The Dirty Dozen: 12 Admission Mistakes That Get Your Application Rejected

The 2009-2010 school year was the most competitive ever. Applications were up, and acceptances were down. Admissions officers state that if you want to avoid the “rejected” pile, you must avoid these no-no’s:

  1. Missing the Deadline
    This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students drop the ball on this most basic protocol. Almost just as bad is waiting ‘til the night before to complete your application. You’re not going to be able to represent yourself well on the application if you’re cramming.
  2. Poor spelling
    This is the number one pet peeve among admissions officers. It drives them crazy – and immediately signals you as less desirable candidate. Spell check can’t tell if you’ve mistakenly typed “there” when you really meant “their”. One way to catch poor spelling: have someone else read your application thoroughly.
  3. Lousy proofing
    Imagine the surprise of the Notre Dame admissions officer as she reads, “Here’s why I really want to go to Boston College.” Most students just cut and paste their essays because they usually use them for multiple applications. Because of this, they sometimes forget to edit and indicate the right name of the university they’re applying to. Big oops. A good proofreader will also help catch grammatical errors, shoddy punctuation, incorrect word choices, etc.
  4. Being Too Informal
    We are now in the era of instant messages, tweets and emails written informally. But too much informality, including text-speak and slang, is a turn-off to college officials, because they want to determine if you can write at the college level. Also, an email address like can give a negative impression. Be smart.
  5. Too Much or Too Little Information
    One reason not to rush your application is you’ll likely leave some items blank. Not good. At the same time, too much information can also be a failing. Admissions officers have to go through stacks of applications. They could very well lose interest in yours if you write a lengthy journal on all of your activities.
  6. Bad Essays
    The person reading your application is trying to discover what makes you tick. Your essay should reveal who you are. Make sure you read the question and understand what the college is trying to assess. Don’t be dramatic or tell some horrific story just to make an impact. That doesn’t reveal anything about you as person. Write something that will help the reader know you better.
  7. Bored Attitude
    Poor handwriting, lousy essays, missed information, skimpy details… these are all indications that you’re bored and not really excited to attend this university. Show some enthusiasm!
  8. Falsified Documents
    Some students think they can get away with giving wrong information, or omitting poor grades. Keep in mind that this will come out through the financial aid process or other supporting records for your application. Also, admissions officers are great at sniffing out inconsistencies, altered documents, or suspect claims. Instead, take advantage of the essay and provide a reasonable explanation to any negative items that could be misinterpreted.
  9. SAT OUT
    Be cautious about waiting for your last set of SAT or ACT scores before you apply, because seats might not be available by the time the scores are received.
  10. Too-Involved Parents
    It’s obvious when parents complete much or all of the application. College officials are not impressed. Mom and Dad are not applying to college. You are.
  11. Why me? Why you?
    Why do you want to attend _____ college? This is the #1 most important question you need to answer on the application. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of a particular school and highlight personal strengths that fit that college and its offerings.
  12. The Wrong Application
    Not in the sense of using the Rutgers application to apply to Princeton. What I’m talking about here is applying to the wrong college for you. Here are some poor reasons for choosing a college: because your friend is applying… because it’s a “name” school… because they have a good football team… because you’re too lazy to do the research required to find the best-fit college for you.

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Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101