When it comes to college applications the old adage still rings true: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” so make sure that the first impression that you make with your application is a good one.

Here are some common mistakes that students make in their applications:

-Be yourself – Far too often students get caught up in giving the answer they think the Admissions Officers want to hear rather than truly answering the questions the way that they feel.  Remember that there is rarely a right or wrong answer to any question on a college application.  What students need to remember is that answers they provide are often times the only chance they will have to separate themselves from the numerous other students who have similar grades, tests scores, references, etc.  Be sure to seize the opportunity to show what makes you unique.  Make sure that the Admissions officers hear your voice.  With that in mind, never depend on someone else to write your essays!  While your sibling or parent may be an excellent writer, the one thing they are not is you!  Admissions Officers are very good at spotting essays that are not authentic.  The perceived benefit gained by having someone else write your essay, is far outweighed by the real damage it can do to your admissions chances.  Be sure as well to explain any discrepancies in grades or performance that show up on your transcripts.  It is much more effective to embrace your failures and explain how you have grown from them.  If your grades were bad one semester because your parents were going through a divorce or you had to deal with an illness, it is incumbent upon you to inform your Admissions Representative.  Don’t rely on college officials to fill in the blanks of your life.  Tell your own story!

– Make sure every application is personalized for the prospective college- One advantage the Common Application has created is that it allows students to apply to numerous schools with the touch of a button.  Unfortunately, this ease also contributes to one of the major problems, which is the lack of personalization for each application.  Students must be careful not to make their applications generic.  These “insert name here” applications fail to address the driving question that many colleges have, which is why a student feels like a specific school is the right fit for them.  The more information you can glean from researching colleges and visiting campuses, the more specific you can be in your application in relating why you have chosen their school.

– Recommendations matter– When it comes to securing a good letter of recommendation, there are many mistakes that students make.  Be sure to give your teacher plenty of time to write your letter.  Teachers have plenty to do as well, so if you approach them at the last minute to ask for a recommendation, you will rarely get their best effort.  Also be sure to provide each teacher with a stamped envelope and a resume or list of accomplishments.  Teachers need to know all about you if they are going to write a compelling recommendation.  Finally, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the teacher who gives you the best grade will write the best recommendation.  Students need to put some real thought into who they are going to ask for a recommendation.  Sometimes the teacher in whose class you struggled knows you much better than the one who gave you the highest grade.

– Pay attention to deadlines – Procrastination is a very real problem when it comes to the application process.  Unfortunately, leaving things to the last minute many times results in mistakes and missed deadlines, both of which can seriously diminish your chances of success.  Your best course of action is to set up a detailed schedule to follow that leaves you with plenty of time to revise and improve your application.  The more chances you give yourself to consider your responses, the more likely you are to ensure that your answers are the best they can be.

– Proofread, proofread and proofread again! – There is no quicker way to undermine all of your hard work in high school than to turn in an application riddled with mistakes.  The best bet is to allow yourself enough time to have numerous people look over it.  When it comes to proofreading, the more eyes you can get on your work the better.

The college application process is inherently stressful, but you can increase your odds of success by eliminating some simple mistakes.  Think about this process as a marathon rather than a sprint.  The application itself represents the final mile of your journey, so don’t allow a misstep there to ruin your entire race.  It would be ashamed to waste all the hard work you have done over the course of your four-year high school odyssey by cutting corners on your application.

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