5 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in a College Application Essay

5 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in a College Application Essay

The college application essay is one of the first impressions you make on a potential school. Along with your grades, coursework, leadership opportunities and extracurricular activities, admissions counselors use the essay to judge how well-prepared you are for college and whether you would fit in at their school.

This is a chance to demonstrate who you are and reveal a bit of your personality. Avoid these glaring mistakes to ensure they take you seriously:

#1. Don’t: Ignore the Word Count

Colleges set parameters for their admission essays for a reason. In many cases, admission officials have just a minute or two to spend on each application. An essay substantially over the word limit is good cause to toss an application to the “reject” pile. Carefully read all guidelines about the essay prompt, formatting guidelines and word count to avoid making a simple but costly mistake.

#2. Don’t: Write What You Think They Want to Hear

Before starting your application essay, think about the life experiences that have truly impacted the person you are. Don’t feel like you have to write that you’ve wanted to attend a particular school since you were four years old. Admission officers read countless essays each season, and they can easily identify work that is embellished or disingenuous. Write about whatever truly interests you. Your passion for 18th-century opera may seem offbeat, but it says more about your intellectual curiosity than a generic story about a teacher who changed your life.

#3. Don’t: Overshare Personal Information

There is a thin line between making an essay personal and making it too personal. Forbes.com recommends avoiding the “Three D’s”: death, disease or divorce. Personal stories about these events often come across as oversharing. Although your experience of having mental health issues or your favorite uncle’s death may have profoundly impacted your life, this is too much information for an application essay. Remember to be personal yet professional; don’t reveal more than you would tell a distant acquaintance at a party.

#4. Don’t: Forget to Proofread

Grammatical errors or spelling mistakes in your application is one of the easiest ways to get rejected. Failing to notice basic mistakes shows a lack of attention to detail and comes across as not caring about your work. Don’t rely on spellcheck function. Instead, read through your entire essay carefully, and ask a friend or family member to do the same.

#5. Don’t: Lie

The pressure to get into a great college or university can bring out the worst in students and their parents. Although parents might feel tempted to be hands-on in the essay-writing process, be careful not to change the content or voice of the admission essay. Experienced admission counselors can spot essays that have been polished by an adult.

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5 Comments

  1. This is very helpful. It is so true about kids trying to say what they think a reader wants to hear. My son is going to college now and I wish I come across this article to give him a year ago. Well, his friends are still here. Will share…

    1. Thank you for your comment Marina. Congratulations for your college bound son. Great accomplishment!

  2. I found out your post so helpful, I don’t have children but easily you can apply with a twist the same tips to a job application. Although thinking it through It could help me directly the next year, I’ve been thinking to enroll in a Master Degree program. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Nacho, thank you for your comment.
      These tips can certainly help us in applying to jobs and new studies as well.
      Much luck on your new program!

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