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Common Mistakes Students Make When Filing Applications

(Compiled by Anne Heinzeroth for a presentation to Upward Bound seniors)

Remind students that proofreading does not equal spellcheck
A thing that some students forget a lot is SIGNING AND DATING the back page of the application.
You’d be amazed at how many students mis-spell their intended major pyschology, psichology, psycology (just to name some) and buisness (to name another) are the biggest offenders.
I wonder about the applications that are clearly penned in the mother’s scrawl with portions also filled out by the student, so that you clearly see that two different people worked on it.
Illegibility/poor penmanship creates the obvious issues, especially handwritten essays that look really bad.
Applications folded 16 times to fit in a small envelope make it look bad; not to mention those that come in with soda/coffee stains, are sticky from placing a lollipop on them, or are torn/ripped.
Some applications ask for County or Country, and students get these mixed up.
Many students who have jobs do not mention them on applications. Often,these jobs impact the time they have available for activities, and so they should include this info to paint a fuller picture of their out-of-school activities.
And, my favorite, the essay all about how badly he/she wants to attend College X that gets sent to University Y by mistake.
For online applications, sometimes students slip the mouse and click on the wrong item in a drop down. (Amazing how many students say they’re from Afghanistan — which is usually listed right after United States on drop-downs for countries)
They substitute thesaurus words for the more natural ones. Parents don’t realize that very bright 17 year olds do not and should not write like 45 year olds. Applications that stand out do not have the above problems. They “tell” rather than “show.”
There are a couple things off the top of my head that make a poor impression on applications. The first one is:
a.when students list “Hanging out with friends” or “talking on the phone” as an extra curricular activity.
b.Then, another no-no is to blame the teacher in the personal statement for bad grades. I look for information not so much as why did you get the bad grade, but what did you do about it, i.e. seek extra help? Repeat the course? Etc… I could go on and on with this question! But I’ll end with one more thing that infuriates me….
c.reading a college essay with numerous misspellings and grammatical errors. I’ll even forgive a student if they list another university rather than overlook a poor attempt at writing the essay.

One common mistake is not informing their high school counselor or registrar that they are applying to colleges x,y, and z and submitting the necessary forms by the necessary deadlines to be sure that their transcript, profile, etc. will be sent to their colleges by their high schools.
a.Also – they need to remember to have their SAT or ACT scores sent to their colleges directly from ETS.
b.Also – each student should be sure to review his or her transcript before it is sent out. Check all of these: name spelling, Social Sec #, home address, phone numbers AND course names and grades and credits received. You’d be surprised how many transcripts contain errors that students are often never aware of because they didn’t review their transcripts.

Don’t read the instructions including the suggested length and topic prompt.

They don’t realize that many colleges that use the Common Application also have supplements.

They don’t relate whatever they are writing about to themselves. They write generic essays. They should write details that are unique to them and that only they could have written.

One major thing I include these days is that students have to be aware of the impression their e-mail address makes. I encourage them to create a “professional” email address for college and job applications. Offensive email addresses make a bad impression. I recommend all students use a hotmail address for college apps JohnDoe@hotmail.com). There is at least one case I can cite where we did not admit a student in part because his email address suggested sexist, violent behavior toward women. Most of them are not that bad but most are silly at best.


Some Thoughts on Electronic Applications

Here are the responses regarding the do’s and don’ts of applying to college on the internet:

Do’s and Don’ts for Online Applicants!

Do… take the online tour. Before you start your application, walk through each step of the application on “a virtual tour”.

Do… create a user name and password that you’ll remember easily. Record it and keep it in a safe place. If you lose your password, some colleges allow you to create a new one, but if you forget your user name, you may have to start a new application.

Do… disable pop-up blockers in order to view the part of the application that displays in pop-up windows.

Do… use the correct browser. Most online applications functions only with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher or Netscape 5.0 or higher (which you can usually download from the application site itself). The online applications are highly secure; so older browsers are not usually equipped to handle the necessary level of encryption.

Do… follow directions and complete all steps. On each page be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and the bottom of each pop-up to avoid missing any information.

Don’t… forget to save your work. You usually have no more than 40 minutes per Web page before you’ll be timed out. Whenever you save an entry or move to a new page, your work is usually automatically stored, but if you plan to leave your application for any length of time – to go grab a snack or answer the phone – use the save/logout feature to store your application.

Don’t… compose your personal statement online. Take time to compose it in a word-processing application, such as Microsoft Word, save it as a text file, and then copy and paste it into the appropriate boxes online.

Do… print out copies of your personal statement to cross-check your work with your counselor/advisor or an instructor.

Do… carefully review the summary page. Look for any instance where it says, “no information added,” and if you didn’t intend to leave that area blank, click “modify” to return to the step where you can fill it in.

Don’t… be afraid to ask for help. If you have technical difficulties, don’t be afraid to ask the “Help Desk,” “Technical Support,” or use the “Contact” links.

Do… click “Submit Application” when you’ve finished. Your application won’t be sent to the University until you do.

Do… print out your receipt and keep it! You will have a record of your application id number and a complete summary of your application.


Set-up an e-mail account to be used for college correspondence only (preferably not Hotmail).

Consider using the Common Application (www.commonapp.org ) which is accepted by many private, and some public, colleges and universities.

Print out the full application directions so you can “check-off” tasks as you complete them. Be sure to check if a supplement is required; if the form says Part 1 and there is no part two visible, you will usually receive part 2 after you complete part 1 and/or pay the fee.

Print out your completed application, or application summary and proof-read it before clicking the “submit” button. Make sure none of your information was cut-off. Save the printed copy for your college files.

Submit your application a week or more before the deadline. Application web sites slow down to a crawl the closer you get to deadlines, and sometimes crash!

Pay the admission fee by credit card if this option is available. Checks can take weeks to reach the school and that may delay the processing of your application.

Look for e-mail confirmation that your application has been received. Print out and file the application acknowledgement. Call the college’s Office of Admission if you do not receive confirmation within forty eight hours after submission.

Finally, make sure you have arranged for all supporting documents to be mailed by the application deadline. See you counselor the day after you click “submit” so that the transcript and other materials will also arrive on time. Colleges do NOT notify schools that students have applied; you must do so.


Common mistakes that students make on the Common Application Online Part 2

Students Don’t Read the Instructions. “It’s the single most important thing that keeps them from doing this flawlessly. Anytime you don’t read the instructions something’s probably going to come back to haunt you,” Whitman said, who recommends that students print the directions out and read them before they start typing.

Waiting Until the Last Minute. “Literally, they’re doing this the day before it’s due at 11 at night,” Whitman said. “If there’s an early decision deadline on Dec. 1, they’re on the computer Nov. 30. They may run into a snag that has nothing to do with us – their Internet access might be down. While it’s instantaneously submitted, they shouldn’t wait for the last minute to do it.”

Not Entering a Valid E-mail Address. “Later on they wonder why they haven’t heard from the college or got a confirmation message.”

Not Checking Each Individual College’s Requirements and Deadlines. “There again,” Whitman said, “we have a profile for each college, which gives all the deadlines, fees, and supplementary information. It’s all there, yet they’ll submit late and wonder why they can’t select a college from the list.”

In the MY COLLEGES section, students are not accurately selecting and saving the colleges they want to apply to. They often select the right school, but forget to save.

Students Forget to Save Their Data and Log Out.

Not Thoroughly Reviewing Application for Errors and Truncated Text. “We have print preview, instructions all over the place, and even though you can type forever in the HTML input screen, this doesn’t mean it’s all going to fit into the PDF output,” said Whitman, who encourages students to look at the print preview before sending. “What they see on the print preview is exactly what will be transmitted to colleges.”

Not Using the Checklist to Ensure They Have Completed All the Requirements for their Selected Colleges. “There is another tab in there which will tell them which colleges accept credit cards, which colleges only accept hard copy.”

Not Verifying They Have Completed the Submission Process Before Logging Out. “There are a series of screens they go through which ensure that the data is saved in our system on our server. They close down before doing that and the application is not complete and not submitted into our system,” Whitman said.

Not Following Up With Fees and Supplemental Documents.

Not Sending Hardcopy to Member Colleges That Don’t Accept the Electronic Version of The Common Application.

Now that you know the common pitfalls visit the Common Application’s website at http://www.commonapp.org and see how many of your picks are there.

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