A key part of any college application is the college essay. Essays create much stress among students (and their parents) who want to craft the best possible application essay to make the best possible impression on admissions officers.
There’s a reason why schools require students to include essays, and it’s not just to see a sample of their writing ability. With thousands of applicants sporting similar qualifications, something has to tip the scales and it just might be the essay section.
Following are 10 mistakes you should avoid on your college application essays:
1. DON’T write about controversial subjects.
The essays are not the place to take a stand on a personal issue, unless that issue has shaped who you are. It can be tempting to discuss attention-grabbing hot topics, but doing so can have consequences. Controversial topics are contentious for a reason. And while some on a review board may applaud such a choice of essay, others might not find it appropriate for students entering their institution, even if it catches their attention.
2. DON’T focus on what you want to do, but on what you have already done.
How have you gone above and beyond? What is your scholarly niche? What have you done that can show admissions officers who you are and why you have accomplished your goals. The best topics for college essays allow you to tout an accomplishment.
3. DON’T be a generalist, make it personal.
Colleges and universities aren’t looking for well-rounded students, they are looking for a well- rounded student body. Show them where you stand out and how you complement the mix they are going for. Talk about what you love and find a way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Admissions officers want to know who you are and what you can contribute to their college student body.
4. DON’T use “SAT words.”
Admissions officers are unimpressed by those trying to show off their vocabulary, they much prefer clear, concise essays.
5. DON’T use clichés.
Clichés are the quickest way to come across as inauthentic and unexceptional. What is a cliche? Phrases like “time will tell” and “alls well that ends well” are cliches.
6. DON’T wait until the last minute.
Give yourself plenty of time. Waiting until the last minute will cause you to produce a shoddy essay. Begin early so that you can craft an essay you will be proud to attach to your college application. Once the essay is out of the way, you can concentrate on the rest of the application.
7. DON’T repeat what’s in your application.
Don’t try to cram in all your accomplishments, accolades, talents and activities into the essay.
The college application essay must offer admissions officers information about you that they wouldn’t find out in any other part of your application or on your high school resume.
8. DON’T lie.
There is no need to embellish your achievements or exaggerate your accomplishments. Honesty is a character trait that admissions officers look for in an applicant. They can spot embellishments easily in an essay and wonder where else you are stretching the truth.
9. DON’T ramble.
Don’t ramble to increase your word count. Say what you need to say and stick to the point. The longer the essay, the less interested the reader becomes. Remember admissions officers have many essays to read and you need to capture their interest and keep it.
10. DON’T hit “submit” without proofreading.
This does not just mean spellcheck. Look at your use of punctuation and other good writing mechanics. Spell names properly. Ask teachers, parents, college counselor or friends to help edit your college essay. Many times they can find errors that you do not see.
The best tip: You college application essay is the chance to tell a college something that isn’t included in the rest of the college application. Use this opportunity to shine.