As a rising senior in college, I have come full-circle from where I was 4 years ago: while in 2006, I was writing essays for undergraduate college applications, in 2010 I am writing essays for graduate school admissions (though at least this time I started in June, not in DECEMBER; more on that later). I don’t usually have much trouble with writing – I’ve been known to turn out solid A 10+ page college papers in under 10 hours. However, when it comes to writing college application essays and personal statements, I freeze. Since I know I’m not alone in finding these very broad, open-ended and revealing essays excruciating to write, I thought I would share my tips on “What not to do”. There are a lot of things you CAN do, but there are some things you most definitely should not be doing:
1. Do NOT leave off starting your college application essays until November or December. If you’re still in 11th, a very good time to start would be the summer vacation before/during 12th grade. If you are in 12th and have to deal with the board monsters, your best bet would be to start NOW. Keep writing multiple rough drafts of the various essays; perhaps one at a time.
2. Do NOT be sloppy with how you handle your application essays. Proofread them. Get other people to proofread them too. Don’t say Amherst in an essay you’re submitting to Williams!
3. Don't NOT work on the short essays. In fact, the shorter an essay, the more work it needs to say something substantive. I somehow altogether missed a 50 word essay for a certain school I’ve since fallen in love with and keep wondering “what if.”
4. Do NOT take the “Why X School” essays lightly: these can really show your serious interest in the school. Expect more on these in a later post.
5. Do NOT rehash your resume or achievements.
6. Do NOT resort to clichés like: “I learn from my mistakes”, “I will make a difference”, “make the world a better place” – unless you can turn the clichés on their heads.
7. Do NOT tell. SHOW. You’re unique as an applicant; that should show in how your essay. Do NOT merely string together statements and facts.
8. Do NOT be a negative nancy or run yourself down in the essay (no complaining, whining, excuses etc)