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5 College Application Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid Common Mistakes That Students Make When applying to college

Is your teen suffering from application procrastination? Choosing and applying to the right college can be a daunting process, not to mention that seemingly endless period while the family waits for a response in the mail.

Preparation is the only real cure for the college application blues. Gathering good information early enough to use it is the best way to avoid what College Admissions Deans from across the country term The Five Faux Pas – the five most common mistakes prospective freshman make when choosing and applying to college.

#1 – Poor Academics

According to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the most important factor in gaining admission to college is strong performance in a college preparatory curriculum (test scores and class rank were second and third). Your teen should be taking as many English, science, math, social studies and foreign language courses as possible. A related mistake is assuming that grade point average is more important than the difficulty of the classes selected. Your teen can't fool an admissions officer with a high GPA based on non-challenging electives.

#2 – Pack Mentality

Don't let your teen apply only to those schools his or her friends are attending. Work together to set the right criteria: major field of study, campus size/average class size, rural or urban setting, etc. Remember, it's your job to point out that even the best friends can flunk out of college or simply change their minds, leaving your teen stuck with (possibly) untransferable credits from a school that doesn't fit their real needs.

#3 – Choosing One "Right" School

There is no such thing as one "right" school. With hundreds of universities to choose from there are sure to be at least several that meet your teen's needs. Help you future freshman create a list of five to ten serious choices using a three-tier approach. The first tier are the most competitive schools; the second-tier colleges should meet all the same requirements but are not as selective as the first group; third-tier should include colleges your teen is sure to get into (a.k.a. safety schools).

#4 – Making Price a Priority

Don't make the mistake of thinking a public, in-state school is all you can afford until you investigate all available financing. More than half of all college students receive some form of financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) that can make a private school across the country nearly as affordable as the state school a half-hour from home.

#5 – Lost in the Mail

Your teen's application and supporting materials (transcripts, essays, recommendations) are all an admissions officer has to consider when making a decision that can have a major impact on your child's life. The materials must be well written, neatly prepared (appearance does count) and submitted before the application deadline. If the application is just one day late all that hard work is completely wasted because no one will review it.

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