Feb. 10, 2020
Applying to college can be daunting — and most students try their best not to make mistakes during the process. However, there are some issues that admission officers see repeatedly that aspiring collegians might want to put on their radar screens. We've rounded up a few of their top pet peeves that you should try to avoid.
A lot has changed in the college admission process during the last 10 or more years, and it's important to not rely on the advice of people who may not necessarily understand current trends in the industry.
"Students need to do their own research and make a decision best for them — don't let others make the decision," says Robert F. Durkle, associate vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at the University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio.
Students' lack of formality in communicating with admissions officers is a common complaint. Proper etiquette matters when addressing adults in a professional capacity.
"Not addressing us by name or using proper grammar and diction in emails is a huge pet peeve," notes Kane Willis, assistant director of admission and access and diversity initiatives at Haverford College in Haverford, Pa. "Not introducing yourself properly at college fairs or in emails, or being BCC'd [blind copied] on a massive email are also frowned upon."
When it's geographically and financially viable to visit campuses, students should check out the schools they're considering. After all, going to college is huge investment both financially and personally.
"Choosing a college sight unseen is not a good way to make a decision," Durkle says.
Students and parents often look at the published cost of a particular college and assume that is what they will pay if they go there. They forget that the actual financial aid package will vary from student to student. Just looking at the sticker price is not based in what the actual cost will be.
"Many colleges and universities offer merit- and need-based financial assistance that reduces the sticker price," says Durkle.
Supplemental essays can enhance your college application — if they are done well. However, many students don't write meaningful supplemental essays. That's why it's one of Willis' pet peeves — and he even says that a generic supplemental essay could even get you wait-listed. So only write one with thoughtfulness.
Students should take the lead in their own college admission processes. Parents should be involved, but they should take a back seat.
"As admission staff at a highly selective institution, my main pet peeve is having most conversations about our process with parents. While I understand familial support is important, if I know a parent better than I know a student, it leads me to believe that the parent is more interested in their student being at our institution than the student," says C.J. Mathis, assistant director of Ross Undergraduate Admissions at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
There are reasons for admissions decisions, and not every student will get admitted to the institution of their choice. Mathis says another of his pet peeves is being aggressively questioned about why a student wasn't offered admission, particularly when it involves a listing of other institutions that admitted them.
"While I understand that students have worked very hard to accomplish the things they have through high school, it generally gives the impression of extreme privilege and that there couldn't possibly be other students that deserve an offer of admission over them," he says. "I think that it's important that students' support systems, family, teachers, counselors, etc., help them to understand not gaining admission to an institution is not a reflection of their value or worth. It is also important to learn that while it may be the first, it will most likely not be the last time they receive an answer that is not favorable to something that is important to them."
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