All about college essays: Top 7 Most Common Mistakes on a College Application Essay

Post By: COYD Staff

college essayIn this week’s posts we talked about how you can make your admissions essay stand out. We also discussed how to tackle one of the most common essay questions, the “Why Us?” question. We are going to wrap up college essay week with the Top 7 most common mistakes made on college admissions essays.

1. Not answering the question

With all their focus on making their essay both original and witty, some students forget to actually answer the question. Don’t make this glaring mistake on your admissions essay. Usually, this happens when the student is rushing to get their admissions essay finished. Give yourself plenty of time to outline, write, proofread and get other people’s opinions and comments on your essay.

2. Going over the maximum word limit

You might not think that 3-4 words over the maximum word limit is a big deal. Think again. College admissions officers have the tough job of selecting the best prospective freshmen from a huge pool of applicants. Don’t give them ANY reason to reject you. You might get the the one admissions officer in the office whose pet peeve is essays that exceed the maximum word count.

3. Utilizing words you don’t really know the meaning of

Do not use a thesaurus when writing your essay. Rule of thumb: if you haven’t used the word 1-2 times in the last 6 months, you probably don’t really know the word. It is better to write the essay in your own voice and with your own vocabulary than to be caught using words that you obviously don’t fully understand, and words that are forced into an essay are easy to spot.

4. Being overly confident

Sometimes when a student is insecure, they can try to overcompensate on their admissions essay and come off overly confident. Try not to puff yourself up too much. Nobody likes a show-off.

5. Repeating the accomplishments found on your resume/application

Your credentials speak for themselves on your resume and application, so you don’t need to repeat them in your essay. The essay is an opportunity for you to show your softer side. Use it to give the admissions officer a peak into your heart and soul.

6. Lack of structure

To avoid a lack of structure, first create an outline of the essay. The first paragraph should be the teaser where you tell the admissions officer what you are going to talk about. You should spend the most time writing your introduction. This is where your personality should pop. The introduction is the hook, and reading it should draw in your audience and make them want more. The middle paragraphs should be the meat of the essay. Your middle paragraphs should elaborate on what you introduced in the first paragraph. The conclusion should tie up the essay; however, don’t just summarize what you discussed in the previous paragraphs. The conclusion, like the introduction, should be profound and impressive. It should also leave the admissions officer wanting more whilst giving the essay closure.

7. Plagiarizing!!!

Like we have discussed in several posts before, don’t plagiarize. Not only is it morally wrong, but if caught, it will destroy your changes of getting into college. Colleges have taken this matter seriously, and more and more colleges are using technology to detect plagiarizing. Turnitin, which has been used in the past to “expose cut-and-paste malfeasance in term papers,” is now being used to “detect plagiarism on applications. Penn State’s MBA program is the first [university] to sign up.” **

**”Exactly How personal is That Personal Statement?”, April 8, 2010, NY Times.


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One Response to “All about college essays: Top 7 Most Common Mistakes on a College Application Essay”

  1. Micheal Thompson
    Jun 27., 2013 at 1:53 am #

    A must read article for a future help in doing application and other needed writing essays.

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