college application interview

Common College Application Mistakes

IvySelect advises students who wish to attend an elite college on the essential tasks that contribute to successful admissions. Of these tasks, the most critical is the submission of the best possible application to each targeted college. An extraordinarily compelling application improves the probability of acceptance more than any other factor.

You should be aware of and avoid the most common mistakes that students make on college applications. Avoidance of the more substantive mistakes requires planning, but most common mistakes can be prevented through diligent attention to detail.

Let’s start with a substantive mistake that’s easy to make… and can be fatal to your chances of acceptance. This is the failure to make a persuasive case, based on your academic and extracurricular passions and talents, for how you will contribute to the college.  Especially in your essays, you cannot fail to clarify why that particular school is right for you and why you’re a great fit for that school. Such an omission reflects on the level of effort that you’ve devoted to the application. It shows admissions officers how much, or how little, you care about their school.

Below are our recommendations on how to avoid mistakes that are commonly made by students in applying to Ivy League and other elite colleges:

  • Copy-edit the entire application, especially the essays, so that the submission contains no grammatical or vocabulary errors.
  • Although you are accustomed to communicating informally through online media, the language you use in your college applications must be formal and proper. This is what admissions officials expect and the standard by which they evaluate applications.
  • Never include controversial or inappropriate topics in your essays, however tempting it may be as a way to demonstrate that you are original, creative, or intellectually provocative.
  • Essays requested by a college are never really “optional”. Each additional essay is another opportunity to make your case.
  • Carefully proofread proper names including people, organizations, companies, and schools.
  • Search for blank spaces that should be completed.
  • Minimize the use of “boilerplate” text (k.a. cutting and pasting) that you have written to speed the completion of applications. Review such text closely for appropriateness in the unique context of each application.
  • Don’t repeat yourself in the essays. Make sure each essay contains fresh ideas. Observe the word limits imposed in the application instructions.
  • Don’t procrastinate so that you need to rush to complete an application, especially the essays, since this often results in glaringly sloppy input that can eliminate you from consideration.
  • Be sure to describe your extracurricular activities in a meaningful way so that your role in them can be easily understood.
  • Carefully review the number of hours that you claim to have devoted to activities so that the total is realistic and doesn’t undermine your credibility.
  • You will probably be submitting your application online, so be sure that you obtain confirmation that the college received it. Contact the college if you have not received confirmation.
  • Print each application so that it will be handy for reference when digital media are unavailable.
  • Be sure to set up a professional-sounding email address that includes your first and last names or close variations. Use only this account for all emails with colleges. Be sure to check the mailbox daily.
  • Whether it is printed or online, make sure you have signed or e-signed the application in all required places before submission.

Retain an IvySelect college consultant and work closely with him or her throughout the admissions process.  Rely on their expertise, particularly in the review of each application prior to submission. In addition to advising you on the unique considerations that pertain to each of your target colleges, your personal IvySelect consultant is experienced in the quality assurance process for applications. They will detect deficiencies and help you to remedy them.

However mundane, even a small mistake may prove fatal to your educational aspirations. IvySelect is your insurance against application mistakes.

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