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The "Don'ts" of College Applications

 It’s time.

You have finally selected the colleges to which you will be applying, and maybe you even had the opportunity to visit several of them.  You’ve requested all of the necessary application information, and if you are like the majority of college applicants, you plan to submit your materials online. Your final test scores have been finalized, and your transcript is as good as it’s going to get.

    Perhaps you’ve clung to the last of fall in order to stall for time, but now, you’re ready to get serious about your college applications.  In particular, students who will be applying for early admission or early decision must compose and compile their applications and supplementary materials more quickly.

    The most obvious task at hand is to write a personal statement.  Not just any personal statement, but one that will so thoroughly impress admissions officers that they will select you over hundreds of other equally competitive applicants. Next, you will need to tackle your resume/CV so that it provides a concise but comprehensive overview of your education background, accomplishments, and extracurriculars.

    Then, you need to forward your SAT/ACT (and AP) scores to the universities of your choice.  In the meantime, you must make sure your recommenders will be completing and submitting their letters in support of your applications before the deadlines. You suddenly remember that two of the colleges require a couple more short response essays, and if you want to receive any scholarships, you might need to write separate essays for those applications as well.  Artists will be compiling a portfolio with samples of their work, while musicians perfect audition tapes to enhance their applications.

    On top of all the above, you must address the practical issue of covering your hefty application fees.  If you are eligible to have your application fees waived, well, that’s an additional form you have to submit. 

    Meanwhile, you’re still a full-time high school student who wants to maintain your strong academic performance so that the schools that accept you, based on your freshman-junior year record, will not rescind their offers when they see your uncharacteristically low senior year grades.  Not to mention, as a senior, you’d like to enjoy your last year of high school and spend time with your friends and family, before jetting off to college next fall.

    Given the responsibilities you are currently facing, there are perhaps inadvertent mistakes waiting to happen. However, with Sibia's invaluable guidance, you can ensure that your application process remains error-free and that you maximize your chances of getting into your top college choices.

Don't Procrastinate

    In fact, overestimate the amount of time you will need to complete everything: the personal statement, requesting recommendation letters and transcripts, sending standardized test scores to the schools, and so on. Keep in mind that many of these tasks depend upon other people and their schedules as well. You may not be the only student asking your AP Biology teacher for a letter of recommendation; your high school's transcript office is certainly inundated with rush requests, and the College Board may make an error regarding the transmission of your test scores. Prepare for all such potential "worst-case scenarios" and plan accordingly. Request letters of recommendation, test scores, and transcripts well in advance of application deadlines.

    As for your tasks, do not put off writing your personal statement! While you may be able to bang out a passable first draft in one day, this is not the draft you wish to submit to colleges. Remember that other candidates are painstakingly putting in hours - in fact, weeks - of effort to perfect their college admissions essays. Thus, leave yourself plenty of time to go through multiple drafts, revise, rewrite, edit and proofread! Furthermore, you will want others to read your personal statement so that you receive honest feedback and constructive criticism.

Don't Give Your Personal Statement to a Friend or Family Member

    To be sure, you want someone you trust to read your personal statement and to help you to improve it. However, be careful regarding whom you select to read your admissions essay. In most cases, close friends and family members will be unable to provide you with the honest feedback and critical judgment you need. Despite your understandable apprehension, push those doubts aside and hand your draft personal statement over to someone you know will be conscientiously critical; alternatively, enlist the guidance of one of Sibia's expert college consultants, because we will tell you exactly what works and what doesn't.

Don't Be Lazy

    Now is the time to pull out all the stops. Doing everything you can to enhance your college application is probably more important than any extra credit you have ever earned. If you are an amateur artist, take the time to compile a thoughtful portfolio that best demonstrates the breadth and quality of your work. A budding creative writer? Check whether the admissions office will allow you to submit samples of your creative work to supplement your application.

    Does your dream college provide prompts for optional essays? Don't consider them as optional - write these essays. This is another invaluable opportunity for you to set yourself above other applicants and demonstrate your unique qualifications. 

    Likewise, if the college is holding local information sessions close to you, make every effort to attend, participate, and ask well-informed questions. You never know - the admissions officer at the info session may retain a positive impression of you and your enthusiasm for the university; should things come down to the wire, this may play in your favor later.

Don't Make Assumptions about Financial Aid

    The college application is an arduous process, but seeking financial aid is yet another important leg in your journey to higher education. Do not depend on receiving merit, athletic, or academic scholarships. Instead, you should actively seek scholarships and other financial aid opportunities at the local, statewide and national levels. Waiting to do so once you have already been accepted to college will most likely be too late. Many scholarship deadlines occur before you receive your admissions letters in the spring. Especially in the current economic climate, scholarships will be extremely competitive. Start searching early, and cast your net wide because every little bit may help; furthermore, the amount of financial aid you obtain may be the deciding factor between attending your top-choice (and perhaps more expensive) university and a more affordable alternative.

Don't Forget to Proofread

    We're not only talking about your personal statement, though that's a given. Proofread everything, including even the most basic information you input into your applications. A typographical error in something as mundane as your street address or phone number will raise eyebrows and cast doubt upon your candidacy.

Don't Harass Admissions Officers

    Many schools allow you send in a self-addressed, stamped postcard that they will return to you, when your application has been received. Sit tight and wait for this return postcard to confirm the receipt of your application. No matter how antsy you feel, do not repeatedly call the admissions office to check on the status of your application. Such calls will only bring unwanted attention to your application, and instead of demonstrating your enthusiasm for the school, you may simply become a nuisance to extremely busy admissions officers and administrators.

Don't Become Complacent

    Senioritis is notorious across all high schools, and perhaps an inevitable part of senior year. However, do not let your grades slip drastically, as colleges have their pick of the best. If they feel you have not taken their offer of admission seriously, they will not hesitate to rescind their offer of admission and give it to someone they believe is more deserving - someone who has maintained his or her exemplary grades throughout the very last semester of high school.

    Sibia’s admissions consultants understand that your life is more than a little hectic right now. Thus, we’re offering you various top-notch admissions application consulting services that are designed to ease your stress and to guide you through seamlessly through the college application process.  You have the freedom to select the appropriate level of service, so that you can receive unparalleled college admissions advice that takes into account your circumstances, your schedule, and your college preferences.