College Essay Do’s and Don’ts

Even the most stellar applicant is comparatively boring when reduced to just
grades and test scores. That's why admissions officers will use your college
essay to get to know you better. Here are some Collegewise do's and dont's to
make sure they like what they read.

1.  DON'T try to impress admissions officers.
Don't inject deep, philosophical meaning into your tenure as junior class
treasurer, or try to extract life lessons from your time on the wrestling team.
Instead, just tell the truth. If you got the snot beat out of you on the
wrestling mat, but still liked wrestling anyway, say so. It's more important to
be honest than it is to be impressive.

2.  DO "own" your story.
Your story has to be one that only you could tell. Don't write that your trip
to Europe was interesting because it broadened your horizons and let you
experience a new place. Everybody who went to Europe says that. Instead, tell
the parts of the trip that are uniquely yours. These are your stories to tell.

3.  DON'T repeat information from the rest of your application.
If you write an essay about how much you like to get involved in
extra-curricular activities, you're just re-stating what you already listed on
your application. The essay is your chance to share something new about you.
You can still write a good essay about something you mentioned on the
application, but you must reveal something new and interesting about the
subject matter.

4.  DO write in an engaging, natural style.
The college essay is an informal piece of writing. The reader needs to be able
to hear your voice through your words. Be likeable and entertaining. If you
would never say, "Hence, my ability to win elections has become quite an
inveterate occurrence," then don't write it in your essay. And please,
stay away from famous quotations, unless you regularly quote Socrates in casual

5.  DON'T select essay topics that thousands of students choose.
College essays are like prom dresses – you don't want to show up with the exact
same one as somebody else. There are certain topics that have been done to death
in college admissions like, "How we won the big game," "How
community service taught me that it's important to help people," and the
old standby — the pet eulogy. Think of your own story and avoid clichés.