Oct. 9, 2020

College Entrance Essays: Do's and Don'ts

By Ms. Nehr, English/Homeroom Teacher

Ugh, can you believe you have to write yet another essay?!?! It’s bad enough you have to write 3+ essays for your high school English course, but now you have to write even more essays just to get into  college. Never fear, though, the good news about those college application essays is they almost never require any research and usually provide some flexibility for you to pick your topic.

The DO’s of college entrance essays:

  1. DO write about something that is important to you, something that matters. When we have to write about something we truly care about, that sense of passion usually shines through in the writing which is something that will catch college personnel’s attention…in a good way.
  2. DO tell a story. Most of us love to read a good story so write about whatever personal event/memory/friend/etc. as if you’re telling the story of that time. This means you should pick a specific point in time to share. If you’re going to write about your hero, avoid just explaining who your hero is and why that person qualifies. Instead, pick a specific example of how that person changed your life and tell just that single, point of time.
  3. DO write like you speak. This is write like you speak, within reason and using good writing skills. If you routinely pepper your speech with colorful expletives, leave those out. What this really means is don’t, suddenly, try to employ all of the $10 words you can think of. Chances are pretty good you’ll misuse a word which can turn off anyone reading your work. Speak simply and clearly. One technique to help with this is to record yourself telling the story on your phone and then work to transcribe that onto paper.
  4. DO stay focused. Once you’ve selected your topic, stay on topic. It’s so easy to stray off on tangents when writing about personal events, memories, people and so on. You have to reign yourself in and focus on just that single event.
  5. DO start writing now. The more time you give yourself to work on these essays, the better the essays are going to be…DO remember to reach out to your English teacher to ask their advice, help and even ask if they would be willing to review what you’ve written.

The DON”Ts of college entrance essays:

  1. DON’T use foul language in any way, shape or form in these essays. Even if you’re telling a story where you’re including dialogue and the other person used a swear word. Edit the word to keep it completely PG. 
  2. DON’T forget to use good writing skills. Make sure all proper nouns are appropriately capitalized and all sentences end with the correct punctuation mark. This also means avoiding text language in your essay- this is not the time to economize your vocabulary and letters. In other words, spell out ur words. 😉
  3. DON’T go over maximum length nor miss minimum length requirements. If the instructions are to write an essay of no more than 500 words, don’t go over that limit by even one word. You can be under the max, but don’t be significantly under. Generally, if you have to write 500 words anything that is 450-500 words will be acceptable. Same thing for the minimum, if you’re told to write at least 300 words, make sure you have at least that number.
  4. DON’T go off on a rant on a topic. Sometimes, when we have very strong feelings about a particular topic, it’s very easy to get off track and start bashing elements of the topic. Doing this is a sure-fire way to ensure your application is going in the “reject” pile.
  5. DON’T be afraid to just sit down and start writing. If you can’t think of anything to write, sometimes, just sitting down at your computer and writing any of the random thoughts about the essay topic will help to trigger a point in your brain. 

Remember, these application essays are your “first impression” with that college’s admissions personnel so you definitely want to stand out in the best possible way. You can handle this task, and keep in mind you have an entire team behind you with friends, family and Cal-Pac.