Things to Avoid in an Admission Essay

It can be easy to get lost in the process of writing your admission essay. Especially when writing about things that are personal, we can easily find ourselves wandering down garden paths or losing sight of the message we intended to express. Here are some major things that should be avoided in every admissions essay:

1. Negativity

This does not mean that you cannot include situations in your life that were challenging, emotionally difficult, or even major mistakes that you have made in the past. However, it is imperative to frame them in a positive light, showing how you have learned and grown from the past and are now ready to reach new heights.

2. Writing Extensively About Others

Your admission essay is ultimately about you. While other people are a significant part of living a happy life, the essay needs to focus on your accomplishments and goals. If something that happened to another person shaped your life in a substantial way, the admissions essay needs to give the reader insight into your internal journey.

3. Seeming Ambivalent About Your Future

Granted, no one can predict the future. But we can certainly hedge our bets by having a strong sense of vision and a concrete plan to realize that vision. Your admission essay is not the time to seem carefree and open to go wherever the road of life takes you.

4. Unwillingness to Show Off (a little!)

An admissions essay is not a sales letter intent on exaggerating your virtues and presenting you as a perfect being. However, it is important to demonstrate pride in your achievements and an understanding of how your decisions in life are building toward a meaningful outcome. Your admission essay does not need to airbrush away all the blemishes, but it should cast you in a positive light that allows the reader to see your potential.

The Biggest Thing to Avoid: Turning Your Admissions Essay into a Therapy Session

Prompts for an admissions essay can be cryptically ambiguous, especially when they state things like, “Help us get to know you better.” Unless it is directly related to the program, your admission essay is not the time to recount fondest (or worst) memories, anecdotes that only have meaning to those who were there, or to wax philosophic/poetic. Always stay focused on conveying information that would be useful to admissions officers in making a decision to include you in their program.

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