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Avoid These Common Mistakes When Completing College Applications

Elena Loveland
Written by Elena Loveland | July 25, 2018
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Completing College Applications

Applying to college often means juggling multiple applications, most of which have different instructions and protocols. Unfortunately, navigating a variety of applications can lead to mistakes -- and you don't want any errors showing up when colleges are evaluating your credentials. Check out the following common mistakes so you know how to avoid them when you apply.

Mistake 1: Being Too Focused on What the Colleges Want

The biggest mistake students make in the college admissions process is being focused on “doing things that look good to a college," according to Joel Lang, director of college advisement and school counseling at Padua Academy in Wilmington, Del. “They are participating in activities where they have no real interest but are told look good to a college. Students are taking classes not because they are of particular interest but because 'it's what the colleges want to see on their transcript.' They do all of this to make their college applications look good — and this is a pivotal mistake."

Rather than participating in activities that look good on college applications, think about doing activities that you enjoy doing. It will ensure that you're a more genuine candidate, rather than taking a contrived approach to college applications.

Mistake 2: Listing Too Many Activities Rather than A Few Committed Extracurriculars

Many students think they have to join a million different activities to look like an active participant, but this is a mistake. Participating in many different activities does not leave a lot of time to really delve into a couple of select activities that show continual interest and increasing engagement with that activity over time.

“There is no one area that 'looks good' to a college, as admissions offices admit students with varied interests. What is important is that the student shows an interest," says Lang. “Colleges would rather see a student demonstrate a deeper interest and stronger time commitment to a few activities rather than the student being involved minimally in a large number of activities," notes Lang.

Mistake 3: Making Errors on the College Application Itself

Actually filling out a college application seems laborious — and it can be. But it is important to remember that you must cross all of your t's and dot all of your i's to make sure the application is complete, error-free and submitted on time.

For seniors completing their applications, the biggest mistakes include the following, Lang says:

- Not answering every question/not completing the entire application

- Using a nickname rather than your legal name

- Rushing to complete applications on the deadline day

- Not entering complete information (high school courses/grades, test scores when needed, a working email address, etc.)

- Assuming the college has all the application materials required

To avoid these mistakes, make sure you allot plenty of time to complete your applications on time by the deadline, consult with your counselor throughout the process and double-check your applications for errors before submitting them.

Written by

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland has been a writer and editor covering higher education and college admissions for 18 years and is the author of Creative Colleges: Finding the Best Programs for Aspiring Artists, Designers, Dancers, Musicians, Writers, and More. Creative Colleges has earned recognition in the College Bound Teen, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Gate and U.S. News and World Report's Annual College Guide. Loveland has spoken at the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the University of the Arts, as well as several high schools about college admission for creative students. She has worked for the National Association for College Admission Counseling as editor of the Journal of College Admission and for NAFSA: Association of International Educators as editor-in-chief of International Educator magazine. As an independent journalist, Loveland.s work has appeared in numerous publications such as American Careers, Dance Teacher, Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education, International Educator, Pointe, Teen Vogue, University Business and the U.S. News & World Report's Annual College Guide, among several others. She has a master's degree in English and has been an adjunct instructor at three higher education institutions. Loveland provides private college admissions consulting to families upon request. She lives in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

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