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The DON'Ts of Applying to College (Part I)

Posted by on Thursday, February 25, 2010 in Application Process, College Application Guides.

A few weeks ago I was asked to sit on a panel and speak to the Junior Class at one of my Westchester County High Schools.  I spoke to the junior students and parents regarding the Do’s and Don’ts of the College Search Process. For any of you juniors (or sophomores) this will hopefully be a helpful list of what to do and what not to do on your journey over the next 14 months. (due to the length I have divided up the blog into three posts, “Part I – Don’ts”, “Part II – Dos” and Part III – Applications Tips.” 


  • DON’T Put all of your eggs in one basket.  Have  a variety of schools on your list, some that you are likely to be admitted and some schools that you might love but realize it will be quite difficult to be admitted and everything in between.
  • That guy got into SUPER HERO U??? Come on!?!?!

    DON’T Fall prey to the all of the HYPE/Ranking and “hoody sweatshirt mentality.” As hard as it may be, try to avoid all of the talk amongst your peers analyzing why he/she got into ______ University.  It isn’t constructive and every college has different priorities and processes so trying to understand why or who or how or what in regards to being accepted at universities is an exercise in futility.  Also, don’t fall prey to the rankings that you will see everywhere you look during this process.  These can provide helpful stats and numbers but for no reason should you ever think that one school is “better’ than another.  Focus on what is best for you.

  • DON’T Try to be someone that you aren’t. Be yourself in this process.  It is very subjective process since we humans evaluate the applications not a computer.  There is not right or wrong student so don’t try to be someone that you aren’t.  Be yourself and you will find the right school for you and the school will find you (how deep I know).
  • DON’T Get Freaked Out!! How many of you reading this blog are at least a little bit nervous about the next year of your life?  That’s what I thought – a lot of you are and this is completely natural to be anxious about the college search but just don’t go overboard with that feeling.  Realize that in the next two years you will have two of the more iconic moments of you life: opening the admit letter to your eventual school and moving into said school.  These are moments to look forwad to not fear.  It will all work out, there are over 3,300 accredited universities and schools in America alone- you will find that school.   I really believe that you would/could be happy any number of schools- the sooner you realize that the smoother this process will go for you.
  • DON’T Take “Deny” letters personally.  Last year our office estimated that over 90% of all applicants were admissible but unfortunately we (like most universities) have a limited number of spots.  Getting denied stinks, I have been there before but it is not a personal condemnation upon you or your life.  I was denied to one of my top choices but I didn’t let it get me down, what would that do?  I moved on and found the perfect school for me, which just so happened to be Vanderbilt.
  • DON’T Become a Professional Test Taker.  The data shows that most students peak around the second or third test, so take it a couple of times and let it rest.  The testing is just one of the factors that schools will review come application time.  We don’t want to see “SAT PREP” as one of your activites listed on the Common Application.
  • DON’T Go overboard with contacting admissions offices.  Absolutely meet or email your admissions counselor  but please don’t “stalk” us.   I absolutely love meeting my students and putting a face with the name but receiving a weekly update about your life isn’t going to help in this process.

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  • 2014Mom

    March 2nd, 2010

    Thanks for the posting! I also have a son who is in 10th grade besides my senior and I have shown him this to gear him up!

    Question: Last year you posted info on the timeline for different scholarship notifications. Any word on that this year?