October 15, 2021

Admissions Essays: What NOT To Do (Part 1)

We’ve been giving you a lot of advice on what to do and how to approach your admissions essays. Equally as important, is advice on what not to do. Founder and president of Admitify, Paul Bodine, weighs in on the top 10 tips to not do on your admissions essay:

  1. Fail to answer the question. The answer to their particular question is what the schools want, not the answer to another school’s question. Remember that schools purposely customize the wording of their essay questions to differentiate themselves (and test your ability to follow orders). They don’t want cut-and-paste responses. Often their particular spin or twist is subtle and can be addressed by modifying some key words or sentences in your introduction or conclusion. Thus you rarely need to start from scratch. Just be sure you’re being sensitive to the particular nuance contained in the question.
  2. Write essays that lack a point or underlying thesis. This mistake is often a result of omitting the data-mining or outlining stages of the prewriting process. Applicants appear to address the individual parts of the essay question, but when you look beneath the surface detail, you can’t be sure where the essay is going, why the applicant is relating this experience, or what she thinks about it.
  3. Sound negative, whining, complaining. Successful leaders are positive, forward-looking types who even describe their failures in terms of the constructive lessons they teach. They inspire respect, not pity. The ideal tone is conversational and confident; energized, fair-minded, and optimistic; and self-aware but world-directed.
  4. Use clichés or hackneyed ideas. These reflect superficial or tired thinking whether they’re committed on the micro or sentence level (“I broadened my horizons and learned that hard work and persistence are invaluable”) or on the macro or essay level.
  5. Write a resume in prose. This blunder usually stems from the misguided notion that it’s better to cram as much strong material as you can into an essay than to focus on one (or two) experiences in extensive detail. Believing that admissions officers evaluate human experience on some gross-volume basis, the applicant breezes through a long chronicle of mini-achievements, none detailed with enough specificity to distinguish him from any other applicant.

Stay tuned for tips 6-10 on what not to do on your admissions essays. For more guidance on admissions to your target school, contact us today to connect with an expert Admitify coach!