What to Avoid on College Application Essays

What to Avoid on College Application Essays
Every year, college admissions officers cringe upon seeing hundreds and thousands of students' attempts to win their hearts with mediocre to bad college essays. To ensure that your essay won't have this effect, avoid these five commonly found mistakes on college application essays.
1. Blatant overuse/misuse of rhetorical devices

By the time you're applying to college, you've inevitably learned about simile, metaphor, and other commonly used rhetorical devices. While these devices function well in literature and poetry, successfully incorporating them into your essay can be a challenge. With these devices, the rule is not "the more the merrier;" try to ensure that your literary comparisons create a tangible sensation in the reader and don't disrupt the flow of your essay.

2. A sob story with no clear lesson learned

When you write about sad subjects on your application essay, you're taking a risk. You don't want to make it seem like you're trying to make the application officer feel sorry for you. Feeling pity will not increase the likelihood that an application officer will want to accept you. If you're going to write a sob story, be sure that you clearly include how and why your experience changed you. Remember that the goal is to prove to the application officers that you are the type of student who would succeed at their school.

3. Your "big performance" essay

Many, if not most, students in high school are either actors, athletes, singers, theater kids, and/or musicians. The commonality between all these hobbies is that they give students the opportunity to perform. Because performing is exciting, thrilling, and challenging, it makes a common topic about which students write their college application essays. However, after a while, the topic can become too common. College application officers have read thousands of performance essays already. Avoid the topic unless your performance had a very unique and specific outcome.

4. Flattering the school

Including any details in your essay about how much you love the college you're applying to is a serious red flag. Your college essay should have nothing to do with the school. Even if you have relatives who attended the school and loved it, this should have no bearing on the topic you address in your essay.

5. Being overly formal

There is no need to write like Shakespeare. College application officers know how high school students really talk. A better approach is to write in a laid back, friendly manner while still employing the correct use of grammar and language. Use your essay to show your personality: feel free to include jokes, snarky remarks, sarcasm, or exaggeration. You can't trick application officers into believing that you really use archaic vocabulary and phrasing in your everyday speech. Chances are, they won't take you seriously.

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