Applying to college is about telling your story well. What not to say is as important as what to say.
So, let’s talk about what not to say in your college application essay.
Don’t Mention It #1: Claiming commitment to something you’ve only just started doing
One of the most important things to remember while drafting your college admissions essay is that it should read as an engaging story. No one wants to read a disjointed laundry list of events and actions. The picture of you in your essay must be clean, clear and compelling.
As with every story, there is a beginning, a build-up to the climax, and an end. There is nothing worse than a murder mystery in which the author introduces a miracle solution in the last chapter. Please don’t claim a lifelong dedication to human health as shown by the internship you did just last month. If you have an abiding interest or talent, there should be plenty of evidence over many years.
Don’t Mention It #2: Using Clichés
By using clichés in your college application essay, you are inadvertently sending a message to the college admission official that you are lazy and thus can’t be bothered with crafting a few words to describe your passion and goals more uniquely. As habitual as it may be for you to lean on them, steer clear of clichés.
Don’t Mention It #3: Using big words
Sure, using words that are difficult to pronounce may seem impressive but they are damaging the value of your college application essay. There are exactly two reasons why you would use elephantine, gargantuan words in tortuously serpentine sentences; either you have a prolific vocabulary and want to show it off or you have a sparse vocabulary and want to hide it.
No matter the urge, it is best to just avoid this catch-22 situation and speak from your heart.
Don’t Mention It #4: Making Careless Mistakes
This is the cardinal sin of unmentionables; errors involving grammar and sentence structure in your college admission essay show that you are unable or unwilling to give the time needed to make your college admission essay great. “Your essay must not give the impression that you need to attend Derek Zoolander’s ‘School for Children Who Can’t Read Good’. This is the easiest of the avoidable sins to avoid; and yet, the admission officer’s life is full of essays with grammatical and spelling mistakes.” Any college essay that works will be completely devoid of such careless mistakes.
Unmentionable Item #5: Going Overboard with Praise
A number of colleges and universities include the question “Why Our College?” as part of their college application form. One of the most important things to remember while drafting such an essay, however, is to display an interest in what the college stands for without overdoing the praise.If you “Don’t go overboard and start stalking and praising professors and their areas of research… Unless you are genuinely interested in a topic (say, in AI or Russian Literature) and have been doing independent research and cool projects. In this case, your application and main essays should bear that out. Otherwise you come across as fake or weird.”
With a little practice (and a lot of patience), you should be able to come up with a college essay that manages to connect with the college admissions official through a story told well.