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The Dos and Don’ts of College Applications – with Mr. Dugger

As college application deadlines approach, the College Office is flooded with Seniors pouring over essays and perfecting interviews. All elements of the application itself must be completed to the best of a student’s ability to give him or her a chance at acceptance, so it is definitely crunch time. One of the main questions students encounter as they embark on the long and arduous college process is what exactly should be put on the application—and what should be left out. I sat down with Mr. Dugger, the Director of College Counseling, during a rare lull in College Office activity to discuss his thoughts on this age-old issue: the dos and don’ts of college applications. Although freshmen and sophomores still have some time before they dive into the college process, it is never too early to start thinking.

Mr. Dugger

Beginning with the Don’ts: “Students should be truthful about all of the information put down, as this is a legal document,” cautions Dugger. “It is important not to include unnecessary details, and the Main Essay (on the common application) should not be a laundry list of what students have already done…A student should tell something, not everything.” In addition, “It is not a good idea to customize the application essay for each school, as this opens the door for grave errors,” he emphasizes. For example, “’…and this is why I really want to go to Clemson [University]’ accidentally written on the application for the University of Georgia,” something that would make a very unfavorable impression. Lastly, he states, “Students should not be characters of themselves, they must be themselves. A student should not try to be funny if she isn’t, or try to be overly creative if he is more of an analytical thinker.”

The list of Dos is relatively straightforward if students adhere to common sense (which sometimes does get lost in the insanity of the college process). “Students should (of course) write their essays themselves, but can ask a teacher, family member or friend to proofread,” Dugger suggests. “Each question should be answered to the fullest and as completely as possible.” “Applications should be started early, as in over the summer,” he stresses.  And finally, “If students apply Early Decision or Early Action, they should complete their regular decision applications before getting an answer from the early schools. This way, they will be completing the application from a place of strength, not defeat.”

In closing, Mr. Dugger left me with this nugget of wisdom: “The application should be an affirmation of who you are, not a representation of who you are.” Well said Mr. Dugger, well said.

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