Making a good first impression

Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2003

ACT, the company that produces the college admissions exam, offers a number of tips and hints to help students make the most of their college and scholarship applications. According to ACT, high school guidance counselors and admissions officers list the following as the top 10 most common mistakes students make on applications:

Misspellings and grammatical errors This is a big pet peeve of admissions people. If you misspell on something as important as the application, it shows that either you don't care or you aren't good at spelling. Some students even misspell their intended major. But don't stop with a spell check. Proofread for grammatical errors, too.

Applying online, but the application isn't submitted If you apply online, you should receive confirmation that the college or university received it. Confirmation could be an e-mail message, a Web page response or a credit card receipt. Follow through and make sure your application has been submitted.

Forgotten signatures Make sure you sign and date the form. Often students overlook it if it's on the back of the form. Check that all spaces are complete.

Not reading carefully Know the difference between county and country. If the form asks what county you live in, the United States should not be the answer.

Listing extracurricular activities that aren't Those that make the list include sports, the arts, formal organizations and volunteer work. Talking on the phone and hanging out with friends don't make the cut. Make sure your activity information is accurate. Colleges may check with your high school.

Not telling your guidance counselor where you've applied Let your guidance counselor know which colleges you're applying to and ask to review your high school transcript before it's sent to colleges. Sometimes transcripts have errors.

Writing illegibly First impressions count, so take your time and use your best handwriting. It will make a better impression.

Using an e-mail address that friends might laugh about, but colleges won't Select a professional e-mail address. Keep your fun address for friends, but select an address using your name for college admissions.

Not checking your e-mail regularly If you've given an e-mail address, the college will use it. You don't want to miss out on anything because you didn't read your e-mail.

Letting Mom or Dad help you fill out your application Admissions people know if your parents help, whether you have two different styles of handwriting or your admissions essay sounds more like a 45-year-old than a 17-year-old. It's fine to get advice, but do the work yourself.

For additional college planning tips from ACT, visit

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