Updated: Sep 15
College applications season is well underway. Most top colleges require priority applications to hit the submit button no later than November 1st, if they want to be eligible for all levels of financial aid.
Hit the "Submit" button!
A submission includes the app itself, primary essay, supplemental essays, a list of 5 top honors and awards, plus a substantial listing of activities participated in throughout high school. Once the app is submitted, student's still need to uploaded transcripts, order SAT, ACT, and AP scores to be sent to each college, and make sure references get submitted by teachers and mentors. This is the basics and even this is a lot of work taking hours of time by students and parents alike. How can you make sure all your hard work pays off?
There are seven very avoidable mistakes that you should definitely avoid.
7 Mistakes to Avoid...
The biggest mistake is waiting too late to get started. Start filling out the general information as soon as apps open on September 1st.
Don't submit late application materials - Once your app is submitted, the process is not over. You still need to get your transcripts, SAT, ACT, AP, references, and school reports into each college in a timely fashion. There may even be a writing supplement or homeschool supplement that you need to turn in. These are all due ASAP. Ideally, you will submit your app by 10/15 then get all other material submitted within the week.
Don't leave any "activity" section blank - On CommonApp, ApplyTexas, and CalApp you will see a section that wants to know how you spent your time in high school, this is your chance to shine. Leaving a blank here is a huge mistake. Think hard and start with the big academic activities like clubs and honor societies. Then branch out to sports, church, community, and personal activities. When space is limited, pick the most impressive things first.
Don't pick just any "honors" - Everyone has honors & awards of some type. Maybe you are National Merit, Spanish Honor Society, Key Club, or captain of your bible drill team. No matter what your story, this is your chance to impress. Brainstorm a list. Ask parents to chime in. Then take the top 5 and list them from National down to local. If you still have room, then add on-going service since this always impresses.
Don't wait to long to ask for references - You will need 2 teacher references and at least one mentor or peer reference. This is a critical part of the application but something most students postpone till the last minute. You want to ask for references from people who know you will and will say great things about you, like "always plans ahead and doesn't ask for references at the last minute!" :)
Don't write a hasty essay - The college essays is the one thing that can save an applicant from the reject pile. Make it count. This is not something to do at the last minute. Write it early then go back and visit it again and again. Focus on telling something personal, giving it feeling, and above all, don't make it generic!
Don't expect your GPA/SAT to sell you - You may have a 4.0 and 1600 but that will not guarantee admission to top colleges. They will read your essay, and they will look at your resume of activities and honors. So take advantage of this fact.
Don't leave any section blank - Enough said.