3 Mistakes Successful College Applicants Don’t Make

What’s the best (and least painful) way to succeed? Learn from the mistakes of others! Today, our friends at Accepted share 3 common mistakes you need to avoid.

The preparation for successful college application does not happen overnight. In fact, it is the culmination of years of work throughout high school. The most successful college applicants take a number of components into consideration as they approach the application process. Here are three mistakes they don’t make:

1. Blow off essay responses. They know a strong GPA and test scores are not enough. They invest time and thought in their essay responses and they don’t wait until the last minute to submit their applications. They keep deadlines in mind. They request letters of recommendation in a timely manner to allow a teacher/counselor time to reflect before writing a recommendation. They use their essays as an opportunity to demonstrate their specific interests, life experience, and aspirations not just to repeat information found elsewhere in their application. They share something that helps fill in the overall picture of who they are and how they can contribute to the overall college environment.

2. Neglect to consider appropriate college fit. Their initial list might begin with colleges that family members or friends recommend but it doesn’t stop there. They apply to a range of schools that are a good fit for them- they include fallback and dream school options. They invest time to research which schools are the best fits for them on many levels (consider: size of student population, distance from home, financial obligations, academic interests, special programs, alumni ties). They use on-line resources to provide information and insight into the sorts of programs and activities available at a college. They schedule campus tours and reach out to college counselors whenever possible. They speak with current students and recent graduates. They ask their tour guides/hosts questions about how they selected a specific college and about experiences at the college that matched their expectations, as well as, what they might do anything differently in hindsight. Successful applicants can articulate why each school they apply to is a good fit for them.

3. Take it easy in senior year. They take a rigorous curriculum throughout high school, demonstrate an upward trend in academic demands, and maintain extracurricular involvement with increasing leadership responsibility. They don’t blow off senior year. Yes, of course they have fun but they keep future goals in mind as well. They make sure to stay on top of assignments and prepare well for exams.

Although this discussion seems logical, nonetheless, these are common oversights. Successful college applicants don’t make these mistakes.

By Marie Todd, an Accepted consultant who has worked in college admissions for over twenty years.

This article was originally published on the Accepted Admissions Blog. 


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  • Linda Abraham

    Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. Linda has written or co-authored 13 ebooks on the college admissions process. In 2007, she co-founded the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and became its first president. For the last 20 years Linda and her highly credentialed, experienced team have helped thousands of applicants get accepted to top colleges and graduate schools worldwide, including but not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and MIT. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, US News, The Sunday Times of London, Businessweek, Poets & Quants and MBA Podcaster.

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