Well juniors, it’s time to start getting serious about applying to college. To get started, here are my pet peeves that are designed to help you get through the process. These are in no particular order.
Let’s start with names of colleges.
- Do not use UPenn. The nickname for University of Pennsylvania is Penn. This is what is on their school pennants and other swag. This is what is on their website.
- Do not use UMich. I went to school there. The nickname for University of Michigan is Michigan. This is what is on their school pennants and other swag. This is what is on their website. Nobody confuses Michigan with Michigan State, especially in the state of Michigan.
- Do not use UIUC. The nickname of the University of Illinois is Illinois. This is what is on their school pennants and other swag. This is what is on their website. No one confuses Illinois with University of Illinois-Chicago.
- Most states have a University of (state name) or a (state name) State. If you are applying to Oregon or Oregon State, Arizona or Arizona State, know the difference.
The Optional Questions on The Common App
Sex, money and religion
The Common App asks you for your gender Male/Female which you have to answer one way or the other. Then it gives you the option to explain. You do not need to explain if you don't want to. Several colleges then ask you more about your sex life. These are optional. Some ask for sexual orientation, and/or whether you are transgender, and your gender at birth. Carnegie Mellon gives you the option to identify as Agender, Female/Woman, Gender Fluid, Gender Non-Conforming, Genderqueer, Intergender, Intersex, Male/Man, Non-Binary. Many students see this as being inclusive and welcoming, which is the point. It helps colleges plan for appropriate accommodations and programs. Some students are uncomfortable with giving the colleges this level of detail about them. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, you don't have to answer.
Several colleges ask what your family income is. This question is designed to put your achievements in context. If your family is below the poverty line and you are a National Merit Semi-Finalist, then that says something about you. If you are applying for financial aid, then answer it. If not, there is no need to. Some colleges force you to answer this question. When you submit the application, you will confirm that all of your answers are true. I believe if your parents make a lot of money, you can just put in something like $200,000 and you will be meeting the spirit of the question. Besides, many parents are not inclined to share their income information with their children.
The Common App asks you for your religion and then gives you an abundance of religions to choose from, including Wiccan. You do not have to answer this question. The religious colleges do ask this question, and I strongly suggest answering it.
I've seen all of these in my practice
- Do not use semicolons. Very few people know how to use a semicolon correctly and you can have a successful college experience without ever using one. Spend a few minutes reading the New York Times and see if you see a semi-colon. My suggestion is to use a period and start a new sentence or use a dash--which is two hyphens. There is no space between the words and the dash.
- Do not use single quotes even when using them as "air quotes"- These are 'wrong'. These are "right". Single quotes are used only for a quote within a quote or newspaper headlines. For example: I was watching a political speech and the senator said, "I love everything about Abraham Lincoln except when he said, 'Four score and seven years ago.'"
- Use who, not that, when modifying a person. The boy who kicked the ball, not the boy that kicked the ball. He was on the team that won.
- Eschew 50 cent words (not the rapper) that are not in the vernacular unless you are incontrovertibly conversant with them, alternatively, you would not sound sagacious, it would sound like obfuscation.
- Do not write in British English whilst you are applying to American universities. Among not amongst, while not whilst.
- Do not start a sentence with the word "being". Being as how I am a college counselor, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog.
Finally, my pet peeve that signals the end of the civilized world.
Use the objective first person singular with transitive verbs and after prepositions. Me, me, me, me, me. Every "I" below should be a "me".
Do not say, write or think: "She invited Lori and I to the party." "She went to the store with Lori and I." "She gave the book to Lori and I."
When I hear a person use "I" instead of "me" (which happens frequently), I know they are grammatically insecure, no matter how many Ivy League degrees they have!
Please leave your comments for Lori or me.