Common College Application and Research Mistakes

We've all wished for an "undo" button in life. 

Sure, learning from mistakes is important. You'll kick harder, speak louder, or start writing sooner after you flub a game, debate, or essay. But there are some events in life you only get to do once, and the idea of botching them is really scary. 

Applying to college has a lot of moving parts, and that means there's a lot of opportunity to make some pretty big mistakes. The good news? There's definitely more than one way to do this process well. But the bad news is that you don't get a second chance to make a great first impression on your dream schools.

That's why I wanted to share this infographic with you: Common College Application and Research Mistakes. (You can make it bigger by opening it in a new tab. Heads-up: clicking on it will take you to

So now that you know what not to do, how do you avoid it?

You need a plan. Applying to college is complicated and involves a lot of coordination. The first part of your plan should be seeing what all the different tasks are, and I've got you covered on that with the College Application Checklist

But even with a comprehensive checklist, getting started can feel overwhelming. So here's some help on that front: start with a planning session! The great thing about a planning session, aka, a brainstorming session, is that you don't need to have any ideas going in. You don't need to be prepared.

The whole point is that you just sit down and see what thoughts come tumbling out of your brain. That takes the pressure off and allows your brain to go into Awesome Creative Mode instead of Sad Stressed Mode. 

Here's how to take action right now with a low-stress planning session:

  1. Get out your best brainstorming tools, whether a favorite notebook, an unlined sheet of paper, or a fresh Google Doc. 
  2. Write "My College Application Plan" on the paper.
  3. Write down whatever comes to mind on that topic. Let your ideas flow freely. Write down your worries, questions, and ideas. 
  4. Look over your brainstorm and choose one small, concrete task to work on. Maybe that task will be doing online research on one of your top-choice schools. Maybe it will be scheduling an appointment with your school counselor.
  5. Make yourself a realistic deadline for that task.
  6. Schedule time on your calendar to get this one task done.

Let me know how it goes! Share your one concrete task in the comments, and I'll respond with suggestions and resources for how to tackle it.