A former admissions advisor from MIT known only as Mari recently published an article called 10 College Application Mistakes to Avoid. They came as no surprise to me, but advising students about the college application process has been my occupation for almost 14 years…
These 10 things are worth mentioning annually because the rising seniors who need this information will likely be hearing it for the very first time. Several of these 10 things are closely related so I will bundle them into groups and address each group separately over the next few weeks.
When constructing essays, Mari doesn’t mince words. She bluntly tells the writer to, “Grow up! It’s not all about you!” If you are not quite sure how to take that advice, count the number of times you used the pronoun, “I” in your essay. That number should be significantly less than the number of lines in your essay. Taking on the guise of a superhero or the superior intellect in your school, home or community has failed to impress a single admissions committee in the entire history of college admissions. You can give a complete picture of what you have done and how you did it without trashing anyone or anything in the process.
Similar to the narcissistic writer is someone with, “Thesaurus-itis” (Mari’s word). Remember that you are writing an essay for an admissions committee. They are not reviewing your essay for publication in a literary journal. The tone should be that of a friendly letter and not a technical masterpiece. If the words in your essay are not words you typically use to communicate with others in your everyday life, don’t use it in the essay.
Even though admissions committee members may not have been English teachers in their former lives, they can still identify poor grammar and punctuation. What you have to say is more important than the way you say it, usually; but the ideas you are trying to communicate can be lost if you do a bad job presenting and framing your thoughts. Just be aware that you are a probably a little to the right of center in our universe, that big words annoy more than they impress and even celebrated journalists can sound like hacks if they don’t proofread their work.