July 24, 2019

4 Ways to Write a Bad College Admissions Essay

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Bungled. Botched. Bombed. Whatever you want to call it, no student wants to blow their college admissions chance with a bad essay. But still, it happens. Everyday.

If you want to write a compelling essay, highlighting your strengths and making your admissions application stand out from the rest, here are four mistakes to avoid at all costs. If, on the other hand, your goal is to write an essay so bad that stories will be told of its incoherence, this is the way to do it . . .

1. Be vague, revealing nothing about yourself

Many of the essay questions colleges ask are “tell us about yourself” or “describe yourself” questions. This is your chance to put your best foot forward, distinguishing yourself from the other applicants who have a similar class ranking or SAT/ACT scores.

Many students are uncomfortable writing about themselves, so they meander through the paragraphs, dropping hints about themselves like breadcrumbs. But this is no time to be shy; this is your time to shine! Share your strengths, your passions, your accomplishments — and do it with enthusiasm.

Note: Don’t feel like you have to write about everything you’ve ever done in life. That time you helped Nana fold laundry probably won’t elicit a big response. It’s perfectly acceptable — and often preferable — to highlight one personal strength, accomplishment, or passion project and write robustly about that.

2. Write with no end in sight. Page . . . after page . . . after page. And if there is a word or character limit, totally ignore that.

The typical college admissions essay is between 500 and 700 words. Anything less than 500 words sounds like you have nothing to say, and anything past 700 words is asking a lot of the admissions officer who reads these all day long. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle (unless instructed otherwise). It’s quite possible that you’re the next Steinbeck or Hemingway, but save that lengthy prose for your Lit professor.

3. Be forgettable

It’s three o’clock on a sluggish Thursday afternoon. Nancy Whitmire slumps dejectedly at her tank of a desk, glancing sideways at the growing stack of admissions essays piled recklessly beside yesterday’s coffee mug.  Punctual as ever, Nancy’s daily headache arrives as she extends an aging left hand to reluctantly pluck another ready-for-review essay from the pile. It’s an exercise both comforting and colorless in its repetition. Years ago, she hoped for writing that was alive, a composition that was original, or at least noteworthy. But those essays rarely came. So Nancy doesn’t hope for that anymore. Now she simply hopes that five o’clock comes quickly.

Whether you’re answering a “describe yourself” question, a “why our college” question, or a “discuss this issue” question, position your essay to stand out. Use descriptive phrases, colorful imagery and unique observations. Tell your story in such a way as to capture the attention of Nancy Whitmire your admissions officer.

4) Don’t bother to proofread your essay

Typoos, misspeled words and grammat,ical errors are the quickliest way for your admissions esay to find it’s way into the trash cantainer. Tkae the time too review your essay before yo u submitt it. Youl be glad yuo did.


An original, revelatory, error-free admissions essay is important, but it’s only one part of your get-into-my-dream-school process.  Your dream college requires a dream SAT or ACT score, and we can help you make that happen. Take advantage of our free trial today and see why UWorld is your best test prep option.


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