Log In
Get Started

3 Things You Should Never Do in College Admission Essays

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Aug 21, 2015 12:00:00 PM


Usually I’m princess positive in all things college essay, but I’ve been seeing a lot of really dumb mistakes lately--things you can easily avoid with a tiny bit of attention. Here are the 3 worst things you can do on your college essays and how to fix them.

  1. Tell someone else’s story: You may be tempted to write about someone else: your mother or grandfather or a famous person whose quote inspires you and serves as the epigraph to your essay. Forget all of them! The #1 job of your college admission essays is to reveal your character. So find the moments in your own life that show who you really are--moments of change, growth or learning, or just everyday moments when you made a difference in the life of your community. The topic doesn’t need to be fancy or from a place faraway, but it needs to be your own, something that really happened to you. Want to see stories that inspired other students?

  1. Write a generic essay about how great you are: Forget your grades, test scores, and awards. They all show up in other parts of your application. This is not a 3-paragraph essay proving how great you are; it’s a story from your lived experience. Your personal essay should be about you as a person. What makes you different from other students with similar grades and test scores? What have you done that shows who you will be in a college community? What will you be like in class? In activities? In your dorm room late at night?

  1. Sound like someone else wrote your essay: Some students are so desperate they pay to have other people write their essays. When I worked in admissions, we would toss these essays aside and move on to the next person. Admissions officers aren’t looking for 40-year-old consultants; they’re looking for genuine students. So whether you are 17 or 47, remember to write your essays yourself. When you’re confused about where to start, start by telling your story out loud to someone you trust. 

You’re too smart to sound stupid. Use the Story2 EssayBuilder™ and online coaching to explore your own unique stories and transform them into powerful and authentic essays.


Topics:college admission