Application Mistakes That You Don't Have to Make
It’s crunch time. The last four years? They’ve been leading up to this. “This” being applying for college. You can feel the pressure with those three words, right? I’ve applied at no less than a dozen colleges, finished three degrees, and I’m still feeling the weightiness of those words. Applying for college. It still sends a shiver down my spine.
It’s nerve wracking. It feels so pressurized, as if the whole process could explode like a frozen Coke can or your mom after a dozen ignored requests to clean your room. It really only feels that way because it’s so foreign and it’s been made so large in your mind by the, likely dozens of, people that have been leaning on you to make yourself perfect for what is, in reality, just a series of forms and attachments.
I’m going to lay it out pretty frankly here because there are a number of easy ways to make sure that you don’t make any silly application mistakes when submitting to your idolized institution. Something one of those easy ways is simply by…
Reading the Directions
Before there’s any eye rolling that happens, keep in mind that this is the number one grievance admissions counselors have when vetting applications. It’s literally one of those things where following the carefully written out, step-by-step directions can set you apart from other applicants.
If something is vague or unclear, never hesitate to contact an admissions counselor — it’s that old idiom at work, better safe than sorry! Just make sure that you’re emailing them over a legitimate concern or clarity, not just to catch their attention.
Using the Appropriate Sections
Again, this means exactly what you think it means: separate out your activities, jobs, academics, and anything else you want to highlight into their appropriate categories. You may have the option to submit a resume, but that document shouldn’t be 3 pages long, nor should it include every after-school activity you’ve shown your face at. Basically, if it’s not a paid job or an internship, it shouldn’t take up any hefty real estate on your resume.
While filling out each of those carefully separated boxes is painstakingly tedious, I want to assure you that it doesn’t get better after you graduate — job applications function the exact same way. Might as well get used to it!
Also an obvious issue, but you’d be surprised at how many applications come with typos — and they might not always be what you think. Some of the problems are errors that word processors can’t catch, like accidentally typing “that” instead of “than,” or forgetting to add an “s” at the end of a word. Both are dictionary-occupying words, so they won’t ring any alarm bells.
I have a few rules for filling out important applications, and I’ll share them:
Never type anything directly into the application.
Really. Don’t. Type it into a word processor and copy-paste the text into the application.
The best way to find typos, clunky sentences, and literally anything that just sounds off is to read it aloud.
Don’t like reading aloud? You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to — head over to google translate and paste that bad boy right in the box. Tap the little “Listen” button and have Google read it to you. Work smarter, not harder, Cappexians.
Never submit anything the moment you finish filling it out. Save the draft. Sleep on it. Let your brain ruminate on everything, and then, only then, should you hit that submit button.
If you have someone you can trust, always get a second set of eyes. Whether it’s a perfectionist friend or a family member, a fresh set of peepers will do any application some good.
Emphasizing What’s Important
This may shock you since it’s contrary to what’s often circulated, but colleges aren’t accepting students based on their participation in 57 different extracurriculars. Having a diverse palette is interesting and can have a good value to it, but it’s not the end-all be-all for getting into the university of your dreams. It’s the quality of the time spent with that extracurricular that truly matters.
Don’t just list the after-school activities you’ve showed up for — highlight what you’ve learned, contributed, and will take away from your time with [insert club/sport/team here]. Passion has far more weight than an attendance sheet.
Not Applying at the Very, Very Last Second
If the application is due on February 15th, submitting your completed forms at 11:59:59 PM on February 15th isn’t recommended. You’re acting on the assumption that your internet won’t go out, that your clock says the right time, that there won’t be some strange glitch in the website with everyone else scrambling to do the same thing, that you’re on the same time zone as the school you’re applying to, and that you haven’t forgotten anything.
Those are a lot of what ifs for something that’s so important. I understand that last-minute mindset. I suffer from it, as well. I have a nasty habit of counting on every nanosecond of time afforded me, but that’s not really the safest (or best) route to take. Set your own personal deadline at least a few days before the real deadline — this gives you a decent cushion, one that you won’t regret.
There are obviously a lot of other aspects that go into a college application, including four years of hard work that you’re trying to condense into several forms and attachments. It’s not easy, but, just by using these few tips, you can at least rest assured that you won’t make any dumb mistakes that will count you out of the race before it even began.
Check out some pro-tips for writing your admissions essay here, and don’t forget to apply for scholarships!