The college application essay is an opportunity for colleges to get to know more about who you are, so how do you write an application essay that communicates who you are as a person? This can be an overwhelming question to ask, and one way to begin to answer it is to consider what you should NOT write about in your application essay. Here are five things you should not do in your application essay:
1. Do not list your accomplishments.
That is what the rest of your application is for. If an admissions officer wants to know about all your great achievements, they have plenty of other places to look. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about what you do well. Are you an accomplished musician and want to write about it? When you do, reflect on why being a musician is important to you, how you overcame an obstacle to accomplishing what you have, or what gives you the strength to work so hard.The essay is an opportunity for the reader to look beyond what you have done and see how you think and who you are as a human. Don’t squander it.
2. Do not try to tell the reader everything about you.
Without a doubt, you have a lot you could share with the admissions officers about who you are. Maybe you are an excellent listener, an accomplished artist, a competitive athlete, and a devoted family member. As tempting as it is to share all these qualities so the reader might know you as fully as possible, choose one thing to focus on. If you take one aspect of your life or personality to describe and reflect on, you will give a much fuller impression of yourself as a human than trying to cover everything about you in a single essay.
3. Do not be afraid to express your flaws or vulnerabilities.
A story in which someone comes face-to-face with a challenge or is forced to look at their imperfections is a compelling one. People can relate to that, and those stories illustrate that you understand yourself well enough to know you are not perfect. Dealing with vulnerabilities or flaws is also an opportunity to demonstrate how you can overcome obstacles and persevere through challenges.
4. Do not undervalue your experiences, interests, family connections, and difficulties.
Good storytellers notice the small details, so if you have a topic about your everyday life you want to write about, don’t hesitate. Maybe you have a family member you learn from, or a weekend routine that is valuable to you, or something you reflect on everyday as you commute to school. Don’t stop yourself from writing about an everyday aspect of your life you care about because it doesn’t seem big or flashy enough. There are times when a big experience can teach us about ourselves, but it is also the everyday things we value in our lives and our families, and the way we conduct ourselves that illustrate who we are as people. After all, sharing what you are like as a human is what this essay is about.
5. Do not lie.
Do you wish you had a major accomplishment or dramatic story to write about but just don’t? That’s okay. Don’t make one up. Don’t turn your life or an accomplishment into something that is not honest. Big moments and little moments are welcome in college admissions essays, and it is the details you share and the reflection and thoughtfulness you put into your writing that matter the most.
No matter what you write about, make it truthful to you. Your college application essay should be thoughtful and offer insight into who you are as a person.So show up to this essay as yourself, and offer a story that is about who you are and what matters to you. Then do your best and don’t worry about the rest.