1) Don’t give them the “five-paragraph special”
Just in case you didn’t think I was serious. . . Nope. Don’t do it. Get that five-paragraph mold out of your mind. Is it gone? Like really, really gone? Good.
2) Don’t rehash all the information from your application form
That’s what the application form is for. You don’t have to squeeze in every last detail of your activities and coursework in the essay. In fact, if you do, admissions counselors will think you’re just made of what you do instead of who you are. This is important. Schools want human beings, not accomplishment machines, joining their communities.
3) Don’t list all the reasons you’re awesome
Show, don’t tell. You’ve heard it your whole life. And it applies to this essay process more than anything else. Instead of listing all your qualities (and I know you have a lot), choose one or two to illustrate with narrative. Stories, not abstractions, will stick in your reader’s brain grooves.
4) Don’t be a kiss up
Yes, you want to make connections between your life and your prospective school. But don’t just flatter them. Beautiful campus,
cutting-edge facilities, award-winning professors? Skip it. If your essay sounds like a brochure for the school, you’ve got an audience problem. They’re already convinced. Keith Gehres, Director of Outreach and Recruitment at The Ohio State University, agrees:
“You can tell by the tone and language when students are writing trying to guess what we want to hear.”
But in those misdirected attempts, the genuine voice is lost. “I’ve read some essays,” Gehres continues,
“that I personally disagree with but have the authentic student’s voice come through. We want those voices here. We need those voices here. We are a diverse student body.”
5) Don’t beg for mercy
You might have a moving, even sad, story to tell. That’s okay, as long as the end goal of telling that story is showing the admissions department character, personality, and maturity. Telling a sob story, or, worse, coming out and pleading for admission, is off-putting to any college.