6 Mistakes to Avoid in the College Application Process

The college application process may seem daunting at first— but it doesn’t have to be. The workload feels overpowering, the pressure is immense, and the fear of rejection is potent. 

We’ve all been there. Still, there are ways for these months to feel a lot less hectic and your application to feel more authentic. By following these 6 steps you’ll have an easier and more successful application process. 

1. Procrastinating

The college application process is a long but important one. It requires many hours of writing and research which can seem incredibly overwhelming. If you start early, you can spread out the workload, which saves you from additional stress in the long run. 

If you leave your application to the last minute, and rush through it, it will show up in what you submit. It also reflects negatively when you submit your application incredibly close to or on the day it’s due. It may signal to the school that you’re lazy or their institution was not your first choice. 

Make a checklist of each school’s different requirements and create a deadline for yourself. Try to submit your application as soon as you can or at least 10 days before the due date. 

2. Not Personalizing Essays

Admission officers can tell when your essays don’t have your authentic voice in it. They can also tell when you know nothing about the school and are simply recycling an essay you used for another application. 

To avoid this, make sure to thoroughly research the school beforehand and custom tailor the application to the school you’re applying to. Really accentuate why this school would be a good fit for you and be specific! 

3. Not Gathering Recommendation Letters 

Telling your teachers and mentors early that you need a recommendation letter will give them ample time to write a well thought out and personal letter. Waiting to the last minute comes with two risks; (1)The letter is short and impersonal or (2) Your teacher does not have enough time, or is already writing letters for many other students and is therefore unable to write one for you. 

Try giving your references 6-8 weeks notice so they have time to ask any questions and provide a thoughtful recommendation.

4. Skipping Your Proofreading Process

Proofreading is a vital part of any application process. Many students rush through this part, missing grammatical and spelling mistakes. You should also look for words you are repeating or phrases that seem complicated or hard to read. 

It is important for students to take their time reviewing their essays. Reading your paper out loud will help you listen for faults and revise properly. It’s also helpful to have a friend, parent, sibling, or mentor proofread your essay — they might catch something you overlooked!. 

5. Forgetting to Check Emails Regularly

College admissions communicate primarily through email. To go through the college application process successfully you should check your email 1-2x a day.

Make sure you give them an email you use regularly, and if you’re worried about an email account getting too cluttered, or that your email address is not professional, make a new one just for college applications! Missing an email can be detrimental to your success in the application process.

6. Letting Parents Take Over

This is your college experience, you’re the one that goes to the campus every day for the next 2-4 years—  not your parents. All too often, parents try to take over your college applications by writing essays or pushing you towards certain schools. 

Colleges can tell when an adult writes an application versus the student. The application is meant to sound like you, not your mom or dad. You can obviously ask them for advice and to proofread (as stated in #2), but you should be the one leading the way. 


While the college application comes with many ups and downs, it’s a process that is more than worth it in the end. Don’t forget to put your best foot forward and pile on the positivity.