• Michael Hirsch

2 Common College Application Mistakes to Avoid This Fall

As rising seniors embark on the arduous journey of preparing their college applications this fall, I would like to take a moment to point out to these students the importance of conducting research in a few key areas as early in the process as possible. While it is a natural tendency for future applicants to remain preoccupied with their college list and essays heading in to senior year, there are several equally important yet less-heralded aspects of the application process that, if not properly considered at an early stage, can result in many additional hours of work and missed deadlines. To ensure all of my students are fully-apprised of important deadlines and application considerations throughout the process, I strongly encourage them to avoid making the following two mistakes.

Not Checking Which Colleges Accept the Common Application

There’s a common misconception among high school students that most, if not all, colleges in America accept the Common Application. While it is true that a large majority of American colleges do use the Common Application, a significant number of public and private schools have maintained an allegiance to their own, unique applications. The University of California system, for example, mandates applicants to complete its exhaustive "UC Application," replete with several additional essays and activities list sections of differing size and scope to those of the Common Application. The University of Texas, University of Maryland, Georgetown and MIT (to name just a few) similarly require applicants to submit separate applications of varying difficulty. Unfortunately, such oversights can negatively impact the college application experience for prospective applicants in a variety of ways.

Of course, it’s entirely possible for students to complete several, distinct applications if they account for this fact and prepare accordingly; however, the increase in workload is quite substantial. Most school-specific applications vary considerably, resulting in the necessity for students to craft entirely new essays while reformatting extracurricular awards and activities' sections. A failure to recognize which schools do not accept the Common Application can add countless hours of work to the process while, inadvertently, limiting the amount of time students can dedicate to their all-important Common Application materials. To ensure students know the true extent of work that is required for all of their applications, I strongly encourage that they check which schools on their list do not accept the Common Application before submitting an official college list to their Guidance Department.

Not Researching All Relevant Application Deadlines

While rising seniors are usually aware of the highly-publicized early and regular deadlines most schools offer (November 1st and January 1st, respectively), they often fail to recognize that there are several additional deadlines that can potentially make or break their acceptance chances. Those students who hope to enhance their application package by submitting an additional Arts Portfolio - which I highly encourage - are surprised to discover that most competitive schools impose separate deadlines for these materials. In fact, it is not uncommon for colleges to require students to submit such materials several weeks in advance of general deadlines. Similarly, those students hoping to win coveted scholarships and/or Honors placements from specific schools should also anticipate accelerated deadlines for these submissions and, as such, should plan accordingly. While these considerations may only affect a smaller subset of the broader applicant pool, I always recommend that students hoping to leverage these options comb through all deadline requirements at least a month prior to general early and regular deadlines.