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❶These people who have so little were able to forget their own needs, and put those much more fortunate in front of themselves. Not going deep enough.

What Makes Bad College Essays Bad

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I know that intro might have given the impression that this college essay will be about withstanding disasters, but the truth is that it isn't about that at all. Unique hobbies make good topics, right? And then an Essay. Instead, I sat quietly in my room wrote the old-fashioned way.

Almost out of nowhere, Robert Jameson Smith offered his words of advice. He suggested students begin their college essay by listing their achievements and letting their essay materialize from there. I reflected on the current state of deforestation, and described the dichotomy of it being both understandable why farmers cut down forests for farmland, and how dangerous this is to our planet. As far as achievements go, this was definitely an amazing one. Yet in this essay, I was still being nagged by a voice that couldn't be ignored.

In the middle of a hike through Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, I realized that the college essay was nothing more than an embodiment of my character. The two essays I have written were not right because they have failed to become more than just words on recycled paper. The subject failed to come alive. With this realization, I turned around as quickly as I could without crashing into a tree. Speaking of tornadoes, how awesome was the Wizard of Oz?

I played with the thought in my mind, tapping my imaginary communicator pin and whispering "Computer. Days later I emerged from my room disheveled, but to my dismay, this college essay made me sound like just a guy who can't get over the fact that he'll never take the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. So, I tossed my essay away without even getting to disintegrate it with a phaser set on stun. You know, just in case. The meat of the essay is that the two versions of himself that the author thought about portraying each fails in some way to describe the real him.

Look at how long and draggy these paragraphs are, especially after that zippy opening. Is it at all interesting to read about how someone else found the process of writing hard? Not really, because this is a very common experience. Twice in the essay, the author lets someone else tell him what to do.

Don't be a passive panda. Be an active antelope. But there is no description of what the author did with either one, nor any explanation of why these were so meaningful to his life. In the rewrite, it would be good to explore what he learned about himself and the world by pursuing these interests. How did they change him or seen him into the person he is today? In the next essay draft, I would suggest subtly making a point about his other qualities.

Or, after the TREE paragraph, the author could explain why this second essay was no better at capturing him than the first. Why is the self in the essay shouting — is it because this version paints him as an overly aggressive activist? Star Trek fans are a dime a dozen. But a Trekkie who is also a graffiti aficionado? Now that's a novel intersection of cultural tastes. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service.

We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in. I realized that the one thing that this world needed more than anything was compassion; compassion for those less fortunate than us. I expected harsh conditions, but what I encountered was far worse.

The conditions of it hit me by surprise; it looked much worse in real life than compared to the what our group leader had told us.

Poverty to me and everyone else I knew was a foreign concept that people hear about on the news or see in documentaries. But this abject poverty was their life, their reality. As all of this realization came at once, I felt overwhelmed by the weight of what was to come. Would I be able to live in the same conditions as these people?

Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? It was at that moment that I saw how selfish I had been. How many people suffered like this in the world, while I went about life concerned about nothing at all? Thinking back on the trip, maybe I made a difference, maybe not. But I gained something much more important. I gained the desire to make the world a better place for others. It was in a small, poverty-stricken village in Peru that I finally realized that there was more to life than just being alive.

This is an essay that tries to explain a shift in perspective. There are different ways to structure this overarching idea, but a chronological approach that starts with an earlier opinion, describes a mind changing event, and ends with the transformed point of view is an easy and clear way to lay this potentially complex subject out.

Arranging your narrative in order of what happened when is a simple and surefire strategy. Lite via Wikimedia Commons. It just makes this author sound dismissive of a huge swath of the population. Calling others "less fortunate" when you're a senior in high school has a dehumanizing quality to it. These people who have so little were able to forget their own needs, and put those much more fortunate in front of themselves. Again, this comes across as very patronizing. It may help to imagine you have the compound eyes of an insect.

We thought it would be useful to start off with a few common mistakes that other students have made. In fact, some of these mistakes are so bad that they will almost guarantee that your essay will fail. Avoid these at all costs! Trying to be someone else. This may sound very obvious, and well, it is.

A lot of students think that they need to be who the admissions offcers want them to be; but, in reality, the admissions offcers want you to be you. Instead, they want to learn about the true you. Present yourself in an honest way, and you will fnd it much easier to write an essay about your genuine thoughts and feelings. Many students think that colleges seek students who have performed a lot of community service, and it is true that colleges value contributions to your community.

The same holds true for any other topic. Not thinking before writing. You should spend as much time thinking about what you will write as actually putting words on paper.

It can help to talk yourself through your essay aloud or discuss your thoughts with a parent, teacher, or friend. The other person may see an angle or a faw that you do not. Not answering the question. While this seems simple enough, many students simply do not heed this. The advice is especially pertinent for those who recycle essays. We highly recommend recycling because it saves you time to write one essay that you use for many colleges, but the caveat is that you need to edit the essay so that it answers the question being asked.

Not sharing something about yourself. In these cases, they may write so much about why they admire the person or the plot of the book that they forget to show the connection to themselves.

Always ask yourself if you are letting the admissions offcers know something about yourself through your essay. Forgetting who your readers are. The essay should be comfortable but not too informal.

Tackling too much of your life. Because the essay offers a few hundred words to write about an aspect of your life, some students think that they need to cram in as many aspects of their life as possible. This is not the approach we recommend.

Instead of trying to share your whole life, share what we call a slice of your life. By doing so, you will give your essay focus and you will have the space to cover the topic in greater depth. Having a boring introduction. Students have started their essays by repeating the question asked and even stating their names.

This does little to grab the attention of the admissions offcers. Think about how you can describe a situation that you were in, convey something that you strongly believe in or share an anecdote that might not be expected. If you write about an issue, be sure to pick one that is truly meaningful to you and that you know something about.

A few students have even sent cash! If you have an idea for something creative, run it by a teacher or counselor to see what he or she thinks frst. Trying to make too many points. Focusing allows you to go into depth into a specifc topic and make a strong case for your position.

You can use examples to illustrate your point. The storyteller may have conveyed what he or she thought, felt, heard, or saw. From the information imparted, you may have felt like you were there or you may have developed a mental image of the situation.

This is precisely the experience that you would like the admissions offcers to have when reading your essay. The key to being memorable is providing as many details as possible. They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.

The admissions committee relies on essays to learn additional things about you such as your initiative, curiosity about the world, personal growth, willingness to take risks, ability to be self directed, motivation and ability to make the most of a situation. They are interested in your personal qualities such as leadership, confidence, ability to work in a team, strength of character, resilience, sense of humor, ability to get along with others and what you might add to the campus community.

In short, use your essays to showcase a side of you not visible from other parts of the application. Peruse the Entire Application.

Many applications, especially for some of the more competitive schools, are complex and require multiple essays and short answers. For example, if you have five key areas you wish to cover, and there are five essays, try to strategically focus on one area in each essay. Resist the temptation to be a sesquipedalian or come across as a pedantic fop! Use caution when showing off your extensive vocabulary. You risk using language improperly and may appear insecure or overly eager to impress.

Check Your Ego at the Door. While self doubt is generally undesirable, a bit of humility can be well received, especially in an essay about overcoming adversity. Few students have a perfect resume, which is apparent in the application. Drawing attention to weakness in an essay is generally not a good idea, unless you were able to overcome a weakness, and make it a strong suit. Errors can doom your otherwise excellent application. Make sure you schedule sufficient time for a thorough review.

When possible, have at least one other person proofread your essay. They may catch something important that you missed. Again, read your essay out loud. An impressive essay generally contains a strong opening, well organized content, and a powerful closing. Start with an outline and design your essay paragraph by paragraph. Make sure you include enough background information about whatever topic you are writing about so that the reader can put it into context.


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There are, however, many common mistakes that applicants make that can be easily avoided by planning ahead, taking your time, and being mindful of the information that you’re giving to the admissions committee. These mistakes or “red flags” could send your application to the “no” pile if you’re not careful.

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25 College Application Essay Mistakes that Guarantee Failure For every open slot at an Ivy League college, there are 10 to 12 eager applicants vying for it–and you're one of them. On paper, most applicants appear very similar.

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Applying to college is a stressful time for any student, so don't risk sabotaging your hard work by making avoidable mistakes during the process. U.S. News asked admissions professionals from around the country to weigh in on . For the application cycle, the Common Application essay prompts remain unchanged from the cycle. With the inclusion of the "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.

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The application process is time-consuming, even with the Common Application, so be sure to set aside plenty of time for completing the essay itself. The essay should be thoughtful and show your capabilities and potentials, not likely something you want to simply churn out in a few hours. This guide explains the common pitfalls students face and which college essay topics to avoid. Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes You Must Avoid. Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.