application essay


How to Avoid College Application Essay
Booby Traps

No matter where you are with writing your college application essay, you should double check that you are on the right track.

It’s way too easy to inadvertently torpedo your chances of writing an essay that gives you an edge in the admissions game.


application essay


Here are 7 potential college application essay
booby traps you can avoid if you know what to look for:


ONE: Your essay is dull.

I would say this is one of the most common reasons a college application essay lands in the reject pile.

Just think what it’s like to be an admissions officers and have to read mounds of these essays.

If you can’t even get past the first paragraph without a yawn, there’s little chance you are going to make a lasting impression with the rest of what you have to say.

The best way to avoid a dull essay is to spend the time to dig out an original topic.

Another great defense against boring writing is to inject some type of problem into your essay. (Then quickly explain how you handled it, what you learned and how you spun the incident into a positive experience.)

My favorite writing technique to electrify an essay is to start by a sharing a real-life story in the form of an anecdote.

Another antidote to a dull essay is to give it a sharp focus. Instead of trying to cover everything that makes you so special, narrow your topic down to one quality or characteristic. Then share a personal story to illustrate it.


application essay


TWO: Your college application essay isn’t personal.


No matter how hard you try to cram in all your accomplishments and activities and deep ideas in your essay, if you don’t open up on some level and share something personal about yourself, it’s a guaranteed loser.

The whole point of these essays is to help the admissions officers get a sense of who your are–your personal-ity!

There are many ways to dig deeper about yourself in your essay, including finding a way to Show Your Grit or Share What Your Believe or Reveal Your Intellectual Vitality or Be Likable.


college application essay



THREE: Your essay is mainly about someone else.


It’s perfectly natural to include other people in your life in your essay.

If you include some type of real-life story to share, it’s almost impossible not to include or at least mention others.

Many students write about people they care deeply about, or who have affected them somehow. Grandparents. Teachers. Bosses.

This is fine. However, you MUST make sure that most of the essay is about YOU.

The best trick to turning an essay about an experience that involves someone other than you is to quickly shift into how that made you feel, what you learned from it and why that mattered.

This type of reflection and analysis of what happened in your real-life story should take up at least half or more of your essay.

college application essay

FOUR: Your essay only repeats everything else in your admissions application.


Don’t do that!

How do you know you are wasting precious space in your essay?

If you are trying to cram in all your accomplishments, accolades, talents, and activities, you are guilty.

The college application essay must offer the admissions counselors information about you that they wouldn’t find out in any other part of your application.

Remember, you will have places to lists your extracurricular activities, your awards, AP classes you took, test scores, etc.

Think of this essay as a written replacement for an interview. Give the reader a snapshot of your personality by sharing something that happened to you, and then what you learned and what you care about.

FIVE: You come across as not having your act together.


I was going to say, you come across as dumb.

But it’s not really your intelligence level.

The point is you need to make sure that everything you do regarding your application and the college application essay makes it clear you understand the process and have the maturity to follow the rules to a tee.

So first, make sure you read and understand the prompts–and double check that your essay responds to them.

Many prompts, such as the 5 Common Application prompts and questions, are meant to inspire topic ideas, so you aren’t expected to literally answer them directly.

But make sure your essay lines up with at least one of them before pushing the button.

Most supplemental essays, however, ask more pointed questions in their prompts that need specific answers. Make sure to give them!

Also, don’t even think of going over or under the word limits.

If the word count is a maximum of 650 words (like the Common Application essay requirement), don’t go a word over. If nothing else, show that you know how to follow directions.

Also, proof your final draft like mad. Why would a smart, college-bound student spend so much time crafting a brilliant college application essay, and then let a simple misspelling or glaring grammatical error pop out and ruin it?

Use good sense when picking a topic. Your topic can be intense, personal and even funny or shocking in points. But if you think you have gone overboard or crossed a line that could make it offensive, get some feedback on whether it’s appropriate.

Some topics can be more tricky to write about. It’s often good to take a risk with your essay, but don’t let it backfire.




application essay



These warning tips aren’t intended to freak you out about your college application essay.

If you noticed, most of them were all about the steps you need to take to make sure your essay engages the reader, reveals what makes you tick and makes a lasting impression.

That’s how you will make a bit hit with your college application essay!