Ten Stupid Ways to Ruin Your College Application

Jay Matthews:

Remember, these are things you should NOT do.
1. Rack up as many extra points as you can for “expressed interest” in your favorite colleges. This particular obsession was new to me. Connolly has encountered applicants who have inundated admissions offices with voicemails, e-mails and snail mail because they have heard that colleges want concrete indications of interest and don’t think you can overdo it. Believe me, you can. “There is a fine line between showing adequate interest in the school and stalking,” Connolly said. “Unsolicited cakes, pies, cookies, sneakers (the old ‘one foot in the door’ trick), a life-sized statue of you holding an acceptance letter, or a painstakingly detailed scale model of the campus clock tower will not make up for a lackluster academic record.” When colleges look for “expressed interest,” that means they hope that you will show up when their college reps visit your school, that you will visit their campuses and sign the visitor logs in their admissions offices and that you will get your application in on time with no loose ends. If you have a legitimate question, they are happy to receive your e-mail or telephone call. Doing more than that just makes you look desperate, and a little scary.
2. Don’t worry about your postings on social networking sites — college admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and will probably never look at them. I know, I know. What you put on Facebook or Myspace is your private business. College officials appear to share that view. They say they do not make a habit of looking up their applicants. But there are enough exceptions to make me think care should be taken when posting photos from your last rollicking beach party. Not everybody loves you. Those who don’t could send anonymous notes to your first-choice school suggesting it inspect a certain Web site. There are no rules that say they can’t.