College application essay gaffes

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Grace Kim at her Princeton Graduation.

Tips and Guidance for the 7 Essay Options on the New Common Application

Kim stresses that writing an impersonal essay is a huge mistake. Well, yes, the essay prompt has been designed to test you but not to trick you. You have to read it very carefully and stick to it as much as possible. Stick to the word count and the format and any other guidelines the university has specified. You are so caught up in fear of being rejected that you stop being who you are and become who you think the admissions officer wants you to be. The converse is actually true as the admissions officer is attempting to find the real you in your essay.

Admissions officers are not looking for perfect; they are looking for real. So list down your real achievements and honest opinions, no matter how small they are. Also, do not lie in your essay.


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A confident tone is a must, but a boasting one is just plain annoying. Keep in mind that a showoff is not liked by anyone.

The Most Common Mistakes Students Make in Their College Essays

Not even by you. Even your accomplishments are just too fantastic; you have to prevent yourself from flaunting them like you think no end of yourself. To balance it out, mention a couple of moments of weakness or setbacks. What if your life revolved around reading different material that contained the same matter over and over again? The admissions officer is just the same. The admissions committee of any university is made up of professionals who are not looking for silly childish gimmicks in order to be impressed. This means no writing your essay in different fonts or making use of colored paper to write on.

No sending chocolates or cookies or other gifts either and no providing background music to your essay. Sending such items or cash is equivalent to bribing, which is an absolute no-no.

Want to earn better grades?

A little creativity is welcome though, but first, discuss it with your school teacher and then proceed. By doing this, however, you run the risk of being offensive and politically incorrect, which is not a pleasant situation when your admission to a good university is in question. To avoid this blunder, do not write essays on hot-button issues. Also, prevent yourself from ranting in excess and simply do not write anything negative about the institution you are applying to. Topics such as abortion, immigration, gun-control, etc.

This is just wrong.

What Makes Bad College Essays Bad

Try and recall what the purpose of your college admission essay is. The aim of this form of essay is to reveal what your application cannot about you.


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The essay length limit stands at words the minimum is words , and students will need to choose from the seven options below. The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt. According to the folks at the Common Application , in the admissions cycle, Option 7 topic of your choice was the most popular and was used by Second most popular was Option 5 discuss an accomplishment with In third place was Option 2 on a setback or failure.

College Admission Essay Tips

Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities as well as many that aren't overly selective have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores.

Your essay is an important tool for presenting something you find important that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.


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Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent.

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College application essay gaffes

You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

11 Terrible College Essay Topics To Avoid

This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea.

What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is.