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The 3 Most Common Mistakes to Avoid on College Application Essays

Suddenly we’re halfway through October, which means only one thing here at ESM: Early Decision and Early Action deadlines are right around the corner! While there are a lot of moving parts in the application process, here are a handful of clear “don’t”s that I’ve come across in experience as an essay coach that I hope will provide you with some clarity as you prepare to submit.

  1. Reinventing the wheel for each “Why College X” supplemental essay. While schools may phrase the question slightly differently, most are essentially asking for the same response and hover around a similar word limit. One of my favorite ESM phrases, “work smarter, not harder,” applies perfectly here. Write one great “Why College X” essay and use it as a template for the rest of your schools that ask that question. Just remember to diligently adjust the essay to address any differences in the prompt and, of course, change all of the specific school information in the body of the essay.

  1. Waiting until the last minute to proofread. I cannot emphasize this enough: do not wait until right before submission to proofread your essays. If you’re tired or nervous, you might miss some errors. Make sure you proofread your essays when you have plenty of time to do so—ideally a couple of days before submission—so that you can submit confidently knowing that you’re putting your best foot forward. For good measure, ask your most grammar-savvy friend to comb through them as well!

  1. Regurgitating a college’s offerings back to them in the supplements. Yes, colleges want to know what about their schools make you want to go there. But the supplemental essays are another chance to tell them more about yourself in addition to impressing them with your knowledge of their course catalogue! For example, “In my research on Hogwarts, I saw that Professor Lupin provides a firsthand learning experience in the Dark Arts through practice; his style of teaching aligns perfectly with my own hands-on learning style.”