5 HUGE Mistakes to Avoid in High School

5 HUGE Mistakes to Avoid in High School

Today, I’ll be sharing 5 mistakes that thousands of high school students and parents make when navigating through the college admissions journey.

Mistake #1: Trying to get as many awards and certificates as possible

Proud of AMC 10? Awards from Robotics Club? Certificates from Johns Hopkins? When it comes to obtaining certificates and awards, students and parents get obsessed with how MANY they’ve accumulated. Colleges are more interested and impressed by the “why” not “how many”. The Common Application only gives you 5 spaces to fill out the awards… so use these slots wisely.

Mistake #2: Hiring tutors without understanding the “why”

When students come home with a C on their Biology Chapter Test, most parents react the same way– they seek external help.

However, external help is never going to work if your child has no idea what his or her weaknesses are. Is it that she procrastinated? Is it that she didn’t master her weaknesses fully? Did she not understand a particular concept?

Think again. What are the core reasons why she got a C on her Biology Test? Without that clarity, you should not be hiring tutors left and right and hoping for the best.

Mistake #3: Choosing quantity over quality

Let me guess. Your child is involved in sports, music, FBLA, Robotics Club, Math Club, National Honor Society, Debate Team and volunteering every weekend.

One of the biggest mistakes that students and parents make is this: the more, the better.

That’s far from the truth!

Colleges are not looking for quantity of your activities– they are looking for a pattern. They are looking for your child’s interest and passion. They are looking for your child’s growth and mindset. They are looking for independence and maturity, not someone who simply follows what everyone else is doing because that seems to be right.

The Common Application only allows 10 spots to fill out your activities. And there’s a reason for this… winning the college admissions game is not about quantity– it’s about the overall quality.

Mistake #4: Overloading AP classes

You probably hear so much about the importance of taking AP classes. Yes, they are important, but based on your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you need to use utilize them wisely.

Most students and parents (driven by ego), sometimes decide to take as many as possible and end up with big fat B’s and C’s on their report card.

Mistake #5: No plans for SAT, ACT, AP and SAT II

“I got a 30 on my ACT! Dang it. I need to take it again, but I don’t have time this month because I have midterms, competitions and volunteering work! How the heck am I going to cram in ACT studying? UGH!”

Do you feel this frustration? Unfortunately, this happens to every single high school student, but it doesn’t have to happen to your son or daughter.

Planning when you’re going to take which exams in advance is crucial. CRUCIAL.

Without prior scheduling and anticipating expected obstacles, your child will feel like these exams are now a burden, not a priority. Especially with SAT II exams, most parents come to me last minute for when they should take it…when they already missed the best chance to do so.


By Julie Kim Ed.M Harvard University