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College 101

Eleven Essay Mistakes to Avoid Like the Plague
Article Type: Checklist

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Okay. Now onto the common mistakes.

  1. Don't be offensive. Hey, we get that it's hip to be edgy. We're with it. But watch that you don't overstep the bounds of good taste in your essay when ruminating on faith, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or politics.
  2. Avoid controversial political topics. You're in the Tea Party. The admissions officer is a communist. Step back, everyone, this could get ugly.
  3. Don't be negative. It's not okay to talk about your dead dog in your college essay, unless Fido's death spurred you into caring about the plight of homeless animals so much that you felt compelled to start your city's first animal shelter.
  4. Beware the overshare. There are some things that the admissions office does not need, or want, to know.
  5. Don't disparage the school you're applying to. You're trying to get in, right? Just...just don't do it, okay?
  6. Don't be “too creative.”The admissions office at Vanderbilt is looking for a solid, real, interesting piece of prose, not a Shakespearean sonnet.
  7. Don't be arrogant. Highlight your strengths in your essay, but not at the expense of others.
  8. Answer the essay prompt. We've discussed this before, but it's another one of those things we can't say often enough, rather like “Brush your teeth twice a day” and “Milk belongs in the fridge, not on the counter.”
  9. Don't write too little. There's a word limit attached to your essay, which means that the admissions office thinks you'll have at least that much to say about their prompt.
  10. Remember what your English teacher taught you. Check for spelling and grammar errors, write in paragraph form, and don't use profanity. 
  11. Don't spell the name of the college incorrectly. It's“Johns Hopkins”, not “John Hopkins.” Yeesh.

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