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College Application Essay Pitfalls

Although we do not like to linger on negative subjects, this portion of the site must. We do hope that our simple comments will help you to avoid application essay killers. Watch out for these monsters; they can plague even the most capable and driven students. Sometimes, they even emerge as a result of over-effort. Please be careful.

Absolute no-nos: On par with shooting yourself in the foot

  • Plagiarizing another writer's work. While this may seem like the easy way out, it is disgraceful and unethical. Justice will eventually be served, and think of the grave humiliation at having to explain to your parents that you were rejected from college because you had cheated. Not cool.
  • Embellishing the facts. Much like plagiarizing, embellishing or inventing your history is both unethical and unhealthy. Living a lie is too much work because you have to remember all the lies you have told. The truth is eminently memorable. Present it in your writing on college application essays.
  • Not answering the prompts. Although you may have some fantastic things to say, keep your comments to the point. Think of yourself as your own press secretary during the application process. If the President's press secretary just decided to spout off about his favorite movies when reporters asked about the U. S.'s Middle East policy, he would appear both foolish and damaging to the administration. Keep your reporters happy and well-informed, not confused.
  • Wordiness. If you write incredibly long sentences or paragraphs that become run-on sentence and bore the admissions officers, you may not hold the attention of your most important audience and that would not be good. No, it wouldn't. No. No. No. Keep the admissions officers from diving headfirst into their coffee cups.
  • The "SHIFT + F7" syndrome. Also known as the "thesaurus tick," it involves students' proclivities to utilize polysyllabic dictums in order to manifest a latent brilliance that would never emerge without irreparably altering every third word that does not consist of three syllables. Admissions officers will be impressed to meet you, not your thesaurus.

Bad but salvageable: You missed your foot! Close call!

  • Self-contradictions. It is vital to maintain consistency within your essay. You lose your trustworthiness in introducing yourself to admissions officers.
  • Talking glowingly about your boyfriend or girlfriend. Dissing them in your application would not make sense either. College admissions officers generally have little interest in your love life and see such discussions as a sign of immaturity.
  • Overt criticism of your school or upbringing. Many individuals worldwide would feel blessed to have enjoyed the same opportunities you have had. Furthermore, tired and overloaded admissions officers don't want to join your pity party.
  • Name-dropping. If you are concerned about world peace, that's great. We recommend that you not toss in ideas about which you are only marginally concerned in order to sound better rounded. Name-dropping should stay in the realm of cocktail parties.
  • Clichés. "I want to improve the condition of the Everyman... " You may be a willing future Peace Corps volunteer, but six other clowns wrote the exact same thing and don't really mean it. Who should the admissions officer heed? Make your words authentic and thus yours.