Health & Family

These blunders ruin a college admissions essay

What are admissions officials thinking after reading a strong essay? They say they're often intrigued with the applicant and would like to meet him or her. A college essay accomplishes its goal when admissions officials feel that the candidate is:

A strong, reflective writer.

Knows why he or she wants to go to college.

Is interested in attending the school.

Cares about the admissions process.

Conversely, when admissions officials read a weak essay, they think the candidate is not prepared or not really interested in their college.

Most common essay blunders:

Not responding specifically to the prompt. Students often use an essay they've written for multiple applications.

Using words inappropriately. Big words don't make a better essay.

Using clichés – expressions such as “I can do anything if I set my mind to it,” and “Now I understand the true value of teamwork,” etc.

Repeating information. Sometimes students share the material they've used elsewhere in the application with no further development. Use it with new information that responds to why they're involved in an activity and how it has affected them.

Gimmicks. Students have taken creativity too far by writing rhyming poems about why they deserve to be accepted, going overboard about their love of the school mascot . Creativity with moderation works best.

Bad topic choice. Don't write about strident political or religious views or solutions to world problems such as hunger, peace or global warming.

Writing about a college's prestige or the ability of its graduates to earn a big salary as reasons to want to go there.

Boring introduction. Avoid starting out with a lackluster line such as, “In this essay I will talk about why Gandhi was an important historical figure.” The read time for essays is one to two minutes.

One of the most avoidable blunders of all…writing the wrong school name in the essay as you extol its virtues and your undying desire to attend. It really does happen.