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What Makes Bad College Essays Bad

❶But this abject poverty was their life, their reality. By doing so, you will give your essay focus and you will have the space to cover the topic in greater depth.

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Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in. I realized that the one thing that this world needed more than anything was compassion; compassion for those less fortunate than us. I expected harsh conditions, but what I encountered was far worse. The conditions of it hit me by surprise; it looked much worse in real life than compared to the what our group leader had told us.

Poverty to me and everyone else I knew was a foreign concept that people hear about on the news or see in documentaries. But this abject poverty was their life, their reality. As all of this realization came at once, I felt overwhelmed by the weight of what was to come.

Would I be able to live in the same conditions as these people? Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? It was at that moment that I saw how selfish I had been. How many people suffered like this in the world, while I went about life concerned about nothing at all?

Thinking back on the trip, maybe I made a difference, maybe not. But I gained something much more important. I gained the desire to make the world a better place for others. It was in a small, poverty-stricken village in Peru that I finally realized that there was more to life than just being alive.

This is an essay that tries to explain a shift in perspective. There are different ways to structure this overarching idea, but a chronological approach that starts with an earlier opinion, describes a mind changing event, and ends with the transformed point of view is an easy and clear way to lay this potentially complex subject out. Arranging your narrative in order of what happened when is a simple and surefire strategy.

Lite via Wikimedia Commons. It just makes this author sound dismissive of a huge swath of the population. These people who have so little were able to forget their own needs, and put those much more fortunate in front of themselves. Again, this comes across as very patronizing.

It may help to imagine you have the compound eyes of an insect. How many different perspectives can you see and describe? Why were the kids were crying? One specific really loud kid? Why were their clothes dirty? Did they have Sunday clothes? Traditional clothes they would put on for special occasions? Did they make their own clothes? The rewrite should either make this section more specific and less reliant on cliches, or should discard it altogether.

What did their leader tell them? What was different in real life? What was the light like? What time of day was it? Reading vague generalizations is like trying to make sense of this blurry picture. And after a while, who cares?

Without a framing device explaining that this initial panic was an overreaction, this section just makes the author sound whiny, entitled, melodramatic, and immature. Just how much mortality is typically associated with these very standard college-application-boosting service trips? This would fit well with a new focus on the different points of view on this village the author encountered.

Is it really believable that this is what the author learned? This conclusion is rather vague, and seems mostly a non sequitur. Need some guidance on other parts of the application process? Download it for free now:. Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia.

She is passionate about improving student access to higher education. You should definitely follow us on social media. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:. How to Get a Perfect , by a Perfect Scorer. Score on SAT Math. Score on SAT Reading. Score on SAT Writing.

What ACT target score should you be aiming for? Anna Wulick May 18, 9: Writing in too much detail about your illness, disability, any other bodily functions.

Detailed meaningful discussion of what this physical condition has meant to you and your life is a great thing to write about. But stay away from body horror and graphic descriptions that are simply there for gratuitous shock value. Waxing poetic about your love for your significant other. Confessing to odd and unusual desires of the sexual or illegal variety.

Your obsession with cultivating cacti is wonderful topic, while your obsession with researching explosives is a terrible one.

Writing about committing crime as something fun or exciting. Your only exposure to mind-altering substances should be caffeine. Unless you have a great story of coping with one of these, leave deal-breakers like pathological narcissism out of your personal statement.

Bragging and making yourself the flawless hero of your essay. The application already includes your resume, or a detailed list of your various activities. Every athlete tries to write this essay. Unless you have a completely off-the-wall story or unusual achievement, leave this overdone topic be. Did you learn a valuable lesson about how privileged you are?

Unfortunately, so has every other teenager who traveled on one of these trips. Unfortunately, many of the hard, formative events in your life are fairly universal. Only detailed, idiosyncratic description can save this topic.

This is especially true if your solution is an easy fix, if only everyone would just listen to you. Starting with a famous quotation. They are like this, and like that, and people love them for all of these reasons. 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.


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25 College Application Essay Mistakes that Guarantee Failure Home > College Admission > College Application Essay Tips > For every open slot at an Ivy League college, there are 10 to 12 eager applicants vying for it–and you're one of them.

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College application mistakes can hurt your admissions chances. Here are 10 college application mistakes students need to avoid. Common Application Essays and Overview 5 Tips To Help Seniors Beat College Application Deadline Anxiety and Enjoy Winter Break.

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10 College Application Mistakes to Avoid Eliminate Common College Application Errors be sure to explore other resources to help you remain organized during your college application experience. The application process is time-consuming, even with the Common Application, so be sure to set aside plenty of time for completing the essay itself. The essay should be thoughtful and show your capabilities and potentials, not likely something you want to simply churn out in a few hours.

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For the application cycle, the Common Application essay prompts remain unchanged from the cycle. With the inclusion of the "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office. The current prompts. On the flip side, exceptional application essays can help students with marginal scores get into the schools of their dreams. The tips below will help you win big with your essay. Also be sure to check out these tips for the seven personal essay options on the Common Application, this advice for improving your essay's style, and the sample.