College Application Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making

If college is in your future plans, then you already know the first big hurdle you must get through before an acceptance letter arrives in your hands: the dreaded college application process.

Applying to schools is not only time consuming, but can be stressful, too. The applications you fill out are only step one in finding out where you may be studying for the next few years. That means you want to do as well as you can on this step so you have as many options open as possible.

Yet unless you have carefully watched a sibling or friend go through the process, you may be completely lost about what you should avoid going forward—and that may cause you to make mistakes simply because you didn't know any better.

Fortunately, knowledge is power. (That's why you're planning on attending college, right? ) Below are some mistakes that people commonly make when applying to colleges, and how to avoid them.

1. You Apply to So Many Schools

It can be tempting to apply to as many colleges as possible, especially if you're stressed about potentially not getting into any of your choices. However, this is a mistake for a few reasons. College applications cost money, and you could be wasting hundreds of dollars applying to schools you have absolutely no interest in attending out of fear.

But even if the cost isn't a factor, you simply can't give your full attention to each application if you're applying to so many schools. Yes, the Common App makes it easier to apply to multiple schools at once, but most schools feature at least a few extra, school-specific questions you'll want to put thought into. If you're only applying to a school because you think you would get in—but don't actually want to attend at all—don't waste your time or money. It's not worth it. Instead, research so-called "safety schools" that you think you could get excited about if they end up as your only option.


(via Shutterstock)


2. You Apply to Only the Most "Elite" Colleges

Despite what Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls have taught us, Harvard, Yale and Stanford are not the only schools out there. If you have the grades and extracurriculars to be considered for a top-tier university, you're likely in a pool with many other competitive applicants—and, sorry to say it, but not everyone can get into an Ivy. Obviously, it's great to shoot for the stars, but finding a few schools you could apply to successfully will give you a safety net if Harvard doesn't work out. In fact, you may find yourself being offered scholarship money or special opportunities you wouldn't at a top 10 school.


3. You Only Talk About School-Related Experiences

Not everyone has the same life experience, and while it may not always seem as important, colleges are looking at the whole picture of a student instead of just grade point average and extracurriculars. If you have a special circumstance that, say, made it impossible for you to participate in a ton of after school programs, it's important to note that in your essay, while also sharing what else makes you a great candidate. You don't only gain work and leadership experience (something that schools will always look for) in student government, but also in real life—so if you were the coach of your little brother's Little League team, or helped your dad manage his store after work, that's vital to show on your application.


4. You Write a Boring Essay

The college application essay is challenging because not only does it need to show that you're capable of, well, writing an essay, it also has to show that you're self-aware enough to tell a complete, interesting story about your life. Many students misinterpret the college essay as a place to brag about what they believe are their most university-worthy accomplishments, like doing charity work or winning a big academic prize. If those things helped shape who you are, and you have something interesting to say about them, that's awesome. However, college readers can see right through inauthentic writing. Instead, pick something that actually matters to you, and write about that—even if it's something that doesn't seem as "important."


(via Shutterstock)


5. Your Essay Is TMI

A boring essay is one thing, but an inappropriate one can have your college shut your application without even a glance at your grades. It should go without saying, but if you wouldn't tell your high school principal the story you wrote about in your college essay, you should absolutely not send it to your college.


6. You Use an Embarrassing Email Address

It's so easy to sign up for a simple email address now that there's no reason to use one that's not professional in your college applications. You really can't go wrong with your name as your school email, and you can tack on a number that's significant to you if that address is already taken.


7. You Send Your College Applications to the Wrong School

It's easier than you may think. Did you want to apply to the University of Buffalo, or Buffalo State College? Did you want to apply to Miami University in Ohio, or the University of Miami in Florida? This is especially important if you're applying early decision to a school as you are legally bound to that college upon acceptance. Also, if you think that this isn't possible, we happen to know someone who experienced exactly this.


(via Shutterstock)


8. You Forget to Spellcheck

Spelling mistakes show you didn't put enough thought and care into your application (see No. 1) and with so many programs available for free online, which will check not only your spelling but your grammar as well, you have all the opportunity to double-check everything before you hit submit. Don't let the wrong use of "their," "they're" and "there" lose you points at your dream college.


While college applications can be stressful, millions of people have gone through the process and made it out on the other side. Now that you know what mistakes to look out for, you've got this! Good luck.


Want to read more about college? Click HERE to read about what you need to know before starting your college applications.