4 Application Mistakes to Avoid - What to Do Instead

Application page for UNE Online graduate programs

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A successful graduate school application requires that you put your best foot forward.

Here, Director of Online Admissions, Nicole Lindsay,  highlights four types of mistakes that she sees on a regular basis, and how to avoid them. 

1. Don’t use personal references

Think about what UNE is trying to achieve through this application process. The application committee is trying to determine if you will be a good fit at UNE, which will set you up for success from the very beginning.

Past performance is an indicator of future success, so one way we get to know you is by obtaining your transcript.

The application committee is also looking to get a picture of you through both an academic and a professional lens. A good reference is able to speak not just to your sparkling personality, also knows you in an academic and professional sense.

We strongly recommend that your references (or recommendations, depending on which program you’re applying for) – would be a supervisor or an academic person. Ideally, one of each, and someone who has a higher job function than you do. The graduate programs at UNE Online are academically demanding, so it’s ideal to have someone who can speak to both your academic and professional aspects.

But what if you’ve been out of school for a while? Or, what if you’re unemployed? In those cases, think about your own network in your community. Find a reference that you know and work with who functions in some type of leadership capacity. Maybe you volunteer with Meals on Wheels – ask your area coordinator for a reference. Maybe you teach in a kids program – ask your program coordinator if they would be a reference. Someone in any sort of leadership capacity over you speaks far more strongly and carries more weight as a reference than a peer or a friend.

Surprisingly, we receive quite a few peer references, which are actually looked at negatively. If you don’t have two people with whom you interact on a regular basis and are in some type of leadership or supervisory position, then get involved in something and form those relationships.

Finally, make sure you speak with an enrollment counselor. Each enrollment counselor is an expert in their program, and they can give you program-specific advice for your situation.

2. Don’t wait until the deadline

The rolling admissions model used by UNE Online rewards the proactive. Our Ed.D. program is cohort-based, and only has a specific number of spots available. Once those Ed.D. spots are filled, they are filled. So it benefits you to apply early and secure your spot if you are interested in that program.

Our other graduate programs do allow for more fluidity, but it’s in your best interest to complete your application as soon as possible, as the application committee likes to see motivation, and applying early shows initiative.

Give yourself the gift of time. Sending away for your official transcripts can sometimes take up to a couple of weeks. Give your references time to gather their thoughts. The application itself is not time intensive, but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete it. There are more components involved than are initially evident.

Another benefit to rolling admissions is that the sooner you apply, the sooner you hear back from us. And classes do fill up, so if you’re early you get more choices of classes and sections.

3. Don’t let a low GPA stop you

Earlier we mentioned that past performance is a good indicator of future success. But what about when it’s not? We look for a GPA of 3.0 or higher, but what if yours is lower?

Use your goal statement to address the issue of your GPA and discuss the reasons why you may not have put forth a strong performance in your undergraduate education. To be clear, this is not a space for excuses. Rather, the goal statement is a place to tailor your message and provide an explanation as to why you didn’t perform up to your potential, what has changed, and how you will overcome and perform better academically now.

And then work diligently to strengthen your application in other ways. Add an additional reference who can speak to your work ethic. Add additional transcripts from non-matriculated courses you may have taken and aced.

The application committee is looking for a history of success, so spotlight your successes.

4. Don’t miss the opportunity to talk to an enrollment counselor

Your enrollment counselor is a resource available to you. Use them. They’re here to help you determine whether the program that you are considering is a good fit for you, and they will help you compile your strongest application.

Each enrollment counselor is an expert within the program that they work and can answer both general questions about the application process and specific questions about the program.

Your enrollment counselor can help you corral your application materials and remind you to nudge your reference if that reference hasn’t yet responded to us.

Your EC is also the first person to read your goal statement, so if they see something significantly lacking, often they will provide you with constructive feedback. They won’t provide edits, but they can provide you with perhaps an additional perspective to consider, or a fact that you forgot to include, or a helpful tip.

Your enrollment counselor is a subject area expert and a resource for you to use. It is in your best interests to enlist their help!


Starting your application

The first step to pursuing your graduate degree is the online application. Each graduate program provides its own admissions requirements, procedures, and deadlines. Click below to find out more about a particular graduate program of study and the application procedure for that program.

Program-specific application procedures

Best of luck!


At UNE Online the sooner you apply, the sooner you hear back. Fill out an online application today at online.une.edu/gateway-portal-page!


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