November 5, 2021

Do’s and Don’ts of College Admissions Season

It’s college admissions season, which means high school seniors are spending their fall semesters editing essays and submitting applications to universities around the country. When applying to colleges, we know it can be stressful and exciting. In preparation for this busy season,  we sat down with Elon University’s associate dean of admissions to discuss the do’s and don’ts of applying to college. 

Kevin Napp, Associate Dean of Admissions, has worked at Elon University for the past eight years. We discussed what it is like to work in college admissions, what students can do proactively to prepare for the college application season, and what not to do. Check out our list below to find out the do’s and don’ts for students when it comes to the college admissions process. 

Applying to college is an opportunity for students to showcase who they are, both on their applications and on social media. By Using Their Mic for Good on social media, they can advocate for causes that they care about or show hobbies they’re interested in. As educators, we can encourage students to use social media as a megaphone to amplify what they submit on their applications. 

  • DO show interest in the school you’re applying to 

These days, students apply to around eight schools, so it’s challenging for schools to know who is actually interested in a school and who views it as a backup. Kevin shares that it’s helpful for students to reach out to universities to show interest. He says, “communicate with the colleges you are interested in, be transparent as it helps focus our attention on students who want to be here.” Some ways to show interest include sending an email to an admissions office or going on campus tours and snapping pictures to post about the experience on social media.

  • DO write an essay that shows your strengths 

The essay is a great time to show your strengths by writing about a time in your life where you were challenged or about a time when your perspective changed. Kevin recommends finding a topic that is unique and personalized. “We can read 60 applications a day, so the more unique and the ones that catch our attention, the better,” Kevin shares, “I have even read applications about fly fishing and monopoly- you can take simplistic topics and make them unique. You want to make us remember you.” 

  • DO ask the questions you want to know

Admissions counselors want you to ask them questions, and they want to help you through the application process. “We are looking for ways to admit students, and if their vision of our process is a dark boardroom- that is not how it is for us,” Kevin shares, “We want to help, so do not be afraid to reach out!” 

  • DO remember that your online presence follows you 

A 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey found that about 25% of college admissions officers check out their applicants’ social media profiles. This information proves that our virtual footprint follows us wherever we go and that it is important to remember that what we post and say matters and can affect our future.

  • DO advocate for yourself on social media

Remember that college admissions officers look at your social media. This makes a student’s online presence a great place to show off the activities that make them unique. Posting about community service projects, athletic involvement, or club activities is a great way to provide insight into extracurricular activities. 

Yes, applying to college is exciting. But it’s also a stressful time in which students think they always have to be on. Now that we know college admissions officers look at social media, students should remember to play to their core both online and offline. To help students navigate this time in their lives, here are the main things students should be wary of not doing. 

  • DON’T Submit an Application without reviewing it

Admissions counselors can tell the effort one makes in an application. Students should always review their application for spelling errors and grammar, and even make sure they put the correct school name. Kevin says that once in a blue moon he will get an application from a student with the wrong school written in.

  • DON’T wait until the last minute 

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to college applications. There are many apps to help you stay organized and stress-free. One app, College Interactive, is an app designed to help you search for colleges, take notes, and communicate with schools around the country. By staying ahead of the curve, making a list of schools you are interested in advance, and starting applications early- you will be the most prepared to handle the pressure of college application season. 

  • DON’T spread yourself too thin 

Remember to Strike A Balance during the application process. Students do not need to apply to 100 schools or spend 24 hours a day stressing over applications. Remember quality over quantity. Students should always put in the effort into the programs they care about. 

  • DON’T assume admissions officers know about your extracurriculars

Most college applications will ask you to list your involvement and accomplishments from high school. Kevin shared that one red flag is to assume that admissions officers know your organization or club, even if it is common. If you are a part of a certain club, make sure to treat it as if the admissions office has never heard of that club before and describe the club, what you did, and how it impacted you. 

  • DON’T forget to be yourself

College application season is an exciting time in students’ lives to figure out who they want to be and where they want to go. When students remember to Play To Their Core on social media and on college applications, they show their true character to these universities. For a deeper dive on how to prepare students to proactively take charge of their future, check out our webinar where we break down best-in-class strategies for helping students sharpen their online presence to showcase their skills and experiences. 

Every college experience is going to be different. By being proactive and doing the proper research, students can prepare themselves to find the best fit and their home away from home. Here at The Social Institute, we empower students to feel confident during application season. For more tips and tricks, check out our Instagram (@thesocialinst) where we post about student trends, social media, and offer fun and informative content for educators and students.


About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, families, and educators to positively navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology. Schools access our student-respected, turnkey curriculum through, an interactive, gamified learning platform. With solutions for students, parents, and educators, we offer a systemic and comprehensive SEL program through a unique and positive approach. We are proud to serve public and independent partners such as Ravenscroft School, Woodward Academy, Oldfields School, All Saints Episcopal School, Lake Forest School District, Boston Public Schools, and more. For more information on how to empower your students to make high-character decisions online and off, please contact us.