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5 Things to Check Before Admissions Officers Catch Them

I spent most of my career working on the college side of the admissions process as an admissions officer and dean of admission. I was trained to find the typos, mistakes, inconsistencies, and other issues in a student's application.

Despite what admissions officers tell you, they aren't always looking for reasons to admit you. Oftentimes, and especially at colleges with very low acceptance rates, they are looking for reasons to deny you. The smallest little thing can be enough. But it wasn't until I started working as a director of college counseling at a high school when I realized how many missteps could be preventable. 

As seniors head back for their final year of high school, there are some important things they can do right now to ensure that they aren't at the mercy of these admissions officers:

1. Request and carefully review your official transcript BEFORE any college materials are sent to colleges.

If there is a mistake on it, like the wrong grade or class, you are usually the only one to find it! Also remember that if your high school automatically lists your test scores on your transcript, colleges will see your scores even if you are hoping to apply test-optional. It's important to see what's on your transcript so that you know what admissions officers see. 

2. If your major choice has changed over the summer, let your college counselor and teachers writing for you know this!

You don't want one of your letter-writers mentioning you want to major in business because that's what you told them last spring if you now want to major in something else. Mixed messages in the application can lead an admissions officer to question your intentions.

3. Review each college's standardized testing policy.

If a college on your list wants self-reported scores, follow their instructions. They truly want the easiest way to capture scores—and that is on the application! However, if an official score report is required, students should begin to send those off now for any Early Action or Early Decision application as it can take several weeks for the college to receive the score report from the College Board and ACT during the busy fall season.

4. Put your application in "preview" mode or print out a hard copy to review carefully for typos or mistakes.

Even if you get someone to proofread your application or edit your essays, it's up to you to catch any mistakes. We're only human, right? But the student is held to the highest standard in the admissions process. 

5. Resist the urge to send in extra stuff.

Applications with elaborate resumes, extra essays that aren't asked for, extra letters of recommendation, and using the "Additional Information" section unnecessarily tend to carry a stigma with them: The student is overcompensating for something lacking in their application. This might not be true, but that is the message it sends to admissions officers who have literally five minutes to read your application. They get easily frustrated trying to sift through all of the extra information that they don't have time to read. Invest in the pieces of the application that matter.

Related Reading: 10 Things for Seniors to Do Before the Summer Ends

There are so many aspects of the admissions process that are out of the student's control. Students have to be proactive given the large caseloads of college counselors around the country and the fact that admissions officers have limited time to review an application. Be your own best advocate in this process by ensuring your application is exactly the way you want it to be. When that happens, admissions officers see in you what you see in yourself.