[so don't make them!] Not doing your research

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From the MCG 2011 edition


  1. NOT DOING YOUR RESEARCH. Choosing where to apply may not be the most important decision you ever make, but it is a big deal. You're going to spend four years at this school. Make sure it's a place you'll like and where you'll grow and learn.

  2. MISSING DEADLINES. This mistake is easy to avoid: After narrowing down your list, mark the application deadlines on a calendar or create a spreadsheet. While some of the dates may overlap, others will vary, so don't ruin your chances by mixing them up or missing them all together, and don't put off your applications until the week before they're due.

  3. NOT APPLYING TO SAFETY SCHOOLS. Your heart may be set on the Ivy League, but it can't hurt to cover your bases.Apply to at least a couple of colleges where your accomplishments, grades and test scores are well above those of the average admitted student.

  4. FIXATING ON ONE SCHOOL. So, you decided in fourth grade where you're going to college. Definitely apply, but don't close yourself off to other possibilities. A school you haven't heard of may be your perfect match.

  5. APPLYING TO SCHOOLS BASED ON COST. The price tag should be just one factor in your decision. An expensive school's financial aid offer could pleasantly surprise you.

  6. SLOPPY APPLICATIONS. Follow instructions. And above all, proofread your applications!

  7. ONE ESSAY FITS ALL. It may be tempting to write one essay and send it to every college. Don't! Tailor each essay to each school, and make sure you're answering the essay question asked.

  8. APPLYING EARLY DECISION WHEN YOU'RE NOT 100 PERCENT SURE. Early decision is binding. Don't know with absolute certainty that you want to attend a specific school? Apply early action or regular decision instead.

  9. FOLLOWING YOUR FRIENDS TO COLLEGE. Sure, the thought of leaving your friends and making new ones is scary. But the perfect school for your best friend may not be right for you. Pick a college based on your own interests and preferences—not your friends'.

  10. NOT SHOWING ENOUGH INTEREST. If you're interested in a school, let the admissions office know it! Colleges like to know they're wanted. Visit the campus, check out the school's website, e-mail a professor or request an interview.

Don't make the application process harder on yourself. Avoid these mistakes so that the admissions committee can focus on your accomplishments and personality.

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