Skip Nav

Avoid these Common Application Mistakes

What Makes Bad College Essays Bad

❶A good way to catch mistakes is to read your essay very slowly and out loud.

Choosing the right essay prompt for you

The College Admissions & Student Aid Resource Hub
Do I really need a personal statement too?
Choose Your Test

I reflected on the current state of deforestation, and described the dichotomy of it being both understandable why farmers cut down forests for farmland, and how dangerous this is to our planet. As far as achievements go, this was definitely an amazing one. Yet in this essay, I was still being nagged by a voice that couldn't be ignored.

In the middle of a hike through Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, I realized that the college essay was nothing more than an embodiment of my character. The two essays I have written were not right because they have failed to become more than just words on recycled paper.

The subject failed to come alive. With this realization, I turned around as quickly as I could without crashing into a tree. Speaking of tornadoes, how awesome was the Wizard of Oz? I played with the thought in my mind, tapping my imaginary communicator pin and whispering "Computer.

Days later I emerged from my room disheveled, but to my dismay, this college essay made me sound like just a guy who can't get over the fact that he'll never take the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. So, I tossed my essay away without even getting to disintegrate it with a phaser set on stun. You know, just in case. The meat of the essay is that the two versions of himself that the author thought about portraying each fails in some way to describe the real him.

Look at how long and draggy these paragraphs are, especially after that zippy opening. Is it at all interesting to read about how someone else found the process of writing hard? Not really, because this is a very common experience. Twice in the essay, the author lets someone else tell him what to do. Don't be a passive panda. Be an active antelope. But there is no description of what the author did with either one, nor any explanation of why these were so meaningful to his life.

In the rewrite, it would be good to explore what he learned about himself and the world by pursuing these interests. How did they change him or seen him into the person he is today? In the next essay draft, I would suggest subtly making a point about his other qualities. Or, after the TREE paragraph, the author could explain why this second essay was no better at capturing him than the first.

Why is the self in the essay shouting — is it because this version paints him as an overly aggressive activist? Star Trek fans are a dime a dozen. But a Trekkie who is also a graffiti aficionado? Now that's a novel intersection of cultural tastes. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies.

We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in. I realized that the one thing that this world needed more than anything was compassion; compassion for those less fortunate than us.

I expected harsh conditions, but what I encountered was far worse. The conditions of it hit me by surprise; it looked much worse in real life than compared to the what our group leader had told us. Poverty to me and everyone else I knew was a foreign concept that people hear about on the news or see in documentaries. But this abject poverty was their life, their reality.

As all of this realization came at once, I felt overwhelmed by the weight of what was to come. Would I be able to live in the same conditions as these people? Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?

It was at that moment that I saw how selfish I had been. How many people suffered like this in the world, while I went about life concerned about nothing at all? Thinking back on the trip, maybe I made a difference, maybe not. But I gained something much more important. I gained the desire to make the world a better place for others. It was in a small, poverty-stricken village in Peru that I finally realized that there was more to life than just being alive.

This is an essay that tries to explain a shift in perspective. There are different ways to structure this overarching idea, but a chronological approach that starts with an earlier opinion, describes a mind changing event, and ends with the transformed point of view is an easy and clear way to lay this potentially complex subject out. Arranging your narrative in order of what happened when is a simple and surefire strategy.

Lite via Wikimedia Commons. It just makes this author sound dismissive of a huge swath of the population. Calling others "less fortunate" when you're a senior in high school has a dehumanizing quality to it. These people who have so little were able to forget their own needs, and put those much more fortunate in front of themselves. Again, this comes across as very patronizing.

It may help to imagine you have the compound eyes of an insect. How many different perspectives can you see and describe? Why were the kids were crying? One specific really loud kid? Why were their clothes dirty? Did they have Sunday clothes?

Traditional clothes they would put on for special occasions? This is the chance for students to tell them who they are as a person. Important things to highlight are strengths, interests, personal background, and what the student will bring to a college.

The essay should be used to give the admissions officers insight on the individual behind the information on the rest of the college application.

Students should only put down the ones they think are truly important for their application. Admissions officers are looking for quality over quantity. They are looking for passion and sincerity. Middle names distinguish students from other applicants with the same first and last names. Anything a college says is optional is actually not optional. Waiting Until the Last Minute. Students who wait too long to start on the Common App are asking to be rejected.

Their apps will be messy and easy for admissions officers to dismiss. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale.

Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Do I really need a personal statement too? Other Common Application mistakes Starting too late: Check out the deadlines and make sure you have plenty of time to complete your application, including the essay.

Read all your answers aloud to make sure everything is okay. Who needs to preview? The preview function is a great one because it lets you see how your online application really looks. Use this for your benefit. Also, it gives you one more chance to look it all over before submission. The 5 R's of College Applications. Register now for our scholarship giveaway High school student College student College graduate Parent of high school student Counselor I am a.

Endicott College Beverly, MA.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Eliminate Common College Application Errors (iStockphoto) Applying to college is a stressful time for any student, so don't risk sabotaging your hard work by making avoidable mistakes during the process.

Privacy FAQs

25 College Application Essay Mistakes that Guarantee Failure For every open slot at an Ivy League college, there are 10 to 12 eager applicants vying for it–and you're one of them. On paper, most applicants appear very similar.

About Our Ads

There are, however, many common mistakes that applicants make that can be easily avoided by planning ahead, taking your time, and being mindful of the information that you’re giving to the admissions committee. These mistakes or “red flags” could send your application to the “no” pile if you’re not careful. Check to make sure you haven't made any of the common mistakes on this list. Tone-Deafness. Admissions officers are looking for resourcefulness, the ability to be resilient, and an active and optimistic approach to life – these are all qualities that create a thriving college student. Essays that don't show these qualities are usually suffering from tone-deafness.

Cookie Info

For example, “country” and “county” should not be mixed up. Answer spaces should not be left blank unless there are spaces on the application that clearly do not apply to the student. Students must also make sure to stick with the word or character limits on essays and other responses. Not Proofreading Applications. Spelling and grammar mistakes must be avoided. Students should have at least two . Even the most beautiful essay may not sway college admissions officers if the writer did not follow the prompt. The Common Application essay also has length limitation, typically around words. That’s approximately three double-spaced pages, so every word counts, and every sentence must serve a .