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It’s time to apply for college. If you haven’t started yet, you are about to discover that there are a lot of forms, deadlines and fees. You want to represent yourself well on your college applications, and this means you need to avoid common mistakes. ResponsiveEd’s Director of College Readiness Stephanie Scott shows us some of the common mistakes applicants make on their college applications that can automatically discount their application.

  • Misspellings and grammatical errors — Misspellings on an application show that you lack attention to detail, are not good at spelling, or that you don’t care. Whatever the case, misspellings reflect poorly on you. Use spell check, but also ask at least two other people to look it over for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Calling the school by the wrong name – You are applying to more than one school, and it is easy to write the wrong name down. Take a moment to double check all of the names before you submit the application.
  • Extracurricular activities — While you may have interests and hobbies (such as putting together puzzles or talking with friends), they don’t count as extracurricular activities. Those that make the list are sports, participating in arts, formal organizations and volunteer work. Make sure your activity information is accurate. Colleges may check with your high school.
  • Applying online, but the application isn’t submitted — Always check for a confirmation when you apply online. Confirmation could be an e-mail message, a web page response or a credit card receipt. Follow through and make sure that your application has been submitted.
  • Inappropriate email addresses – Your email address can say a lot about you, but make sure it doesn’t say you lack good judgment.   
  • Forgotten signatures — When you are applying on paper, double check that you signed and dated the form.  Students commonly overlook it, particularly if it is on the back of the form.
  • Incorrectly filling out the application – Forms can be complicated and sometimes may not make any sense. Read the direction carefully and ask for help if you still don’t understand it. Don’t just guess.
  • Waiting until the last minute – Give yourself a few days grace period. If you wait until the last minute you may have computer issues, lose your information, or find a part of the application you failed to fill out.
  • Writing a generic essay – College counselors can tell when you are using the same essay on your applications and only changing the name. Your essay is your opportunity to show how much you care and show them that you have done your research.
  • Requesting letters of recommendations at the last minute – When you ask someone for a recommendation, you want them to have positive things to say. Not giving them enough time to think about their recommendation could hurt your application. Ask them the spring of your junior year and follow up with them the beginning of your senior year.
  • Forgetting to save your online application – There is nothing worse than painstakingly recording information or crafting the perfect essay and then losing it because you didn’t save it.

Quick Tips

  • If you are submitting a paper application, print several copies so you can turn in a clean version.
  • Always print preview your application because that is what your college will see.
  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Keep your essay within the word count.


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