March 26, 2013

5 Things Not to Do When Applying to College

College is a gateway to many opportunities. During these formative years, foundations are laid and bridges are built to future successes.

A variety of college and university options exist, but choosing the right institution will ensure that you have access to the right resources, programs, and faculty that meet your needs. However, don’t forget that colleges are selecting you too. They are looking for prospective students who will contribute to their campus community and who have a well-rounded academic and extracurricular track record.

For this reason, it is important to avoid these five common mistakes when applying to college:

1. Don’t Procrastinate
The first mistake you don’t want to make when applying to college is to wait until the last minute to apply. The application process can be lengthy, and it’s important to have plenty of time to complete all the paperwork and take the required tests. Many high school students are advised to begin planning as early as their sophomore year. Start looking at schools you are interested in and find out which tests and scores they require. Many schools require the SAT and/or the ACT. It is a good idea to take these tests your sophomore and junior year for practice, so you are prepared when senior year arrives. Start early so that you have plenty of time to complete the application process and submit your highest possible scores.

2. Don’t Put Off Visiting
A big mistake applicants make is to not visit the college they are planning to attend. Academics are not the only aspect to consider when applying to a school; finding success in college can also largely depend on the campus atmosphere and whether or not it is a place where you feel you can thrive. Make a list of attributes that you are looking for in a school campus, and take a visit to the schools on the top of your list. Plan ahead and meet with teachers and advisors to help you get a feel for the faculty. Many schools can also arrange time for you to meet with current students, so it’s wise to have a few questions ready to ask them as well.

3. Don’t Ignore Social Media
Whatever you do, don’t forget about your social media platforms. These platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any other publicly accessible networks where you have published personal information. As the influence of social media increases, it is becoming more common for schools to carefully look over your online presence. Make sure to take down any potentially incriminating photographs and posts. Better yet: Make filtering your online presence a habit as it will be a skill you will need beyond college. Always think before you post something online, and ask yourself what potential schools or employers would think if they saw it — because they might! 

4. Don’t Lie
Over all else, you don’t want to make the mistake of falsifying information on your application. For some students, it can be tempting to elevate applications with extracurricular activities or awards that are not completely accurate. It is far better to be honest, even if you think your resume isn’t as diverse as others, than include misinformation. Colleges are not only able to usually pick up on these discrepancies, but often times if they suspect something is incorrect, they will seek to verify the information. In the end, believe in yourself enough to present the truth, and you will be laying a foundation that will prepare you even further success during your college years.

5. Don’t Slack
Finally, though the dreaded senioritis may set in once you are accepted into college, do not slack off your last semester before graduation. Many high school students are under the false assumption that it is only the first half of their high school senior year that colleges are concerned with. But according to an article in the New York Times, colleges often require midterm and final grades to be sent to admissions offices. Furthermore, make sure you don’t become distracted by first-year excitement once college actually begins, because many scholarships and internships are highly dependent on student achievement throughout the year, and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.

Gabriela D. Acosta serves as the community manager for the MSW@USC, one of the most innovative and dynamic social work graduate programs online. She is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development. Connect with me on Twitter @Gabyacosta101

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