What Not To Write About For College

What Not To Do

We can think of a few things not to do this application season. This... actually, this is one of those things.

When your pile of applications gets overwhelming, you may feel the urge to just "churn one out." If you're writing so many pieces, what's the harm in focusing on a few and doing a few others more quickly? Right? Well, rushing can lead to simple mistakes, especially in the choice of topic. You do not want this thing to feel tossed-off.

In fact, sometimes knowing what not to do can be as useful as knowing what you ought to do. There are many essay topics that spring to mind quickly. These ideas can be enticing - in many cases they seem to almost write themselves - until you realize that they don't paint a particularly flattering portrait of you, or that the reason they sprung to mind so easily is that you've read essays just like them several times before.

Always look out for cliche! Avoid it like the plague, as well as essay topics that center themselves around your faults or around things that you are not, rather than things that you are.

Any advice about what not to do, of course, always comes with a grain of salt. There are always exceptions, so use this only as a guide. Just make sure that if you cover one of the following topics, you do so in a unique way that highlights your strengths:

  • Crime you've committed
  • Character flaws
  • Excuses for your shortcomings
  • The "Big Game"

This last one might surprise you - the big success at a sporting event is a common topic, and it talks about a positive, emotional event. So why not use it?

It often leads you down very well-worn paths without necessarily telling us much about what you will be able to bring to an academic or social environment. More often than not, these essays focus on one-off events that don't translate to your everyday life. But worse, they aren't memorable.

Picture an admissions officer reading through five hundred essays. Five. Hundred. Essays. How many of these feel the same? How many are about a success in a sporting event? Push further, past cliche and into the elements of who you are that are specific to you and what you do. Things no one else in your school can say.

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