What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Pam Proctor
Author The College Hook

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Here is my video response to the question.

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Here is my video response to the question.

Jane McClure
Partner McClure, Mailory & Baron Educational Counseling

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Here is my video response to the question.

Janet Rapelye

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

Here is my video response to the question.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Do engage the reader in a compelling story!

Don’t bore the reader; that is key to your success. The topic of your essay does not really matter, as long as you avoid the over-used topics- i.e. scoring the winning goal, my summer of community service. Other topics that might be considered “inappropriate” touch on Sex, Religion and Politics. You do not want to inadvertently offend your reader, so you need to also curb your use of “taboo” language. Your essay should be one that only you could write- it needs to reflect who you are. Don’t try to use big SAT words just to impress. Better to impress admission with your personal qualities. Clarity of thought is always preferred.

CRAIG HELLER
President www.CollegeEssaySolutions.com

No Salespeople, Please!

There are many do's and don'ts regarding the college application essay. A particularly critical "do" is to make sure that your essay stays on point. Applicants will sometimes digress, then fall in love with their digression and not be willing to cut it. Five hundred or less words isn't much, so be sure that the essay remains focused on fully answering all aspects of the prompt, as they are asked. One "don't" that I think is particularly important is to resist the urge to sell yourself. Essays that state, "No one could possibly be better qualified for your program than me," or some variation of that, risk a backlash from Admissions Directors. "Oh, really? Well, I'll be the judge of that." Instead, illustrate why you are so well qualified and let readers come to that conclusion themselves.

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

Prepare, Provoke and Personalize

Writing the college essay is necessary to gain entrance through the ivy gates. At the moment we are working with high school seniors feverishly writing compositions that highlight their unique attributes and strengths. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer some clear strategies for crafting personal essays that garnish positive attention from admission committees. 1. Prepare. Transition from thinking about your college essays to writing clearly and effectively with brainstorming. Collecting ideas will assist you in focusing a well-written personal essay. 2. Provoke. Personal essays should provide answers about you to the admission committee. These insights should display your strengths, passions and uniqueness. 3. Personalize. Remember, an effective personal essay is about you. Writing eloquently about a historical figure detailing myriad obstacles and accomplishments is for naught. The admission committee wants to know about the applicant not an icon or event. As more and more students apply to college, a strong personal essay will gain the attention of an admission officer. Crafting an essay based on your personal strengths and passions is a strategy that will assist you in the college admission process.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

NACAC appears to promote custom essay writing aka students hire someone else to write their essays

The National Association for College Admission Counseling posted an article on their website promoting the use of an online essay writing service. The article, written by Alan Fogg, asserts that any kind of essay, ranging from term papers to college admission essays, could be customized for students. He espouses the positive aspects of using such a service, such as having time to spend with friends, writing a paper that will be appreciated by teachers, or just removing the stress writing an essay. It seems shocking that the NACAC would allow what, in essence, is simply an advertisement for a morally corrupt service that encourages students to pay someone to write their college admissions and academic essays for them. It contradicts the NACAC’s "Principles of Good Practice" and certainly sends the wrong message to students. Hiring someone to write a student's essay for him.her immoral and unfair to others. Hiring another person to write the college application essay does a great disservice to both the student and the college admission officials. The college admission essay serves as a crucial part of the application process – it allows the schools to understand students on a more personal level; personal details can be conveyed by the applicant better than anyone else. Further, personal characteristics are not reflected in a student’s transcripts, test scores or resumes. Having someone else write these essays, no matter how “customized,” reflects nothing about the student - except their willingness to take the easy way out. Those that support this kind of site may argue that they are providing a service to students, but the truth is they are doing them an incredible disservice. Yes, writing an essay can be difficult and stressful, but students will benefit by learning to work through challenges and to take pride in their work.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Some Specific Writing Tips

1. DO write "small" -- that means be specific and detailed; 2. DO be concise – avoid flowery, overwrought language; 3. DON'T tell me that you are smart or compassionate or brave -- instead, show me with detailed examples; 4. DON'T use vague language 5. DON'T use the passive voice 6. DO use words wisely – don’t show off by using big fancy words that might be on your SAT vocab list but don’t fit your essay. (ex: plethora, myriad, epigram)

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Do's and Don't for the College Essay

DOs Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal Your essay must prove a single point or thesis. The reader must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end. Try having someone read just your introduction to see what he or she thinks your essay is about. Essays that try to be too comprehensive end up sounding watered-down. Remember, it's not about telling the committee what you've done -- they can pick that up from your list of activities -- instead, it's about showing them who you are. Prove It Develop your main idea with vivid and specific facts, events, quotations, examples, and reasons. There's a big difference between simply stating a point of view and letting an idea unfold in the details: ? Okay: "I like to be surrounded by people with a variety of backgrounds and interests" ? Better: "During that night, I sang the theme song from Casablanca with a baseball coach who thinks he's Bogie, discussed Marxism with a little old lady, and heard more than I ever wanted to know about some woman's gall bladder operation." Be Specific Avoid clichéd, generic, and predictable writing by using vivid and specific details. ? Okay: "I want to help people. I have gotten so much out of life through the love and guidance of my family, I feel that many individuals have not been as fortunate; therefore, I would like to expand the lives of others." ? Better: "My Mom and Dad stood on plenty of sidelines 'til their shoes filled with water or their fingers turned white or somebody's golden retriever signed his name on their coats in mud. I think that kind of commitment is what I'd like to bring to working with fourth-graders." DON'Ts Don't Tell Them What You Think They Want to Hear Most admission officers read plenty of essays about the charms of their university, the evils of terrorism, and the personal commitment involved in being a doctor. Bring something new to the table, not just what you think they want to hear. Don't Write a Resumé Don't include information that is found elsewhere in the application. Your essay will end up sounding like an autobiography, travelogue, or laundry list. Yawn. ? "During my junior year, I played first singles on the tennis team, served on the student council, maintained a B+ average, traveled to France, and worked at a cheese factory." Don't Use 50 Words When Five Will Do Helpful Hint: Do not send an essay expressing that your deepest desire is to go to Princeton and then send it to Yale. You would be surprised how often this really does happen.