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?

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.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The 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.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener 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!

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College 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

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft 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

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless 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.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton 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.

Ronald Harris

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

Drop in grades, and no rigor in courses taken.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne 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

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora 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.