All the admissions officers we’ve met are good people who would much rather admit than deny kids. But during the pressures of admissions season, some applicants’ actions can drive the admissions folks crazy. Here are five tips to make sure you don’t inadvertently start out on the wrong foot.
1. Follow directions.
You can avoid most common mistakes in college applications by reading and following the directions. For example, if a college asks you to list your activities in the space provided, and you send them a resume instead, you just showed them that you couldn’t follow a pretty simple direction. So read the directions and do exactly as they instruct you to do. No matter how much you think you might be helping your case by doing things your own way, you’re always better served following directions.
2. Make sure you read the admissions websites carefully.
When is the application deadline? How many letters of recommendation are required? When is the last date you can take the SAT? You can find answers to these and many other common questions from applicants on the admissions websites.
Before you pick up the phone or email an admissions officer, make sure you’ve carefully read all of the information they provide for you. Failure to do so makes it look like you haven’t spent much time researching the school.
3. If you do have a question, don’t let your parents call for you.
Admissions officers expect that you’ll have questions. But asking your parents to call the admissions office for you doesn’t send a very good message to the college about your maturity and preparedness for college life. You’re going to college—your parents aren’t. So if you have a question, call the admissions office yourself. Colleges like students who show initiative and who aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it.
4. Don’t send additional material the colleges don’t request.
A lot of students send the admissions office tapes, drawings, videos, CDs, fresh-baked cookies, rare farm animals—OK, we made that last one up. Admissions offices receive an overwhelming amount of information during admissions season. Don’t assume that extra materials will be appreciated. If they don’t ask you for it, they probably don’t want it.
5. Go easy on them.
Admissions officers have a hard job. There’s a tremendous amount of work to do and the pressure is on during admissions season. Follow these previous four tips. It’s always OK to ask questions, but don’t inundate them with emails and phone calls. And when you do have contact with them, always thank them for their time. A little sincere appreciation goes a long way in life—and in the admissions office.