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The #1 Mistakes Students Make When Applying to Colleges from 10 Top College Admissions Experts

I’m so excited to have gotten the best insider tips from 10 amazing college admissions experts during the Dream College Summit. I asked each of the experts the #1 mistake students make when applying to their dream colleges.

Sara Harberson
Sara Harberson of saraharberson.com and Admissions Revolution is a former Ivy League Associate Dean of Admissions and nationally recognized expert on elite college admissions.

The #1 mistake is thinking getting a certain score or having a certain class rank is the be all end all. High grades and test scores keep you competitive in the applicant pool, but the admissions decision never comes down to how high your test scores are or how high your grades are.

Stephanie Shyu
Stephanie Shyu is a graduate of Duke and Penn and founder of AdmitSee, a peer-to-peer platform that features real, successful college applications.

Stephanie shared the #1 mistake students make is applying to too many schools or applying to schools they aren’t really interested in.


Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is a #1 bestselling author, the founder of Prep Expert (Formerly 2400 Expert) SAT & ACT Preparation, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of a Shark Tank deal with billionaire Mark Cuban.

The #1 mistake students make with the ACT and SAT is not treating the SAT or ACT as important as classes or extracurriculars.

Alexis Avila
Alexis Avila is a certified K-12 guidance counselor and full-time private tutor who founded Prepped & Polished and hosts a weekly show, The Prepped & Polished Podcast.

Alexis’s #1 mistake students make when studying for the ACT and SAT is starting their studying too late. He recommends studying for at least 2 months prior to taking the test and more time for students with learning challenges.

Nate Turner
Nate’s counsel and advice are included on his blog The Raising Supaman Project and in his books Raising Supaman and Stop The Bus. His son, Naeem, accomplishments include playing soccer on three continents, including in two of Brazil’s top professional academies, and attending Santa Clara University, where he’s studying electrical engineering and computer science and engineering.

The #1 mistake students and parents make is not having a plan. The world is much more complicated than it has ever been.

Ethan Sawyer
Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, has been helping students tell their stories for more than ten years. He’s a graduate of Northwestern and UC Irvine.

Ethan’s #1 mistake students make when writing their personal statements is focusing on a quality or value that is obvious in the rest of your application. The essay should share something different about you.

Elizabeth Dankoski
Elizabeth Dankoski has helped hundreds of high achieving students get into the nation’s top schools, including Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, UPenn, among many others. Her unusual approach of helping students discover what lights them up and how they can make an impact on their communities not only earns her students incredible acceptance rates but also allows them to thrive in college and beyond.

#1 mistake students make is thinking that perfect grades and test scores are the solution. They aren’t. Students can’t differentiate themselves through grades and test scores.

Shirag Shemmassian
Dr. Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian academic consulting, is a nationally recognized college admissions expert who has helped hundreds of families get into America’s top colleges.

The #1 mistake students and families make when applying to colleges is trying to mind read and only writing about what they think will most impress the admissions committees. Colleges know when you’re doing things just because you think you should and not because you really care about it.

Peter Peng
Peter, founder of Young Prodigy, has devoted himself as a full-time SAT/ACT strategist and admissions essay consultant.

The #1 mistake students make is not doing enough work, and, when they do the work, they focus on the wrong things. If you’re focusing on the right strategies, you need at about 7 hours a week for a couple of months. Treat SAT and ACT just like homework.

Ms. Sun
Ms. Sun is a UC admissions expert who has been guiding students to the top UCs since 2006. Ms. Sun created AskMsSun.com to help students navigate the complex UC admissions process.

The #1 mistake students make is applying to engineering programs without the adequate preparation. The engineering programs at the UCs are incredibly competitive, so make sure you have the background necessary to compete.

Want to get more amazing tips from our speakers? Sign up for your free ticket to the Dream College Summit that runs May 14-17, 2018.

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