As seniors work on their Early Decision and Early Action applications, we’ve received a number of messages from parents (and students too) saying something like this: “My daughter is basically done with all of her essays to her Early Decision school, but we wanted to have a second set of eyes look them over.” We’re happy to look over applications — and the Personal Statement and any supplemental essays required of an Early Decision or Early Action school — but we also want to make it clear on the pages of our college admissions blog that this raises a red flag for us. Read more >
4. “How I overcame a life challenge [that wasn’t really all that challenging]” Essays can help admissions officers understand more about a student who has overcome legitimate hardship. But far too many other students misguidedly manufacture hardship in a college essay to try to gain sympathy or make excuses (., for low grades). This approach won’t work. If you’ve endured a hardship and you want to talk about it, you should. Otherwise, it’s probably better to choose a different topic. Note: The pet eulogy falls into this category. Lovely if you want to write one. Just don’t include it as part of your college essay.
The first time I ever advised a student on their college application essay, I worked with a quiet student, a guy who disappeared into the back of his classes. He wrote his essay about building a treehouse with his best friend. Jason’s story revealed the many facets of his character: his creativity, his expert planning, his love of nature and building, and the comical things that guys say to one another when they are just hanging out. That was the first time I saw how application essays can bring a student to life and help them outwit the college admissions numbers game.