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The Most Common Mistakes Students Make in Their College Essays

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The admissions essay is a crucial part of your college application because it is the only chance you have to communicate with admissions officers in your own voice. You need to take advantage of every word at your disposal and send the message that you’re the kind of student that colleges should want on their campus.

Over our thirteen years of coaching students through the college essay process, we have identified the three most common mistakes that students make when writing their college essay. Don’t do these things!

Repeating the prompt in your essay

You only have so many words, sometimes as many as 1,000 in the case of Villanova, and sometimes as few as 150 in the case of Harvard. Don’t waste words regurgitating the prompt admissions officers have already read a thousand times. They know the prompts by heart, trust us. Additionally, it’s plain boring! Start your essay off with something that hooks the reader, not puts them to sleep.

Trying to sound like an academic

You’re a teenager with a soon-to-be High School diploma, Admissions Officers aren’t expecting you to sound like the most well-read PhD student on the planet! Word choice is important to convey meaning and capture the moment, but there’s no need for you to be using words you wouldn’t use in everyday life. It will come off as phony and manufactured – and you don’t want admissions to think you took a note out of Joey’s playbook.

Using cliches

We know you know cliches are on the outs, but it bears repeating, don’t use cliches! Your grandma might think you’re the diamond in the rough, one in a million, and a needle in a haystack (and you may very well be!) but find another way to describe yourself that doesn’t include lyrics from a Larry Graham song.

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