Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Memorable College Admissions Essay

Writing an admissions essay that will stand out is a daunting task. This personal statement has to speak for you when the college application is being reviewed. Most people will write about what they think the college’s admissions board will want to hear and that is where they go wrong. The way to stand out is to create a college level essay that speaks about you without covering a topic that is already overdone. Below are some Dos and Don’ts about the process of writing your personal statement and some topic suggestions.

Don’t:

  • Tell. When writing your essay, you want to show the reader what your life is like. Don’t just tell, write something detailed and interesting utilizing your own writing style.
  • Write overly technical if that is not your style.
  • Write something just to have it done. Your college admissions essay should grab their attention and make them want to read it.

Do:

  • Present yourself as a real person, not just an anonymous bystander. Make your essay personable and full of your voice.
  • Check spelling and grammar.
  • Use a readable font.
  • Balance the essay with paragraph breaks and consistency.
  • Find your own angle, especially if you think your theme is common.
  • Have someone else proofread it before you send it in. Sometimes another set of eyes will catch the mistakes you might miss.

Topics to Avoid:

Travel, winning, a parent’s divorce — these are ideas that the college admissions board has already seen. While it may be exciting to travel, and you learned a life lesson, the admissions reviewer would rather see what happens in your everyday life. Winning anything — a student election, a championship game, a bet — can make a fun story to tell friends and family, but is best represented in the extracurricular section of your application. If your parent’s are divorced, you manage to become part of a statistical group. Instead of talking about what a hardship it was or how your parents not getting along changed your life, you could mention the result. For example, after the divorce, you may have been forced to find a new home in a one bedroom apartment with your mother and sister which hindered your abilities to sleep and study.

Make your essay your own, be confident in your ability to create, and leave the reader with a good impression. If you find yourself struggling, look to your family and friends for advice and inspiration. Your admissions essay will have a word count limit, encouraging you to be concise but heartfelt. Remember, you are the only you — write your personal statement with that knowledge.

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