Inside tips and advice from AcceptU's team of former admissions officers


Seven common essay mistakes to avoid

October 20, 2010, Posted In Application Essay

When driving in your car (or riding a bus or taking a taxi), do you like red lights? Speed bumps? Traffic? Slow drivers in front of you?

We don’t either.

We’re not advocating road rage, but it isa much more pleasant journey from Point A to Point B when there are very few – or no – obstacles and slow-downs along the way. The same is true with essay reading. From an admissions officer’s perspective, reading the essay from start to finish is much easier when there’s no traffic.

To write a compelling, effective college essay, make sure you avoid these seven common mistakes:

Speling and grammer eras. Wasn’t it annoying to read the previous sentence? Didn’t you want to take out a red pen and make corrections? Errors are distracting. Don’t make them.
Relying on spell-check. There, their and they’re; too, two and to; rose and rows; bored and board. (We’ll stop there.) Spell check on your computer will not catch everything – but you (and another reader) should.
Using vocabulary that you normally wouldn’t use. Doing so can make your essay sound contrived and fake. The essay needs to have your voice coming through loud and clear – throwing in SAT vocab words that sound out of place could annoy or distract an admissions reader.
Answering the question that is asked of you, and then some. For example, if you want to write about a significant experience, you should do just that. Don’t write about two experiences that are completely unrelated, just to give admissions officers more to read about you. It will make your essay too long and disjointed.
Assuming the admissions officer has an extensive knowledge of pop culture. References to Jersey Shore or your local town hangout, without any context or explanation, could be confusing.
Avoiding the word “I.” Many students seem afraid to use the word “I” – but you should embrace it! The essay should be about you.
Using too much humor. It could be good, for an appropriate essay topic, to let a bit of light humor (perhaps in parentheses) come through in your writing, but this isn’t stand-up and you’re not Jerry Seinfeld. You don’t want the essay to be a joke, after all.

With these tips, you’ll write a much better essay – allowing admissions officers to learn more about you and give you the green light!