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    Three Signs Your College Essay is #DoingitWrong

    Posted July 10, 2015, 12:00 pm by Ethan Sawyer
    Three Signs Your College Essay is #DoingitWrong

    What does #DoingItWrong look like?

    Well, like that.

    So how do you know if your college essay is destined for a meme poster?

    You might be #DoingItWrong if...

    1. Your personal statement sounds like an AP English paper. And what do AP English papers do?

    • They use a five paragraph intro-body-conclusion structure.

    • They avoid use of the word “I.”

    • They sound suuuuuuper analytical.

    Don’t do that on your college essay. Instead, make it more like a personal memoir, a Fresh Air interview, or a work of creative nonfiction. So get personal, get fresh, and get creative. First, here’s how not to do it.

    You might be #DoingItWrong if...

    2. Your personal statement sounds like what you imagine other violin (or tennis, or mission trip) essays sound like. How do you know if you’re swimming in well-charted waters? Ask yourself: What values will other essays on this topic emphasize?

    • The Violin Essay: discipline, hard work, determination.

    • The Tennis Essay: teamwork, hard work, determination.

    • The Mission Trip: helping others, hard work, determination.

    But ... on behalf of admissions counselors nationwide: Please don’t write your essay about going to a country and meeting children with bare feet and dark skin and discovering that they were, like, actually happy.

    Snarkiness aside, I’m deeply glad that you had that experience. But if you’re trying to stand out on your college essay, there are better ways.

    You might be #DoingItWrong if…

    3. You think that you’ll get into college because your dog/grandmother/grandfather/aunt/turtle/favorite website was injured, died, or came close to dying. The key question is: How did that experience help you develop a particular set of skills, knowledge, or values that will equip you to succeed both in college and beyond?

    In other words: So what?

    OK, enough of what not to do. The question is: What can you do instead? Check out #DoingItRight and I'll tell you.

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    Ethan Sawyer

    Ethan Sawyer

    Ethan Sawyer (aka College Essay Guy) has been helping students tell their stories for more than 10 years. He’s a graduate of Northwestern University and received an MFA from University of California Irvine. He has two counseling certifications, one from UC Irvine and one from the Interchange Counseling Institute. Through his website, www.collegeessayguy.com, he offers free resources, one-on-one essay coaching, and more.