• October 15, 2015




Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Do college admissions committees really read the application essays you write? Of course, they do. We’ve interviewed admissions officials from four colleges and universities, and they’ve provided us with a list of the common mistakes they see in college applicationessays. Use their insight to avoid making these mistakes on your own essay.


Mistake #1: Mentioning a different university’s name. Yep, you read that right. Students who try to reuse essays for multiple schools are most likely to fall into this trap, and it’s a turn off for admissions officials. “While we understand students will apply to multiple colleges and universities, it is always discouraging to see a student mention another university’s name in their essay,” says Hannah Bingham, first-year admissions coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Mistake #2: Not proofreading. Mistakes (like the one in #1) can be easily avoided by proofreading your essay. “It’s always important to have someone proofread your essay. Whether it’s a parent, teacher, counselor or friend, a fresh set of eyes can give you a fresh perspective and catch any grammatical errors you may not have seen before,” Bingham says.

Mistake #3: Writing too broadly. Read the essay questions or prompts carefully and make sure your answers reflect what was actually asked in the question. Also, make sure your answer is specific and not generic. “Generally speaking, students write an essay that is too broad in scope and not specific enough to the institution,” says Christopher Gage, dean of admission at Hanover College (IN).

Mistake #4: Not focusing on you. “The most common mistake in college essays is that students don’t include enough personal information about the student … because they don’t think it is ‘important’ enough to share,” says Cyndi Sweet, director of admissions at Maryville College (TN). Be sure to include how the activities you’re involved in, awards you’ve won or specific interests or passions you have make you a good fit to attend the college.

Sarah Neal, senior assistant director of admission at Agnes Scott College (GA), agrees that students need to make sure to bring the essay back around to why the subject matter of the essay is important to the student. “Whether the essay prompt asks the student to describe a favorite work of literature, an important moment in their lives, a place where they feel content or anything else, all essay prompts are designed to get the students thinking about something that is important to them,” as well as why it’s important to them.


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