As the Common Application continues to sort out its problems, thousands of college-bound high school students are facing the first in a series of early admission deadlines—the Day of the Dead or November 1.
And it’s worth noting that not all Common Application member colleges will accept early applications beyond November 1, including the University of Virginia, Harvard, and Princeton—to name a few.
In fact, most of the nation’s colleges and universities use other application products and haven’t had to deal with alterations in their admissions schedules.
So if you’re one of many thousands of high school seniors still trying to beat a Day of the Dead deadline, Halloween might really seem a little scary at this point.
But before you start trying to make up for lost time by dashing out applications, remember that errors due to carelessness or misunderstanding can be costly.
Thanks to some insider information from the makers of electronic applications, here is a list of common mistakes made by applicants trying to hurry the process:
1. Not reading instructions. Before starting any application, take the time to read instructions or view instructional videos. Consider printing out any available directions and having them handy as you work through the application.
2. Waiting until the last minute. Stuff happens. Your computer crashes, the internet goes down, or servers are reduced to a crawl. Why chance it?
3. Not entering a valid email address. And you wonder why you haven’t heard from any colleges?
4. Forgetting to disable pop-up blockers. And whose fault is it that you can’t see those parts of the application displaying in pop-up windows?
5. Using the wrong browser. Most online applications require more modern versions of Internet Explorer or other specific browsers which are clearly identified in the instructions. Make sure you’re working with a compatible browser to ensure optimum results.
6. Not checking EACH individual college’s requirements and deadlines. The information is all there—deadlines, fees, and supplementary information.
7. Clicking on the wrong item in a drop down menu. It’s amazing how many students say they’re from Canada or Afghanistan, both of which are frequently listed right after the United States as drop-downs for countries of residence.
8. Entering incorrect data including date of birth or social security number. An incorrect date of birth may have several interesting consequences including failure to open an account (if you appear too young) and may require tech support to straighten out. And by the way, an incorrect or missing social security number can affect financial aid.
9. Using unfamiliar terminology or abbreviations. Even though space is limited in the “activities” section of your application, avoid the temptation to use acronyms or abbreviations that could be unfamiliar to your reader.
10. Not thoroughly reviewing the application for spelling or grammar errors. Print out your completed application and proofread before clicking the final “submit” button. Make sure nothing important was cut off and that your essay looks the way you want it to look. Note that you will need to download Adobe Acrobat to preview your document.
11. Overlooking required essays. The new “smart” technology employed by the Common Application sometimes hides required essays in the Writing Supplement. To avoid disaster, make sure you answer all member-specific questions before making assumptions about what’s required in the way of essays. They often unlock writing prompts related to majors, special programs, and scholarships.
12. Failing to provide accurate or complete recommender information. When submitting electronically, you will be asked to provide email addresses for all recommenders (even if they plan to submit by paper). Be sure you enter the correct email address for every counselor, teacher, and “other” recommender whom you wish to have in the system. Otherwise there may be a failure to communicate. (Note that Naviance high schools do things differently and you need to work within the terms of that system)
13. Not submitting all signatures for the Early Decision Agreement. Be aware that the Common Application ED Agreement requires 3 separate signatures and that your counselor cannot submit the form (electronically or by mail) until both the student and parent sign.
14. Trying to submit before the application is complete. The Common Application has incorporated a system of green checks to ensure that every question in every section of the application is completed. You will not be able to submit until you have earned all your green checks by completing all “required fields.” If they get stuck or fail to appear, try toggling the question by deleting and reentering data. The Universal College Application labels required fields with red stars. You will not be able to submit unless all required fields are completed, but there are no green checks to worry about.
15. Neglecting to leave time for payment to clear. The new Common Application requires that you show them the money before the document is cleared for final submission. Under the new system, the processing of payments can take up to 48 hours and the application cannot be signed until payment has cleared. If it takes more than 48 hours, contact the Help Desk immediately. Note that the UCA does not hold any part (including recommendations) of any application for payment. When you or your recommender submits, the document is immediately transmitted to the college while payment is processed.
16. Paying twice. On occasion, the Common Application cycles back to the payment page after credit card information has been provided. Resist the temptation to pay twice. In most cases your card will clear and you will be prompted to go to the signature page. This problem is specific to the Common Application.
17. Opening multiple accounts. The Common App warns of dire consequences for students who for whatever reason open a series of accounts. Maybe you want to use a different name or maybe you’ve forgotten a password and don’t want to wait to go through the password retrieval system. It’s not good, and you risk screwing up your applications.
18. Forgetting to sign the document. The completed application will not submit until the document is signed electronically. If you’re waiting for your credit card to clear, don’t forget to periodically check back. Once you are cleared, the signature page will appear. Again, the UCA does not require a wait.
19. Assuming that the Writing Supplement is sent automatically. The Common App Writing Supplement is not automatically sent with the rest of the application. After you have paid, payment is cleared, the application is signed, and the submit button is pushed, you will receive a green check indicating that the Writing Supplement is ready to be sent. Once again, take the time to printout and preview the supplement. Just because you had no problems with the main body of the application, doesn’t mean you won’t have issue on the supplement. If it looks good, go ahead and submit.
20. Refusing to ask for help. If you have technical difficulties, don’t be afraid to ask the “Help Desk,” Technical Support,” or use “Contact” links.