Jill Haley: 8 tips to avoid common college application mistakes | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: 8 tips to avoid common college application mistakes

Jill Haley
Students and parents attend a Cash for College workshop at Nevada Union High School.
Submitted photo


WHAT: Paying for College Workshop

WHEN: Oct. 3, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Don Baggett Theatre on the NU Campus

WHAT: Cash for College Workshop

WHEN: Oct. 12 at 9 a.m.

WHERE: NU cafeteria

Once again, we are in the midst of the college application season. In my 20 years of advising college seniors on college applications, I have compiled a list of the worse mistakes a student can make when completing their applications. Let’s have a look:

1. Waiting until the last minute to file the applications

We all know teenagers are procrastinators by nature, but waiting until the deadline can have dire consequences. There are components of some applications that require supplemental essays, lengthy lists of activities and letters of recommendation.

Students should develop a spread sheet listing all the due dates and requirements for each college they are applying to. It is easy to get overwhelmed when applying to multiple colleges and a tracking system can really help. Include such things as requirements for essays, letters of recommendation and interviews.

2. Applying to colleges that you can’t afford

Before choosing the colleges you will apply to, make sure you can afford them. How do you go about doing this? Net price calculators. Each college website is required to post a calculator that will give an estimate of what you will have to pay for one year of college on their campus. This estimate is based on financial information but also on a student’s GPA and test scores.

3. Applying to the wrong colleges

Applications are expensive and time consuming to fill out. Get an estimate of your chances of getting into a particular college before applying.

The website CollegeData gives admission’s information on selectivity and on what each college looks for in its admission’s decisions.

3. Not talking about your character and values in your application

If your application is a list of activities, grades and test scores you may be missing the mark. Colleges are looking for nice kids who have a passion and curiosity for learning. These qualities can best be demonstrated in your college essays, and letters of recommendation.

5. Making a mess of the college essay

According to local Essay Coach Irene Frazier, the biggest essay mistake is when students elevate their language so they don’t sound like a normal teenager. Admission’s readers are looking for an authentic voice of a 17 year old. This is often the result of letting too many people read and edit their essays.

6. Not editing the entire application

Proof reading really does matter.

7. Blaming

I have read applications that spend way too much time explaining that a bad teacher is why they got a poor grade. It is wise to accept responsibility for a grade or a disciplinary situation.

8. Not giving information to your recommenders

Teachers, counselors and community members spend hours each year writing letters of recommendation for students applying to college. For them to be able to write effective letters, students should give them a “brag packet” of information highlighting not just their academic achievements, but their activities, values and goals. And please, give them at least a month’s notice. These letters take time.

The Nevada Joint Union High School district will be hosting a free Paying for College Workshop on Oct. 3 in the Don Baggett Theatre on the NU Campus at 6 p.m. A Spanish language version of this workshop will be held on Oct. 1 6 p.m., at Nevada Union Adult Ed.

In addition, a Cash for College Workshop on how to file the FAFSA will be held on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. at the Nevada Union cafeteria. 

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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