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?

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

Do talk through ideas and drafts with a someone you trust. Don't talk about your ideas and drafts with too many people.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

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

Do address the essay prompt. Do brainstorm ideas before writing. Do write your own essay. Do let your unique voice and personality come through in your writing. Do have a teacher, counselor, parent or friend with strong writing skills proofread your essay. Do write as many drafts of your essay as it takes to make it shine brightly. Don't wait until the last minute to start writing. Don't be overly influenced by others' ideas or essays other people have written. Don't let anyone else write any part of your essay. Don't exceed the word limit. Don't settle for "good enough".

Chris Powers
College Counselor and Philosophy Teacher Powers College Counseling

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

TO BEGIN WITH... I) Remember that this is the part of the application you have total control over. (That's good.) 2) Don't write your essay at the last minute. This is an important part of the application. Leave yourself enough time to be able to think about it for a while, talk about it with others if you Wal1t, write it, leave it for a few days and come back to it. 3) Take seriously any specific instructions the admissions office includes. If they ask for a one-page essay, don't send three pages. And don't fit it onto one page by shrinking it into tiny type on your word processor. People have to be able to read it. You do not want to annoy the admissions office. 4) If you have any questions relating to any application do not be afraid to call the admissions office. They're used to getting calls like yours. FOCUSING YOUR THOUGHTS and CHOOSING A TOPIC 1) Read all of the essay questions asked by all of the colleges you are applying to. If you can write one essay which is appropriate for a few colleges, all the better. Two schools may have open-ended topics, one may be more focused, and if you gear your essay toward the more focused topic you may be able to/want to use it for all three schools. Then... 2) Sit around and THINK for a while. What is this college's question asking? Make sure your essay answers it, but tell your own story. If the question gives you some latitude, mull over various ideas until you hit upon one that "feels" right, or about which you're more excited about than others. 4) Write about something that is important to YOU (not to your brother, mother, counselor, or any of the other people who are giving you advice.) It will be easier to write and will have a more natural voice. 5) Don't try and second-guess the admissions office. Not "what do they Want to hear?" or "what would they like?" but "what do I want to tell them?", "what do I want 'them to know about me before they make their decision?" "what shall I talk about that will give them a feeling for what make me tick?" Remember, you're in the driver's seat for this one. WRITING I) Don't try and cover too much. All-encompassing essays will either be too long or, if shorter, superficial. Think about the things you've read and enjoyed; writing is usually interesting because of its detail, not its generalities. 2) Be personal. It's your application, your experiences, your thoughts, interests and personality. The admissions committee is trying to get to know you through your own words. Even if the topic is an intellectual one, the school is looking for a personal response. 3) Convey your feelings. If you're excited about something, convey that. If you feel strongly about something (positive or negative), express that. Dry essays devoid of feeling don't tend to be very interesting. 4) Don't try to be something you aren't. If the humor feels self-conscious, forget it. Don't force a "creative" essay. Write in a voice which feels natural to you. 5) Be reflective. Write in some depth. Use some detail or specifics,not just general (and superficial, and easy) statements. Flesh out your thoughts. Ask yourself WHY and HOW a lot as you write, not so much WHAT, WHEN or WHERE 6) What you say as well as how you say it are both important. A great idea poorly expressed will not seem so great. AND FINALLY... Once you've sent your application in, stop worrying about it. If you did your best, that's all you can ask of yourself!

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

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

Do tell a great story that communicates some unique qualities you offer a college. Do tell a specific story that grabs the reader's attention. Don't let anyone else write the essay for you. Don't focus on a negative event or a struggle without spending more time on what you learned or gain from it? Don't write about a person without spending 2/3 of the essay focusing on how that person shaped you--specifically. Each essay should focus on different qualities and events, and should help you become 3-D for the admissions officers.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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

Here are a few tips that should help: DO 1. Make sure that your essay actually addresses the topic you have chosen or been asked to write about. Avoid digressing. 2. Include information about yourself, what you have experienced, or the way you see things that will distinguish you from others. (I know this may seem difficult. It may help to brainstorm some possible ideas with others whose opinions you trust.) 3. Remember that your essay will be read by an actual person - in many cases, several. Consider how you can appeal to the reader(s) emotions in your essay. This does not mean writing a sad plea of "Oh, please accept me!", but to grab the reader's attention through any number of a variety of emotions - humor, irony, excitement, fear, heartbreak, triumph, defeat, adventure. You name it - whatever fits your theme. 4. Write analytically, rather than just descriptively. Instead of just stating that an event happened, tell how that event affected you or made you feel. 5. Proofread carefully for obvious mistakes in spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraphing, and so on - all of the things your English teacher has been nagging you about! Ask someone else to assist you with your editing; we often don't see our own errors. 6. Proofread to make sure that a reference to how much you love a specific school only appears on the essay(s) which will go to THAT school! (See number 6 below.) DON'T 1. Don't merely regurgitate information that already appears elsewhere on the application. Your essay should reveal in more depth other aspects of your personality, interests, abilities, and experiences. It's okay to reference something that appears in another part of the application, but only to establish a context for what you want to describe/reveal about that experience. 2. Don't let someone else write your essay. It should speak in your own "voice". 3. Don't overdo the humor. I mentioned using humor as a possible "do" in the section above, but use humor selectively. Unless you're very clever with it, the script for a stand-up comedy routine probably won't make the cut and may not even seem very funny. 4. Don't ramble! Don't stick in irrelevant information just to pad the essay. When you're doing your final editing, remove irrelevant information that may have crept in. 5. Don't repeat things you've already said (unless you're doing it very deliberately for a certain effect). 6. Don't accidentally mention that another institution is your absolute favorite, top choice! This happens more often than you would think. (See number 6 above.)

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

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

Make sure the essay is about you. Don't write about illegal activities or situations which put you in a bad light.

zijun xu

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

The first paragraph of your essay should grab the attention of an AO so that they automatically want to read more about what is going on. Your should Write with you own personality and characters. This is your essay not others, be a real person. Look things from a different angle will make you stand out from rest of tons of essays. Be logical and clear. Do not write your essay especially your PS in the last minute so that you have plenty of time to revise and to think. Some humor is fine but don't go too far with it. Don't write too much on your achievement, in stead, you should focusing on how to let AO see your accomplishment from your words.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

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

DO make sure that your own personality shines through. Colleges look at the personality of each student as well as their qualifications. This is your chance to show them who you are, not just what you've done! DO proofread! Over and over again. DO have someone proofread your essays! Don't be afraid to ask for help on wording and style either, just make sure that your voice is always the one being heard, not your proofreader's. DO use the first person. Colleges want to hear about YOU. This is very different from an academic essay. DON'T use a form essay! Colleges can tell when you weren't thinking about them specifically as you wrote your essay and were just casting a really wide net. Especially if you put the wrong colleges name on the essay! DON'T put the wrong school's name in your essay! DON'T use too many exclamation points- you want to seem passionate about something, but exclamation points are informal, and too many can seem overly frivolous. DO write about something you truly care about. The more you enjoy your subject matter the easier it will be to write the essay. DO use rough drafts. Write one, leave if for a day. Come back the next day with a fresh eye and go over it. You will be able to streamline your line of thought that way so you can fit into word counts.

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.

Heather Tomasello
Writing Coach The EssayLady, LLC

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

DON'T try to sound "academic" or give the "what they want to hear." DO write what only you can write. DON'T be being. ("I am... I was... I have been...") DO use active, interesting details. DON'T just talk about why the school is a good fit for you. DO talk about what you plan to contribute to the school, and why you are the perfect candidate for it! DON'T tell. DO show. DON'T send it off without having someone else read it first! I read and review essays for a living and my students tell me the insight is invaluable.