Just when you thought it was safe to get into the college admissions game... [Cue the theme from Jaws!] What you know. What you think you know. What they tell you and, sometimes, what they don’t tell you. Let the college applicant beware! 

1. Your Application Is Incomplete. Yes, most colleges have so-called “Application Checkers” which allow you to see (though not always in real-time) what, if anything is missing from your application. Test scores. High school transcript. Supplements. Recommendations. Colleges will not even review your application until it is deemed complete, and it is entirely up to you to make sure it is -- as in, “signed, sealed and delivered.” 

2. You Missed The Application Deadline. A candidate for Early Action, are you? Regular Decision more your speed? “Missed it by that much!” simply won’t suffice. Sure, colleges will take your application -- and your money for the application fee -- but your chances of getting in should you miss the application deadline are often zero to nil. 

3. Highly Selective Doesn’t Make Us A Better School. The fact that the competition is keen and your safety school has now become a reach has more -- if not everything -- to do with the sheer number of students applying than it does with the college’s academic standing. Not many years ago, colleges had to struggle to fill seats. Today, a college looking to welcome a Freshman class of 3,000 may have over 40,000 applicants. You do the math! 

4. Your Seat In The Freshman Class Is Being Outsourced to China. The admission of International students is on the rise. Upwards of 10% of the entering class this fall at many American universities is comprised of foreign students. You are not merely competing with your classmates or cross-town rivals for a spot on campus, but with students from around the globe. 

5. You Are Little More Than A Screen Shot On An Admissions Officer’s Monitor. Scores. Grades. Activities. Essays. The Common App itself. They all appear on the computer screen, reducing you to a matrix to be compared with thousands of other students. Talk about giving you a number and taking away your name. You have one chance to impress and to stand out among the crowd! 

6. We DO Consider Whether You Will Be Applying for Financial Aid in the Admissions Process. The vast majority of colleges are “need blind” when it comes to admissions. A few, unfortunately, are not. Know before you apply! 

7. We’re A For-Profit College from Which You’ll Likely Never Graduate (and if you do graduate, you’ll be indebted for life). With tuition being what it is (and what it is likely to become down the road), it is hard to believe that most colleges in this country are not-for-profit. Beware colleges out there that are for-profit, existing substantially on loan money borrowed by students to finance their education, with little if any return on investment for the unsuspecting students. There are many legit for-profits. Weed out the bad and those that are suspect -- or under federal investigation. 

8. Your College Essay Carries More Weight Than You Think. It’s not all grades and scores. Making that connection to campus, demonstrating what you will bring to the college community, defining yourself as an individual, as one who is involved, passionate, empathetic and not likely to turn out to be that lone gunman on the quad can literally make or break your application. You have 250 to 650 words (no more and no less) in which to market yourself successfully. Make your best case! 

9. Where You Went To High School Matters. It’s a matter of demographics. Colleges can’t take everyone from Long Island (though it may seem otherwise once you get there :-). That kid from Iowa, or from Monticello High, with equivalent grades and scores may well have an edge over the senior from Garden City High, Plainview or Syosset. So, when it comes to your application, essays, extracurriculars and such, you need to stand out. Make everything you do and say count -- because it does! 

10. We Know What You Did Last Summer. And we’re not talking about the essentials of boosting your profile in the work place or in your community service endeavors. No, we mean all those Tweets, Facebook posts and other online ventures that you thought nobody, other than your closest friends, would notice. Guess what? When you post on the Internet, it’s out there and it stays out there. Assume that whatever you post online, in whatever forum, will be seen and/or read by a college admissions officer. Don’t let a lurid photo or an indiscreet 140 characters sink your college application. Nuf said! 

This list could go on and on, almost ad nauseum. It’s up to you to gain the upper hand in the college admissions game, to avoid the pitfalls and the detours along the way, and to score points without being penalized. When it comes to college admissions, you’ve got one shot. Do it right. Your objective isn’t just to apply to college – it’s to get in!
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