Top 7 Things to Avoid in Your Application (Why 7? Why not?!)

Keep CalmSo the time has come for students to put pen to paper and write their Common App essays, respond to short answer questions, and discuss how they would contribute to campus life.  That’s right…it’s time to edit and revise your college applications.  For some of you, this is a moment you’ve been anticipating.  Whether you are applying to a school you’ve had your eye on for a while or are still open minded, it’s inevitably a big moment in every student’s life.  The moment you hit submit…

So, before we reach that moment, here are some suggestions of things to avoid in either your application or the application process.  We read a whole bunch of these suckers, so trust me…we know what we are talking about.


  1. Failing to proofread

PROOFREAD…PROOFREAD…PROOFREAD.  Should I say it again?  PROOFREAD.  It only takes one un-capitalized “I” or the misspelling of a USC school (Dorns Life anyone?) to really spoil an essay.  When I find an easily spotted mistake, it tells me the student didn’t put in the time required.  So, if you take one thing, and one thing only, away from this blog, it’s PROOFREAD every part of your application.  And here’s the other thing…we get it…it’s hard.  Another set of eyes usually helps.

  1. Writing about something because you think you are supposed to

Students often struggle to identify essay topics that they find compelling.  Some students lament (I know…it’s crazy) that they’ve never experienced a tragedy, trauma, or life changing event.  They think students who have experienced something of the like have an easy essay topic.  But please understand…you can write as strong an essay about fantasy football as you can about a big life changing event.  I’ve read both…trust me.  It’s all about identifying why this subject is important to you and articulating it in 650 words.  The end goal is that we learn something about you, and you don’t have to have a lot of life experience to tell us about yourself.

  1. Picking a major because its “easy” to get into

Everyone’s end goal in the application process is that letter on April 1st that says “Congratulations and welcome to the class of 2021.”  We get it—some programs are more specific in their requirements than others so why not try to achieve the best outcome?  Here’s why…  Let’s say you apply to USC as an English major…but really, you want to be a student in the School of Cinematic Arts (“SCA”).  You’ve heard there’s a portfolio requirement for SCA, and you’re not sure your high school work is going to cut it.  So you decide to apply to English and then transfer into SCA as a current USC student.  Well….here is the problem…you still might not be admitted to SCA.  That portfolio requirement doesn’t go away.  So you should be content sticking with English, or another non-SCA major, for the next four years if you apply to a non-SCA major in the first place.

Moral of the story is pick the major you WANT to be in, not the major you think is “easier” to get into.  And remember, if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get it.

  1. Adding extra essays in the “Additional information” Section

So the Common Application does this really great thing where they allow students to enter any “additional information” that hasn’t been included elsewhere in the application but is still relevant. If you transferred high schools before your senior year, need to explain a temporary drop in grades, or clarify why you made a certain un-obvious choice, this is a great place to do it.  BUT, this is not where you should include another essay.  If we wanted two essays, we would ask for two essays.

  1. Repeating the same information in every section

If you are writing about soccer in your essay, don’t also write about soccer in your short answer questions.  It’s helpful to write about yourself in different contexts so we can learn more about what you do.

  1. Assume we understand acronyms and abbreviations

Acronyms and Abbreviations are likely widely used by students at your schools.  Whether getting asked to “HOCO?” or participating in “DECA” or “YNG,” you use them so frequently that the meaning is obvious.  You’ve probably forgotten that you are even using an abbreviation.  But when we read an application and have no idea what you’re talking about, it’s helpful to clue us in.  Rather than using the abbreviation, spell out the full name of the activity, event, or award.  That way everything is clear and there’s no confusion as to what you’ve done in high school.

  1. Taking your friends’ word as gospel

I know it’s easy to fall into a black hole of information with friends, parents, and websites claiming to have accurate information, but if you have a question about your application, come directly to the source.  Use a school’s direct website as a resource, email or call us, or use the college counselor at your high school.  These are your most reliable sources for accurate and up to date information.  While friends and family are a great source of support and encouragement during this process, rely on the experts when it comes to gathering information.

We can’t wait to read your applications!  Happy writing!