4 Common Mistakes on College Application Essay

Let’s stop for a moment and examine what not to do with the college application essay. Unfortunately, many college essays are just plain awful. What makes them so bad?

There are four common characteristics of abysmal statements.

1. Predictable

First, many applicants are predictable in their statements. When asked to write about how a piece of literature has impacted them, for example, millions of high schoolers claim that The Great Gatsby changed their lives.

Similarly, when asked about a person they admire, admissions committees are routinely swamped with essays about Martin Luther King or Ronald Reagan. Our advice is to highlight responses that are unique to you.

errors found in a student's essay

2. Attention

The second common problem with college essays is that students sometimes use them as an opportunity to suck up to admissions committees. This is not a good strategy because it does not reveal much about you as a person. Of course you want to attend their college. That is why you are applying.

So don’t squander an opportunity to tell the admissions committees about your interesting life by blathering on about how terrific their college is.

3. Sentimental

A third feature of bad college essays is that they can sometimes be overly sentimental. Do not try to concoct some sob story in an effort to win the hearts of the admissions committees or explain away some lousy test score or grade.

4. Bragging

A final way that students write poor college essays is to be self-aggrandizing in their essays, focusing on their achievements, rather than providing insights into who they are as people.