We started thetop 10 list of college application no-nos last week. Here's the remaining five:
6. You don't let anyone proofread your essays before you submit them. It's easy to be protective of your college essays -- you work hard on them, they're important to you, and after writing three drafts, you really just want to send them and move on. But these are exactly the reasons why you should have someone read your final drafts: you worked too hard on them to let a silly typo ruin the impact of the essay; they're far too important to send before someone can point out the essay you wrote for Brandeis keeps mentioning Oberlin, and you really just want to send them so the rep who reads them will let you move on from high school, and into their college. Find an English teacher who knows you well, and ask them for a final read-through; you'll sleep better once you finally do hit Submit.
7. You ask your teachers for letters of recommendation the day before the application is due. It's great you think your history teacher never has to prep for class, but the truth is, she has to work hard to make her lectures look that easy. The same is true for letters of recommendation; they may think the world of you as a student and as a person, but there's a difference between saying that to you and writing it to a college. Three weeks is the minimum amount of time to ask for a letter (it's better to ask in spring of the junior year); if it's a genuine emergency, prepare to bring chocolate when you beg for a letter. Yes, I'm talking serious groveling here.
8. You don't check your email regularly once you hit Submit. Most colleges will send you a "Thanks, we got it" email three days after you apply. It doesn't mean you were admitted; it just means your application arrived. Be sure to look for this email (and remember to check your spam folder); if it doesn't come, call the college to see if everything's OK. The same is true for admissions decisions; more are done by email than snail mail, and some land in your junk folder. Check daily.
9. Your college list only includes highly selective schools. You'd really like to believe that applying to 20 schools that each admits 6 percent of their applicants means you have a 120 percent chance of getting into at least one of those schools -- then again, you'd like to believe Pippa Middleton would go to Homecoming with you if you just had her phone number. Good college lists include a mix of admission rates and price tags; it's easy to build this list with the help of an experienced college counselor. Ask.
10. You don't apply to a college you love because they may say no. There are a number of reasons why qualified students don't get into the college of their dreams, but the No. 1 reason is because they don't apply. Some dreams really are best left untested (like that asking Pippa to Homecoming dream), but leaving a college app blank can cause much more regret than giving the application your all and having them say no -- because that's the only way they may say yes. Build a strong list of sure things, then show Dream U what you're made of. All they can do is say no, and if they do, that's their problem.
Did I miss one? Add a comment and let me know.
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