The road from “application to admission” is long and winding. At each bend, there’s a unique set of temptations, distractions and decisions awaiting the applicant. This can be a stressful time for high school students and their parents, who are eager to avoid the potholes and hazards that could harm chances for success.
To help students navigate their way forward, here are four critical but avoidable mistakes. I encourage you to keep these warning signs in mind throughout the journey:
- Preparing a “one size fits all” application rather than customizing it for each school.
Every college claims to offer the “best” curriculum, culture, campus, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that the admissions criteria at all schools are identical. Far from it. Each college has different resources, strengths and priorities. So, when evaluating applicants, the admissions staff favors those who recognize and relate to the school’s points of difference. Realizing that students are applying to multiple schools, the decision makers take note of how well an applicant knows and appreciates their distinctive offerings. So, if you prepare a “generic” application, don’t be surprised when the outcome is rejection.
- “Winging it” instead of getting objective, expert admissions guidance.
College applicants are usually surrounded by caring relatives and friends, all eager to provide feedback. Despite having the best of intentions, such allies can distort a student’s view of himself or herself, through either excessive praise or unfounded criticism. Furthermore, these supporters are unfamiliar with the realities of today’s college admissions process. Applicants feel uncomfortable or ungrateful when saying “no thanks” to such enthusiastic assistance. So, the best way to avoid this dilemma, and to strengthen the campaign, is to engage a professional admissions consultant like AdvanceAdmissions. The applicant will not only get more insightful advice, but he or she can now tactfully decline the dubious input of well-meaning fans.
- “Outsourcing” applications to a parent rather than taking full ownership.
Without parental support, attending college would be impossible for most students. However, there’s a big difference between financial and moral support vs. commandeering the admissions campaign. A parent who steps in to do the research, outreach and writing for his or her child is doing far more harm than good. When reading an application, admissions officers can quickly and easily spot excessive involvement by a parent. This is never beneficial since schools place such high value on authenticity, integrity and independence. So, it’s essential that the application is the product of the applicant.
- Being too modest — or too immodest — when presenting the candidacy.
Showcasing strengths and achievements is necessary given the competitive nature of the college admissions process. At the same time, an application that lacks any apparent weaknesses can’t be taken seriously. So, to win the hearts and minds of college admissions officers, there must be a delicate balance. Expressing undue modesty can be interpreted as doubt, fear, risk aversion, lack of leadership potential, etc. Similarly, conveying arrogance can suggest an inability to listen, share, collaborate, contribute, etc. When achieving the right balance between strengths and weaknesses becomes difficult, that’s the time to enlist the services of a professional admissions consultant. With an objective eye, and drawing from the admissions success of past clients, a consultant can help the applicant communicate a more accurate, credible and balanced candidacy.
Of course, there are many other considerations when developing a successful college candidacy. Whether it’s these common mistakes or other bumps in the road, an applicant’s greatest asset is time. The sooner that candidates identify the priorities and take action to address them, the more probable future admission becomes!