3 Common College Essay Mistakes

3 Common College Essay Mistakes

Writing an essay for your dream school may feel like a daunting task. How do you tell a stranger everything you think they would want to know about you?! While there are so many ways to craft your unique narrative (and ESAI tools are here to help chart that path), often a good place to start is knowing which territories to avoid.

So, here are some common, yet easily avoidable mistakes to think about as you begin crafting your personal statement:

1. Telling admissions officers what you think they want to hear.

The best essays are the ones where readers can feel the student’s passion 

You can craft the most “perfect” application, but it’ll be obvious if your personality and passions aren’t there. Lean into uniqueness instead of predictability. Tell them about your niche interests and communities. For example, memes! It might seem a little silly to include your love of memes in your college essay, but the creation and sharing of memes is such a great way to demonstrate your understanding of internet culture, social dynamics, or graphic design. Another way to personalize your essay is to allow your personality to shine through your writing style and storytelling. There’s no need to be overly formal. Skip the extended metaphors, and write in a style that makes sense with the story that you’re telling. They want to quickly understand a picture of you!


2. Being vague: telling vs. showing.

Don’t promise them that you’re hard working and collaborative, show them! For example, you could tell them that you are a dedicated team member. Or, you could show them: “Balancing a part-time job and school, I still never missed a single Model UN meeting in two years, even leading my group to win the small delegation division in the state of Tennessee.” Not only were you able to include a personal interest in diplomacy and international relations, you also proved that you have the ability to balance your school work, maintain a job, AND hold a leadership position. 


3. Trauma dumping. 

Your college essay does not need to be sad! Some students have gone through hard times that are core to who they are. The issue comes about when students focus too much on the details of the tragic story, versus how that experience shaped them. Would you rather hear a story about the saddest thing that has ever happened to someone, or hear a story that clearly demonstrates someone’s proven strengths and what they will be like to work with? If you choose to write about a hardship that shaped you, here are two examples of how to focus on where you are today: 

  1. “My mother’s battle with stage III breast cancer throughout my early childhood inspired me to pursue a future in oncology with a focus in hormonal therapy.” 
  2. “My experience being bullied for my gender expression has empowered me to pursue a career in social work, specifically for middle and high school LGBTQ+ students.”

Remember, you've already done the hard work. Your application, and especially your essays, are your chance to show off the best version of you. Be proud of how you’ve grown, what you’ve accomplished, and who you are!

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