3 Common Mistakes on College Applications

Common Admissions Mistakes, Common Application Mistakes, 3 Mistakes on University Applications

Many students make similar mistakes on their college applications, like bragging.

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” that discusses several reasons why applicants to highly selective colleges are often denied admission. As cited in the piece by Briana Boyington, such reasons can include the application being incomplete, the school not being a good fit for the student, the applicant’s grades and scores falling below a certain threshold, the demand being greater than the supply, or the applicant’s behavioral issues. And while behavioral issues, incomplete applications, and the like are certainly cause for not getting into a highly selective college, we figured we’d focus this piece on other, less obvious reasons why students may be surprised to learn they’ve been denied by their dream school. So, without further ado, here are 3 common mistakes on college applications:

Likability Throughout the Application

It seems simple enough. Make yourself likable. After all, your objective as a college applicant is to try to get an admissions officer to root for you, to fight for you over other applicants. If one admissions officer likes you and one stands against you, you may find yourself in committee at a highly selective college. When you get to committee, the admissions officer who likes you needs to make his or her case for you — to champion you. If you made yourself unlikable even in small parts of your application, it makes it much more difficult for that person to make their case for you. And it’s unlikely that admissions officer would even fight very hard for you anyway if you really did render yourself unlikable even the slightest.

So what makes one unlikable on their college application? Bragging. Boasting about achievements, comparing yourself favorably to other students in your class, selling yourself — as in why you should be admitted — in your essays…that’s all quite bad. Or maybe it’s in a teacher’s letter of recommendation. Maybe a teacher wrote about how you care more about your grades than learning for learning’s sake. That doesn’t exactly make you likable. Indeed, it can be the kiss of death at every highly selective college — and this is no exaggeration.

Not Showing Interest Throughout the Application

If the school asked a question like, “Why do you wish to attend this school,” and you answered it with vague sentences that can apply to virtually any school in America, no matter how strong your grades and scores are, no matter how great of a hook you think you may have, you’re unlikely to earn admission. Schools don’t want to admit students who they don’t believe will attend. One of the ways in which they are able to effectively gauge if you have a genuine interest in matriculating should you have the good fortune to be admitted is to really demonstrate in a Why College essay that you’ve done your homework on the given institution, that you understand and appreciate their culture and what they’re all about. They want to know precisely how you intend to contribute to their school and if one sentences — or every sentence — isn’t specific to the given institution in your essay, you should unquestionably strike it from the record. So often we read students’ Why College essays and have a difficult time finding even one — one! — sentence in a 650-word essay that is truly specific to the school.

Appearing Well-Rounded on Your Application

Highly selective colleges haven’t sought students who are well-rounded in many years. They aren’t impressed by the fact that you captained the basketball team unless you can actually help their basketball team. Are you a recruit? Are you going to lead them to a March Madness upset? Likely not, right? Highly selective colleges aren’t seeking the student who excels in sports, music, and community service. It’s wonderful to be able to play sports and musical instruments. Just don’t do it to get into college because it’s as unlikely a strategy as any to improve your odds of admission. Highly selective colleges seek singularly talented students who, together, form a well-rounded class of students. Note we didn’t say that they seek well-rounded students!

If you’re interested in crafting outstanding college applications in which you don’t brag, in which you present yourself as utterly likable, in which you demonstrate clear and unequivocal interest in a given institution, and in which you come across as a singularly focused, talented applicant, contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss Ivy Coach’s service offerings. And if you have a question about the 3 common mistakes on college applications that we presented today, let us know what’s clouding your thinking by posting it below. We’ll be sure to write back.


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