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?

Eric Furda
Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

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

Here is my video response to the question.

Jenny Rickard
Chief Enrollment Officer Bryn 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 Carlton
Owner www.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.

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational 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.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The 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.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY 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.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions 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!

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, 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.