By: Contributor On: December 8, 2010 In: Applying to College Comments: 1

Most students can agree that the college admission essay is one of the more stressful aspects of the US college application process.

It’s the one part of the application where you can really show your personal self, your goals and your creativity. A good US college admission essay topic creates an amazing opportunity to stand out – but it also makes the pressure to write something great that much higher.

There are some mistakes that consistently show up in college admission essays that should be avoided at all costs.

1. Overusing SAT Words

While it’s fantastic that you scored in the 90th percentile on the SAT verbal, that doesn’t mean you need to showcase your high-caliber vocabulary in your essay.

First of all, make sure you fully understand and are correctly using any fancy SAT words you throw into your essays. Second, remember that a complicated vocabulary won’t necessarily make for a better essay. Too many long smart-sounding words will make an essay look clunky (and like you’re trying too hard). Sometimes simplicity is best and makes for a more powerful essay.

2. Overselling Yourself

Being too obviously aggressive in your essay can backfire. While you should definitely convey your enthusiasm, you don’t want the admissions committee to read the subtext of your essay as a really basic sales pitch. You want your essay to stand out for other reasons than its bare-faced “ADMIT ME!!!!” intensity. Anyone can convey the “admit me!” attitude, but your essay has to actually interest and engage the admissions committee to make them want to admit you.

3. Using Clichés

You probably already know not to use clichés in your college admission essay, but it’s important to realize that we sometimes slip into clichés in our writing without even realizing it. Also, by clichés I mean both clichéd phrases and clichéd topics.

Overly cheesy or overly sentimental college admission essays can be read as cliché and over the top. While a personal admission essay topic is often expected, make sure your essay doesn’t read like a sob story, which might be interpreted as the “admit me!” oversell described above.

4. Losing Sight of the Prompt

When your creativity is sparked and your writing for a college admission essay seems to simply flow out of you, it’s a great feeling (and often makes for the best essays). Unfortunately, this also leads to the danger of getting off topic.

Always keep the prompt in mind and make sure your essay works consistently as a whole. You don’t want to lose points because you lost focus and neglected to answer what the prompt asked of you.

5. Forgetting to Edit – and Edit and Edit …

Editing US college admission essays is obviously a must and seems like a “duh” tip, but it is definitely one worth repeating. Your college admission essay is very important, so you don’t want to let any typos or awkward language slip through. The best way to catch these things is to read your essay out loud — your ears will catch what your eyes might skim over.

It’s also a great idea to have someone else read over your essay, whether its a family member or teacher. They’ll be able to pinpoint any misspellings or grammatical errors you might have missed.

Since you may use one essay for multiple schools, proofreading also ensures that you don’t mix up college’s names in your essay! It has actually happened that a student applying to college sends “University X” an essay saying how much they want to go to “University Y” – oops! Editing – at least twice – will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes like these in your US college admission essay.

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6 years ago

Hi Alison, great blog shared above. Really very useful information shared regarding writing a college admission essay. Thanks for sharing.