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Ah, the college admissions essay.

While some might not give it much weight, according to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, it’s actually the third most important factor in the admissions process (right behind a student’s transcript and SAT/ACT scores)

But writing an essay that stands out from the crowd can be a challenge. Admissions counselors can see over a hundred essays in a single day, and with so much to do and so little time, the reality is this: great essays are read, good essays are mostly-read, weak essays are skimmed, and bad essays are not read at all.

Unfortunately, many students unknowingly write essays that work against them.
So, how can your child avoid the most common essay mistakes while trying to stand out from the crowd? Here are the 5 biggest mistakes your son or daughter should avoid when crafting their admissions essay.


Mistake #1: Rehashing their Resumé

Your child’s transcript will show admissions counselors their grades and classes they’ve taken, while the application itself will list any extracurricular activities they’re involved in.

The essay is a great opportunity for students to present a side of them that admissions counselors wouldn’t have otherwise known. By regurgitating their resumé in their essay, they’ll bore the admissions counselor and miss out on the chance to tell them something new and unique about themselves!

Mistake #2: “The Most Important Thing in my Life…”

Whether it’s their volleyball team or Grandma, it’s terrific for your student to have someone or something in their life that they cherish and hold dear. When it comes to their admissions essay, though, they’ll want to keep the spotlight on themselves. Tell them not to be shy; the admissions essay is all about THEM.

Mistake #3: Writing about Politics or Religion

This should be obvious, but sometimes even the obvious needs to be stated.

As important as your son or daughter’s religious or political beliefs are, writing about these in their essay is not worth the risk of turning off the reader. Admissions counselors are human beings, just like you and me. They have their own tastes, beliefs, and biases, and more likely than not, these preferences aren’t going to completely match yours or mine.

This might be a good way to think about it: if it’s something they wouldn’t bring it up at Thanksgiving dinner, it doesn’t belong in their essay.

Mistake #4: The Sports Essay

Shooting the game-winning goal, winning the state championship, and tearing their ACL are all essay topics that students should avoid like ebola.

The sports essay has been done over and over again and it’s one of the biggest admissions essay clichés. By writing about these topics, your student is essentially telling the admissions counselor that they’re just another average joe, someone unworthy of their time, energy, and attention.

Mistake #5: The “Look how GREAT I am” Essay

“Just tell them how great you are and they’ll HAVE to let you in!”

Bad move.

Imagine you meet someone for the first time, and they immediately start blabbing about the Villa they just bought in Aspen, their son who just started Medical school at Harvard, and the incredible year their stock portfolio has had—not exactly a recipe for likability.

The same concept applies here. The more you brag about yourself and your accomplishments, the more likely you are to turn off the admissions counselor. By showing vulnerability and humility, instead of arrogance and hubris, you will have a better chance of connecting with the reader and making a positive impression.
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Writing a compelling admissions essay can be tricky. Hopefully, though, these tips will help your child avoid the biggest admissions essay no-no’s and better position them in the college admissions process.

Does your son or daughter need help crafting the perfect admissions essay?

We know your child has a story waiting to be told and we would love to help them tell it best. By capturing your child’s defining moments and qualities, we help them write an essay that captures the essence of who they are. The final result is an engaging essay bound to leave a lasting impression on the admissions counselor.

Reach out to us today to see how we can help.

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