Admission News

Mistakes to Avoid When Writing College Applications Essays

Written by CB Experts

We bet you’re in thick of writing your college essay(s) for your college applications right now. Some of you may even have a November 1 deadline! Hard, isn’t it?

First of all, you can help yourself out by looking at all the specific ideas and examples of essays at our main site. You can find lots of help there for all kinds of essays.

You can also avoid some common mistakes. Here they are below:

Be careful what you choose to write about.

  • First, don’t write about what you have already listed on your high school resume. The last thing college admission readers want is repetition or several rehashed descriptions of what you have done. The essays you are asked to write for an application, especially the personal essay, are not about your experiences or your accomplishments but about you. The essay should reveal your personality, passion, and values. In fact, some of the best topics for the personal essay are the more insignificant experiences that highlight you, things like catching an approving eye that teaches you to stand up for another person, making someone smile that shows your sense of humor and compassion, or deciding to raise your hand in class which shows your willingness to engage.
  • Don’t write about the same thing for all your essays. The reason more than one essay is required for applications is for you to show different sides of yourself. Choose different topics to demonstrate different aspects if you.
  • Write about the positive. Choose only to write about a weakness or problems if you can demonstrate you’ve learned or improved because of them.
  • Your writing should focus on what you can give to a college and not about what you expect the college will do for you.
  •  If you decide to write about volunteering, make sure you show you have dedication to volunteerism. Don’t write about a one-time trip or a one-day effort.

Be sure to address the essay requirements in full.

  • Read the question or prompt carefully and write directly to what it asks.
  •  Make sure you check over each specific application to each college. Some colleges require extra essays beyond what you write for the Common Application. If you see the word optional for an essay, know it means not-optional. And sometimes, you may actually have to write an essay that isn’t required in order to show something your application doesn’t reveal about you. If it’s not on the resume, in your recommendations, on your transcript, or in your other essays, you probably need to address it in one more essay. And, yes, everything you can tell about yourself helps set you apart.
  • Make sure you have not gone over the required length of each essay. There are different word length and character requirements. If you go over, the essay may be truncated or cut off and will be read as incomplete. Bedsides you’re better off going under the limit. That proves you can write efficiently and effectively.

The essay itself should be good.

  • Proofread before sending it. The computer spell check is not dependable enough. Have two to three others read and edit your essay(s) and read your essay(s) out loud,  s l o w l y.
  • Make sure you have shown in your essays and not only told. This is not an expository piece of writing like what you have done mostly in high school. This is a friendly letter to admissions in which you need to give specifics: examples,  stories, and reasons.
  • If you are writing about why you want to attend a college, be sure to research the college thoroughly so you can write very directly to what you like about that college. If you can substitute more than one college name in any sentence, you’ve fallen short. I like X because it has a rural feel. Imagine how many college names could qualify to fit into that sentence.
  • Make sure your introduction is strong and catchy. Admission essay readers have plowed though hundreds and thousand of essays. They want to be awakened in the first few sentences by your writing. They’ll be grateful if you can do that.
  • Stay away from wordiness and write like you talk, that is, like you talk to a another adult—not to your friends. No one wants to read an essay that is text-book-like—or slangy.

There is so much to consider and many things to think about before you complete writing your college essays. This may be some of the most important writing you do.

We can only leave you with perhaps the best piece of advice we can give: Start now!

About the author

CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.