Seven ways to avoid college application mistakes


Your student researched colleges, visited campuses and settled on their top choices. Now it’s time to send their applications. How can you help them make their application the best it can be? By encouraging them to follow the tips below.


Use a professional email address

Your student’s crazycat email address might be fine to use with friends, but they need to think about how it’s going to look to a college admission representative. It could raise some questions or concerns about whether they’re going to take their studies seriously. If your student’s email address is less than professional, they can still keep it, but they should create a more appropriate one for applying to colleges and other endeavors, such as applying for future jobs.

Meet the application deadline

If they don’t submit their application on time, they likely won’t be considered for admission. Plus, when there are so many deadlines throughout a college student’s experience (e.g., assignments, projects, etc.), missing their very first deadline doesn’t make a good impression. So how can your student be sure to hit the application deadline? Start early, and allow more time than they think they’ll need to complete their application.

Edit and proofread

Nothing turns off an admission representative like poor grammar and typos. After all, if your student is applying to get into an institute of higher education, they want to show that they’re qualified to be there. And using “there” when they should be using “their” just doesn’t look good. Of course, typos and incorrect punctuation can be easy mistakes for even the best grammarian to make and can be missed when your student proofreads their words. (It’s true, the brain fills in missing information that it expects to be there.) So your student should wait a day or two and then review their application, and have someone else — preferably two or three people — proofread their application. Editing tools like Grammarly can also be helpful.

Include and expand on extracurriculars activities

If your student participated in extracurriculars, they should include them in their application to show that they’ve had a well-rounded high school experience. And encourage them to provide details. If they played sports, they might think saying, “I was on the basketball team” is enough. But they need to explain what they learned by playing on the basketball team. What they walked away with. How it helped them grow. And same for any other activities such as student council, band or even the part-time job they held while in high school.

Lay out their ambition and vision

Your student should write about why they want to go to college and what they want to get out of it openly and honestly. Encourage them to share a personal or family story (skipping the TMI, of course), and to be creative. Admission representatives want to know a little bit about your student as a person, not as just a name on a piece of paper.

Tailor their essay to each school they apply to

College admission officers hate reading an application essay that is clearly a generic form essay sent to all institutions a student is applying to. And trust us, it’s obvious when they read it. Your student should customize a different essay for each school. This doesn’t mean it has to be entirely new. They can still use maybe up to 75 percent of their essay for each school. But it should be tweaked to what each school is looking for in a student. And by thoroughly researching the universities they are applying to, your student should have a pretty good sense of what that is for each school.

Don’t do it for them

Along with it being pretty obvious to an admission representative when a student is using the same essay for each school, it’s also pretty obvious when a parent does all the admission application work for their student. So don’t do that. You might think you’re helping your student, but that’s just not the case. And besides, don’t you want them achieving admission to college all on their own? That’s not to say that you can’t be there throughout the process, guiding and helping them (after all, that’s what this blog post is all about — helping you help them) but they need to do the bulk of the work on their own. If they can’t, then their chances of succeeding on their own in college are pretty slim.

Good luck, and we hope your student gets accepted to all the colleges they apply to.