Saturday, December 11, 2010

If you are a Senior and applying for College NOW, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read these mistakes to avoid! The MOST important one is #2, followed by #1...

Number 2 is near and dear to my heart as an AP teacher and requires no explanation. It is self-evident, in my opinion.  Number 1 is the one we need to work on at our school.  I think too many students get this one wrong. Many are "accumulators" when it comes to extra-cirriculars.  "Quality is always better than quantity" when it comes to deciding which activities to engage in. If I was an admissions officer, I am sure I could see right through the application where the student is an officer is a gazillion clubs and volunteers more time than Mother Teresa could have in her lifetime. Pick one or two activities and GO DEEP with them! Get something substantial accomplished and that will show through...

Five mistakes to avoid on your college application

1. Being too 'well rounded'

For many parents this may come as a shock, but colleges don’t necessarily favor the students with the longest list of extracurricular activities.
“Right now, the buzz word is really being ‘angular,’ ” says Lee Bierer, an independent college adviser who runs College Admissions Strategies in Charlotte, N.C. “Colleges aren’t looking for what I call ‘serial joiners’ ” who simply show up at various club meetings, she says. “What they’re looking for is a sustained interest, a commitment, responsibility, taking on a leadership role, showing commitment.”

2. Taking the easy path

Some students worry so much about getting high grades that they don’t take courses that really challenge them.

“Colleges would rather see students earn a C in an AP course or a B in an honors course than all As in standard academic-level classes,” says Michael Curtis, a high school counselor in Bucks County, Pa., who created the college-planning portal.

Don’t just take his word for it. Seven out of 10 college and university admissions officials rated “strength of curriculum” as a top factor in applications, according to the 2010 College Admissions Report by the National Association of College Admission Counseling.

3. Lapses on the online apps

About 80 percent of college applications are done online now. The Common Application, accepted by about 400 colleges, also makes it easy to streamline the process.

But it’s a digital danger zone, too. Imagine being an admissions officer at Princeton and reading a passionate essay about how a student would be a perfect fit for ... Yale. Yes, in addition to spell-check horror stories, students still manage to send off applications with the wrong school’s name embedded in the text. Be sure to proofread. And proofread again.

Another common mistake with the Common Application: forgetting that some schools require supplemental essays. If you don’t submit a complete application, it won’t even get a reading.

4. Dime-a-dozen essays

Now that students are applying to more and more colleges, they run the risk of making their applications more generic,” says Michael Pelly, who oversees admissions and financial aid as a vice chancellor at Chapman University in California.

Answers to application questions should be specific and should reflect an understanding of why you would be a good fit at that particular college, he says, just as résumés are tailored when applying for jobs. It’s easy to spot cut-and-paste answers, he warns.

When writing a personal essay, pick a topic that shows how you tick or what you care deeply about, says college adviser Lee Bierer. So many students now take service-oriented trips, for instance, that it comes across as clichéd to write about how much more fortunate you are than you ever realized.

Her ears perked up recently when one advisee mentioned that he has spent half an hour a day for the past three years practicing to be ambidextrous, because he read somewhere that ambidextrous people are more successful. “That’s an essay topic, “ she says, “something not every other kid has done.”

5. Procrastinating

Do your homework early. Research career ideas and colleges with majors that could lead to careers that interest you.

Don’t wait until the week before a deadline to ask a teacher or a coach to give you a letter of recommendation.

Don’t show up at an interview without knowing enough about a school to explain why you’d make a great contribution there. A surprising number of students start chatting about their intended major only to find, in embarrassment, that the college they are interviewing for doesn’t even offer it.

Research costs and financial aid thoroughly, and as early as possible. “Never overlook a college simply because of the published cost,” says Kris Roach, director of admissions and financial aid at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. “For many students, what they pay out of pocket for a college education is very different than the published price because of merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid.”

And don’t delay filing financial-aid paperwork. Some stend to be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.chools may have rolling admissions, but their grants tend to be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.
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