I have worked with a lot of students over the years. And at the end of the admission process—as they look back through the ups and downs, the exciting times and the disappointments—most of them do not have a lot of regrets.

Generally, these students have authentically gone through the process. They were thorough, put in the time and energy needed for the hard portions, and also enjoyed the fun parts. And regardless of which colleges accepted them and which denied them, they are satisfied with the overall experience.

I am happy for these students.

When I see students who look back on the experience who are filled with regrets or are unhappy with the outcome, I believe that the problem often is because they did not truly apply themselves to the process in the right way. I have also noticed that these students tend to follow a pattern that leads to a less than happy outcome.

If that is what you want—the absolute worst outcome, the worst college for you—here are the guaranteed steps that will get you there.

Step 1: Concentrate Entirely on What Other People Think

Of course, other people—family, close friends, college counselors, etc.—will be involved in the application process. And, no doubt, they will all have their opinions.

But when I see a student who allows other people to dictate where to apply, what majors to select, or make other important choices for them, I can almost guarantee that it will lead to a bad outcome.

Parents and friends have good intentions. However, all too often, I see that parents are convinced that a large, highly-selective school with a great reputation and students with magnificently high SAT scores must be the college their child needs to apply to. In many cases, it is clear that this is not a good fit for their student. They simply would not be successful at that type of campus.

And the opposite can also be true. Parents may think that a small college would be the right place for their child. Yet, the student would truly shine at an arts conservatory or would enjoy a change of pace and go to a large school that offers activities they have not experienced before.

The point is, there certainly is room for input from parents and others in critical areas. But when you simply defer to other people’s wishes in deciding where to apply, that is a guaranteed formula for bad results.

Step 2: Pay Absolutely No Attention to the Timeline

Many students who apply to college are very busy in high school. They have a lot on their plate—school work, waking up early, tons of homework, staying up late, going to practices, having busy weekends, spending time with family and friends, and even working at a job.

However, when it comes to applying to college, you will have to dial into a different calendar; one that goes on top of your already busy schedule. And with that college application schedule comes more than just the awareness of a final deadline by which you have to submit applications.

You have to pay attention to all the many steps that need to be taken in the months leading up to the final deadline. If you scramble before each deadline—writing essays, requesting letters of recommendation, submitting transcripts and test scores, at the last minute—I can guarantee you will not be able to keep up with the process.

Can you turn in an application on the day it is due? Yes. Should you? No.

In my experience, it never works out well when you scramble to complete an application to a seriously selective school and turn it in last minute. Not paying attention to the timeline and then rushing to get things done will only contribute to a bad outcome.

Step 3: Let Your Email Inbox Get Totally Out of Control

computer with email inbox on screenClearly, I am not of the same age group as most of the students I work with. For that reason, I have been told that I do not understand certain things about today’s generation. One thing in particular that has been pointed out to me is that young people do not use email but much rather like to text or apps or other technological means to communicate.

According to them, corresponding via email is apparently passé.

I respectfully have to disagree. Whether you like using it or not, email is an essential part of the college application process.

At times, colleges may send out a text, call, or even use snail mail. But the vast majority of communication with colleges—information regarding admission, applications, test scores, requirement, missing information, and even enticements to visit the university—happens via email.

In fact, many colleges notify students via email about the admission decision or, at least, let them know the admission decision is coming in the mail.

Sadly, if you do not attend to clear and responsible e-mail communication between you and the college, you could potentially miss out on something vital. And you will not like the outcome.

Step 4: Do Not Ask for Any Help

While this may sound like a contradiction to “Step 1,” the truth is, applying to college is a complicated process.

There comes a time when the decisions you have to make along the way require the input from others. Sometimes, it involves financial information your family has to provide. Other times, it may be that your parents can help schedule college visits. Or perhaps your family members have strong feelings about the social values (religious or political) of a particular college, which they would like you to consider. And, therefore, you should think about these matters and incorporate your family’s advice in your decision.

Moreover, while you have to make the primary and final decisions of where to apply, there is undoubtedly a lot of good advice to gain from experts, such as college counselors, trained professionals (not just your friends or neighbors.) These sources can help you to know what types of colleges may offer certain qualities that might suit you. Or they can simply provide you with some good, honest and ethical feedback on essays, etc.

But keep in mind to get your advice from qualified individuals. Only asking for help from someone you went to college or who insists they simply know, will most likely lead to a bad outcome.

If you would like to be happy with the admission process, be organized, do it well, and find the best college for you, please contact me.

I am an Independent Educational Consultant with years of expertise making the college admission process a rewarding experience for students and their families. I would like to help you succeed as well.