5 Admissions Pet Peeves Applicants Should Avoid

Friday, September 28, 2018

admissions pet peevesFormer Admissions Officers Reveal Common College Application Missteps

It’s important to stand out when applying to college, but all too often applicants can draw attention to themselves for the wrong reasons. Common application mistakes may not completely derail your chances of admission, but they can give admissions officers pause when making decisions.

The IvyWise team of expert counselors is made up of former deans and directors of admission from some of the country’s top universities and have read tens of thousands of college applications, and they’re revealing some of their admissions pet peeves. The college admissions process is often uncharted territory for parents and students, so it’s not uncommon for applicants to do some of these “don’ts” when applying to college. However, it’s helpful to know what to avoid during this process!

Impolite Essay Topics
“I think almost any essay topic can work, depending on how it is written and who the student is. The one pet peeve I had when it came to college essays during my time as an admissions officer was when I would read an essay that featured bodily functions. You would not believe how many students write about something that involves going to the bathroom. And it is never good!”

Victoria, Former Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago

Generic Supplemental Essays
“Generic supplemental essays are a big pet peeve. I’m all for working smart and being efficient…but students do need to take the time to make sure that there’s personalized information in each essay. I always enjoyed when students went beyond the general size, academics, and location of the school and wrote about how these might contribute to their education and experience over 4 years. This shows the reader you’ve done your research and helps us picture you on campus! Naming specific initiatives, research, or faculty helps to give a clearer picture, too. And, above all else, make sure you have the right school name in the essay!”

Rachel, Former Assistant Dean of Admissions at Swarthmore College

Excessive Additional Application Materials
“Another pet peeve is too many supplemental letters of recommendation. The best supplemental letters of recommendation are ones that add another perspective – someone who knows you well and in a different way like a college classroom or the soccer field. But pick one of these to share along with your three required letters from teachers and your counselor. More than one supplemental letter leaves the application cluttered and redundant and most committees will not read them.”

Rachel, Former Assistant Dean of Admissions at Swarthmore College

Over-Active Parents
“It’s always really disappointing when a student’s parents call or email trying to check whether documents have been received or to ask application specific questions. I remember also getting personal interview requests from parents. What it tells an admissions officer is that this student is not taking charge of their own process, which makes one wonder how they might handle all the new responsibilities and independence they will encounter in college. In short—it’s not a great look!”

Victoria, Former Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago

Parents Getting Involved in Waitlists
“Admission officers can get annoyed when well-intentioned parents drive the application process.  When I worked in admissions, I cringed when I received calls and emails from parents advocating for their child to get off the waitlist because “Susie really wants to attend your school.” Susie would have a much better chance of getting off the waitlist if she had called or emailed me on her own. A takeaway for students is it truly stands out to admissions officers when students drive the process themselves.”

Ashley, Former Admissions Officer at Davidson College

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