Every year, more and more students choose to apply online – a trend I’m happy to see as we become more environmentally responsible. However, in some students’ minds, online applications seem to trigger a response that says, “It’s just another online form. How hard can it be?” The truth is, it’s not “just another online form”. It’s your chance to make a great first impression – or not. No matter how smart you are, it’s easy to make mistakes on an online application. From transposing letters to misunderstanding directions, there are a multitude of things that can make your application look messy or even stall the admission process as they try to decipher what you were trying to say. Below are a few hints to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes made by students.
1. Procrastination is not your friend. Waiting till the last minute is just asking for trouble. I have had way too many students miss deadlines because of frozen computers and power outages, not to mention the inevitable careless mistakes that happen when you’re in a rush. Make your personal deadline at least 2 weeks before the school’s published deadline and stick to it.
2. Ask for help. Here’s where giving yourself extra time can really be important. Students run into problems completing applications more frequently than you might expect. While some applications are very intuitive and have clear directions, others can be confusing and difficult to understand. If you run into something you are not absolutely sure about, stop right there. Don’t guess. Seek out your counselor or a teacher and ask them to help you out.
3. Answer questions clearly and thoroughly. Make sure what you are saying is clear to your reader. Don’t use abbreviations unless you are certain that everyone is familiar with it. Sometimes questions have more than one part. Be sure you have answered the question as completely as possible.
4. Ask someone you trust to proofread your entire application. This is crucial. Proofreading your application yourself is important, but you may have seen it too many times to catch absolutely everything. Someone else may be more likely to see spelling errors or even questions you may have missed. Make sure you have them read the essay as well to make sure they can understand what you’re trying to say.
5. Check your email frequently. Once you submit your application, this becomes extremely important. If there are any problems with your application or if the school wants more information from you, this is how they will contact you. Make sure you also check your junk mail folder, too – just in case.
6. Be sure to follow up. Most schools require more than just an application. They ask for things like transcripts, test scores, and recommendations which are sent by someone else. It is very important that you verify that these “supporting materials” have arrived and have made it into your file. Many schools allow you to check your application status online. Do it regularly. That way you will know if anything is missing and will be able to do something about it before it’s too late.
You’ve worked hard to prepare yourself for college. Don’t forget that doing a good job on your application is one of the most important steps you still must take if you want to get there. So, be sure to give your applications the priority they deserve by taking your time, asking for help when you need it, and being diligent in your follow through.
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