5 College Application Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t Sink Your College Acceptance Chances


College application season is here, and families across the country are embroiled in the sometimes frustrating process of selecting and applying to colleges. Even those who have enrolled older children in college often find they are just as confused as they were the first time around, because they never knew whether what they did was right or wrong. The first-timers are especially concerned about making a major mistake that could jeopardize their child’s chances of being accepted.

To help everyone have just a little less stress, here are five application mistakes to avoid:

  1. Applying to colleges you can’t afford: Most people don’t go into buying a house or a car without giving some consideration as to whether or not they can afford it, but few families actually think about whether they will be able to afford attending the college they are considering. Perhaps the easy availability of student loans has lulled everyone into a false sense of security, but it is crucial to have a good understanding of costs before accepting an offer. Carefully check the net price calculator and estimate your financial aid package so that you can make a good financial, as well as educational, choice.
  2. Not paying enough attention to essays: If your child has ever said something along the lines of, “I’ll work on my college essays over the weekend,” you might have a problem. These essays are one of the few ways there are to make an ordinary student stand out in the competition for limited class slots. They need and deserve a good amount of time to formulate, write, proof and rewrite.
  1. Applying to too many colleges: Some students and parents think they are improving their odds by applying to a larger number of colleges, but this strategy can backfire. It tends to get expensive and time-consuming, while at the same time leaving little time to put any extra effort into a desired school. Don’t just let the chips fall where they may; take command and decide which college is best for your particular situation.
  1. Missing deadlines: This is perhaps one of the most easily avoidable mistakes, yet thousands of students move on to their second choice every year because of a missed deadline. Make sure you know the official deadline for the application and the financial aid request, and then make your own deadline at least one to two weeks prior. This allows time to overcome any unanticipated snafus, errors, or additional application requirements.
  2. Not planning properly for the FAFSA deadline: This is the last year the FAFSA will be online beginning January 1, and students are still heavily encouraged to apply as soon as possible. A major problem is that most do not anticipate the amount of information that is required to complete the application, so they subsequently lose time by having to hunt it down when they should be sending it in. As soon as the applications are complete, look at the requirements for the FAFSA and start gathering your documentation. Learn all about it before you log-on, make sure you have an FSA-ID, and you will be ahead of the pack.

There is so much more to do in the fall of the year than just focus on college applications. It is far better to make a list of requirements, plan out a schedule of activities, and devote a specific amount of time each week to the process.

Less confusion in the process leads to less stress for everyone involved.