The Do’s And Don’ts Of The College Admissions Essay

One of the most important aspects of your application process is the much dreaded college admissions essay.  A lofty topic for a reason, the essay is the only chance you have of showing that you are more than a bunch of scores on a page.  Have no fear college-bound friend; here are a few tips to get you comfortable, even excited, about the task at hand as well as a few common pitfalls to avoid.

The DO’s:

DO be particular about any possible courses of study or even specific classes that interest you.  While it is certainly not necessary to know exactly what you want to become, colleges often look favorably on a student that can clearly state in what they are interested.  Keep in mind that you are always encouraged to think outside the box, so if, for example, you have always enjoyed conducting experiments with insects, it might be to your liking to explore anatomy or biology; if you are an avid “couch potato” that has the TV Guide memorized, communications and media might strike your fancy.  Be creative and honest about what you really like to do; it might, after all, turn into a career one day.

DO the research.  Colleges appreciate honest inquiry into their history and methods.  Know exactly in what the college of your choice specializes, for what it is known, lauded or derided.  Not only is this in your best interest, you are after all going to be associated with all of it, but it shows that you are capable of mature reasoning and decision making.  It is imperative for the success of your college career that the school that you attend is a good match for your skills and personality; this is also something that interests the college to which you are applying.

DO show personality.  There is a fine line between bragging and/or whining in your college admissions essay and writing with your own personal flourish.  It will always work in your favor to stand out as unique and personable.  When talking of your interests, show enthusiasm, and when discussing your personal and academic background, do not be afraid to give pertinent detail.  In short, imagine this is a conversation instead of a chore.

The DON’Ts:

DO NOT provide the reader with the infamous “laundry list” of every honors class you have taken, award that you have received and activity in which you have participated.  Although it may seem impressive, as well as fill a lot of space, colleges may find it exhausting and unfocused.  What is usually looked for in an applicant is a demonstrated interest in a few specific areas as well as the writing ability necessary to keep their college admissions essay short and concise.

DO NOT fall into clichés.  While it is imperative to research your choice thoroughly, direct paraphrasing of the school literature will not bode favorably.  Points are not scored by simply rattling off qualities of an “ideal student” or through flattery of the college, but are garnered through actual merit and in-depth research.

DO NOT lie.  There are always a few tricksters that may believe that by making up a sufficiently tear-worthy story they will be guaranteed a spot in the school of their choice.  Admissions officers can spot this tactic immediately.  If your grades are not up to par, it will not suffice to blame the family dog for the loss of homework.  Take responsibility and admit mistakes if necessary.

The bottom line is to take pride in your essay and have fun writing it.  The enthusiasm will show in your work.  Happy writing!

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