Some students rehash their activities and achievements without adding the personal flavor, perspective and substance that admissions officers look for. Learn how to avoid these and other damaging traps.
As an independent college admissions consultant, I read many application essays and see many common application essay mistakes. Select the Best Topic and Subject.
The Common Application, as well as many individual college applications and supplements, give students a choice of essay topics. Resist the temptation to quickly make a selection.
Then read the options carefully and decide which topic s provides the best opportunity to portray your self in a desirable manner. If the application requires more than one essay, select distinct topics and subject areas so the admissions people get a broader, and more complete, picture of you.
If you are an athlete, for example, try not to write more than one essay about sports. Read the prompt carefully and pay particular attention to two part questions. The admissions people are looking for a window into your character, passion and reasoning. Be Personable and Specific. If you are asked to describe your reasons for your interest in a particular school that you are applying to, make sure your essay addresses the particular features of that school that appeal to you and explain why.
Many prompts specify a desired number of words or a range. In fact, many on-line applications will not even accept more than the stated limit. Lincoln got his points across succinctly in the Gettysburg address — in less than words. Do not distract the reader with unnecessary words and repetition.
If you come across as a spoiled child, a stuck-up rich kid, lazy, sarcastic or a cynic, the admissions team might decide that you are not the right fit for their school. While few applicants are genuinely altruistic, most colleges are turned off by students who appear more focused on what the school can do for them, rather than how they can benefit from the education and at the same time be a contributing member of the campus community.
If you are applying to a business program, the average starting salary of recent graduates should not be your stated motivation for seeking admission! A good way to catch mistakes is to read your essay very slowly and out loud.
Some of the best and most memorable essays are based on a simple conversation between people. The impressions and takeaways from such a conversation can be extremely engaging and provide a valuable window into the personality and values of the writer. Skip the Volunteer Trip. Dedicated community service over a period of time can be a strong topic for an application essay.
Volunteer day at the local park, or two weeks of school building in Africa, will probably not impress the admissions committee. They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.
The admissions committee relies on essays to learn additional things about you such as your initiative, curiosity about the world, personal growth, willingness to take risks, ability to be self directed, motivation and ability to make the most of a situation. They are interested in your personal qualities such as leadership, confidence, ability to work in a team, strength of character, resilience, sense of humor, ability to get along with others and what you might add to the campus community.
In short, use your essays to showcase a side of you not visible from other parts of the application. Peruse the Entire Application.
Many applications, especially for some of the more competitive schools, are complex and require multiple essays and short answers. For example, if you have five key areas you wish to cover, and there are five essays, try to strategically focus on one area in each essay.
Resist the temptation to be a sesquipedalian or come across as a pedantic fop! Maybe you have a learning disability or physical handicap, or a parent has an addiction problem that has wreaked havoc in your nuclear family, or your parents practice a type of religion that sheltered you from mainstream culture, or you are an ethnic or cultural minority in your context or in the applicant pool for the college to which you are applying.
Reflect on your circumstances and try to see it from an objective point of view: What is your community like? What kind of home life do you have? What family responsibilities do you shoulder? Then, let colleges know. Help the admissions committee to imagine you in your context, in as full and rich a way as possible.
Applicants who leave out this vital personal backstory often lose out in the admissions game. If the earth revolves around you, you might be looking at a lot of rejection letters in the end. Do you give credit to teachers, mentors, bosses, and others who have shepherded you along the way, or did you do it all by your amazing self?
Have you thought about what you can contribute to make the world a better place, or are you only concerned about what others and colleges can do for you? You get the picture. Also, be careful how you write about your high school teachers, administrators, and classmates.
Of course, schools read applications contextually—for students who are first in their family even to graduate high school, going to a premier college and getting a well-paying, white-collar job IS ambitious. Readers know this and adjust their thinking accordingly.
Lack of familiarity with school: Most schools use some sort of admissions rubric to normalize their applicant pool. Some schools factor the amount of interest an applicant seems to have for the school—i. All schools want to admit students who genuinely know and like the school and might actually attend if admitted.
Your essay should be full of specific details about the academic programs and student activities that attract you to the school and how you would contribute to the school community.
Each of us has a dark side—we have personality flaws and the emotional baggage that accumulates simply from living in an imperfect world. The application is a place to celebrate the other side, your best self. Also avoid the other type of TMI: In general, application readers have a TON of stuff to read in a very short window of time.
You are what you do! For anyone who still thinks perfect grades and SAT scores get you into highly selective colleges in the US, think again! What you do outside of the formal classroom—your extracurricular activities—is one of the most important things that separates merely qualified applicants from desirable ones.
25 College Application Essay Mistakes that Guarantee Failure For every open slot at an Ivy League college, there are 10 to 12 eager applicants vying for itand you're one of them. On paper, most applicants appear very similar. All are well qualifed ac.
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