Guest Editor Emma Marie Torno

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid as a College Bound Student (from an Admission Expert)

August 13, 2021

We enjoyed meeting Emma Marie Torno, Founder of ‘Coach Emma Marie | Your College Coach’ as she has experience both in college admissions and coaching young adults through life’s transitions. As students get ready for college, she shared some helpful tips to ease the stress and transition to college life. 

college advice
Courtesy of Coach Emma Marie|Your College Coach

I spend most of my time on both sides of the desk.

What does this mean? On one side of the desk, I’m working within college admissions and guiding students through the nuances of applications and scholarships. On the other side of the desk, I’m in the entire college preparation journey working 1:1 with students in my college coaching business.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen students approach the college search from a strong angle by starting early and taking initiative with the right people every step of the way. I’ve also seen students let procrastination get the best of them and wait until the last minute to get the ball rolling.

I believe that students and families deserve to know these common mistakes on the front end rather than wish they would’ve known it all later on. Students are on the verge of beginning a pretty large transition within young adulthood in which they should walk feeling confident and prepared.

With that, I’ll leave you with 5 common mistakes to avoid as a college bound student:

#1 – No longer considering a school just because of the sticker price.

The sticker price is going to be the price without any scholarships, grants, work study associated with the cost. Many times, students will eliminate a school choice based on this cost and not factoring in the value that the school offers and the scholarships that could be gained.

Keep in mind, not ALL schools market their costs this way. Some schools will market their total yearly cost with an estimated financial aid offer tacked on to it. That’s why it’s wise to use the net price calculator tool on most schools’ websites. It will be the best estimate with every variable put into play at the time.

On another note, If you’re looking at an out of state school, there are criteria that could be met to gain in-state tuition…some are easier than you may believe! Be sure to ask the admissions office early on what that criteria is so that you know what to shoot for!

#2 – Writing a generic personal statement that doesn’t highlight the uniqueness of YOU!

Personal statements can and will enhance any college application – if they are done well! Keep in mind that this is your best opportunity, before an interview, to share about what makes you unique and the best candidate. I will read personal statement essays from time to time and sense insecurity from the student. Then, I will talk to them and find out something really cool that they didn’t include in the essay! There are many students that will write about how COVID – 19 impacted their high school career. If that’s what you choose to discuss, share a story with us on how you were resilient during that season. The evaluation team is going to look for how you were able to lead throughout your personal story.

#3 – Having a parent or guardian always taking the initiative for you.

Students, it’s time to take the driver’s seat on this one. This is your journey and you are in charge of it. Parents/guardians are encouraged to be available for guidance throughout the way, but they are going to serve well as an assistant. It shows a lot to an admissions selection committee when students are able to communicate effectively, ask great questions, and take initiative early on.

#4 – Not being intentional about who you are taking advice on college and admissions from.

When I was inquiring about colleges, my circle of influence was so big! I had no idea what I was doing. My parents and I were learning from other parents on what their students did. There wasn’t any clear direction because everyone had a voice in my head of what they think I should’ve done. Students face an abundance of pressure already and this is no different!

The truth is that college preparation looks entirely different than it did 10-15 years ago. College admissions has changed so much just this past year! Majors are constantly restructured, there are different careers in demand, scholarships are found differently, etc.

No one expects you to have it all figured out, so it’s good to build your tribe of people to help guide the process. This can be a small group of 3-5 people who will help you with this decision making process. Some examples of people who would be a good fit are your school counselor, parents, a college coach, teacher, and sports coach. As you build a bond of trust with your tribe, they will be eager to share advice during the bumps in the journey.

#5 – Passing up deadlines.

I’m sure this one always gets brought up! The truth is that there typically isn’t any wiggle room when it comes to deadlines for applications or scholarships. I feel for the students that I talk to who have let deadlines pass because they would’ve been great candidates, but they were just too late in the game.

I always want to encourage students of a few things in order to stay organized :

  • Create an email account for your college search and use this for everything related to college preparation. It keeps you organized and from missing any deadlines! For example :
  • Keep your documents housed in GoogleDocs. Then, tweak and save each document as you go. For example: (University of Texas -Austin; Personal Statement Essay)
  • Use a paper planner or calendar app on your phone. If your strength isn’t organization, connect with someone who is and can help you with this! This will be a skill that will serve you well if you learn what it takes to stay organized early on.
  • Familiarize yourself with deadlines from your schools of interest and write them down! If you’re not a senior, still document these dates so that you know how to prepare when applications do roll out.

Some final thoughts – there is not an exact science of how to navigate the college preparation process. Learn what you can before it gets to be the time to ‘press play’ on your college application process. Best of luck to you and please reach out if I can be a further resource to you!

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Emma Marie Torno, Author

Emma is the founder of "Coach Emma Marie | Your College Coach." She has a combination of 7+ years of experience in college admissions and coaching young adults through life’s transitions. During her free time, you can find her planning another travel venture, drinking a cold brew while catching up with a friend, or at her local Cycling Studio. Check out her freebie resources on Instagram (@CoachEmmaMarie) or LinkedIn.

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