Mistakes to Avoid in College Applications and College Admissions Planning
Greetings Students and Families
This is the second installment of of three-part series on College Admissions Mistakes to Avoid.
# 5 WRONG MAJOR- POOR “FIT”
Don’t make the mistake of focusing your energies on researching colleges when you should be researching potential majors based on your interests and academic strengths. Even if you have multiple interests, you are more likely to be successful by applying to specific majors of study that reflect your high school curriculum and extracurricular interests to date. You can be admitted as a biology major and subsequently graduate as an art history major.
Bonnie Rabin, PhD College Admissions Assistance
Students make the mistake of thinking “conventionally”. Just because you want to be a physician doesn’t mean you need to major in Biology. Similarly, pre-law is more than politics.
Be informed about unconventional and “hot” major areas of study that capitalize on your strengths and interests while providing a strategic admissions edge. BE OPEN MINDED– at 15, 16 or 17 – why are you boxing yourself into a major?
Students and parents often overlook some absolutely stellar Honors Programs at State Flagship colleges providing a comparable education to even the most competitive institutions. These programs are available to out-of-state residents and often include substantial scholarships to attract strong students. Such programs include “Honors Housing” and many educational extras – VIP educational treatment.
As a former college professor, you’re invited to leverage my extensive knowledge of curriculum and degree requirements. Let me introduce you to a variety of majors you’ve likely never encountered.
I will teach you how to read a curriculum map!
Start today- head to any large university and open the course catalog- you will be amazed at the number of majors, and within each major the course requirements will hopefully inspire you to learn more.
# 6 THE DETAILS! Summer ? Collegiate Programs?
Don’t pay to attend non-collegiate or travel summer programs run by “franchise” operations or those that send you glossy selective invitations. These programs are frowned upon by admissions officers. Let me help identify “spam-scam” activities.
I’ll provide the information you need to select an appropriate program that enriches both your education and enhances your chances of admission.
My January newsletter will discuss the advantages of attending collegiate summer programs. The most selective programs have an application timeline that is December to February. Many programs may appear quite costly-and that’s indeed true- but financial assistance is available and the need for assistance will not impact the admissions decision. There are also many cost-free programs for targeted students- e.g. STEM women!
I have many former students who attended and excelled at credit-bearing summer programs and the grades earned overshadowed their high school GPA leading to acceptances at colleges including CMU, Cornell, Boston, NYU, UMich, Brown, University of Florida and more
# 7 FINANCIAL AID ELIGIBILITY
Many families make the mistake of concluding they aren’t eligible for financial aid and/or don’t bother to work with a professional to help understand and appeal financial aid award letters. My clients have been successful appealing their financial aid award.
MISTAKE TO AVOID: State tuition plans such as the Florida Pre-Pay trap: Don’t limit yourself to in-state public institutions because you participated in Florida Prepay. Your financial circumstances may actually favor out-of-state private college attendance. You’ll learn more about financial aid basics during your initial consultation.
Universities want to attract you to attend by offering lucrative merit scholarships. Based on your academic and extracurricular record– there is quite a bit of merit based assistance for students. Set goals, plan early- starting the college exploration process as early as 8th grade.
# 8 DON’T APPLY TO COLLEGES YOU DON’T WANT TO ATTEND: FOLLOW the CROWD?
Applying to colleges you really don’t want to attend is a serious way to experience major disappointment. Every year I hear from families asking how to get off wait lists. One family I recall a few years ago had contacted me disappointed about having to attend UF or Cornell after being rejected from two other Ivy League colleges! The student has in fact thrived at the school she is now attending. If by chance things don’t work out, transferring at the end of the first or even second year is an acceptable option. (Another reason to avoid Senioritis – as high school transcripts are relevant in transfer admissions for undergraduates with fewer than 60 credits.)
This is another example of herd mentality. Following friends isn’t recommended. Do the research on a college and the major that are the best fit for you academically and socially.
Try to avoid becoming obsessed with one college. At 18 years old all paths should remain open!
If you’re a Junior ‘now is the time to be actively engaged in research on the variety of college majors. We want to have your balanced short – list of colleges in place by the time we reach June – and hopefully you’ll be joining me at my June Writers Block Workshop.
I share with you two actual stories. There are many more –and I must stress that
anxiety over college admissions is never ever ever a reason to ignore your moral compass!
First, a former client arrived at our initial essay brain-storming session with a polished essay way beyond her writing abilities. She confessed that her mom was nervous about her ability to actually write an essay and had asked a professional writer and personal friend to generate the essay.
Plagiarism is completely unacceptable!! (The family was adamant about using the essay – and I upheld my standards- we were not a fit.)
Another student shared with me that her friend’s college counselor suggested enhancing her resume to include unverifiable volunteer activities such as beach clean-up, Sunday school teaching and working at Habitat for Humanity. I was speechless.
Fabricating or exaggerating your resume, college or scholarship application is not only grounds for an admissions retraction; it’s simply immoral and not the way to begin your professional career.
If by chance I haven’t persuaded you and you think everyone “enhances” their activities resume, let me remind you of the old adage “we live in a small world”. You will get caught. An admissions officer or alumni interviewer may serve on the Board at the organization you’ve embellished and you will be speechless when you don’t recognize names being noted in your alumni interview. But again, are these your family’s values? I certainly hope not!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. Educational & College Admissions Consultant
Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, Cornell, U. Michigan, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, University of North Carolina, Vassar, Brown, Bowdoin, Wellesley, Emory, U.Illinois, Notre Dame, NYU, Rice, University of Chicago, Washington University (WUSTL), Drexel, Tulane, London School of Economics, Purdue, Swarthmore, SCAD, Ohio, Georgetown, Hamilton, Reed, Miami, Johns Hopkins, University of Florida, University of Arizona, Penn State, Villanova, Northeastern, SUNY-ESF, St. Johns, Embry-Riddle, Colgate, Fordham, Columbia, Barnard, Syracuse, Swarthmore, Pittsburgh, Dickinson, Colorado, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Howard, Fordham, SUNY Stonybrook, Duke, Case Western, Rochester Institute of Technology, Parsons, Virginia Tech, Boston U., Hobart & William Smith, Claremont Mckenna, Davidson, Westpoint, Gettysburg, Amherst, Temple, Denison, Howard, UT Austin, SUNY-Binghamton, Hamilton, George Washington, American, Indiana, SMU, James Madison, and many more!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.