Daunting as they may be, college application essays are a necessary evil for every student hoping to get into their dream university. College admission essays are a way for students to stand out from a sea of applicants and showcase to admissions recruiters their work ethic as well as their writing skills. Most students make the mistake of focusing on what they should be including in their essay but forget to consider what they should not be writing about in their essay. Here are some things to avoid during the writing process:
- One Volunteer Experience– For university-bound students, volunteering is not an option but a necessity to compete amongst their peers for admission to university. Thus because volunteer work is such commonplace among students, admissions recruiters get essay after essay reciting similar volunteer experiences from a numerous amount of students. If you plan on mentioning volunteer work it is best to use it as anecdote to a bigger narrative rather than being the main narrative throughout your essay.
- Famous Quotes– Using a famous quote is unnecessary in your essay and often appears like writing “fluff” to readers. The essay is about you and you want to make sure that your voice is evident in the writing. Including a famous quote might seem like you lack the originality and creativity that many college admissions recruiters look for in applicants. Displaying your original voice in your essay gives recruiters a preview to your writing skills that you can carry into the university classroom.
- Starting With A Preamble– Introductions in any piece of writing need to “hook” a writer into the story. Starting with, “This essay is about…” is about as boring as you can get. Rather than introducing what your essay will be about, go straight into the narrative or topic that you are writing about to get the action going right away.
- Restating Your Resume– Listing your educational and extracurricular experiences in your essay will be redundant as you would have already have this information not only in your transcript but also in your accompanying resume to your application. Instead of listing the numerous experiences you had try focus on why one of those experiences was especially significant. For example, if you happen to have an internship abroad or participated in a special program that is related to your field of interest. Remember to mention how these experiences will benefit your future learning at the university of your choice because it is not always about gaining experience for the sake of gaining experience. Recruiters want to know that you are actually interested in learning and playing a innovative role in the field.
- Talking Tragedies- Discussing what makes you a good student such as overcoming poverty or stereotypes can be helpful in creating a powerful essay. However, again you do not want tragedies to be an overwhelming topic in your essay. Instead focus not on the negatives you have had to face but the positives that came from overcoming such adversity to create a compelling and inspiring narrative.
- Over-Exaggerate Extracurriculars- Participating in various clubs, volunteer work, and sports can show that you are a well-rounded individual. However, you do not want to over-exaggerate your experiences in your personal essay. Your essay should be genuine and even through writing others can tell when stories are not quite what they seem. Be honest about your experiences and why one experience might have been more meaningful to you than another.
- Unnecessary Vocabulary – Many students might still be recovering from the loom of standardized tests necessary to apply to universities during the application process. Vocabulary words memorized for the tests might still be on your mind but try to avoid using unnecessary vocabulary words in your personal essay. Higher level vocabulary might not necessarily fit into the voice you are using for your essay so keep an eye on your word choice while writing.
Students might find talking about themselves fairly easy but this writing assignment is not as simple as you might think. Remember, you are trying to sell yourself to the admissions recruiter in the same way you might sell yourself to a future employer. You want to highlight your skills and be confident but also appear humble and someone who is willing to learn.
By Vera Reed