Managing Missteps

How to Address Red Flag Issues and Mistakes on Your College Applications

If you try to ignore a past mistake, it may come back to haunt you and destroy your chances of getting accepted into college.

If you’ve worked hard and have gotten good grades, you may still be concerned about your college application if you have an issue on your record or from your past. Problems such as a bad test score or grade all the way to drug-related or alcohol-related charges, suspensions, excessive tardies and more are common. But just because you’re not the only student to face this situation doesn’t mean you won’t have to address it. When you have a red flag issue or other problem in your past, there are several ways that you can deal with it on your college applications. The primary rule is that you must be truthful about any problems that might have happened and fully disclose them. If you try to ignore it or to sweep it under the rug, it may come back to haunt you and destroy your chances of getting accepted into college.

Tackling Issues Head On

When you have made mistakes or have issues in your past that are true red flags, admissions decision-makers are going to want to see that you recognize your errors and have made steps to change your direction. The admissions counselors at Going Ivy are professional educational consultants who have attended some of the best colleges in the nation. We work with high school students attending many different high schools in the greater Phoenix area. We have helped other students with addressing their mistakes and red flags in their college applications and get into the schools of their choice. We can help you to show that whatever occurred does not define your life.

Common Mistakes and Red Flag Issues

There are a number of different issues that we commonly see from college applicants. Your problems are likely not the worst that are possible. Here are a few common problems:

  1. Falling Grades

If you’ve always gotten stellar grades in a particular subject but then received a poor grade well into your high school career, your admissions committee will want an explanation. If you only had one poor grade, it may be easy for you to explain. If you had poor grades across the course spectrum during a semester, however, it is more of a problem because it will look like you are starting to burn out or coast to graduation. Admissions committees want to see that you take your classes seriously, so dropping grades are a problem that must be addressed.

  1. Disciplinary Issues

Your transcript that colleges review will reveal how many absences and tardies you have had. While being tardy a few times won’t sink your applications, infractions such as suspensions and expulsions are definitely red flags. If you were disciplined for such things as academic dishonesty, drug possession, fighting or underage drinking, your work will be cut out for you even if your ACT or SAT score is perfect.

  1. Changing Your Curriculum

Sometimes, students make major changes to their curriculum such as dropping advanced placement courses and switching to their regular versions. If you spend your senior year taking nothing but easy classes, your admissions officer might view it is problematic. Admissions committees like to see that you’ve engaged in a rigorous curriculum during all four years of high school.

  1. Taking Extended Leaves from School

Taking many absences or long breaks from school might catch the attention of your admissions officer. If you have missed a semester from school, or you have had grades that fell because of repeatedly missing school, you will need to address what happened in your application.

How to Address Problems

If one of these red flag categories applies to your situation, you will want to prepare an explanation. If your prospective colleges use the Common Application, there is an Additional Information section that you can and should use to write your explanation. You should admit and disclose your mistakes, explaining your role in what happened. It is important not to make excuses. Instead, be honest about what occurred. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Admissions committees understand that many young people make mistakes. If you have since dealt with the issue in a mature way, that will be taken into account. Do not make the mistake of attempting to place blame elsewhere. Instead, you should think about how you have worked to fix the problem, how you could have handled the situation differently and what the experience has taught you. Make certain to provide reasons for what happened. For example, if you had a long absence from school because of contracting mononucleosis, you can offer a straightforward explanation.

Make certain that you demonstrate how you have learned from your mistakes. For example, if you were charged with a drug possession offense, you might talk about how you attended rehabilitation and now started a club at your high school to raise awareness and work toward prevention. Whatever you say, it is important that it is honest. Do not try to pad your application or exaggerate. If you can show how you have grown and learned from the mistakes that you have made, you may be able to boost the admission officers’ opinions of you.

Your letters of recommendation are another avenue to address your problems and how you’ve learned from them. It often means more coming from an outside source to hear that you have matured or circumstances were beyond your control. You’ll want to explain all of that to the teachers or other adults you ask to write letters for you.

Contact Going Ivy for Help

Just because you made a mistake does not mean that you will forever have closed the door to college. Admissions officers are human, and they do understand that teenagers sometimes make mistakes and sometimes extenuating circumstances really do exist. The important thing is that you have learned from the events and have taken mature steps to correct your path. The educational consultants at Going Ivy can help you strategize how to address the red flag issues in your application in a way that puts you in a better light. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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