Avoid Three Things on Your College Application Essay

During the summer before a student’s Senior year of high school, students and parents work
hard on college applications. Some college deadlines start in the beginning of August! This is a
time that students and parents are understandably nervous about applying to college. Students
wonder if their junior year shows both their academic rigour as well as their commitment to
activities outside of school. Students want to get into their “dream school” but they often do not
know what to do every step of the way. Students often struggle with writing a thoughtful essay to
submit to colleges to demonstrate their character. Here are some specific take-aways that I find
help my students:
1. Make sure to answer the prompt!
One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed is that students don’t address the question laid out in
the prompt. This demonstrates one of two things: either the student did not understand the
prompt or the student was not capable of answering the prompt. Both faults can be detrimental
to a student’s overall application. Admissions committees ask specific questions for a reason.
They want to know if you will fit into the culture of the college, and that the student’s values align
with those of the college. They need this information to make the best decision, for you and for
their college. Don’t jeopardize your admission by not answering the prompt directly.
2. Don’t write in cliches
Writing in cliches is something that tutors, teachers, and admissions committees dislike
vehemently. Why? A couple of reasons: Cliches come from popular culture and are often only
understood by a particular group. Your essay should be clear and concise – anyone and
everyone should be able to read it and understand your thoughts. Furthermore, using cliches
shows that the student didn’t actually take the time to think about the prompt and answer the
question from his or her own experience. The admissions committee will question if the
information you include in your essay is exclusively your own thinking, or if you are borrowing
work from someone else.
3. Maintain your tense
When writing an essay, students sometimes jump from the past tense to the present tense to
the future tense, not realizing the havoc it wreaks on the reader’s mind. My advice to students is
to pick a tense and stick with it throughout the essay. You do not want your admissions
committee reader to be confused about when something happened. Don’t allow verb tense
errors to take over your paper.

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

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About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.
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