Eight Common College Essay Mistakes

How to avoid the common mistakes

Eight Common College Essay Mistakes

Staring at a blank screen wondering what the heck to say in your college essay? We feel you. Personal essays can be among the most challenging communications to craft. Sometimes it’s almost easier to start with what not to write, so we’ve put together some of the most common mistakes we see students make when drafting college essays. Use this list as a starting point (and head in the opposite direction!).

College Essay Don’ts:

    1. Don’t: Use overly formal language and structure.  College essays are more informal in tone and style than what you’d write for school, and voice is a critical component of the essay: this essay should sound like you! Not your mom, your English teacher, or your family friend who is a professional writer. (Trust us, admissions officers can tell.)
    2. Don’t: List everything you’ve ever done. There’s no need to cram your life into one 650-word essay. Save all those extracurriculars for the application’s Activities section.
    3. Don’t: Be vague. Specific details help your essay pop and take it from good to great.
    4. Don’t: Tell instead of show. If you find yourself listing your positive attributes instead of sharing a story that illustrates those qualities, it’s time to reevaluate.
    5. Don’t: Write about overcoming an obstacle if you haven’t overcome one. Some students think they have to write about failures, challenges, or difficulties they’ve faced.  Not everyone has experienced life-altering obstacles yet – and that’s okay! You have other stories to tell.
    6. Don’t: Focus on someone else. There may be a really influential person in your life, and you may be able to write a great essay about that relationship, but don’t spend 650 words talking about how awesome that person is. You’re the one applying to college!
    7. Don’t: Share your essay with too many people. If you ask for feedback from 47 people, you will get 47 different responses, which can get confusing. Pick just a couple people you really trust to read your essay when you’re ready for feedback.
    8. Don’t: Wait until the last minute. The essay process can be exciting, empowering, and, dare we say it, fun – but not if you’re rushed. Get started early and you’ll stress less while giving that essay room to grow and breathe! After all, writing is a process, and it requires time and attention.

For more college essay guidance, check out these recordings of our recent college essay webinars. If you need more tips or support on structuring your college essay, contact us today.