College essays are hard to write. We hear you! Collegebasics offers several articles to help you get off to a good start—at least a start–, but, here are some things you need to do to avoid common college essay mistakes.
Read the whole application.
You may ask why. The answer is some colleges require you to write multiple essays, beyond the Common Application’s personal essay, and if you miss that, your application will be incomplete. It’s good to know how many you should plan to write and what you are expected to write about. You will want to think about areas you want to write about and spread them over the essays rather than repeat yourself.
Read the essay prompts carefully.
Look at what the prompt(s) is asking you. Especially note the two-part prompt. Some ask you to relate an important experience or talk about your past, but often they also ask you what you learned or how something impacted you. The second part may be the most important part.
Look at word limits.
Be careful to write only as much as they ask for. Be concise. Write enough but not too much.
Research the college.
Most college websites indicate a slogan or a mission that helps define the college. Know what that is and include it in your essay where you might. For example, leaders of education Cognita have the slogan “achieve more than you believe possible”. You can implement this slogan into your essay as an indicator that you have done your research and agree with their values.
Consider your essay’s tone.
Check your ego; humility over brag wins. Be positive. Yes, you may have weaknesses, but it’s best to indicate how you’ve overcome them or learned from them. Humor is fine (if you’re humorous), but comedy is out. Don’t be materialistic. Think how you might contribute to the college, not about what the college can do for you.
Think about the content of your essay.
The essay should not rehash your resume. That information is already in your application; the essay should go beyond. Avoid writing about your volunteer trip; it’s old! Don’t be general. Be specific and give personal details. The everyday often tells more about you than the unusual. Think about your daily routine or the things you watch on TV or what makes you laugh. These things show the real you.
Consider the structure of your essay.
This essay does not have to have a thesis statement, paragraphs of support, and a conclusion; but each paragraph should follow logically from the other. Also you need a very strong, even unusual, start to your essay to catch the reader’s attention. Don’t use academic words. This is a personal essay.
Essays are hard, and you may have to write several. They take thought and pre-planning. You also want enough time left for input and reviews.
College essays are a challenge, but a challenge you must meet for college admission. Take your time and consider the above carefully.