avoiding Common College Application Mistakes

January 29, 2016

Girl working on college applicationsApplying for college can be one of the most important undertakings that students do in their young lives. However, because of such factors as inattention, carelessness and rushing, college application mistakes are common. They often can be avoided through patience, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and a serious determination “to do my best.”

Below are tips for avoiding some of the most common college application mistakes. We encourage you to share it with any college-bound students in your life.

Not reading the directions – Colleges and universities spend a lot of time carefully creating applications that reflect their aims and ethos. Students who fail to take the applications seriously send a signal that they don’t take education seriously. Read the application carefully and thoroughly, and follow the directions implicitly.

Cutting corners – Is a “résumé” the same as an “activities list”? You might think so, but very likely the college might not. Read the wording carefully. Don’t cut corners. Take the time and care to provide the responses and materials requested.

Using an unprofessional or inappropriate email address – Your email address is a reflection of who you are and how seriously you take yourself and your work. If your email address is peculiar, comical or vulgar, expect that colleges may frown. Use an email address that includes a version of your first and last name, such as

Writing a generic or uninspired essay – The essay portion of a college application is your opportunity to show the college who you are and how you think, beyond test scores and extracurricular activities. Use this space wisely. Demonstrate logic. Carefully ponder what makes you special as a person and as an applicant. Prepare a draft and then sleep on it for a day or longer. Why should the college select you over the thousands of other applicants? It’s your job to persuade.

Making spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors – Mistakes in using the written language show carelessness, insufficient language knowledge, and a lack of readiness for college. Go slowly. Type or write a draft of your answers. Make sure that your subject and verb forms match. Assure that all sentences are coherent and in proper English. Slowly and carefully proofread your answers several times by eye, such as once for sentence structure and logical progression, another time for spelling, and yet another time for punctuation. Immediately before sending, proofread everything again. Don’t rely solely on computer spell-checkers and grammar-checkers – they frequently make errors, sometimes appalling ones.

Waiting until the last minute – Timing is everything. Obtain your college application forms in the summer before your senior year and prepare them in the fall. Give yourself enough time to complete each portion of each the application. You might mark specific due dates on your calendar so that you have a perspective of what is due and when.

Not submitting an application correctly – Too often, students fail to submit electronic applications properly and therefore are not received. It’s important to realize that applications sent electronically are not actually “submitted” until you get an on-screen or email confirmation. Don’t rush. Use a good Internet connection, and keep a copy of the submission confirmation for your records.

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Categories: College Planning
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