Seven Ways Students Applying to College Screw Up Badly

by Dr. Casper Poodel

With all the anxiety families seem to have about college admission, it is surprising to see how many students hurt their chances of admission by making easily avoidable mistakes.

Not all of the mistakes below, by themselves, will necessarily result in a denial of admission, but they might. I have seen it happen.

1. Some students have actually visited colleges while wearing offensive t-shirts.

2. A supremely qualified student from a top 20 college was denied admission to a PsyD program at a moderately competitive graduate school because the admissions committee chair objected to the fact that she wore a relatively low cut top when interviewing.

3. Some students contact colleges using tasteless or just plain stupid email addresses.

4. Students frequently reveal serious problems, weaknesses, and character flaws in their essays. Regardless of the “spin”, it usually hurts them.

5. Students who give colleges their cell phone numbers should be sure that their messages are fairly brief and within the bounds of good taste. I could tell you about some of the messages admissions counselors have spoken about hearing, but that would be in as bad taste as the messages themselves.

6. Students who fail to cancel or appear for scheduled campus visits put themselves in jeopardy of being denied admission. I’m not sure I know of anyone denied only for that reason, but I do know of students for whom it was certainly a major factor.

7. I know of a student who took a call in the middle of an admissions interview. Guess what kind of admissions decision she got?

The above list is by no means exhaustive. But, is is an indication of how unthinking students sometimes are.

In the college admissions process, everything counts. Good manners, maturity, and apparent good judgement may help compensate for small shortfalls in other areas. Conversely, good grades and test scores may be partially or fully offset by boorishness, bad manners, and/or immaturity.

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