As the application season begins to pick up for the majority of high school seniors, there’s always a few stories that fall directly into the “they did WHAT?” category of failed applications. So as the cold of January rolls on, let me share a few of the more humorous moments our consultants have heard about from admissions offices. Don’t try these yourself, because it’s a guarantee you won’t get in.
Don’t hit the “Submit” button too soon. In drafting a response to the question “Why do you want to attend Columbia?”, one applicant wrote, “it’s in New York City … ya-da-ya-da-ya-da,” then failed to complete the answer before sending the form. Not surprisingly, Columbia officials took a dim view of the response.
Don’t send along attached notes. Tulane received one application with a sticky note attached saying, “Mom, do you think this sounds good?” Another university received a packet with a hand-written note paper-clipped to a blank question page. The note read: “Don’t forget to fill this out before you send it.”
Don’t discuss sex in the personal essay. One college applicant spent several hundred words explaining why “Dance is Greater than Sex.” That, according to a one admissions official, “is what we call a ‘suicide essay.’ You really just don’t want to go there.”
Don’t send along your application “strategy plan.” One University of Illinois applicant accidentally sent the admissions office a hand-written “bullet” list detailing his family’s “strategy to get the child admitted,” says one admission official. The list even broke down who would call whom, which alumni to contact, and so on.
Don’t have mom or dad sign your application. Admissions offices are getting applications signed by parents instead of students; in some cases, Mom occasionally slips up and adds her own Social Security number! At one university, a parent called the admissions office and, after asking a lot of questions, explained that she’d “never done the Common Application before.”
Make sure you praise the right school. In answering the question, “Why do you want to attend our college?” some students absent-mindedly name the wrong college. “They’d respond with why they wanted to attend Duke or UNC,” commented someone from Emory’s admissions office. It’s bad enough when a student is just copy and pasting their essays; it’s worse when you mention the school’s rival.
Don’t re-enact a bad movie plot. When one student received a rejection letter from Duke, they loaded the whole family into the car, drove several hundred miles to the admissions office, and demanded to see the dean. While the Dean of Admissions graciously agreed to meet with a family of four from Missouri who did this, he commented that “they left disappointed.”
Don’t forget to tell your teacher you’re applying to a single-sex school. Barnard, which enrolls only women, sometimes receives recommendation letters from teachers who write about “Suzy,” then say ‘he’ everywhere in referring to Suzy, suggesting the teacher is plugging the student’s name into a form letter.
While the above stories are funny, it’s best to make sure you don’t become one of them. Our consultants are former college admissions officers and know the ropes on college applications. Even if you just need to bounce some ideas off us or make sure your checklist is complete, give us a call at 703.242.5885 and try our introductory offer of an hour’s consultation. You can email us for more information as well as visit our website. It’s a small price to pay to make sure you end up in the college you want, and not another funny admissions story.