Advice from College Counselor Lisa

Across the country seniors are beginning their final year of Advice from Lisahigh school and many are getting ready to begin applying to college. Students begin their process on their timeframe – some students spent their summer writing and refining their college essay while others will wait until the last possible moment. Regardless of the pace in which they are working through the college search process, there are some best practices that can be incorporated into the search.

With more than 20 years of college counseling experience, Lisa Micele, Director of College Counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory School is passionate about helping students navigate the college search and application process in a thoughtful and joyful way. Lisa recently spoke with Here and Now about some of the tips that she shares with her own students about the application process. She begins by discussing the Common App, but her suggestions are valuable for any student who is applying to college.

Here are Lisa Micele’s 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  1. Being too casual with the online tool. This is a formal application. Colleges are looking for a well-written essay (with evidence of how well you express yourself and develop your ideas.) Write multiple drafts. Have someone proofread for you. Always preview your application before you hit “Submit.” Your best application will take time.
  2. Students forgetting to send in their test scores directly from the ACT or College Board to each college or university on their list. Yes — you will enter your scores (and future test dates) on the Common Application, but that does not mean each college has received “official score reports” on your behalf. You will have an incomplete application without these test scores.
  3. Putting in one’s payment option and not completing the signature page. Again, the application is not submitted until the electronic signature is entered. (If you are seeking a fee waiver, please talk with your high school counselor. He/she must confirm you qualify.)
  4. Not using the activity chart wisely. The Common Application directs students to complete the activities section even if planning to submit a resume. Activities should be entered in order of importance to the student. Explain these involvements as fully as possible — clearly stating the full name of the activity and providing as much detail as possible.
  5. Not following directives by each college. If they accept a supplemental letter of recommendation, great! Go for it! If they accept an upload of the resume, feel free to do so. If they don’t accept extras, feel free to call the college and inquire further. Bottom line: Follow their directions.
  6. Neglecting to confirm the status of a complete file. It is the students’ responsibility to confirm the completeness of their application file. Check your status online (via your Common Application account) but never hesitate to contact a college directly to make certain everything is there.
  7. Final tip: Start your application well before the deadline and enjoy the journey. You can do this!
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