Essay advice for University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill applicants

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) is obviously trying to get to know their applicants.  With multiple essay questions on a variety of topics, students who thoughtfully consider the prompts will have plenty of opportunities to share some revealing stories about themselves.  Here are a few tips to help you do that.

Short-answer Questions

Complete each of the following sentences about yourself. Don’t think too long or too hard; just help us get to know you better. Your responses could be as short as one word or as long as about 20 words—no longer, please.

Their directions really say it all.  Don't over-think these.  The very worst strategy here is to try to impress them.  You'll just end up sounding like every other kid. 

Instead, tell the truth, whatever it is.  And where appropriate, inject some personality into your answer. Here are some examples of what that sounds like:

The last book I read outside of class was…

 "Paris Hilton: Life on the Edge"  Please don't throw my application away.

It would surprise my friends to know that I…

"..feel a little hurt when they make fun of my hair.  I do have bad hair but it's hard to laugh along with them."

If I could travel anywhere in time or space, either real or imagined, I’d go…

"…back in time to my parents' wedding.  They looked so happy and it would be fun to see them at 24 and newly in love."

The form of communication that I’d most like to ban from existence is

"Any sentence where people use the word 'like' too often, as in, 'We should, like, hang out.'  Ugh."

The question I would most like to have answered is

"Is Jason Siegal going to ever grow a spine and ask me to the prom?  Seriously. Embarrassing, but true."       

My favorite random fact is 

"There are fourteen punctuation marks in standard English grammar."

My most treasured possession is

"My necklace that my mom gave me for my 16th birthday.  She got it from her mother when she was 16."         

This applicant did a good job.  There's no secret strategy at work here–she just told the truth, even when it was embarrassing.  She injected her personality into the answers, sometimes being funny, sometimes being serious.  And most importantly, she didn't try to serve up responses that were designed to impress.

The message here isn't that everyone should try to be funny; the message is that everyone should be themselves, whether you're funny, self-deprecating, introspective, intellectual, etc.  Just relax and tell the truth.  And have a little fun while you're doing it.

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Badgers to Be: Tips for University of Wisconsin-Madison applicants

At some large universities, the highest numbers win the admissions game.  They'll plug your grades and test scores into a formula and let the computer decide who gets in. But University of Wisconsin-Madison comes right out and tells you on their website that they don't use formulas and that they read every application.  That means they're going to read the two essays you're required to write, and those essays can absolutely impact your chances of admission. 

Here are some tips to help you think about some good responses. 

Submit your responses to both questions 50 and 51 on separate sheet(s) of paper.

50) The University of Wisconsin values an educational environment that provides all members of the campus community with opportunities to grow and develop intellectually, personally, culturally and socially. In order to give us a more complete picture of you as an individual, please tell us about the particular life experiences, perspectives, talents, commitments and/or interests you will bring to our campus. In other words, how will your presence enrich our community?

This seems to be the popular question this year for colleges–how will you contribute to our campus?  It makes sense that while colleges care about what you do in high school, they do so mostly because that can give them indicators of what type of person you're likely to be once you get to college.

I've written a lot entries about this question (see my guidelines for Michigan, Boston University and Villanova, to name a few), but the most important thing you have to do is understand what "contributing" means on a college campus. 

A college is a community.  If every member of that community sat passively through classes, spent the rest of their time watching TV, and just dutifully plodded through four years of college, it wouldn't be a very interesting place to live and learn for four years.  As much as colleges provide to students, it is the students who ultimately make the campus experience memorable for each other by becoming members of that community and finding ways to contribute.

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A tip for Skidmore College applicants–get pithy

I've written several articles as part of this series describing how to handle essays that ask why you're applying to the school, or how you believe you will contribute once you get there.  The most important advice I've given is to be specific and personal.  Inject enough detail so nobody else can write the same essay you're writing. 

But Skidmore College throws a little a wrinkle into that question–their supplemental essay questions only give you 700 characters to play with.  

700 characters is about a paragraph of text, maybe 100 words.  So you can go two directions here.  You can give them generic responses that will spend 100 words saying the same things that everyone else says, or you can get pithy.

Pithy means brief, forceful and meaningful in expression.  You have to say a lot in a short space.  That means you have to do away with everything that isn't absolutely necessary, and make your points forcefully and clearly.  

Here's an example (unrelated to college admissions).  Let's say you want to express that you think the best way to eat a steak is to let the natural flavors come through, without adding any steak sauce to it (you'd be right, by the way).  This is not pithy:

"There are many different ways to prepare and serve steak.  But whether you broil, grill or fry it, it's important that you retain good flavoring.  Flavoring, after all, is what makes the steak enjoyable.  Many people like to put sauces on their steak, such as A1.  Other people prefer to use rubs composed of various herbs and spices which they rub into the meat before cooking it.  They believe that additional sauce or seasoning improves the taste and enhances a steak's natural flavors.  In fact, some people actually like the flavor of the sauce more than they like the steak.  I, however, believe that a perfectly cooked…"

OK, seriously, at what point did I lose you?  I'm sure you hung in there as long as you could, but wouldn't it have been better if I had just said…"

"I think people who pour cheap steak sauce on an expensive steak should be prosecuted in the court of law.  How could any sane person do that and still sleep at night?"

Bam.  That's pithy.  My point is made.  And it's got oomph. 

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Advice for Gettysburg College applicants

We're always telling our Collegewise students that every essay question on a college application is there for a reason.  And for applicants to Gettysburg College, this essay question is no exception.

"Gettysburg College students are engaged learners and 'make a difference' both on and off campus through their academic and extracurricular activities. Describe a situation in which you have made a difference in your school or community and what you learned from that experience."

 

The key to to this question is "…in which you have made a difference."  Colleges like Gettysburg are looking for students who will make an impact on their student communities, students who have passion and initiative to make things happen.  Making a difference in high school is a good sign that you're one of these students.

Think about the word "different."  What is something you did in high school where something or someone was actually different when you were finished?  Show them an experience for which you can honestly say something is fundamentally different today than it was before you got involved.

 

Here's an example.  If you volunteered for three hours one day at a homeless shelter, you should absolutely be proud of that.  But if you were also on the soccer team, and you initiated a fundraiser that paid for new uniforms for the entire team, uniforms that will be worn for years to come by members of the varsity soccer team at your school, you arguably made a pretty substantial difference on your soccer team.

 

I'm not arguing that raising money for uniforms is more important than feeding hungry people (it's not).  But the question is asking for an example of a time when you made a difference, not an example of a time where you did something important.  Do you see the distinction? 

Think of an example where you made a lasting impact, where you left behind a legacy, even a small one.  Those tend to be the places where you made a difference.

And don't forget about the second part of the prompt that asks about what you learned.  Don't hide behind a contrived answer like, "I learned it's important to help people."  That makes you sound like you didn't realize that helping people was a good thing before this experience. 

One thing to consider might be how you are different today as a result of this experience.  If you really learned something, chances are that your thoughts or actions are different today than they were before this experience.  Share those things honestly with the reader. 

Gettysburg asks the question for a reason–to get a sense of whether or not you'll make a difference once you get to their campus.  So think about where you've made a real difference, share that experience proudly in your answer, and don't forget to consider what you learned. 

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.

For Boston University applicants: A little essay advice

You only have two essays to write, one short and one long, on the Boston University application.  In fact, the short essay is only 5-6 sentences (which really qualifies more as a paragraph than it does a short essay).  It's important to make the most of that limited opportunity to help the BU admissions committee get to know you better.  So here are some tips to help you do that.

Short answer

In five or six sentences, tell us how you first became interested in BU and what steps you have taken to learn more about us.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe just how many responses the BU admissions committee is likely to read that are some version of,

"I first became interested in Boston University when I read about it in a college guidebook.  The combination of great academics in large city seemed like the perfect combination for me.  The more I researched the school, the more I liked it.  I also visited the campus last summer."

At Collegewise, we teach our students a concept we call "Own your story."  To own your story means that you've written something that nobody else applying to college could have written (or at the very least, that thousands of other kids would absolutely not have written).

The person who wrote the response above doesn't own that story.  Any kid applying to Boston University could have written it.  Believe me, a lot of them will.  And they'll torture the admissions committee because of it. 

But compare that response to this one:

"In April of my junior year, my high school counselor told me, "Kevin, you're an interesting kid.  Why are you applying to such uninteresting colleges?  I asked her what she thought would be a good choice for me, and the first school she named was Boston University.  I've visited your website obsessively, probably once a day at least for the last six months.  I've read about all the classes I would take as a communications major.  And last summer, I took a three-hour road trip with my friend in my '93 Corolla just so we could take a tour of BU." 

The chances that another student will write an identical response are zero.  This student owns his story.  So the most important thing you need to do in this response, even though it's only 5-6 sentences long, is to own your story.  Be very specific.  Whether you read a guidebook or talked to your friends or visited the school or went to a college fair, share the details about how you learned and followed up with BU, and do so in a way that no other applicant will be able to do. 

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Essay advice for University of Chicago applicants

I've never known a school whose application reflects its personality better than that of the University of Chicago. Even when they moved to the Common Application two years ago (and jettisoned their beloved "Uncommon Application"), Chicago's supplemental essay questions are still the same sort of intellectual, thoughtful and just plain quirky prompts we've come to expect from them. 

U of C is a place where fit is just as important as intellect.  The strongest applicants here are those who get giddy about the idea of immersing themselves in the experience that is unique to U of C, and they're able to express that on the application.  If you think you're a good match, here are a few tips to help make the most of the opportunities the application allows.

Before you start, really consider why you want to attend U of C.

I say that because U of C is almost certainly not the place for you if you are applying because "it's a great school" or "it has a great reputation."  You could say that about lots of other colleges, and proud Chicago students and faculty would be the first to tell you that the University of Chicago is most certainly not like other schools.  True matches are keenly aware of this fact.  I'll talk more about this below when we get to the essay question that asks why you want to attend.  

Here are the supplemental essay prompts with their directions. 

Respond to Question 1 – and, if you choose, Question 2 – by writing a paragraph or two for each question. Then choose one of the five extended essay options, indicate your choice, and write a one- or two-page response. This is your chance to speak to us and our chance to listen as you tell us about yourself, your tastes, and your ambitions. Each topic can be addressed with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between-it is your choice. Play, analyze (don't agonize), create, compose-let us hear the result of your thinking about something that interests you, in a voice that is your own.

Required Question 1. How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to Chicago.

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Essay advice for Villanova University applicants

I'll say this about Villanova University–their admissions office has guts.  The supplemental essay prompt for Villanova on the Common Application is one that virtually guarantees their admissions officers will have to spend hours reading cliche college essays.  But the truly thoughtful applicants who really take the time to consider the prompt and to write a revealing essay will stand out–and that's just who Villanova wants to admit anyway.

Here's the prompt:

Please answer the following question in an essay of at least one typewritten page. This essay should be distinct and different from the essay submitted through the Common Application

One of the core values of Villanova, as an Augustinian university founded on the teachings of St. Augustine, is that students and faculty learn from each other. As you imagine yourself as a member of the Villanova community, what is one lesson that you have learned in your life that you will want to share with others?

This is the only supplemental essay on the Villanova application, so it's important to make it count.  Here are a few tips:

Resist the urge to try to impress

Learning valuable lessons from life experiences and then applying them is something that mature, intelligent people do.  So it certainly sounds like a good idea to talk about life lessons in a college application essay, which is why so many students choose to do so. 

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Washington State University applicants should consider recycling

Before I give you my tips for Washington State applicants, I have to start with two disclaimers.

Disclaimer #1:  Washington State University is not the same as Oregon State University.  (As you can tell, we're professionals.) 

Disclaimer #2:  We don't usually recommend that students blatantly recycle their essay responses, unchanged, at multiple colleges. 

But what about when the essay questions are the same?  And by the "the same," we mean exactly the same, right down to the instructions?

What Oregon State calls their insight resume, Washington State calls its personal statement.  And as you'll see if you click the links, the six questions are exactly the same. (And yes, for the sticklers out there, we noticed that Washington State allows 110 words per response while Oregon State allows just 100.  Thought you could slip one by us, didn't ya?!)

So with apologies to the Cougars and the Beavers for lumping you together, we're going to just blatantly repeat our previously posted advice for Oregon State applicants here.  And if you're applying to both, just make sure you don't mistakenly address Washington as Oregon or vice-versa.

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Advice for Cornell applicants (who won’t be donating buildings)

"I got into Cornell off the wait list. A lot of people were like, "Oh, you just got into Cornell because your dad donated a building." No. Okay. I got into Cornell because I'm smart. I'm smart enough to have a dad who donates buildings to things."

Andrew Bernard of "The Office" 

It would appear that the Harvard and Dartmouth grads who write for The Office are gleefully taking shots at Cornell University via "The 'Nard Dawg."  But if your parents didn't donate a building to Cornell, you'll need to make the most of the lone supplemental essay they require that asks you to write a 500-word essay about your chosen course of study.

Top of Form

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom of Form

Lots of schools require applicants to respond to a similar prompt, but very few allow you up to 500 words to do so.  If you've really investigated Cornell, you'll know that's not surprising.  Ezra Cornell, who founded the school, once said, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."  Today, there are over 70 academic majors and Cornell has a reputation for academic intensity.  Successful applicants have to show not only that they've excelled in academics, but also that they're excited about the academic opportunities waiting for them at Cornell.

Here are the prompts (we'll return with advice down below):

Please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 500 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college(s) to which you are applying.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:
How have your interests and related experiences influenced your selection of major?

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning:
How does the major you would like to study in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning match your intellectual, academic, and career interests? Discuss any activities you have engaged in that are relevant to your chosen major.

College of Arts and Sciences:
Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you. Tell us how you will utilize the academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences to further explore your interests, intended major, or field of study.

College of Engineering:
Engineers turn ideas (technical, scientific, mathematical) into reality. Tell us about an engineering idea you have or your interest in engineering. Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.

School of Hotel Administration:
What work and non-work experiences, academic interests, and career goals influenced your decision to study hospitality management? How will these contribute to your success at the School of Hotel Administration?

College of Human Ecology:
What do you value about the College of Human Ecology perspective as you consider your academic goals and plans for the future? Reflect on our majors that interest you as you respond.

School of Industrial and Labor Relations:
Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you. In your essay please address how the ILR curriculum will help you fulfill these interests and your long-term goals.

Back to the advice…

If you apply to Cornell just because it's an Ivy League school and autumns in upstate New York are spectacular, you'll be in for a rude awaking when you arrive and realize a) Cornell's academic workload trumps that of most of the other Ivies and b) spectacular autumns in upstate New York are but a teasing precursor to the spectacularly terrible winters that follow.

Successful applicants choose Cornell in large part because they're drawn to their chosen academic program.  These students have well-developed academic interests.  They can tell you what their favorite classes have been, what subjects they have to know more about and why they find those topics so interesting.  They like to learn and can't wait to dive in and do more of it at Cornell.

Whichever prompt above you're responding to, focus on these important areas:

1)  Show the origins and development of your academic interests. 

Cornell needs to know that you're not selecting a major simply because that's one of the questions on the application.  They expect you to have defined academic interests and they want to know the story of those interests. 

Origins of interest sound like this:

"I've never seen my father angrier than the day I took our family television apart just to see how it worked.  I was 12 years old, and Monday Night Football was just about to start.  It wasn't the first time I'd done something like that, but it was the first time I wasn't able to put something back together quickly.  It took me three hours, but I did it, just in time for my dad to see his beloved Giants lose.  I never made that mistake again, but I've also never stopped trying to learn how things work." 

The development of interests sounds like this:

"My junior year of high school, I volunteered to lead a fundraiser to send our soccer team to Europe to compete in a tournament.  And while I enjoyed organizing the car wash and the donation drive and the now much maligned "shrimp-a-thon" (Sizzler doesn't really mean it when they say, "All you can eat shrimp," by the way), what I really enjoyed was crafting personal emails to ask for donations, and writing the regular update newsletters I sent to people who were supporting us, and updating the travel blog I wrote during our stay in Europe.  Every day, I thought about new ways to share our story with people who might be interested.  Yes, we raised money.  But we also raised interest.  People who had never cared about our team started caring.  We developed a following of loyal supporters, and 18 guys who had never been to Europe finally got to go because of it.  That experience was the first time I started to understand the power of the well-written word."

Those examples are specific and, more importantly, believable.  These students aren't telling us that "Engineering is interesting because I've always been fascinated with math and science," or "I learned about communications by taking AP English."  They're giving us specific, real examples to show where their academic interests came from. 

2)  Focus on your genuine interest, maybe even excitement, for the subject matter.

When you're sharing your stories, let the reader hear your genuine interests.  True engineers get giddy when they talk about engineering.  Seriously, they do.  Students who really love politics don't believe that talking about it ever gets old.  A real Civil War buff can talk for hours about her favorite battles.  Look for examples of you showing your true passion for the subject matter, something you weren't just doing to get a good grade.  Even if it seems silly, like the fact that you and your fellow math geeks solve problem sets together on the weekends, that's perfectly valid.  In fact, most math majors would tell you you'd be right at home with them. 

3)  Tie these interests to Cornell.

Any student who really has this kind of academic passion would investigate the academic programs of her chosen colleges.  These students don't talk about the classes they'll have to take in their chosen major; they talk about the classes they'll get to take in their chosen major.

Successful Cornell applicants can tell you with some clarity how they'll be spending their academic time at Cornell, why their chosen course of study is the right one, and what they're most excited about when it comes to learning, particularly at Cornell.   

It's just one essay.  But at Cornell, it's a crucial one.  So talk about how your academic interests got started and how they developed.  Focus on your real passion and let the reader see just how much intellectual enjoyment these subjects bring you.  And most importantly, tie those interests to Cornell and show why it's there you want to pursue them.

Andrew Bernard likely didn't do these things, but then again, his dad donated a building.  The rest of us have to get in the old fashioned way.

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.

Advice for applicants to Saint Mary’s College of California

The internet and tools like the Common Application have allowed many students to apply to colleges somewhat indiscriminately, firing off applications without being able to give a cogent reason for why they're applying to each particular school.  That actually gives you a huge opportunity at smaller colleges like Saint Mary's College of California who reward the applicants behind thoughtful applications.

St. Mary's supplement to the Common Application requires you to submit two short-answer questions and a longer essay of 500 words.  And for the applicant who really takes the time to provide thoughtful responses, there's a lot of opportunity to help St. Mary's get to know you better, and to give them even more reasons to admit you.

Briefly describe how you learned about Saint Mary's College and why it is one of your college choices.

When a college asks you a question like this, they're looking for evidence that you are a mature college shopper who's thought about your future in college and what you want it to look like.  And they want to understand how, after that thoughtful introspection, you decided to add their little school to your list when you could have picked any of over 2,000 other colleges. 

The more specific you can be here, the better.  Don't just say,

"I heard about St. Mary's from a friend and I was very interested." 

How does that help the college learn anything at all about you (other than the fact that you reportedly have "a friend")?  They want to learn something about how you and St. Mary's were originally introduced.  What if you said,

"Surprisingly, I learned about St. Mary's during a visit to UCLA.  I went with a friend to tour the campus and we had two completely different reactions.  She felt like she had found her future college; I was totally overwhelmed.  I don't know if it was because I'm a little shy or because I went to a small high school, but I was intimidated by so many people on such a large campus.  We talked about it on the way home and she told me her older sister visited St. Mary's when she was applying to college and thought it seemed really comfortable.  Then she said, 'You should check it out.'  I'm glad I listened to her." 

Now they've learned something about you.  And it's believable.  Anybody can say they heard about a school and it was interesting, or that they visited the college and loved it.  But if you inject enough detail into the story, it becomes much more believable.

And when you're explaining why St. Mary's is one of your college choices, keep the focus on you.  They don't need to know that St. Mary's has a pretty campus or that it's small or that the students seem nice.  Remember, they work there.  And they do so presumably by choice.  They know what's great about St. Mary's.  What they don't know is why you think you would flourish there.

"Small classes" alone is not a reason to apply to a particular college.  But…

"I have never worked as hard to learn as I did during my sophomore English class.  My teacher told me she saw potential in my writing and took the time to help me improve.  She pushed me to be better, and it worked.  I’d never had a teacher take such a personal interest in me; now I know how I respond when one does.  That's an experience I want to repeat over and over again in college." 

That is a reason to apply.

"I visited and the students seemed very nice" is something that could have happened on a lot of college campuses.  But…

"I visited St. Mary's last summer.  Mostly because of my own insecurities, I felt like I was wearing a t-shirt that read, 'I'm a lowly high school student visiting today.'  I must have looked completely lost because, well, I was.  That’s when two girls stopped to ask me if I needed help finding something.  They couldn’t have been nicer, and from that second on, I felt more comfortable.  I spent the next hour imagining myself walking around next fall wearing a St. Mary's College' sweatshirt.   Something about that just feels right."  

Now we're talking.  That's a student who's thought about this. 

This answer is limited to 500 characters when you're filling out the supplemental form online, which about 80 words (a short paragraph). That means you're going to need to be brief, forceful, and very specific.  Don't wallow in generalities.  Get right to the point.

Now, on to the next prompt.

What is your favorite subject in high school, and why?

Why would they ask this?  They ask it because lots of students get great grades so they can get into college, but not all of them necessarily love to learn.  That's an important distinction, one that St. Mary's is interested in evaluating. 

One of the most amazing things about college is the opportunity for learning.  Not drudgery where you plod through homework assignments just to get them done.  I'm talking about learning things that fascinate you, learning things that make you excited to go to class, and learning them from professors who've spent their professional lives studying this subject matter.   

Students who love to learn make the most of that opportunity, especially at a small school like St. Mary's.  Will you actively seek out the subjects that interest you?  Will you be an engaged student who's excited to be there?  Will you visit professors during office hours, meet with your academic adviser and talk to TA's when you have questions? 

Good grades on your high school transcript are evidence that you are intelligent and willing to work hard (which are still good things).   But they aren't necessarily evidence of a love of learning.  A story about your favorite subject in high school, however, can be. 

Think of a time when you were really interested in what you were learning.  What made you so interested?  Was the subject itself fascinating?  Did the teacher make it fascinating for you?  How did you treat this favorite subject differently than your other subjects?  Did you visit the teacher after class, do additional reading to learn more, participate in class, or even just look forward to that particular class every day?  That's what St. Mary's wants to learn about in this particular answer. 

Whatever course you describe, focus on why you loved it and how you treated it differently.  There is no "wrong answer" here (although I wouldn't recommend that you tell them, "I loved my geology course because the teacher let us sleep and goof off all day").  

One more prompt to go…

The ability to learn from one’s mistakes is key to personal growth and success. Tell us about what you learned from a mistake you’ve made.

Gonzaga University asks a similar question on their application, and I wrote an extensive entry on how to handle it here.  The one difference is that Gonzaga asks about a "failure," while St. Mary's asks about a mistake.  That's a subtle but important difference.  Here's why.

You can do everything right and still fail.  You can try your best, do exactly what you were supposed to do, and still lose a race, be passed over for a leadership position, or not make the varsity team.  None of those things are necessarily due to any act on your part.

But a "mistake" is all you.  You have to own up to it, accept responsibility and explain what you're doing now (or not doing now) as a result of that experience. 

St. Mary's is one of those wonderful schools where you don't necessarily need straight A's, perfect test scores, and a certificate proclaiming that you invented hydrogen to get accepted.  But you'll need to acknowledge the opportunity you're being given on the St. Mary's application.  Don't just race through those responses in an effort to get your application done. Be thoughtful in your responses and you're more likely to find a thoughtful letter of acceptance in return. 

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.