As a former admissions officer, long-time college consultant and founder of AdmissionsCheckup.com I am all too familiar with the importance of a strong college essay. Write one that has the right amount of humility, humor and enlightenment, and the admissions officer might have a hard time denying an applicant that is likable. That said, it is even harder to admit applicants who make some of the most common college essay errors such as:
- Over using the word I: There is no “I” in team….so overusing it simply comes across as arrogant. Vary your sentences, choose another topic or make sure you are attributing your success more broadly, beyond “I.”
- Boring: Admissions officers can and do skim essays. If you had 2,000 applications to read, who would you prefer to admit? Someone who almost put you to sleep, someone who made you realize that you read the same paragraph seven times or someone who captivated and held your interest while showing you his experiences. Boring is an uphill battle and the kiss of death combined.
- SAT Words: Consider the fact that your reader has not taken the SAT in the last 5 (or more) years. Keep the vocabulary accessible. Nothing bothers an admissions officer more than reading an essay that doesn’t sound like a 17-year-old wrote.
- Bragging: I once read an essay about a student had seen five of the seven wonders of the world. Impressive right? No, not impressive at all. It said more about his parents’ bank account than his actual accomplishments. Bragging just doesn’t come off well.
- Another School’s Name: This one is obvious, but happens more often than you think. Here is a trick I like to tell my students — before you submit your application, read your essay from the last word on the page forward to the first. It will make catching the wrong name much easier. It is also a good idea to wait a day or two before submitting, and read it again.
- Regurgitating your Resume: The application provides a place for you to list and describe your activities. If you list them in your essays, you are wasting a valuable opportunity to show the admissions officer who you are. The whole point of the essay is to tell the admissions officer something they would not get by just reading your resume.