Avoid these common mistakes on the Common App!
#1 Missed Deadlines
The Common App opens August 1 each year but the submission deadline varies based on the colleges to which you apply.
In the My Colleges section of the Common App, track the deadlines for each college application and make sure you have everything ready to submit before the deadline. Early Decision and Early Action schools generally require applications by November 1.
Every year the Common App has some processing glitches and heavy traffic days so be sure to allow extra time before deadlines to make sure your submission is complete.
#2 Ho Hum Boring
Identify something about you that’s unique so the admissions officer will remember you as the student who started a pie-baking club, who won fencing competitions, who wrote and sold a song to a local business for their ad jingle—or anything else that makes you memorable.
Admissions officers have read thousands of personal statements. If you’re writing about the Big Game, your grandparents’ inspiration, your mission trip, or how COVID-19 has affected your high school years, you’ll be telling a common story. Here’s some other personal statement topics you’ll want to avoid.
#3 Missed Opportunities
Resume: Include a well-written, carefully proofread resume within the Common App. Though not every school will accept a resume, you don’t want to leave a blank space while your peers have shared valuable insights about themselves.
Test Score: Time spent on test prep can yield score jumps that make a difference not only in admissions, but scholarships, even at test-optional (not test-blind) schools. If you and another candidate are equally qualified, but you submit a solid test score, that could be the difference-maker, especially this year when many are choosing not to submit. Improved test scores can also show persistence and grit—and you can still improve them your senior year, when boosting your cumulative GPA isn’t as easy.
Recommendation Letter: When you request a recommendation letter, be sure to ask people who will give you a GREAT recommendation and can provide specific, positive details about you. If an interview is offered, take it seriously, be yourself, and demonstrate why you would be a great match for the school.
Supplemental Essay: Some schools ask for additional optional essays. Don’t waste the chance to share more of your uniqueness or risk the admissions office thinking you don’t care enough.
#4 Be (or Seem) Sloppy
Spellcheck, Grammarcheck, Proofread. Ask a trusted friend or teacher to review. Make sure everything is attached including test score, recommendations, transcripts. Don’t declare your application efforts finished after you click submit. Make sure you receive a confirmation email.
Be sure to answer ALL parts of the Common App and all of the questions within an essay prompt. Many students only answer the first part of the essay—double-check before you submit.
#5 Lack Details and/or Priority
In the Activities section, choose your Top Ten activities, and list the most important ones first. Do not save your best for last!
Be sure to explain each activity as clearly and concisely as possible and spell out acronyms that might be unfamiliar to others. Use the limited (150 characters per) space with specific achievements and quantify with dollars, attendance, percentages, numbers, whenever you can.
Don’t be undecided in the Future Plans section even if you are. Your plans can change, but you need to have some specifics that make sense according to your academic and extracurricular interests. Otherwise you’ll appear as if you just don’t care.
#6 Be Inappropriate
Watch your behavior online and off. Every year, some students have their acceptances rescinded due to online comments. Make sure your email address is professional and not silly. You never know who in your circle of connections might be an alum or have a connection to the school where you’re applying. Avoid sensitive topics, degrading others, retweeting conflict-raising opinions, or anything else that might raise a red flag in the admissions office.
#7 Miss Other College Applications
Not every college uses the Common App so don’t forget to apply directly to the other colleges on your list. Double-check for each college that you’ve completed your profile and any additional information required on the school’s admissions website.
The overall average freshman acceptance rate is 66%, according to the 2019 National Association for College Admission Counselors (NACAC) report. Nearly 80% of schools accept more than half of freshman applicants, with over half of schools admitting 2/3 of applicants. And 77% of applicants were accepted into their top-choice school. You can do this, especially if you avoid these common mistakes on the Common App!