4 Things To Avoid on College Apps, from Admissions Deans

The first college apps are due in a month for some of our Early Action applicants.


It might be time for some encouragement for those in the trenches of college apps. The mid-October deadlines for schools like UNC Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech only mark the beginning of the 2021-2022 application season.

This week, we’ve curated 4 pieces of college application advice from our admissions insiders including admissions deans at UC Berkeley, University of Rochester, and James Madison University, sharing what NOT to do on your college applications.

  • UC Berkeley admissions dean: Don’t get too arrogant
  • James Madison admissions dean: Don’t overload on school work
  • University of Rochester admissions dean: Don’t copy others

Don’t rely only on your GPA and test score

I denied several applications with very high… scores and GPAs because something in the personal statement made me blanch. This usually was due to poor writing skills, incoherent thoughts, and/or a generic or overly-pompous attitude. –Edward Tom, UC Berkeley admissions dean

Don’t get me wrong: GPA and test scores still matter for college admissions. After all, college isn’t simply a creative writing competition and the writers of the best essays win. Nope, college is still an academic place where performance on tests and evaluations matter.

That said, some students see that they earned a 1600 on the SAT and suddenly want to revamp their college list, moving their reach schools down to the safety section and convincing themselves they’re in at any school of their choice.

This is unwise.

If your student feels like they are “set” or a “shoo-in” because of a perfect GPA or perfect test score, remind them that admissions officers do not admit students solely based on GPA. Other factors like writing skills, clear thinking, and humility matter.

Don’t take too many AP classes

I sat on a panel one time, and one day one kid stood up and said, “I’m taking six APs every semester,” and before he could say anything more, one of the deans from one of the Ivy schools said, “Why?” From the students’ standpoint,

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