The 10 Dos and Don'ts of College Applications

By Ryan Hickey updated on Friday, August 02, 2013

When you're headed into the admissions process, there are some key things you're going to want to do and some key things you're going to want to avoid. Like becoming a deadline zombie.

Not sure what those are? Keep reading, and find out!

  1. DO give yourself as much time as possible.
    • More than anything else, planning and working ahead will make the application process more successful and less stressful.
  2. DON’T be a deadline zombie
    • Deadline zombie (noun): a student who staggers around half awake because they started an application just four hours before the midnight deadline. Craves caffeine, not brains.
  3. DO ask questions.
    • Admissions departments provide valuable info about the institution and its application process – don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or need help.
  4. DON’T pester the admissions department.
    • Avoid being one of those overly enthusiastic applicants who calls/emails admissions officers daily or sends gifts to their office. Protip: make sure your parents aren’t doing this either.
  5. DO research potential target colleges.
    • There are countless options to help you learn about institutions, from school websites and admissions personnel to guidebooks and online resources.
  6. DON’T apply to every school in the book.
    • With college applications, more is not automatically better – and no, the Common App is not an invitation to apply to every school that takes it, from Adelphi to Yale.
  7. DO give early thought to financial aid.
    • Many students only start researching scholarships, grants, and loans after their college apps are done – starting earlier can give you a significant advantage in securing funds for college.
  8. DON’T assume you can’t afford a given school.
    • Many of the most expensive schools out there also have the most financial aid to offer. 
  9. DO stay organized.
    • Whether a schedule book, online calendar program, or hundreds of sticky notes, find a way to give your memory some help when it comes to remembering important info while applying.
  10. DON’T take things too seriously.
    • Yes, applying to college is challenging and important – but it’s not the end of the world. Throughout the process, be sure to find time for the things you’re passionate about in life, like friends, activities, and ice cream.



About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson's and an expert in college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in admissions for nearly a decade writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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