Writing college essays is a much more time-consuming process than most expect going into the college admissions process. Depending on the colleges you apply to, a student can go from writing a single Common App or Coalition essay (like if you are applying to UMD) to writing tons of supplements for varying colleges. I myself ended up writing about 15 essays when I only applied to 6 schools. This is also a result of applying to Honors Colleges as well. Some supplements vary from a few sentences to a full page essay depending on the prompt and word count limit. That is why it is imperative to start early. You want to start, especially your general “who you are” essay, the summer before your senior year. This gives you the optimal amount of time to go through several drafts with editing and revising and asking others to read it and see if they can hear your voice in it. As you narrow your college lists, you can start to look at the specific prompts and word/length requirements.
Personally, I suggest having someone who knows you very well and then a teacher who you sort of knows both read your essay. Ask them if they can get a sense of who you are through it. I say this because the whole point of the main “tell us about yourself” essay and additional supplements is to get to know who you are as an individual and how you may fit into a college besides grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
In light of this fact, below I will quickly list some of the most common mistakes seen in college essays because they are too commonly seen, aren’t true to you, and are too vague to give an answer that shows your personality.
1. “For as long as I can remember”
Used too commonly in essays
2. “Little did I know”
Again, used too commonly in essays
3. “I just knew” or “I just felt it”
This is specifically for the question that asks why you want to attend a certain university. This is your time to show just how much you know about a university you really want to go to, even if you didn’t get to physically visit or go to a college fair. Be specific in what makes you want to attend that university such as special majors or departments, certain research or professors, or just what the institution stands for. Connect that to who you are or how you hope to grow through going to that school.
4. “I was at a loss of words” or “I have no words to describe”
Don’t be vague when describing your reaction to an event because that won’t help to set you apart from the rest of the applicants or give true insight into your feelings. Think of adjectives to describe how you felt.
5. “Like Minded Peers”
Again, this is specifically for the question about “why _____ university/college”. Foremost, you most likely wouldn’t use this in your common conversations. Secondly, Most colleges usually want a well-rounded class rather than perse a well-rounded individual (though there is nothing wrong with being that). You don’t want to say you want to go to a school because everyone is like you. You want to go somewhere where you can grow as an individual, and this includes valuing diversity in thought with the students around you at college.
Admissions counselors read hundreds of these essays for many hours. They probably don’t want to hear the same phrases over and over, so it’s important to make your essay unique. We can help with that!
Contact us for some guidance in finding your standout essay.