The College Admissions Essay: Dos and don’ts


The Common Application is now online and it’s ready for you to register. Visit  As of June 17th, 49 more colleges were added and this website now houses 392 colleges.  Remember that some of the colleges on your list may not be on the Common Application. When this is the case, visit those college websites to complete their individual applications.

There are two required essays on the Common Application: one short and one long. Both of these essays provide you with limited space to express yourself. In addition to this, most colleges have supplements and many include more essays.  

Here are tips for writing an excellent college admissions essay:

1) Make yourself shine within your own story: It’s important that you don’t repeat what has already been stated on your activity resume, but you should highlight your accomplishments in your essay- weave them into your story. Reveal your personality and perhaps your future goals in your writing.

2) Be humble but don’t be modest: Don’t underestimate yourself in any way and be proud and secure in who you are.  Sincerely describe your most impressive accomplishments but don’t overdo it.

3) Be confident in your statements: It’s important to write as though you deserve gaining acceptance. Present yourself as unique with specific skills and passion.

4) Use personal stories: You really own your essay in this way and no one else can tell your story; this is what makes you unique.

5) Write descriptively: Engage the reader and be specific about your experience.  If writing a memorable story about a ride in the car and what you saw, have that reader sitting there with you. A good story is priceless and you will catch attention in this way. Use powerful imagery and  personal anecdotes whenever you can. Leave readers with a lasting impression and it will serve you well come decision time!

DOS & DON’TS in college essay writing:


Use personal detail: show, don’t tell.
Be concise.
Vary sentence structure and use transitions.
Use active voice verbs.
Answer the question and follow directions.
Seek a few opinions.
Stay focused as you have a limited word count.
Revise, revise, revise and proofread.


Write chronologically—it can be boring.
Thesaurus-ize: don’t write what you think admission officers want to hear or use language that is not your own.
State a point of view without backing it up with details and examples.
Repeat what is listed on your activity resume.
Use slang.

Your character is the hardest thing for admission officers to measure. The essay is your chance to reveal who you are- your passions, values, authenticity and sincerity. Be yourself!

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