Avoiding Common Admissions Essay Mistakes

The college admissions process can be grueling, but one of the most important and often overlooked aspects is the admissions essay. This essay is your chance to showcase your personality, experiences, and aspirations. 

However, many students fall into common pitfalls. In this guide, we’ll explore the most frequent admissions essay mistakes and how to avoid them.

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1. Starting Off with a Cliché

Mistake: Beginning the essay with a common phrase such as “Ever since I was young…” or “I’ve always known that…”

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Solution: Begin with a unique anecdote, question, or statement that grabs the reader’s attention immediately.

Example: Instead of saying, “I’ve always been passionate about medicine,” you could write, “Last summer, while volunteering at a local clinic, I realized the profound impact a doctor can have on a community.”

List of Common Cliché Starters:

  • Ever since I was young…
  • For as long as I can remember…
  • I’ve always known that…
  • It was always my dream to…

2. Writing What You Think Admissions Officers Want to Hear

Mistake: Tailoring your essay to what you believe the admissions committee wants, rather than showcasing your true self.

Solution: Stay authentic. Admissions officers read thousands of essays, and they can easily spot insincerity.

Example: Don’t claim to want to be an environmental scientist just because the college has a strong program in that area. Instead, genuinely express your interest, whether it be in literature, engineering, or any other field.

3. Using Excessive Jargon or Complex Language

Mistake: Incorporating too many advanced vocabulary words or industry-specific jargon to sound smart.

Solution: Keep it simple. Use clear and concise language to convey your message. Remember, it’s about communicating effectively, not showcasing your vocabulary.

Example: Instead of writing, “I promulgated my penchant for astrophysics by procuring numerous tomes,” simply say, “I deepened my love for astrophysics by reading many books.”

Table: Simplicity vs. Complexity

Complex PhraseSimplified Version
I promulgated my penchant for…I deepened my love for…
I endeavored to ascertain…I tried to find out…
My aspiration is to become an adeptMy goal is to become skilled

4. Not Answering the Prompt Directly

Mistake: Deviating from or vaguely addressing the essay prompt.

Solution: Before writing, underline keywords in the prompt and ensure your essay directly responds to each point.

Example: If the prompt asks, “Describe a challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it,” make sure to detail both the challenge and your solution.

5. Neglecting to Proofread

Mistake: Submitting the essay with grammatical errors, typos, or incorrect information.

Solution: Proofread multiple times. Ask a teacher, parent, or friend to review your essay. Additionally, consider reading it out loud to catch awkward phrasings.

Example: An essay that states, “I want to attend [University A],” when being sent to “University B” is a glaring oversight that can be caught with thorough proofreading.

List of Proofreading Tips:

  • Read your essay out loud.
  • Check for consistent verb tense.
  • Look for commonly confused words (e.g., “their” vs. “there”).
  • Ensure your essay has a logical flow.

In conclusion, while the admissions essay can seem daunting, avoiding these common mistakes can set your application apart. Remember to stay true to yourself, answer the prompt directly, and proofread thoroughly. 

By following this guide, you’ll not only improve your essay but also increase your chances of making a lasting impression on the admissions committee.