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?

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Essay Dos and Don'ts

Do tell a story that belongs only to you. Don't write chronologically. Do make it memorable for the reader. Don't use language that is not yours. Do make it fun to read. Don't use slang. Do use active verbs. Don't repeat what is already listed in the app. Do use short sentences. Don't state a point of view without back up details.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

The essay...

Do.... Keep your essay under 2 pages Write about one specific topic, experience, story Have an English Teacher proof read it Hook the reader with your opening Include your name or other specifics such as date of birth or social security at the top of the page Do not... Write about commonly used topics (ex. winning the sports game, how great your mom is) Write about controversial topics (abortion, drug use)

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.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

it is used as the personal statement for college

you should determine the core message for the college essay first and support it with evidences. the common mistakes are self centered essay and lack of personality.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Do be yourself.

DO: Write the essay yourself, ask for proof reading, write in a formal style, make sure that the essay tells admissions officers something about yourself, brain storm, begin your essays the summer before your junior and senior year DON'T: Try to be funny when you are not a paid comedian, allow someone else to write you essay for you, use profanity, write about the college campus without putting yourself in the context of you on campus, wait until the last month to begin your essay, be afraid to toss out an essay that is not working and begin anew, think that no one will read your essay

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

Advice from college admissions officers

Here are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay from college admissions officers: -- "Don't write an essay that any one of a thousand other seniors could write." -- "Write on a topic that is important to you and one with which you have firsthand experience." -- Think of the choice or subject and the first writing as simply sharing some part of yourself with a friend." -- "Be yourself." -- "We aren't looking for perfection; we are looking for people who are truly interesting - to themselves and to others." -- "Don't have others edit it and correct it until you cannot hear your own voice anymore." -- "Avoid writing an essay that will embarrass the reader."

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

The Essay: Be Responsive, but Make It Yours

The college essay is one piece of the process that you can control so you want to get it right. The most obvious “do” is to respond to the prompt. Use it to your advantage. Write something that helps them to know you better, but be responsive. Too, be sure that you are giving them a piece of yourself. Make it your story. The worst thing you can do is write an essay--on whatever topic-- that is generic, an essay where if your name was replaced by another, the reader could not tell the difference. The essay is an opportunity to share a piece of yourself, to give them a better reason why the school should choose you over the many others who are no less qualified and also seek the spot. Help them understand why you should be a part of their community.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

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

Be honest: Do not try to market or package yourself in a particular way in order to impress colleges. While this is not a time to be humble, you also need to be very careful not to come across as egotistical. If you are a genuinely interesting, kind, and complex person, you should be able to write a sincere essay that expresses all of your complexities, and you should trust that the colleges will be impressed. On the other hand, if you try to imply things about yourself that simply aren't accurate or true, colleges are likely to see through it and regard your application with a cynical eye.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

DO be personal, DON'T discuss dead relatives

When approaching the personal statement, the cardinal rule students should keep in mind is: if any other person on the planet could have written the same essay, trash it and start over again. The essay at its very core should be PERSONAL. It should reveal positive qualities about the applicant (maturity, responsibility, compassion, commitment, etc) through the lens of an engaging narrative. That being said, many admissions officers have been cited saying that topics to steer clear of are dead grandmas, dead dogs, and “how I won the big game”. Again, not only are these hackneyed, but they are experiences that could happen to anyone. Another way to avoid inappropriate topics is to imagine your readership as your grandparents; don't write anything you wouldn't want them to read.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Here are some general pieces of advice that I give to students who are writing their essay……

1. Make sure you complete a spelling and grammar check on the essay. Since many students have access to these tools via their computer software, it is really hard to accept the lack of this attention to the essay. It really sets the tone of things to come in the rest of the application. 2. Make your story interesting. If it is a creative piece, then don’t take the obvious angle but one that grabs the reader by surprise. Once I had a student who wrote her essay about herself from the perspective of her dog. Except, she didn’t let you know as the reader that it was her dog until the very end! Very creative, funny and accomplished her essay assignment very well. 3. Be descriptive enough but succinct. You don’t need to write an essay that goes on for days. With the volume of essays that most of the readers are looking at in one sitting, taking three pages to make one point is not highly recommended. 4. I always suggest mapping out the parts of the essay: intro paragraph, many body/arguments, concluding paragraph. Jot down your general ideas under these categories and then expand. Look at it again. Maybe you will rearrange the middle section to hang together better and then edit further. Never feel that you will need to complete the essay beginning to end in one sitting and without some planning. The best ones always take a little time to develop. 5. Give yourself enough time to make a wonderful essay and to think about it. A rush job looks just like what it is…..rushed! 6. Look at your previous work from high school to see if there is a written piece of work you have completed that might fit the bill on your college essay. Maybe it was A work but could use some more editing to really make it shine. As long as the work is yours, genuine and a true example of your writing talents, it doesn’t matter when it was started or what it was originally intended for as an assignment. This is really to give the college a sense of your writing abilities and to learn a little more about you via the subject they have chosen as the topic that year. 7. If you are having trouble understanding what the essay is asking, feel free to contact the admissions office to discuss it with them. It never hurts to ask to clarify anything that is of question to you. Better to ask then to assume and get it wrong. We all know what happens when we “assume” ….. 8. First re-read your own work. Then have someone read over your essay when it is completed or when you ready to receive some constructive criticism about it. Your parents, a sibling or friend who is very good at writing or even a willing high school teacher that you trust are all good sources of others who can help you. Even if they don’t know the intent of the essay they are probably good readers and can tell you that a point is not clear enough and they are unable to follow your argument. If it is unclear to them, then editing again is probably in order. Better they tell you than the admissions office right? There are many others but this list covers the big items. Have fun with writing your essay. It is not meant to be a chore so don’t treat it like one!