What Are Things That I Should Avoid on an Application?

As you fill out your applications and write your college essays, keep these tips in mind for the most common things to avoid.

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Do not focus on your darkest moment in life

Personal stories of overcoming your greatest obstacles can be compelling essay topics. It is wonderful to tell a story that highlights your resilience and ability to rise after a fall. However, students who are reaching for their writing to stand out can often dwell in the darkness. Keep in mind that drawing a reader’s focused and elongated attention to the darkest crevasses of your mind and heart, while possibly a more artistic depiction of your humanness, when taken too far can call into question your ability to succeed in college as a member of that community. Of course, we all fall into tough moments in life and this is not to say that you cannot succeed in college if you have gone through hard times. Quite the opposite is true. My advice is simple: focus on the rise, and not on the fall. This shows a college that no matter what you may run into while you are living on their campus and beyond, they can have confidence in your ability to bounce back and to make the most of the education that they offer to you.

Do not try to be someone you’re not

Focus your attention and your preparation on all that you are, and really get to know yourself through this very self reflective process. An authentic voice jumps off of the page when reading admissions files, and when your voice aligns with teachers’ perspectives, interview reports, and all other aspects of your file, you will have your best shot in the process - and that’s all you can ask for.

Do not take who you are for granted

Remember that the person reading your file has most likely never met you before! Do not assume the person reading your folder knows how good of a sense of humor you have, or how much you love helping others. We often can’t see ourselves clearly to even identify what makes us, us. During this process, ask your friends and family: what are your most prominent characteristics? What three words would they use to describe you? Find a way to weave into your application the things you most want to communicate about who you are.

Do not be shy about your accomplishments!

Humility is a beautiful quality. And, in the college application process, it is important to toot your own horn - at an appropriate volume. It is a delicate balance between sharing your excellences, and remaining humble.

Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes

Proofread your entire application … twice. And, have it proofread by others. A typo won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker, but it sure isn’t a deal-maker.

Do not, under any circumstances, stretch the truth

This one should go without saying. It will result in just about immediate withdrawal of any acceptance. Just don’t do it!