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College essay mistakes you can easily avoid


Friday, June 22, 2012
One of the common mistakes high school students make when writing the college application essay is trying to be someone else. In conversations with numerous college admissions officers, Patrick O’Connor, former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and a Huffington Post blogger, found there are three main essay errors students tend to make. Here he offers his suggestion to help you identify and avoid them.

Always proofread your essay

The first one is grammar. The biggest mistake you can make is to send out an essay that has not been reviewed by somebody who has a good understanding of grammar. The essay is supposed to be personal and it’s not supposed to be an academic piece, but at the same time, it needs to show a good grasp of the basic rules of writing. It is important to make sure that you avoid the mistake of just sending it in without someone proofreading it.

Avoid overly personal topics

There are some colleges that say be careful with topics like drug abuse, divorce or death. When they say that, what they mean is that the students need to make sure they are far enough away from that experience that they can be objective. Those subjects can be very sensitive and while they (admissions staff) want to hear about what those experiences may have done for the student or how the student reflects on them, that can be a tricky thing to do sometimes. I would say make sure your subject matter is not too sensitive or too personal of an issue.

Read the instructions

Make sure you’re tailoring the question to what the college is asking. If students are applying to College A and College B, they very often think they can use their College A essay and send that in to College B. You really want to make sure that the College A essay is really answering the question College B is asking. If it is, you really want to make sure that if you’re sending it to College B, you don’t mention College A in the essay itself. That happens more times than you think. You hear stories about the admissions office at Duke getting essays that say, 'I really think I can make a great contribution to [the University of] North Carolina.' It’s like, well, good luck with that. If students are reusing an essay, they want to make sure it’s tailored to the question and that it’s personalized to the college.ADNFCR-16000756-ID-800802981-ADNFCR

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