As December approaches, the college application season hits a fever pitch.
UC applications are due. Early application decisions are released soon. And most regular decision applications are due by the end of the year.
The swell of the application season turns into a whirlwind during this time, so it’s important to keep in mind protocols when working with admissions officers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with college applications, just imagine the position of those tasked with evaluating thousands of them.
College admissions professionals are not individuals you want to frustrate or annoy, especially since admission decisions can hinge on razor-thin margins. To improve your chances of admission, you want to make all the right moves and avoid all the wrong ones. So, here are 5 sure-fire ways to annoy your admissions officers:
1. Don't Do Your Research/Homework
Whenever you come into contact with a college admissions officer, you need to be relatively informed about the school itself and have targeted questions prepared to ask. If you ask questions that can easily be found on the school’s website, you are wasting everyone’s time. Do a deep dive into college websites, and take notes to keep track of the information relevant to you. The only time you should contact an admissions officer is to clarify any information you don’t understand or cannot find online. Any research or homework you have conducted should also be included in school-specific supplemental essays to demonstrate your fit with the college.
2. Call and Email Admission Officers Incessantly
In my previous article, I wrote about demonstrated interest. Calling and emailing admissions officers can be one way to demonstrate interest, but there’s a fine line between contacting an admissions office to get the information you need and pestering admissions offices. I used to work as a student coordinator in the Harvard admissions office, and we kept a database of every student, parent, counselor, etc. who called for information. Most conversations were normal, pleasant interactions. Occasionally, though, I’d have someone who was particularly insightful or someone who badgered me to no end. I’d make a note of both types of interactions—but for completely different reasons. Try not to fall into the latter category.
3. Let Your Parents Do All the Work
I feel like I write this in every article, but that's only because it's so important. Remember: you—not your mom or dad—will be the one attending college. Allowing parents to dominate the college application process is counterproductive. You need the experience of navigating applications and putting your best foot forward to let your unique voice shine through as well as to prepare you for similar future experiences. Parents should serve as a guide, but if they're running the show, admissions officers may detect too much of their influence in your application. Take control of the application process, and make sure that you are at the center of all of the decisions.
4. Apply Using an Inappropriate Email Address
Many teenagers do not use appropriate email addresses because they come up with them when they are relatively young. My first email address was inspired by a song I liked at the time, but I’d never use it today. I have had to advise plenty of students to start using new email addresses during college application season. Before submitting your college applications, please create an email account primarily consisting of just your name. You don’t want your pre-teen email address to inadvertently make an admissions officer roll his or her eyes.
5. Sending Additional (and Unexpected) Items with Your Application
If the college does not explicitly ask you to send something extra with your application, do not send anything extra with your application. You would think this would be obvious, but sometimes you or your parents feel like a performance video, or a research paper, or gifts will grant you that extra edge. Trust me, these are more likely to backfire than to work in your favor.
Though it may often feel overwhelming, it is possible to put together solid college applications, submit them on time, and present yourself as an impressive candidate. It’s also really easy to get in your own way and create preventable mishaps along the way. Utilize the information in this article to facilitate your process and to feel confident in yourself and your applications because if you’re not on an admissions officer’s bad side, you’re already doing something right.
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."