There is a lot to be done in deciding which colleges to apply to, and your research will need to extend beyond determining which schools offer your preferred major. You will also need to consider the cost of attending different schools (including your potential return on investment) and the amount of financial assistance you will ultimately receive.
And what about extracurricular activities? Accreditation? Geographical location? These are all factors you’ll want to explore as you narrow down your list of schools.
5 reasons why your college application may be rejected
Also note that you will likely be applying to several different colleges at the end of it, and there is nothing wrong with this strategy. After all, some schools may provide more institutional help than others, and you might as well have a back-up plan if you’re not accepted into your first choice, right?
Still, experts say there’s a big problem in the college admissions world – and it’s one that is rarely talked about. Minor or reckless mistakes on an application can have a huge impact on your admission goals, including preventing your acceptance from the school you want.
According to Colette Coleman, graduate and academic admissions expert at Yale, of Zinc Learning Labs, this is especially true in 2019 as the competition continues to intensify.
“There are a lot more international applicants than before, but the same number of places,” she said.
If you want one of these places to be yours, you need to make sure you are up to the task academically and avoid the most common college application mistakes.
Here are some of the top reasons why your college application may be turned down if you’re not careful:
1. Your university application is too generic
Coleman says many students want to “play it safe” when it comes to college admissions, so they mostly try to tick all the boxes. They can play sports, volunteer and spend their junior summer in Costa Rica, and that’s great.
“The problem with this profile is that it doesn’t stand out,” she said. “It’s everyone’s plan. ”
Worse yet, it doesn’t show where a student excels or what turns them on.
This is why Colemans says that in order for an application to be noticed and accepted, it would be best to approach university admissions with honesty.
“An app that shows a student the courage to pursue an in-depth interest is much more impressive than a cookie-cutter app,” she says.
2. You exaggerate
Jennifer Winward, Ph.D. runs a college preparation company called Winward Academy and says some students don’t play it safe to the point of including outright lies in their request. This usually happens when they include so many extracurricular activities and hours that it looks fishy to the naked eye.
“Students should be careful to accurately represent their weekly commitments to leadership, athletic, work, and extracurricular activities,” she says. “I’ve seen students who exaggerate their hourly commitment and when they total up, they represent weekly commitments that just aren’t possible.”
3. Leave questions unanswered
Some college applications take longer than others, and you’ll likely need to answer a few essay questions. But you’ll also need to make sure that anything unusual about your app has some sort of explanation. For example, if you have a particularly low grade in a class or a long time in your life without any activity, you might want to develop that part of your schoolwork or your life.
For the most part, Winward says students need to make sure there is nothing in an application that leaves someone in admissions wondering “what happened here?”
4. Typos galore
Jeremy Rovinsky, who works at Dean & General Counsel at National College of Paralegals, claims that many students are seeing their applications rejected due to spelling mistakes, typos and major grammatical mistakes.
It should go without saying, but if you are applying for admission to a higher education institution, don’t make careless mistakes with your application! Rovinsky says the onus is on the student to prove to the institution that they will be able to thrive in an academic environment, which means paying attention to spelling and grammar to the bare minimum.
And remember that grammar and spelling aren’t the only mistakes you can make. Winward says she has seen many scenarios where a student will write an academic essay and then copy and paste that essay into all of their apps.
“No essay will be specific enough to require admissions counselors,” she said. “And worse yet, sometimes students even forget to change the name of the university, and they end up applying to USC writing down why they want to go to Michigan.”
5. Generic tests
Speaking of essays, Winward says many colleges request an essay on why a student wants to attend. Unfortunately, many tend to come up with the same standard answers: nice campus, school spirit, and good location. Because this description applies widely, colleges won’t be impressed, she says.
If you want to bother applying, your “why” essay should be specific, thoughtful, and compelling. This is where students really have the opportunity to sell why they belong to a specific school due to their specific programs, fields of study, research, faculty, courses, and other factors.
Finally, remember that sometimes denial is not your fault. Deena Maerowitz, director of an educational consultancy firm The Bertram Group, says there are often institutional priorities at stake, such as a college seeking students from a certain geographic area, demographic, or other area of major interest.
Quite often, colleges also have a relationship with high schools where they have accepted students who have then decided not to attend a particular college. Maerowitz says if this happens over and over again, the college may be less likely to accept students from that particular school, knowing that many students from that school may choose another college instead.
It’s not your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it, but the other pitfalls on this list can and should be avoided at all costs.