Watch CBS News

Experts Weigh In On Common College Application Mistakes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A lot of high school seniors are applying for college right now, and some of them are likely making mistakes on their applications that are sending them straight to the trash.

Most colleges recommend high school students start thinking about the college application process as early as their freshman year.

"The whole college admissions process, the application process, everything has changed dramatically. A lot of people think that it's just the GPA or it's just the SAT score, but getting into the college of your choice goes well beyond that," teacher Deann Scherer said.

New research from the National Honor Society finds that a majority of college admissions officers say participating in extracurricular activities gives students a competitive edge, but that doesn't mean just sports.

They're most impressed by students who've done long-term volunteer work in their community.

For example, volunteering for a day at the local park or even for two weeks building a school in a developing country will probably not impress the admissions committee.

They want to see that students are dedicated to something for a longer period of time, like working at the food pantry once a month or volunteering at a hospital every couple of weeks over the course of a few years.

While applying, it's important to keep everyone in the loop.

"A lot of effort goes into one student's application from a lot of different people," Guidance Counselor Lori Rice-Spring said.

The "Common Application" and other online options make it easier than ever to apply to colleges, but a lot of students submit those applications without telling their guidance counselor.

That could lead to high school transcripts and recommendation letters being delayed or never sent.

Students need to take ownership of their application.

While they might need their parents or guidance counselor to review what they've written, it's still the student's application.

The admissions office wants to see that students can do things on their own. So, parents shouldn't be calling or emailing.

That will only make it seem like the student isn't interested.

When students take the SAT or ACT they can, and should, have their test scores sent directly to a limited number of colleges for free.

If they wait to send their scores, they'll have to pay for that.

More importantly, most colleges consider those who have their scores sent to them directly among their hottest prospects, particularly those who send scores when taking the tests in the spring of their junior year.

The essay is still an important part of any college application, but just like everything else, there ways to do it right and ways to do it wrong.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but make sure the essay is the right length.

Don't go over the limit, but also don't stress if it appears to be too short.

President Lincoln got his points across in the Gettysburg Address in less than 275 words.

It is possible to be thorough yet concise.

Also, don't overuse the thesaurus. There's no reason to use big words, just because.

It comes off as being a show-off or if the student's English grades and test scores aren't great, using a big vocabulary will make it seem like the work isn't their own.

And don't simply rehash a resume.

The essay portion is where the admissions committee learns all the extra stuff about students, like their drive, determination and diligence.

If the student has a funny or inappropriate email address, create another, more professional account and use that one on the application.

Also, make sure their social media profiles don't have questionable comments or pictures.

And this might seem obvious, but check and double check spelling and grammar.

About 45 percent of admissions officers say they'll instantly deny an application if it contains spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or typos.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.