Take your time on college admissions essays

Of all the college application paperwork you'll have to fill out, your college admissions essay is probably one of the most important. A good essay can really set you apart from other applicants, so you should spend more time on it than other parts of your application. However, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post, students filling out college applications should be aware of common mistakes made in admissions essays.

Avoid using unusual or frequent metaphors. Although it can be tempting, write clearly and concisely about what makes you a good candidate.

Another type of essay to avoid writing is what Liz O'Neill calls the "reformed convict" essay. If your grades and academic history aren't great, don't use your essay as a way to confess your worst character traits. At the same time, be humble and honest about extracurricular activities and volunteer work – too much emphasis on how generous or selfless you may be can make you come across in a negative way.

If you're writing an admission essay for a safety school, avoid mentioning that, after careful consideration, you've realized that everything you were looking for was right in your backyard. O'Neill calls this the "Wizard of Oz" essay, and it can sound false. Be honest and clear about what you want from a school, even if it's not your first choice.

Although personal growth is something you should highlight, doing so through cliched tales of your dog's tragic death is probably not the best way to do it. Again, be honest and sincere, but remember that you're writing a college application essay, not a memoir or short story. Stick to the facts, and keep it relevant.

In a recent blog post published by The New York Times, Seth Allen, dean of admissions at Pomona College in California, said that you should also remember that your essay is not the only paperwork you'll be submitting.

"There’s no need to write an essay conveying how serious an academic you are," Allen wrote. "Your transcript and recommendations will do that. Similarly, your extracurricular activities will speak volumes about how engaged you are."

Allen added that even if an essay prompt asks you to describe a person you admire, the focus should remain on you. Talk about how that person has influenced you, and what you've learned from them or their life. 


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