5 Flaws Found In Most College Application Essays

This article will discuss the top 5 fatal flaws found in most college application essays. Are these flaws in your essay?

English class, essay writing, and MLA style. We have all been there. Throughout most of our high school careers, we are taught to write. 

Until one dreadful day comes around and gives you the worst case of writer’s block known to men. What topic to pick? What to say? Should it be long? Short?

flaws found in most college application essays

All of these thoughts have run through my head at one point. It is a crucial part of your college application as it can wow or bore the people deciding if you can be admitted to the school you applied to.

Though your transcript is the star of the show, your essay is the backup singer, so having an exemplar one can be vital to give you a boost. 

Nowadays, students have hundreds and thousands of resources on how to write the “perfect” college essay. You can easily purchase college essay books. So it should be easy-peasy, right? Wrong.

Admitting defeat

Your essay will never be perfect. Different people will react in various ways toward your essay. But the important question to ask yourself is, “does it reflect who I am?”

Unfortunately, the writing you will need to provide for your college essay is not the one you spent all your high school years learning. This won’t be an argumentative essay on a passage you read.

Additionally, writing this kind of piece can be highly challenging. In most college essays, you are providing memories, perspectives, and even opinions. Thus, there is no right or wrong answer.

Your teacher can aid you in the process of establishing order to your essay, but only you can add in the details and feelings that the question evokes in you. 

Thus, accept that this essay will take energy, time, patience, and plenty of drafting and re-writing.

Putting yourself in the shoe

First, picture yourself in an admission officer’s shoes to effectively write your college essay. They are bombarded with thousands of applications, reading their essays one by one.

After a couple goes by, all the others blend into a boring mess of summers abroad and immigration stories. So what makes yours any different? How can you entertain that officer for the few minutes they glance at your application?

If you write with them in mind while still showing your interests and opinions and focusing on answering the essay prompt, you have the recipe for success!

5 fatal flaws found in most college application essays

Let’s break down the common flaws found in tons of college application essays and how to avoid them to better please your admission officers.

Flaw #1: The English passage paper

I get it. Like you, my brain was hard-wired to follow the same old formula that your teachers taught you. 

Essays are supposed to consist of five paragraphs, including and starting with your thesis. Then your topic sentences, add some evidence and don’t forget to conclude.

Though this approach is not only older than my grandma, it still works. But not for a college essay! This is a recipe for disaster and not success. 

The formula above works when explaining or arguing your point. Yet, a college application essay is supposed to be about you and your personal life. 

It gives students a chance to add to their grades and extracurriculars, bringing their personality to the page. Thus, admission officers don’t want to hear about your perfect life; they want a glimpse of the real you.

Ask yourself, “what does my transcript not show about me?” If you were the captain of the volleyball team, it would be made clear that you like volleyball. Don’t write about how it is your favorite sport.

Instead, talk about the impact it had on your health or how it changed your life’s perspective. Maybe you are honoring a friend or relative who used to play. Or it could be that it started as a silly sibling rivalry. Tell that story.

You should rely heavily on skills taught to you in English classes. However, you need to choose the correct skills. Remember, you are telling a story, adding your personality to the officer’s perspective.

Flaw #2: Get off your high horse

If your parents are trying to add on to your essay, watch out for this one. To your parents, you are the most gifted and perfect child, and they want to tell those admission officers just that.

However, in writing, plenty of tones can be cut out. And at the end of the day, it might make you sound too full of yourself. This creates the Superhero Look, in which you are perfect and flawless.

Essays that fall into this flaw can seem fake and unrealistic. Plus, there’s a clear difference between a college full of perfect students and one with students who believe they are perfect.

The most notable, brilliant students are often the most humble. Ever heard of the saying, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall?” Well, don’t put yourself on a pedestal you might not reach.

Perfection is not what these colleges are looking for. Therefore, tell your parents to keep their bragging for your relatives. It has no place in your college essay.

Flaw#3: Focus on me! Well, on you.

It’s important not to brag, but colleges want to learn about you, not your grandparents, sister, or cousin. Be selfish yet humble. There is a fine line that you must find.

This is by far one of the most significant flaws found in most college application essays. Though they might have stories you believe to be more interesting, such as narratives of immigration or war, they are not the ones that are getting admitted.

In no way does that mean you can’t mention them. But remember that is not their story; it is yours. Use the influential people in your life as a means to shed light on who you are or who you became.

Their stories should be backdrops to yours. Examples of why you became the person you are and made it this far. Unless your relative is applying with you, keep them out of the spotlight. It’s shining on you!

Flaw#4: They shoot, they score!

Sports. One of the biggest extracurriculars available in most if not all schools worldwide. Athletes can dedicate hours to their sport, and it becomes a part of who they are. 

So when it comes to your essay, don’t slip into one of the flaws found in most college application essays, the Touchdown Fever. 

Soccer, Football, Tennis, and other sports have been around for decades, if not centuries. They aren’t who you are, even if they define a part of you as a person.

This fever does not stop at your average sports; they include dancers, cheerleaders, chess, and even debate clubs. Any competitive extracurricular should stay away from this trap.

If you are a player, tread carefully on this enemy territory because you will have to play defense! Don’t allow your personality to be overshadowed by your sport. You and the sport you love are not the same people.

Big games, last-minute shots, and life-changing injuries are repetitive to college admission officers. Though you might be eager to share about the sport you adore, pause and think, “who are you without the sport?”

If you are set on commenting about it, then don’t hide behind it. The sport shouldn’t make you; you should make the sport. Show the officers you are more than just a jock.

Flaw #5: Transcript 2.0

Transcript 2.0 has to be one of the most destructive flaws found in most college application essays. This happens when students more or less explain their transcript in their essays.

I’m sure you had some awesome extracurriculars that helped you excel. A great thing that you got good grades, congrats on that! Your achievement list is so long. Now leave it at home.

A college essay is no place for you to mention all your achievements; they will be all over your transcripts. Don’t make admission officers have to guess which paper is your essay and which one is your grades.

Do not use your essay as a gateway of explanation. It will lead you down the bragging road, which is a flaw on its own. Colleges can clearly see your accomplishments; they can’t see you as a person.

Use your essay to demonstrate who you are and allow your character and essence to jump off the pages. The essay should only highlight your opinions, thoughts, and qualities.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the top 5 flaws found in most college application essays. And hopefully, they won’t be in yours now!

Just remember that your essay is about you, your journey, and your findings. No essay will be perfect, but that does not mean you won’t swoon the admission officers.

Colleges just want to see the person that you already are. Don’t pretend to be someone else. They should consider you, for you. But do colleges like exchange students?

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