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When you submit your college applications, your goal is to impress the admissions officers so you can get an offer of admission.

You put a lot of time and effort into your GPA, test scores and essays. Don’t detract from all of that hard work with easily avoidable blunders. To be sure you make the best impression you can with your application, admissions officers share the most common applicant mistakes.

1. Not Specifying This School 

You’re writing a lot of supplemental essays. Admissions officers get that. But, it’s still important to demonstrate that you’re truly interested in the school where you’re applying. 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 Artis College Admissions App, warns against committing one of the more egregious 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, the admissions recruiter for Salem Community College, recommends students applying to any college read 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. 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.”

Kaplan also offers the simple tip of proofreading your application. 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

Even though you’re not officially an adult yet, applying to college is a very grown-up responsibility, and you need to appear like you understand that. 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. He also 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.

4. Lists, Lists and More Lists

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 you. There are sections of the application when lists are required, but in other sections — like your essay — resist using them. 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.”

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. 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 you’ll help give yourself a better chance at showing a school who you are and how you’d add to their campus.

Interviews for this article were conducted in 2018.