Your teen will spend the first three years of high school working hard to be ready for this: college application time.
The last thing he wants when that rolls around is for anything to hurt his admissions chances – especially when it comes to just completing the darned application.
In order to have the best experience possible with the application, it’s important to make sure your teen’s preparing in the right way and doing the right things.
Help him to avoid the following common mistakes so the application doesn’t end up in the “no” pile.
(But before you dig in…download my free College Application Worksheet to help your teen keep track of every application and deadline!)
1| Waiting until the last minute.
We’re always told not to procrastinate, aren’t we? But we’re humans. And we just tend to do that.
Deadlines are a non-negotiable piece of the college application process. And your teen may not know this, but if done right, the application should take a long time to complete.
If your kid’s applying to more than one school (and I certainly hope he is) there’s even more time and effort to put in.
The personal essay, for example, is arguably the most time-intensive part of this whole process. It’s best for your teenager to complete essays for the colleges he’s applying to the summer before senior year begins, if possible, to ensure it’s not competing with other school responsibilities and upcoming application deadlines.
Planning ahead and taking time with the application is important in making a good impression to the admissions committee.
2| Waiting to ask for letters of recommendation.
The college application doesn’t just consist of the form your teen completes online. There are supplemental pieces colleges require, too, like letters of recommendation.
Students should be asking potential writers (teachers, coaches, counselors) to write these starting in winter or early spring of junior year. This gives the writer enough time to prepare and send a thoughtful letter for your teen. It also makes it likely that your teenager’s one of the first to ask for these – by the end of junior year, teachers and other school faculty can become overwhelmed with requests.
3| Not showing an interest in colleges outside of the application.
All colleges want to admit students who they sense genuinely know and like the school.
When colleges decide which students they’re sending offers of admissions to in order to fill up the freshman class, they typically want to have some certainty that the students they’re admitting are actually going to accept. They’ve got quotas to fill.
Schools can measure this demonstrated interest by the touch points students have had with the school. These can include visiting campuses, talking to admissions reps at college fairs, and interviewing with the admissions office.
Putting in effort ahead of time can make a big impact for acceptance.
4| Not following instructions closely.
“Read the directions before starting your work.” We’ve all heard it since first grade.
Not sticking to instructions and making careless errors are the most common mistakes students make on the college application, and it turns admissions folks off. They have thousands of applications to review, and this can get your teen immediately placed in the “no” pile.
And, of course, these are the easiest mistakes to avoid.
It’s not difficult to make an error when filling out identifying information on the form, like a home address or school info, so your teenager should be mindful of completing these seemingly simple fields correctly.
Also, make sure your teen pays close attention to what’s requested by colleges. Although it can be tempting, he shouldn’t provide more materials than a college asks for. If a college requests two recommendation letters, for example, don’t send four. If a one-page resume is requested, don’t submit two.
5| Neglecting to proofread.
Careless errors tend to happen when students wait until the last minute to complete applications (see Mistake #1).
While your senior might spend a lot of time proofreading the essay and getting others involved to make sure it’s a great piece of the application, he should also pay close attention to what he’s completing on the form, too.
And, of course, spelling can be a big issue. Being captian of the varisty football team no longer sounds impressive. And did he really get an A in Engish?
What’s one of the worst things your senior can do that will guarantee failure? Forgetting to change the name of the college on the form or *gasp* in the essay when he applies to more than one school. Be aware of this one.
Encourage your teen to have more than just one other set of eyes on each application to ensure accuracy. You’re probably a great resource for this, along with another family member or teacher.
Remember to download my free College Application Worksheet to help your teen keep track of every application and deadline.