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Tips for Writing Your College Admissions Essay
(Continued from 1)

Vary sentence structure.
Don’t start every sentence with “The.” Intermingle long sentences with shorter sentences to keep the reader from getting bored.

Don’t brag.
No one wants to hear an endless description of how great you are. Let your actions speak for themselves.

Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
Although our language is incorporating more and more acronyms and abbreviations, they have no place in your essay. For example, use “and others” instead of “et al.,” “Pennsylvania” instead of “PA.”

Avoid exclamation points and parentheses.
Using exclamation points—especially more than one in a sentence—is a big turnoff.

Avoid asking questions or setting off words and phrases with quotation marks.
These are generally considered inappropriate.

Be specific.
You need to include concrete details about your experiences. Elaborate on one or two of your activities or achievements, showing the reader why you made a particular decision or reacted a certain way. Remember, you’re including a list of your accomplishments elsewhere in your application package; for the essay, use specific dates, locations, feelings, etc., to describe your experiences in accomplishing those achievements.

Don’t tell them what they want to hear.
Colleges read plenty of essays about how wonderful their school is, the evils of war, and the drive and determination needed to become a lawyer. Tell them something new that they may not have heard before.

Avoid gimmicks.
Don’t use puns, definitions, famous quotations, flowery descriptions, or overdone wordplay to get your point across.

Avoid controversy.
Strong opinions about what’s wrong with the world, what kind of government we should have, or why your religion is the best are a no-no.

Be witty only if you can pull it off.
Don’t go overboard with humor. Although admissions officers love essays that make them laugh, using humor for humor’s sake or being silly or immature will get your essay thrown in the slush pile. It’s more important to tell an interesting story and let any humor be inherent.

Avoid offensive tone or language.
Don’t ever cuss or be confrontational when you write.

Don’t try to sound like a sage.
Never begin or end an essay with a quotation, proverb, or other wise saying. Also don’t try to be sophisticated by writing about the world’s greatest mysteries. Many students try to philosophize or use clichés to prove their point. This is a surefire path to disaster. No one wants to read about your position on the validity of totalitarianism or read sayings that are all too familiar.

Avoid jargon.
Avoid computer-related words like “input,” “interface,” parameter,” and “feedback.” Also avoid “actually,” “basically,” “arguably,” and “virtually,” and words commonly spoken by juveniles, such as “awesome” or “cool.”


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