One of the best ways to drive yourself crazy as you apply to colleges is to have everyone and their mothers read your college application essay. In addition to driving you over the edge with worry and frustration, it can also seriously derail your application. Those in the college consulting field agree that everyone has a bias and listening to all of those biased opinions guarantees a “bumper car essay” — one that never arrives at its final destination but instead gets bumped around endlessly between well-intentioned advice that can be confusing, contradictory or even incorrect.
Managing your stress as you head into your senior year of high school is the key to making it through the college application season, and here are some general tips for managing senior stress. In your quest to keep stress to a minimum, college application coaches also recommend that you be very careful not to share your college application essay with too many people.
Misleading Advice on the College Application Essay
This concept is known as the “law of the hammer” which is a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool. In other words, to a carpenter wielding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Let’s say that you show your essay to a lawyer and that lawyer reviews it with a personal bias likely influenced or “hammered” by his or her legal point of view. The danger here is that those biases can send a message that aspects of your essay need to be changed, which could push your essay in a direction you never originally intended.
Wrong Advice on the College Application Essay
What if someone reads your essay and enthusiastically supports it, such as your grandmother who loves the story of your game-winning touchdown in the homecoming football game? She adores you and is understandably proud of your role in that important high school event, but this subject matter is not necessarily what an admissions committee is excited to read about. They might view it as an overused, worn-out theme. The professionals who provide college admissions assistance suggest that you are much better off writing about an interesting experience that profoundly influenced your worldview. Since “boring” is the kiss of death in a college application essay, you need to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of describing in excruciating detail the game-winning touchdown. Read more about avoiding other common errors on the college application essay.
Confusing Advice on the College Application Essay
If you’ve had multiple people weigh in on your long essay, you might be faced with a wide range of advice for improvement — some supportive, some biased, some suggesting changes — which can then lead to confusion, indecision, and a ratcheting up of stress. This is essentially the classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen ruining the soup.
Of course, the advice given by family, friends, and teachers is certainly well-intentioned because they truly want to help you get admitted to the college of your dreams. However, to be honest, what you need most is the advice of someone who is objective and knowledgeable about what it takes — a lot like the person sitting on the admissions committee at your top-choice school.
A university admissions officer only spends about 4-6 minutes reviewing your entire application. This is why your long essay needs to help them grasp as quickly as possible who you are and what makes you tick. Read about the other top-ranked factors that are important to the admissions committee.
To avoid extra stress and confusion, keep these three tips in mind when deciding whether it’s really necessary to have one more friend or family member weigh in on your college application essay. If you want to get direct and honest feedback from former admissions officers on your essay and the rest of your college application, click college admissions assistance.