7 Common Mistakes Students Make During the College Application Process
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
Congratulations! You are about to start your senior year in high school! But wait, there’s more… You are about to apply to COLLEGE! If that sentence strikes fear in you, it’s for good reason. The college admissions process can take a lot of time and is filled with many potential missteps.
Here are seven common mistakes students make in the college application process and how to avoid them.
1. Little Effort Creating a College List – The college list is arguably the most important piece of the college application process. However, it tends to get minimal consideration. Get this right, and you can be at a college in the fall that makes you happy, gives you money to attend and provides the right kinds of academic challenges. Do it wrong, and you may end up not getting in anywhere. I’ve written a series of blogs on the college list so look at these for more information.
2. Assuming You Can’t Afford A Private College (related to the college list) – Yes, a $70,000 annual sticker price for college is enough to send shivers down anyone’s back. But do you know that very few people actually pay sticker price at private colleges? In fact, at most private, high-priced schools, many students, even those in families with significant financial means, general pay a fraction of that amount. Private schools give considerably more merit and/or financial aid than public schools which may make them within reach financially, particularly if you are one of their stronger applicants. Each school is required to have a net price calculator on their site. Try it for your favorite in-state public schools and a couple private schools based on your family’s financial picture. The results may surprise you. Many private schools meet 100% of demonstrated financial need. Do you homework. You don’t want to leave money on the table.
3. Starting the Process Too Late – For many students, the college admissions process can be largely completed by the end of September of the senior year. Wouldn’t that be a relief? Ideally, the final college list, standardized testing, extracurricular resume, applications, essays, and supplemental essays, can be finished up during the summer. Financial Aid forms can be completed in October. Unless a student needs extra time to beef up their GPA or take one more standardized test, get everything else done over the summer, and minimize the distractions during the school year.
4. Poor Project Management – Yes, this is a big project, and it should be managed carefully. At a minimum, create a spreadsheet with the colleges in the columns and your tasks (things the colleges require you to do or complete) in the rows. Then you can plug deadlines in each cell. Every college is going to have some similar requirements (tasks), but they may have unique ones as well. Capture them all. Once you know all of the tasks and dates, create a timeline for when you are going to get each task done. Remember, it always takes longer than you think to do something and technical issues crop up, so give yourself a buffer before the deadlines.
5. Not Preparing for Interviews – Whether the interview is for admissions or a scholarship, preparation is always needed. It will be apparent to an interviewer if you walk in cold, and it won’t go well. Know the college, its values, the program of interest and it’s professors. And more importantly, be prepared to talk about yourself. When the interviewer asks “tell me about yourself”, it doesn’t mean where you are from, you high school GPA and what you did over the summer. That’s all in your application. They want to know who you are as a person, your values, what interests you, and what you are going to bring to their campus. That requires self-awareness and practice!
6. “Dropping the Ball” Senior Year – So you’ve got your application in early, and your stellar transcripts are sent to the schools. You are good to go, right? No sense killing yourself with difficult classes, right? Wrong! Your college acceptance is completely contingent upon completing the courses you indicated for senior year and maintaining your grades until the very end. Slack off and you may see a college acceptance revoked. A minor letter grade drop in a course or two will probably not create an issue, but highly selective schools may take note. Significant declines may have consequences.
7. Not Taking Care of Yourself – Don’t get yourself backed into a corner because of procrastination. Follow your plan, get enough sleep (8+ hours each night), eat well, exercise and take time to relax. It’s all necessary to do your best work, on your application and at school.
Avoid these pitfalls, and the college application process will result in acceptances to great schools, just right for you! Remember, there are counselors at your school and other independent professionals ready to guide you and help you present the best application possible.
College in 3-2-1 provides comprehensive college preparation services for high school students including high school course selection, college research and list development, application assistance, essay consultation, and financial aid, extra-curricular and summer enrichment counseling.
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