3 Mistakes To Avoid In College Essays

3 Mistakes to Avoid in College Essays

College admissions essays account for nearly 25% of your overall application. A strong essay can make a substantial difference in your odds—especially if other parts of your application are lacking.

Forbes recently highlighted some of the top mistakes to avoid when drafting your essay.


While you certainly want an essay that impresses admissions officers, experts say that applicants often make the mistake of writing what they think admissions officers want to hear.

“Do not get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what is going to impress the admission committee,” Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment at Scripps college, says. “You have no idea who is going to read your essay and what is going to connect with them. So, don’t try to guess that.”

Rather, experts say, applicants should write about something they’re actually passionate about. This tactic generally leads to a more authentic and impressive narrative.

“Don’t try to make yourself sound any different than you are,” Jay Jacobs, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Vermont, says. “The number one goal for admission officers is to better understand the applicant, what they like to do, what they want to do, where they spend the majority of their time, and what makes them tick. If a student stays genuine to that, it will shine through and make an engaging and successful essay.”


Roughly 10% of college applicants are using ChatGPT to write their college essays. While utilizing AI tools isn’t strictly prohibited, experts warn that relying too heavily on these tools can make your essay come across as inauthentic.

“My hope is that students will use ChatGPT or other tools for brainstorming and to get started, but then move quickly into crafting an essay that will provide insight and value,” Rick Clark, the executive director of strategic student success at Georgia Institute of Technology, says.


A strong college essay is one that answers the prompt and engages the reader.

“You can only cover so much detail about yourself in an admission essay, and a lot of students feel pressure to tell their life story or choose their most defining experience to date as an essay topic,” Michael Stefanowicz, vice president for enrollment management at Landmark College says. “Admission professionals know that you’re sharing just one part of your lived experience in the essay.”

Rather than trying to fit your entire life story onto a page, consider highlighting just one piece that effectively conveys who you are.

“Some of the favorite essays I’ve read have been episodic, reflecting on the way you’ve found meaning in a seemingly ordinary experience, advice you’ve lived out, a mistake you’ve learned from, or a special tradition in your life,” Stefanowicz says.

Sources: Forbes, collegevine, Intelligent.com

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