Though you may not have had all of the answers in your classes and you may not have known all of the questions on the SAT, the college admission essay gives you an opportunity to discuss a topic you’ve been familiar with all your life: you. Even if you’re an expert on yourself, writing about yourself can be overwhelming, and many students forget to avoid common mistakes in the process. Here are five mistakes to keep in mind and avoid when showing your admissions officers who you are through the essay.
1. You don’t answer the question.
This may seem easy, but this is one of the most complained about mistakes from admissions officers. If your essay topic has been assigned to you, stay on topic throughout the entire essay. Also make sure to read and follow all of the directions. If the school wants a maximum of 500 words for the essay, don’t go over 500 words. If they want it to be a certain font and format, make sure it’s typed that way. If they want you to talk about a time in your life when you’ve overcome an obstacle, make sure you discuss that event and show them the significance of what you’ve learned from it.
2. You don’t proofread.
Sometimes the spell-check on your computer doesn’t catch every mistake. It’s important to proofread your essay, and then proofread again. If your essay is unedited, it will be obvious to the officers, and it will not set you above your peers. Read and edit your essay, then wait a day and come back to it. You will find more mistakes with fresh eyes. It will also be helpful to let your friends, parents and teachers read it to see if they can find any mistakes. Make sure you also look for spelling and grammar errors, awkward sentence structure, confusing content, answering the wrong question, and not having a central message.
3. You don’t write to the specific college.
An embarrassing mistake you can make in your essay is using the same essay for more than one college but forgetting to change the college names. Colleges want to know that you’re excited about their unique school and how you can fit into their campus and academic programs. Research each college you’re applying to and show in your essay how their mission fits with yours. College admissions officers want to make sure that it’s a good fit both ways, not only that you’re right for the school, but also that the school is right for you.
4. You use five dollar words.
When writing your essay, go by Mark Twain’s words: “Don’t use a five dollar word when a fifty cent word will do.” You don’t need a thesaurus to write your admissions essay. If your vocabulary is more extensive than what is natural (or what’s communicated with your test scores), it may look like you don’t really know what you’re talking about or you’re trying to show yourself as better than what you are. If English is your second language then it’s especially important that you write in a way you’re comfortable with.
5. You don’t answer the “why” question.
Admissions officers want to know why they’re reading your essay. You can write a well-written essay about a snow storm you experienced in Colorado one winter, but if there’s no connection to the event and you, the event and what you learned, or the event and your future plans, then you leave the admissions officer wondering why they’ve read your essay. Make sure that when you’re writing your essay you to keep the topic, theme, and message in mind. Ask people to read your essay and see if they can find the connection that you’re trying to make. You don’t want your admissions officer to say “that was a nice essay, but I don’t understand why they wrote it.” Write an essay that answers the “why” question and gives the admissions officers a look into who you are and why you’ll fit well in their school.
Most college students get nervous when writing their college admission essay. This is a pivotal part of your life that you want to take seriously, but you also don’t want to get so worked up that you lose sight of who you are and why you’re writing the essay in the first place. Admissions officers what to learn more about you. If you show them who you are and avoid these mistakes, you’ll have a better chance on your essay being noticed and accepted.
Before you start writing your essay make sure you also check out our college admission essay samples.