“President of the National Honors Society. Captain of the Varsity Volleyball team. Lead actress in the high school musicals. With so many talents, it’s hard to focus on just one extracurricular.”
Imagine being the admissions officer reading this college application essay. What would be your first thought? You’d probably think this person is predictable and doesn’t stand out amongst the other applicants. It’s possible that this application won’t make it to the next round. Don’t colleges want to know about all of your accomplishments and what a well-rounded applicant you are?
Without proper guidance, students write their college application essays the same they would write a five-paragraph essay in their English class. The difference is, college application essays like the Personal Statement and supplemental essays require deeper thought and a narrative approach.
There are seven prompts to choose from for your personal statement essay. If you aren’t sure which prompt works for you, read our blog post on Choosing A Personal Statement Topic. There are hundreds of supplemental essay topics that a student could potentially write about, but the rules of crafting these college application essays are generally the same. Here’s what to not to do on your college application essays.
Avoid taboo topics
Imagine you meet the admissions officer through a mutual friend and this is the first time you’re meeting. You likely won’t talk about politics and religion. The same goes for your application essay. While you can talk about these topics if they are important to you, it’s extremely important to speak on them in a way that doesn’t give too much away on your opinion.
Let’s look at two examples:
The next faux pas students make on their college application essays is rehashing all of the accomplishments that were previously mentioned in their application.
Similar to how this blog post started, listing your academic accomplishments, extracurricular involvement, and community work are redundant. An admissions officer doesn’t want to hear about how you’re the president and/or leader of all of these clubs and that is what makes you so great. They want to know about the color of the walls of your childhood bedroom or your favorite flavor of bubble gum.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays a day. They want to read essays that will excite them about the student and see the applicant from a unique lens.
Let’s look at some more examples:
Losing the main character
Finally, students oftentimes get caught up writing a story about someone who is a role model or a motivator for them. This can be a parent, a friend, or a teacher. However, they make the focal point about that person and not about them. The reader learns more about the student’s parent, friend, or teacher and in the end has learned nothing about the student themselves.
Let’s look at one final example:
There are many more mistakes students can make on their college essays such as spelling and grammar errors, going off-topic, and just writing a generally vague story. However, if a student remembers the story is about them and what makes them special, the rest should fall into place.