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By Elizabeth LaScala

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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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Avoid the Top Online College Application Mistakes!

Uploaded: Oct 31, 2011
Dear Elizabeth,

My daughter is a senior and is preparing her college applications. I guess that a lot of this gets done online now. I'm fairly computer literate, but we are unfamiliar with the process and could use a hand.

- Concerned Dad

Dear Concerned Dad,

Yes, most applications can now be done online. The online application sites have made completing applications as easy as they can, and the instructions are generally clear and useful. Still, every year students make errors, so here are some helpful tips. Keep them in mind and your daughter will do fine.

1. Read the instructions carefully! Some sites offer instructional videos. View them and make sure you understand all application procedures before proceeding. I strongly suggest printing out the instructions and using them as a reference as you complete your online application.

2. Carefully check each college's requirements and deadlines well in advance. Understand and follow all the instructions about deadlines, fees and supplemental information.

3. Don't start at the last minute. Leave enough time for "stuff" to happen. In the real world, computers crash, internet service gets disrupted, and servers go down.

4. Make sure you enter a valid email address. This error occurs much more often than you would think. If you don't hear back from your colleges, this may be the reason.

5. Remember to disable your pop-up blockers. Then you will be able to see those vital sections of the application that are displayed in the pop-up windows!

6. Be certain you are using the right browser. Make sure your version of Internet Explorer or other browser is compatible with the application software. Be sure your browser is up-to-date. This information is provided in the instructions.

7. Save data frequently and log out when you need a break. 60 minutes is the standard amount of time you have per web page before being timed out. Be sure to use the save/logout feature to save your work before taking a break from working on your application.

8. Navigate through the document using the buttons within the application itself. Avoid the 'back' button on your main screen which can cause data to be lost or not properly saved to the application.

9. Check the correct items from the drop down menu. Make certain your country of origin, major and any other item is accurate.

10. Enter your correct birthdate and identification numbers. An incorrect date of birth may have several interesting consequences, including failure to be able to open an account because you appear to be too young to file a college application!

11. Be certain that you have successfully uploaded all documents (like that college essay you so carefully crafted). Check and double check that all answers are complete and all written materials are in the correct locations.

12. Check for spelling and grammar errors; check for truncated text. The best way to do this is to print a hard copy and proof read it carefully.

13. If you are applying early decision (ED), be certain all signatures are submitted. Remember your counselor cannot submit a signature until you and your parent/guardian submit signatures.

14. Leave sufficient time for payments to clear. Payments can take up to 48 hours so read the instructions to find out how long it takes for payment to be processed.

15. Provide accurate and complete teacher and counselor recommendation information.

16. If you plan to submit an Arts/Athletics supplement, be certain to follow the instructions regarding these supplements to the application.

17. Sign your application. It will not submit until the document is signed electronically.

18. Verify the submission process is complete before you log out. Be certain to hit 'submit' when you are finished. Check the application status function to be certain it's all been done right.

19. Follow up with fees and supplements. Application, supplement(s) and fees submissions involve three (3) distinct processes.

20. Ask for help if you are confused or have technical difficulties. Use 'Help Desk', 'Technical Support' or 'Contact' links and get the assistance you need to avoid making errors.

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Visit www.doingcollege.com; Call (925) 891-4491 or email at elizabeth@doingcollege.com

Credit and thanks to N. Griesemer @ College Exploration for sharing this information with HECA members. Revised by Elizabeth A. LaScala 10-31-11

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