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3 Things Never to Say in your College Essays

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Sep 15, 2017 3:25:44 PM

  • I learned
  • I realized
  • I felt

What? Isn't the idea to use your essays to show colleges how you've overcome challenges and are now ready, willing and able to succeed in college?

Sort of. But not exactly. In a survey Story2 did with 50 private college admission officers, they said that 60% of students' essays sounded alike. That's right: most students' essays completely miss the boat on the purpose of revealing each student's unique perspective, personality and voice.

Even worse, they said, 20% of essays hurt the student's chance of admission because they sounded like they'd been written by counselors, coaches or parents.

So why NOT use those generic phrases about how you've come to be the awesome person you are? When you tell the reader what they're supposed to think about what you've done, you kill your ability to connect them with your unique perspective: what you saw in the world, what you and others said and--most important--what you did.

College essays aren't assignments for English class. Your essay's job is not to rehash the accomplishments in your resume or prove how smart you are by using words you found in the thesaurus but never say out loud.

It's much easier than all that fake stuff actually: tell a straightforward story from everyday life, one that shows you learning, changing, making a difference.

Want to learn more? Check out the Story2 College Essay Builder course, and we'll guide you step by step.

Contact Sammi Greene at or 646.460.3872, and she’ll connect you with the resources you need to succeed.

Topics:college admission