What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

College Admissions

Our Counselors Answered:

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Parents being illegal immigrants, poor grammar, misspellings, inconsistent or missing information, resident aliens w/o a TOEFL score, and a host of other things a college might consider a red flag.

Eric FurdaDean of AdmissionsUniversity of Pennsylvania

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Seth AllenDean of Admissions and Financial AidGrinnell College

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Jenny RickardChief Enrollment OfficerBryn Mawr

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Janet Rapelye

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Lisa CarltonOwnerwww.collegematchpoint.com

Kicking Back Senior Year

You have worked hard in high school and gotten good grades. As a senior, you are planning to kick back and have a good time. You may want to reconsider this plan as admissions officers are quick to notice a student who puts their academics on autopilot during the senior year. This will be a definite red flag. The curriculum in your senior year should show a deep commitment to rigorous course work. Pay special attention to courses that align with your college interests. For example, if you plan on majoring in English consider taking an extra course in English that is of special interest to you. Another good option, is to consider taking courses at the local community college. You are going to have to wait until after graduation for your rest and relaxation. Senior year is the time to show colleges that you are a serious student.

Joanne Levy-Prewitt

Convince admissions officers that you are prepared for selective majors

It can be a problem when an applicant chooses a highly selective major but does not have the academic background to support that major. Colleges will look for high-level prerequisite courses and strong grades before they admit a student to a selective, competitive program. Students can also avoid red flags by participating in an internship, summer or after-school program that will allow them to investigate and demonstrate their interest in a special subject. And finally, it’s a good idea for students to write a convincing and passionate essay about their interest in their major of choice.

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

Inconsistency can be the greatest “red flag” in an application.

A student, who has strong test scores but poor grades or vice versa, sends a very clear message to a college admissions office; he might be perceived as a “bright underachiever” or a “grade grind” without real intellectual abilities. Having a consistent profile can be key to having a successful outcome. For a student, with a high GPA to have any D’s or C’s on their transcript would indeed be a “red flag” and might require an explanation. Additionally, if a student’s English grades and Critical Writing SAT scores are not in line with the quality of his or her essays that will certainly set some alarms off. At selective colleges, there is the expectation that a student would challenge herself to the extent of her abilities. So, a student with a high GPA but no or limited AP level classes might be seen as inconsistent and lacking in genuine achievement.

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

Inconsistency can be the greatest “red flag” in an application.

A student, who has strong test scores but poor grades or vice versa, sends a very clear message to a college admissions office; he might be perceived as a “bright underachiever” or a “grade grind” without real intellectual abilities. Having a consistent profile can be key to having a successful outcome. For a student, with a high GPA to have any D’s or C’s on their transcript would indeed be a “red flag” and might require an explanation. Additionally, if a student’s English grades and Critical Writing SAT scores are not in line with the quality of his or her essays that will certainly set some alarms off. At selective colleges, there is the expectation that a student would challenge herself to the extent of her abilities. So, a student with a high GPA but no or limited AP level classes might be seen as inconsistent and lacking in genuine achievement.

Laura O’Brien GatzionisFounderEducational Advisory Services

The Essay

Not using your own voice in your essay: College admissions officers are experienced professionals — and they read hundreds of essays every application season. They are intimately familiar with the writings of high school students. Grammar mistakes and misspelling: Please proofread your essay and application–and do not depend on spellcheck. Follow the directions: Did you answer the question? Readers have no sympathy for you if you cannot follow simple directions.

Marjorie ShaevitzAdmissions expert, author, speakerwww.adMISSION POSSIBLE.com

The Most Common Mistakes Applicants Make

Students often make mistakes when they try to complete a college application in the midst of doing other things, as in texting friends, talking on their cell phones, playing computer games, or listening to music. Therefore, the first rule for completing applications is to find a quiet, organized space free of any distractions and give yourself a block of time (as in an hour or two, once or twice a week) to work just on applications. After that, there are other ways of avoiding common mistakes: • Don’t guess or make careless grammatical or spelling errors; nothing turns off an admissions reader more than an application that is sloppy. • Don’t fall into the trap of under-reporting; the best applications are filled with rich, detailed information. • Don’t write essays or complete applications when you are tired or upset; students do their best work if they are fresh, alert and take their time as they work on applications. • Don’t use abbreviations or assume readers know anything; write out everything, fill in all the spaces; over, rather than under-report. • As you go through the application process, don’t obsess about the one and only college you want to attend; rather, focus on doing the best job you can in applying to a number of colleges to create yourself some really good options. After all the acceptances come in, then pay attention to the one you want.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

out of the loop

For international students, their application normally done by agencies so the red flags are everywhere. for domestic students, taking the SAT tests more than three times is one of the example of red flags. in other cases, if the student has nothing to share what he or she did during the spare time with no activities whatsoever, including summer time, that’s a huge red flags.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Short Answer: Not every red flag is a deal breaker, and some colleges will take any student because 1) the college is an “access” institution, or 2) the college needs the tuition money. But why take the chance of not getting into the more selective college you really, really want? Detailed Answer: The following are a few of the red flags that drive admissions officers nuts: 1. Low grades 2. Inconsistent grades from year to year 3. Non-college track courses, i.e. consumer math instead of calc/trig 4. Too many extracurriculars combined with average or weak grades 5. Too many extracurriculars with no leadership positions 6. A hastily written essay that has not been proofread (spell check isn’t good enough for something that is potentially as important as the essay) 7. An essay that is not focused on the topic requested by the college 8. A sloppy application with no attention to detail 9. Forceful, interfering parents that make excuses for low grades 10. Lack of knowledge about the college and why the applicant believes he or she is a good fit 11. A lack of understanding of the academic strengths required by the college 12. Not following directions

Annie ReznikCounselor/CEOCollege Guidance Coach

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Academically, students should offer an explanation for progressions that will raise concern in the admissions office. It’s always better to fill in the blanks yourself than to leave it to the imagination of a reader/committee.Here are some common items that warrant explanation: 1. Transferring high schools (particularly for junior or senior year) 2. Outlier low grade 3. Significantly changed performance from one year to another (or semester to semester) 4. Altering the level of course (changing from Honors to non, or vice versa) 5. Dropping a core academic course

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Short Answer: Not every red flag is a deal breaker, and some colleges will take any student because 1) the college is an “access” institution, or 2) the college needs the tuition money. But why take the chance of not getting into the more selective college you really, really want? Detailed Answer: The following are a few of the red flags that drive admissions officers nuts: 1. Low grades 2. Inconsistent grades from year to year 3. Non-college track courses, i.e. consumer math instead of calc/trig 4. Too many extracurriculars combined with average or weak grades 5. Too many extracurriculars with no leadership positions 6. A hastily written essay that has not been proofread (spell check isn’t good enough for something that is potentially as important as the essay) 7. An essay that is not focused on the topic requested by the college 8. A sloppy application with no attention to detail 9. Forceful, interfering parents that make excuses for low grades 10. Lack of knowledge about the college and why the applicant believes he or she is a good fit 11. A lack of understanding of the academic strengths required by the college 12. Not following directions 13. Excellent SAT scores and average or poor grades; this tells the admissions officer that the student may be talented, but he/she does not work hard in the classroom and on homework, which is what makes a successful college student

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

In the competitive admissions process you need to offer something that makes you stand out from the rest, but you want that something to be positive. Different, but negative does not help. A raft of unrelated activities can be seen as a lack of commitment and while there is a recognition that a student may still be finding their passion, there must be something that interests you enough to make at least some commitment. An erratic, up and down, academic performance is never good. Even if the overall record is not great, some level of consistency is important—and if there is variation, then an upward trend is certainly preferred. Lackluster recommendations are not very helpful either. The recommendation itself says much but equally telling is the fact that you could not find someone who could be more positive about your efforts. The application needs to show the school why you should be part of their community

Nancy MilneOwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Common red flags for application readers would be: *a sudden dip in grades with no explanation *a discrepancy between gpa and test scores with no explanation *a strong transcript, but lacks the rigor the school offers *a poorly executed essay *incriminating letters of recommendation

Benjamin CaldarelliPartnerPrinceton College Consulting, LLC

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Beyond poor proofreading, incongruities can hurt you. This means if you have a high gpa and low SAT score or vice versa. You want all parts of the application to affirm who you are.

Reena Gold KaminsFounderCollege, Career & Life, LLC.

Avoid these red flags

A downward trend in grades, i.e. going from As and Bs to Cs and Ds is the most common red flag. Similarly, if a student has taken a lot of honors and AP courses and then shifts to a less rigorous curriculum, it will raise questions. Some colleges will also be alarmed if they see an excessive amount of unexplained absences on a student’s transcript.

Helen H. ChoiOwnerAdmissions Mavens

Carelessness and Inconsistencies

Two very common “red flags” that can be detrimental to an applicant are: 1. carelessness: sometimes students do not proofread their applications and as a result, spelling errors and other “typos” are not corrected. Take the time to read your application out loud and ask someone else to read it as well. In addition to these small errors, another very common mistake is to submit the wrong supplemental essay to a school. For example — submitting your “why I love USC essay” to the University San Diego! Be careful and check your work! 2. inconsistencies: one very glaring “red flag” is inconsistency within one’s academic record. This commonly occurs when a student with average grades in English courses and 500-ish scores on the verbal section of the SAT submits a super high-quality essay that conveys a mature and seasoned writing style. This sort of inconsistency can certainly raise the suspicions of admissions staff!

Geoff BroomeAssistant Director of AdmissionsWidener University

Dear Admsions dirctor

Poor grammar or text speak is a pretty poor first impression. Putting the wrong name of the college at the top of your essay or an arrest record are pretty big red flags that go up for us. Slacking off your senior year is another red flag for admissions. If you were making excellent grades and then your grades plummet your senior year or you barely take an English class because you would rather go home and sit by the pool…Red Flag!

Lora LewisEducational ConsultantLora Lewis Consulting

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

In terms of the application itself, failure to follow application directions can really hurt you. Sloppiness and mistakes that might indicate cutting-and-pasting between applications should also be avoided. With regard to your academics and background, periods of low grades, gaps in coursework, and very limited or too many extracurricular activities can be warning signs. Think critically about your application as you put it together. If there is something that might stand out and catch an admission officer’s eye as a “red flag”, acknowledge it and briefly address it either in your essay, the additional comments section, or via a reference letter from your counselor. Colleges are much more likely to move past a “red flag” if it’s clear to them that you acknowledge it as such and are able to offer an explanation.

Mollie ReznickAssociate DirectorThe College Connection

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Some basic red flags that could impact how an admissions officer views you is your academic record and involvement in extra-curricular activities. If for instance, you did not take 3 or 4 years of the core subjects they might raise an eyebrow. If your academic performance is very inconsistent, they might wonder why. Also, if you have not participated in anything outside of school (including jobs, volunteer work, clubs, sports, etc) they might wonder how you have been using your time. After all, they do not want to admit a student who is going to stay in his room all the time and not be an active member of the campus community.

Ronald Harris

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Drop in grades, and no rigor in courses taken.

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

Parents being illegal immigrants, poor grammar, misspellings, inconsistent or missing information, resident aliens w/o a TOEFL score, and whatever else a college might consider a red flag.

Eric DoblerPresidentDobler College Consulting

What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

In my experience the most common red flags are areas where students either neglected to include information, or entered information that was incorrect, or had one of their parents fill out the application. The former is a sign of sloppiness, the second one is a greater problem in and of itself. When you are filling out an application, you should fill it out completely and accurately. Leaving questions blank can lead an admissions counselor to wonder why the question was not answered. Is there something the student is trying to hide? Doubt is not the first reaction you want a counselor to have when he or she is reading your application. You also want to make sure your information is accurate – even simple things like the name of your high school or your counselor’s name should be spelled correctly. In fact, you should double check your entire application for spelling errors before you submit it – EVERYTHING should be spelled correctly. When a parent fills out the application, any number of problems can come of it. Incorrect information, embellished information and if the application is done by hand, it can be quite apparent that a student did not fill it out him- or herself. This is irresponsible and unethical on everyone’s part. This is also a situation where the college or university could choose to decline the application altogether regardless of the applicant’s qualifications. Complete your applications yourself. If you want to have a parent help you with proof-reading, that’s fine, but make sure you are the one answering the questions. When an application is submitted with errors, it says that the student did not spend the time on it that it deserved. It can easily be assumed that the student rushed and did not take it seriously. When the application is filled out by someone other than the student, it says that the student is dishonest. Neither of these judgments are in the student’s favor.

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