As an independent college admissions consultant, I read many application essays and see many common application essay mistakes. Here’s some helpful advice: Select the Best Topic and Subject. The Common Application, as well as many individual college applications and supplements, give students a choice of essay topics. That's what this fall's crop of seniors applying to colleges using the Common Application, a standardized form that's accepted at over schools, will need to do. The exact word limit for the Common App essay has varied somewhat over the years, but the current range is words. You must stay within this length; in fact, the online application won't allow you to submit fewer than words or more than Students have written word essays and gotten into good colleges – and some have written 2, words. Generally students write between words. But the point of finding your perfect length is that word count is not the benchmark essay2019.pws: In the Common App added two new prompts to the pile, one of which was a return to the much-beloved “topic of your choice.” (Cue the confetti!) So college applicants, like those who came before them in , will have seven (that’s right, seven) essay prompts to choose from.
Some students rehash their activities and achievements without adding the personal flavor, perspective and substance that admissions officers look for. Learn how to avoid these and other damaging traps. As an independent college admissions consultant, I read many application essays and see many common application essay mistakes. Select the Best Topic and Subject. The Common Application, as well as many individual college applications and supplements, give students a choice of essay topics.
Resist the temptation to quickly make a selection.
Then read the options carefully and decide which topic s provides the best opportunity to portray your self in a desirable manner. If the application requires more than one essay, select distinct topics and subject areas so the admissions people get a broader, and more complete, picture of you. If you are an athlete, for example, try not to write more than one essay about sports. Read the prompt carefully and pay particular attention to two part questions.
The admissions people are looking for a window into your character, passion and reasoning.
Be Personable and Specific. If you are asked to describe your reasons for your interest in a particular school that you are applying to, make sure your essay addresses the particular features of that school that appeal to you and explain why. Many prompts specify a desired number of words or a range. In fact, many on-line applications will not even accept more than the stated limit. Lincoln got his points across succinctly in the Gettysburg address — in less than words.
Do not distract the reader with unnecessary words and repetition. If you come across as a spoiled child, a stuck-up rich kid, lazy, sarcastic or a cynic, the admissions team might decide that you are not the right fit for their school. While few applicants are genuinely altruistic, most colleges are turned off by students who appear more focused on what the school can do for them, rather than how they can benefit from the education and at the same time be a contributing member of the campus community.
If you are applying to a business program, the average starting salary of recent graduates should not be your stated motivation for seeking admission!
A good way to catch mistakes is to read your essay very slowly and out loud. Some of the best and most memorable essays are based on a simple conversation between people. The impressions and takeaways from such a conversation can be extremely engaging and provide a valuable window into the personality and values of the writer.
Skip the Volunteer Trip.
Dedicated community service over a period of time can be a strong topic for an application essay. Volunteer day at the local park, or two weeks of school building in Africa, will probably not impress the admissions committee. They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.
The admissions committee relies on essays to learn additional things about you such as your initiative, curiosity about the world, personal growth, willingness to take risks, ability to be self directed, motivation and ability to make the most of a situation.
They are interested in your personal qualities such as leadership, confidence, ability to work in a team, strength of character, resilience, sense of humor, ability to get along with others and what you might add to the campus community. In short, use your essays to showcase a side of you not visible from other parts of the application.
Peruse the Entire Application. Many applications, especially for some of the more competitive schools, are complex and require multiple essays and short answers. For example, if you have five key areas you wish to cover, and there are five essays, try to strategically focus on one area in each essay.
Resist the temptation to be a sesquipedalian or come across as a pedantic fop! Use caution when showing off your extensive vocabulary. You risk using language improperly and may appear insecure or overly eager to impress. Check Your Ego at the Door. While self doubt is generally undesirable, a bit of humility can be well received, especially in an essay about overcoming adversity. Few students have a perfect resume, which is apparent in the application.
Drawing attention to weakness in an essay is generally not a good idea, unless you were able to overcome a weakness, and make it a strong suit. Errors can doom your otherwise excellent application. Make sure you schedule sufficient time for a thorough review. When possible, have at least one other person proofread your essay. They may catch something important that you missed. Again, read your essay out loud. An impressive essay generally contains a strong opening, well organized content, and a powerful closing.
Start with an outline and design your essay paragraph by paragraph. Make sure you include enough background information about whatever topic you are writing about so that the reader can put it into context. For example, one student wrote an excellent essay about a horrible first day of school, but forgot to include that he had just moved to town, from halfway around the world, and was struggling with English.
Resist the temptation to run off and start writing. Experts will tell you that up-front planning of your essays is well worth the time invested.
Research the College Before Writing the Essay. Almost every school has its own identity and mission.
Is 500 Words Enough for a College Application Essay?
Some universities even have a slogan. Others have niche areas of study that they like to promote. Pay attention to what is important to the particular school and, when appropriate, consider including it in some manner in your essay. Invest in a Strong Introduction. Admissions people read a lot of essays and may not be energetic and fresh when yours reaches the top of their pile.
It is critical that the first few sentences capture their interest. A boring opening may cause the reader to not pay close attention to the remainder of the essay. Design the introduction to draw them into your essay. A well-planned essay may omit some key details in the opening forcing the reader to pay close attention to the rest of the story.
Start Early and Take Your Time.
Application essays almost always take longer than you anticipate. Invest the time necessary to do it right. It should be your best work. Ask others to review your drafts and offer comments and suggestions. Take comments and suggestions seriously — behind every good writer is usually at least one good editor!