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Top ten mistakes students make when applying to US universities:

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19-11-21 13:20

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1.Writing a negative or defensive application essay: Students feel they have something so damaging in their profile that they feel compelled to talk about it in their application, and choose the main essay to do so. Play to your strengths and write about that strength in your main essay. Explain such negatives in the "additional information" field in the optional sections of the applications

2. Leaving unexplained a weakness in grades, activities, or such others: Admissions officers have seen it all, so they have seen quite damaging and the worst of situations. Show them that you're not that bad, but explain in a paragraph, with factual details. Any longer is just a long excuse.


3. Applying to top universities only: This is surprisingly common, and there are many arguments students and even parents make for this error. But, if you're thinking this, let me ask you if you can recover psychologically from being rejected to ALL of your universities, with no "safeties" to cushion the blow and to leave you options after all.

 
4. Upsetting the college counselor: The common variations are insisting on applying to colleges not recommended by the counselor, insisting on having no safety university (it looks bad on the counselor to have a student be denied to ALL of his or her universities), relying more on the "uncle" for advice rather than on the counselor's.

 
5. Asking the wrong teacher for recommendations: For instance, two science/math teachers with no social sciences/English teacher included, no 12th grade teachers in the list of recommendations, asking non-core-subject teachers for recommendations. Universities want to know your most current state of mind before you enter their school, and be able to predict whether you will do well or not when you get there, so 12th grade teachers and core subject (difficult) classes, with a spread of information in both the STEM classes and the social sciences.

 
6. Not describing accurately your extracurricular activity list: There are many activities specific to some schools and some communities that are not easily understood by the admissions officers, and your specific accomplishments in that activity, if any, should definitely be highlighted.

 
7. Taking your first SAT I/ACT or SAT II in October/September of your 12th grade before the application deadline: There are then no scores for early decision or early action schools, and there can be no complete strategy for applications, what schools to apply for, until the very end. Plus, having no scores until the very end invite incomplete applications just in case your scores don't get there on time, and therefore invite a defer decision.
 

8. Not following up on applications for missing information or mailings: After the application is submitted on November 1 or January 1, for example, students don't want anything more to do with their applications and the whole stressful process, and do not keep an eye on their email replies from universities and don't make application-tracker accounts (from instructions in emails sent by universities). Missing information, mailings, transcripts, test scores, or any number of possibilities will result in a defer or waitlist decision, despite the student being a strong candidate for admission to that school.
 

9. Double depositing: Students sign at the end of the Common Application, for one thing, that they will not send in the deposit for enrollment to more than one university, and doing so, they sign, could result in being denied to both or the multiple universities that students have sent their deposits to. It's a risk and a possibility that doesn't need to be entertained.
 

10. Applying to both Early Action and Early Decision universities: Read the FAQ for each university on their Early Decision policy when students also apply elsewhere Early Action. Many public universities call their early application deadline, Early Action, but this restriction against applying to one university Early Action and to another Early Decision most always applies to private universities, and a student applying to two private universities, one Early Action, one Early Decision. This too could result in an unnecessary risk of a denial in admissions. Be decisive! Have a plan!



Steven Huh is currently president of Steven Academy in San Francisco. He graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as an English Literature major, taught at Daewon Foreign Language High School (대원외고) English expository writing, SAT I writing, SAT I Reading Comprehension, and served as its Director of College Counseling from 1998 to 2003. He also was president of Steven Academy in Seoul, Daechi-dong from 2002 to 2018. He is currently a member of NACAC (National Association of College Admission Counseling) and International ACAC (International Association of College Admission Counseling).