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College 101

Eleven Application Mistakes to Avoid
Article Type: Checklist

  1. Don't use an inappropriate e-mail address. Yes, we're repeating a bit of advice from the list right above this one. That's how super-serious we are.
  2. Don't call a university by the wrong name. You're applying to a dozen schools. At some point, you're going to write down “Yale” when you really mean “Columbia.”Double- and triple-check your content to ensure you don't submit an application-killing error of this kind.
  3. Don't forget to fill out every section. Yes, applications can be tediously long, but every response you provide gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart from all the other high school seniors out there who are after the exact same thing you are: a Harvard acceptance letter.
  4. Don't wait until the last minute to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. Are you in line to graduate as one of the top ten students in your class? Well, good on you...but your 4.0 GPA won't be worth jack if you don't have recs from your teachers backing you up. Get in line to ask for their assistance, and do it early.
  5. Don't forget deadlines. Every school has a different application deadline, which means it's easy to get confused. So, put those dates on a calendar. Highlight them in neon pink. Set reminders on your iPhone. Do whatever you have to so you don't miss getting that app in to your dream school on time.
  6. Don't shrug off word or character limits. Admissions committees have to go over thousands of applicant essays and responses. Read the fine print and follow the instructions, or you'll find yourself distinguished from the competition in a really, really bad way.
  7. Don't ignore the question. Again, thousands of applicant essays and responses. Thousands. Cut the admissions office staff some slack and answer the questions completely and directly.
  8. Don't assume that biographical information isn't important. BigState U wants to know how many siblings you have, where you were born, and what your parents do for a living. Boooooooooooooring, says you. This stuff has a place in our decision, says the admissions office, so spill it.
  9. Don't leave out information about yourself. If you spend summers and weekends helping your dad run the family vegetable stand, which brings in enough money to send your kid sister to her piano lessons for the year, then shoehorn that in somewhere. It's pertinent, and it makes you look awesome.
  10. Don't forget to check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and factual faux pas. There is nothing more grating to a reader than to come across a “their” that should be a “they're”. Some kid in Rhode Island didn't make that mistake. Guess what? He just got accepted to Dartmouth, and you didn't.
  11. Don't treat your application like a social media entry. You're trying to get into college, where you'll be expected to act like an intelligent adult. Treat your application like a series of Tweets, and you can kiss that acceptance letter adios. Go over your application again and again. Have your parents go over it.

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