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14 mistakes when applying to college

14 Things Better Left Unsaid

From Tulane Blog: by Jeff Schiffman, Director of Admission at Tulane

Hey there! We’ve just begun the very beginning of reading season here at Tulane and are spending all our days (and sometimes nights!) inspecting your transcripts, pouring over your “Why Tulane?” essays, and reading all the incredible things your teachers and counselors have to say about you.

Speaking of things to say, today we’re talkin’ about things not to say. I’ve been doing this whole admission thing for going on sixteen years now, and in that time, there are a few frequently used words and phrases that I might suggest you (and your mom) steer clear of. I thought now, as we’re in the thick of college application season, might be a great time to share with you all 14 words/phrases/sentences/ideas that are better left unsaid.

Disclaimer—if you read this and think “oh no… I have said that! Are my chances ruined?” No! Not at all. This is one of my blogs that aims to calm down this admission frenzy. If any of the statements below apply to you, don’t sweat it. Teaching moments, people! And for you parents, many of these things are pulled straight from a webinar I gave last week specifically to help you as parents in the admission process. Check it out!

Now let’s get down to it…

“I heard that….” Examples: “I heard that Tulane only admits kids who visit,” or “I read that you have to party to enjoy Tulane” or “I heard that Jeff is trolling your Insta stories.” You get the idea. I hate to even utter these words, but sometimes the stuff you read online or hear from friends is actually fake news. If you have questions or concerns, just reach out to your school counselor or the colleges you are applying to and go straight the source. We aim to always be honest and as candid as we can be with you.

“Which do colleges prefer?” When it comes to how you spend your time, we at Tulane prefer that you do what you want to. As Director of Admission at Tulane, I will be straight up with you: I don’t want your experiences in high school to be a constant stream of things you think will look good on your college application. This whole concept of doing stuff to impress admission officers has reached a fever pitch this decade. So when you want to ask, “Should I take this class or that class? Should I do this summer program or this one?” The answer? At Tulane, we genuinely don’t have a preference. Do what you want, what will leave you fulfilled, and what makes you happy.

“Would you rather see the A in the regular class or the B in the AP class?” Heard it a million times. It’s an impossible question to answer. We’re looking to see if students have found an overall academic balance. Every student has a different personal academic balance that is a four year process.

“He/She/They/You only got in because they are [insert underrepresented minority].” You can also fill in [alumni] or [athlete] or really anything. Enrollment management is a complex thing, so you’ll never know what goes on as a student is reviewed by our committee (or what they have included in their application). It helps to remember you are applying for YOUR spot in the class, not applying against other people for one spot in the class. It’s just not a good look to ever say someone “only got in because…”

“I need to find my one and only perfect fit.” I talk a lot about how I believe there aren’t any bad schools, only bad fits. That said, there is likely more than one fit for you. Yes, you might have a top choice, but keep in mind that there are many great schools where you will totally and completely flourish. Don’t put too much pressure to find that one perfect place where you’ll have that a-ha moment.

“Safety School” There are no longer safety schools. There are Likely Schools, yes. But calling a school your safety a) might give you bad juju and b) kind of belittles that school and others who might be applying to it as their reach school.

“I was rejected!” Always remember this: if you are not admitted to a college or university, the school is denying your application for admission, not rejecting you as a person. Never forget that.

“You admitted Diane and Jack from my school and they don’t even want to go there and/or are not nearly as qualified as my son/daughter.” Probably one of the biggest things admission officers really dislike hearing.

“I am applying ED, I just don’t know where!” That is the same as saying “I want to get married tomorrow, I just don’t know to whom,” or “I want a tattoo, I just don’t know what I want it to be.” If you’re going to apply ED, the school should really resonate with you and feel like your perfect match. Then, you can make the educated and thoughtful decision with your family and school counselor to apply early decision.

“WE are taking the SAT this weekend.” Mom/Dad/Guardian, I know applying to college is a team effort, but your son/daughter is applying. “They are,” not “we are.” Unless you’re Aunt Becky.

“You only applied to [insert any community college/state school here]? But why? You are so smart. You could have gotten in tons of places.” You never know the needs or desires of who you are speaking to. Maybe that school is that student’s dream school or maybe family finances require a less expensive university.

“I know my son should be calling, not me, but…” I am just going to stop you there.

“This will look good on my college resume!” I have literally written an entire blog dedicated to this very subject.

There you have it. Again, if any of the above applies to you, don’t sweat it! I have heard all of these a thousand times before. Go forth with this new knowledge and prosper!

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