Nov 27, 2010

15 Common Mistakes Students Make When Completing Online College Applications

Once Aunt Maude and Uncle Howard pack up the sedan and kiss everyone goodbye, the Thanksgiving holiday is officially over and the excuse for not working on college applications departs along with the relatives.

If you’re among the large number of high school seniors who have either not started or may be far from completing your applications, don’t be surprised to find yourself tied to the computer and under parentally-imposed restrictions for the foreseeable future. There are deadlines involved, and your family would just as soon not have the December holidays ruined by your procrastination.

And face it—you’re little behind. At last count, the Common Application has already registered 241,362 users and 655,765 applications have already been submitted by remarkably organized high school students.

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 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. For example, the Common Application does not support Chrome, but the Universal College Application does.

6. Not checking EACH individual college’s requirements and deadlines. The information is all there—deadlines, fees, and supplementary information. Application software generally doesn’t allow you to submit after deadlines have passed. It’s really smart that way.

7. Forgetting to save data and log out.
You usually have no more than 60 minutes per web page before you’ll be timed out. If you walk off for any length of time to make a phone call or have a snack, be sure to use the save/logout feature to save your application. Otherwise work may be lost.

8. Using the “back” button. This can cause data to be lost or not properly saved to the application. Navigate through the document using the buttons within the application itself.

9. 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.

10. 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. An incorrect or missing social security number can affect financial aid. Double check the basics before "saving."

11. Not thoroughly reviewing the application for spelling or grammar errors and truncated text. Print out your completed application or application summary and proofread before clicking “submit.” Make sure nothing important was cut off. If things don’t make sense, revise and use commonly accepted abbreviations to fit in the space provided. Note that you will need to download Adobe Acrobat to preview your document.

12. Not submitting the Early Decision Agreement and/or optional Art/Athletic Supplement FIRST. If you’re submitting these documents online, you’ll need to complete and submit them before submitting the full application. If submitting via mail, check the instructions for proper procedures.

13. Not verifying that the submission process is COMPLETE before logging out. Yes, you have to click “Submit” when you’ve finished. There may be a series of screens to go through to ensure data is saved. If you close down before going through the process, you risk an incomplete application or no submission at all. Even if you’re relatively certain it’s all been done correctly, check the application “status” function to be doubly sure.

14. Not following up with fees and required supplements. The application, supplement, and payment submissions are 3 distinct processes. Just because you’ve submitted your application doesn’t mean your payment and required supplements will “automatically” follow.

15. 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.

1 comment:

  1. Very true. This information is very useful and helpful. Online college is a great opportunity for those who really want to achieve their goal of success towards their career. However, students must be careful and responsible enough in completing their online college application. It's good that there are sites like this that gives people ample information needed to make a wise choice of online university.