Authenticity, honesty, and attention to detail can help your college application stand out. Here are final considerations from admissions officers before you send your applications.

You put a lot of time and effort into your GPA, test scores, and essays. Don’t detract from all that hard work with easily avoidable college app pet peeves. These tend to be the easiest mistakes to fix, including sloppy editing, misspelled words, and lack of attention to detail.

Don’t detract from all of that hard work with easily avoidable college application pet peeves. To be sure you make the best impression you can with your application, here are the most common college application mistakes that admissions officers experience.

1. Not Getting Specific about That School

Even if you’re using the common application, you may need to write a supplemental essay specific to certain colleges. This isn’t the time to copy and paste the school’s name into a generic essay. Instead, focus on getting granular about why you want to apply to that specific school. Rachel White, a former assistant dean of admissions at Swarthmore College, says, “[Students] need to take the time to make sure that there’s personalized information in each essay. I always enjoyed it when students went beyond the general size, academics, and location of the school and wrote about how these might contribute to their education and experience over four years.” White says your goal is to get an admissions officer to picture you on campus. Details specific to the school can really help that.

Greg Kaplan, who worked in undergraduate admissions at the University of Pennsylvania and is the founder of the Kaplan Educational Group, warns against committing one of the more noticeable and easily avoidable errors. “Referring to the wrong school in your essay is a major no-no. The last thing an admissions officer wants to hear is why some other school is your top choice.” Be sure to double-check your work when you’re reusing the same essay for multiple applications so this doesn’t happen.

2. Sloppy Applications

Josh Postalwaite, a former admissions recruiter for Salem Community College, recommends students read application questions thoroughly and take the time to answer specifically what’s being asked. He’s seen several applications with glaring mistakes that some careful reading would have caught, including not answering an essay prompt accurately. He says application mistakes like that “make you wonder how a student can keep up with course work if they aren’t willing to read an application carefully enough to answer every question.”

But small details are equally important. A “there” when you meant “their” can make a college admissions counselor second guess an otherwise strong application. And the same goes for formatting errors, unusual fonts, or anything else that might make your English teacher get out their red pen. Kaplan also offers the simple tip of proofreading your application. Ideally, someone else should take a look, whether it’s a parent, guidance counselor, teacher, or even an eagle-eyed friend. It’s helpful to get a set of fresh eyes on your application so you can be sure to catch errors. Kaplan warns, “Not showing you care enough to polish your application is an easy way to end up in the rejection pile.”

3. Communication That’s Too Casual

Goofy, silly, or too casual email addresses need not apply, says Postalwaite, who lists immature email addresses as one of his application annoyances. He recommends getting a professional-sounding email address based on your first and last name. It’s also a good idea to use your own address—not your mom or dad’s email address. He adds, “Once you have that set up, use it. Students, trust me, if you check your email regularly, you will be well-informed.” Not checking and replying to emails is another one of his applicant pet peeves.

Finally, you might find yourself communicating with an admissions officer on social media. That has become more and more the norm, but the same rules apply. Keep things professional, and also make sure that your online presence is one that you’re proud for an admissions officer to see. If not, it may make sense to lock down any social media accounts to friends only, while polishing up a public, professional account to communicate with admissions officers, and interact with the college’s social media handles.

4. A Generic Essay That Rehashes Your Résumé

Reading a list of achievements and activities says a lot about what you’ve done but not who you are. And admissions officers are trying to get a sense of who you are. There are sections of the application when lists are required and where you’re expected to share your college résumé. That’s why it can be a good idea to use your essay as a way to show the admissions officers your personality and the way you see the world. Kaplan reports a major pet peeve of his are essays that are nothing more than lists in full sentences, without any reflection of the applicant’s personality. He says, “Simply using the essay to rehash things you have done in the past deprives [admissions officers] of an opportunity to understand what you will add to their school through the way you see the world.” Memorable essays don’t need to cover noteworthy accomplishments; an essay about working at the mall can be meaningful if it shows your personality, your point of view, and how you’ll bring your perspective into your college experience.

5. Helicopter Parents

Parents are a big part of the college process, but remember, you’re selling why you would be a great addition to the school, not anyone else. Victoria Bartley, a former assistant director of admissions at the University of Chicago, says it can be a red flag “when a student’s parents call or email, trying to check whether documents have been received or to ask application-specific questions.” She says, “What it tells an admissions counselor is that this student is not taking charge of their own process, which makes one wonder how they might handle all the new responsibilities and independence they will encounter in college.”

Ashley Kollme, a former admissions officer at Davidson College, adds, “In this age when helicopter parents are doing so much for their children, it truly stands out to admissions officers when students drive the process themselves.”

Ultimately, an admissions officer’s goal is to find the fit between students and their school. Avoid these common pitfalls and application mistakes to make sure your application stands out in all the right ways.

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