College Essay Tips from a Former Admissions Officer


As a former college admissions officer, I can tell that the college application essay is the single most important reflection of you as an individual, and can either help you or inhibit you from getting into your top school. Here are some of the best college essay tips so your essay stands apart from the crowd.

Do not list your every accomplishment. This is a very irritating thing to read as an admissions counselor. I cannot tell you how many times people from my team would set aside an application from someone who gave us a laundry list of every  single thing they did in high school, junior high, and elementary school. Give a general overview, but highlight only the hardest and most meaningful experiences. Show what you got out of an experience instead of just giving us a list.

Watch your tone carefully. This is one of the most important college essay tips I will give you. The last think you want is to appear cocky or even passive. Be confident and bold in your writing, but know your place and your audience. The people who are reading your essay hold your future in their hands, and you do not want to sound like you think you know better than them, or that you are not worthy. Make the writing seem humble and like you are eager to learn and you will go far. Read your college essay aloud to a friend and you can easily tell the tone.

Pay attention to mechanics. Here, I am not just talking about traditional spelling and grammar mistakes. Go a step further and make sure you are writing in the correct tense, that you are using first person, third person, or whatever you are using consistently. I preferred a college essay written in the first person, but sometimes people took a third person view of a different subject. I think that is just fine so long as the tense remains consistent throughout the paper. Also, do you remember, “future perfect” “present perfect” and all of that jazz? If not, have someone read your essay that does. I worked with a girl who would throw out all of the essays that said, “Will be” and other such phrases. Just a pet peeve, but still an important note.

Be light-hearted and humorous, but not sarcastic. This goes along with the previous point about tone. It is far too easy in a written essay for satiric humor to come across the wrong way. You do not want to seem arrogant or pompous. Sometimes humor and wit can be construed as the applicant trying too hard, and you do not want this either. Imagine someone reading your essay with a touch of a smile on their face. That is the effect you are going for. Anything more or less than that is inappropriate.

These are just a few of the best college essay tips you need to follow to get into the school of your choice. Take my advice as a former admissions counselor and you will go far.