Do's and Don'ts When Writing Your College Admissions Essays


As the name states, personal statements are inherently personal and meant to communicate your qualifications and show what kind of person you are. For this reason, each statement an admissions team member reads is uniquely different from any other, as it should be. That said, there are still some general do’s and don’ts to consider when writing your personal statement.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to follow when writing your college admissions essays based on my time as an admissions reader:

Do's Don'ts
Focus on why the event or experience you’re communicating is significant to you and what you learned from it when writing a narrative for your personal statements. Submit the exact same essay to multiple schools. I’ve read many essays that included the wrong school name.
If submitting an essay over email, pdf, or other document format, use readable fonts, conventional spacing, and margins. Use a moralistic or preachy tone.
Always articulate your specific reasons for applying to each school or program. Don’t be generic or vague. Repeat information elsewhere in your application to the point of redundancy.
If you’re writing a grad school application essay or applying as a direct admit, don’t forget to mention specific faculty with whom you are interested in working. Discuss money or securing a “high-paying” job as a motivating factor.
Use concrete examples and relevant anecdotes to validate the skills and experiences you list on your resume and personal statements. Exceed the prescribed word and/or page limits.
Connect life experiences to your professional goals and career motivation. Lie or exaggerate your qualifications or experience.
Get feedback from trusted individuals who aren’t afraid to give you objective and constructive criticism. Plagiarize the content of your essay.
Be selective when choosing supplemental materials or additional information to submit. Discuss potentially controversial topics like politics, money, or religion.
Provide an explanation for irregular grade trends, discrepancies on transcripts, or circumstances that affected test scores. Remind the school of its ranking or how good the school is.
Use present tense when possible. Simply list the honor awards or achievements that you included on your application.
Follow the application submission rules precisely. Don’t compliment yourself with praise that makes you seem immodest.
Proofread your essay once all edits and revisions are made.