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Countdown to college: Don't make these application mistakes

By Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

Nov. 1 is an important college application deadline, and the stress in many homes with high school seniors is almost palpable.

Here are some tips to make the last part of the application process run a little more smoothly:


Nov. 1 is the most common deadline for colleges and universities that offer Early Decision (binding) and Early Action (non-binding) admissions programs. Procrastinators need to be aware that in the last few days before the deadline, many college computer servers will be on overload, and some have shut down entirely. If you wait until the last minute to submit your application, there's a chance it won't get in on time.

I have seen ridiculous statistics indicating that 60 percent to 80 percent of students wait until the last two days to file their applications. Think about what that means to a college or university with a large applicant pool, such as UCLA, which receives more than 100,000 applications. There's a good chance that server is going to be running slowly.

You should also note that colleges are aware of the date and time you file your application; so some may construe your procrastination as being either lazy or disinterested.


Use your essays to set yourself apart from the masses. Don't tell the college admissions office what you think they want to hear (how prestigious the school is, how beautiful the campus is). Demonstrate that you've done your homework and share why each college is a good fit for you academically and socially. You should specifically address the courses are you looking forward to taking and how you see yourself getting involved in campus life (clubs, activities, etc.).



Often, students are so eager to hit "submit" that they fail to proof their essays and activity lists sufficiently. Submitting an activity list that says you are a "candy stripper" instead of a "candy striper" may cause some good-natured teasing at one college, but the failure to proofread may doom your application at another school.


Colleges are engaged in social media. If you are interested in a college or university, you should let them know. "Like" their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Make sure you let them know if you visit their campus, if an admissions representative comes to your school, or if you meet one of their reps at a college fair. It's also important to note that some colleges are looking at students' social media pages, so clean them up.

Lee Shulman Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website College Admissions Strategies.

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