Application mistakes to avoid

College applications are out; let the careless errors begin. A sloppy college application; while one of the easiest missteps to avoid is probably among the most common mistake applicants make.

Here are pitfalls you can prevent:

A silly email address: If your student created their email address in the second grade and it sounds something like “beachbum4life” or “cheerleadercutie” – it’s time for an update. Students can create an “acceptable” email account with Gmail in just a few minutes. Colleges communicate almost exclusively with students via email, setting up a more professional account is an easy way to dodge a “red flag.”

Inappropriate material on social media: There is a lot of buzz in both the college admissions community and among students and parents about the morality and the reality of college admissions professionals checking up on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of applicants. I tell students that “if you aren’t comfortable with your grandmother seeing/reading what you have out there in cyberspace, then remove it during your college admissions process.” Vulgar language, inappropriate photos and posts (drinking, etc.) are obvious candidates for removal, but if you or your student thinks something is questionable, my advice is “be safe and sanitize.”

Procrastination: Many college applications have already been released and the remainder will be available by the end of August. Applications are due as early as mid-October with the majority of regular decision deadlines hitting on or around January 1st. Why then, do as many as 50% of students wait until the last day, even the last hour, to submit their applications? Every year, without fail, college computer servers get overloaded with applicants applying at the last minute and shut down. Panic-stricken is probably a mild term for the chaos this creates in many households. You can imagine the conversation: Student: “Help, it’s not letting me submit my application.” Parent: “When is it due?” Student: “By midnight tonight.” Parent: “Why did you wait until the last minute?” Expletives deleted! Avoid this experience at all costs and start the applications now and plan to submit them at least one week prior to the deadline.

Misspellings: Spell-check is not a college applicant’s friend. Most applications are not enabled with spell-check and that means that all your mistakes and common careless errors are on full-view. I recommend at least two rounds of proofing. Don’t use abbreviations unless you’re short on space, be consistent with how you refer to organizations, i.e., your use of acronyms, upper and lower case, etc. One of the most common errors is that students forget to capitalize “i” – which is likely a carry-over from texting. Proof, take a break of two or more days, reproof and then submit.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;