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What Makes Bad College Essays Bad
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Worst of the Worst

What time of day was it? Reading vague generalizations is like trying to make sense of this blurry picture. And after a while, who cares? Without a framing device explaining that this initial panic was an overreaction, this section just makes the author sound whiny, entitled, melodramatic, and immature. Just how much mortality is typically associated with these very standard college-application-boosting service trips?

In a rewrite, I would suggest including more perspective on the author's outsized and overprivileged response here. This would fit well with a new focus on the different points of view on this village the author encountered. Is it really believable that this is what the author learned? This conclusion is rather vague, and seems mostly a non sequitur. It's important to include deep thoughts and insights into your essay - just make sure your narrative supports your conclusions!

Want to read some excellent college essays now that you've seen some examples of flawed one? Need some guidance on other parts of the application process? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score.

Download it for free now:. Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education. You should definitely follow us on social media. You'll get updates on our latest articles right on your feed. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:. How to Get a Perfect , by a Perfect Scorer.

Score on SAT Math. Score on SAT Reading. Score on SAT Writing. What ACT target score should you be aiming for? Anna Wulick May 18, 9: College Essay Topics To Avoid Want to know why you're often advised to write about something mundane and everyday for your college essay?

Writing in too much detail about your illness, disability, any other bodily functions. Detailed meaningful discussion of what this physical condition has meant to you and your life is a great thing to write about.

But stay away from body horror and graphic descriptions that are simply there for gratuitous shock value. Waxing poetic about your love for your significant other. Confessing to odd and unusual desires of the sexual or illegal variety. Your obsession with cultivating cacti is wonderful topic, while your obsession with researching explosives is a terrible one. Writing about committing crime as something fun or exciting.

Even if you're in a state where some recreational drugs are legal, you're a high school student. Your only exposure to mind-altering substances should be caffeine. You're unlikely to be a good enough fantasist to pull this off, and there's no reason to roll the dice on being discovered to be a liar. Unless you have a great story of coping with one of these, leave deal-breakers like pathological narcissism out of your personal statement.

Too Overconfident While it's great to have faith in your abilities, no one likes a relentless show-off. Bragging and making yourself the flawless hero of your essay. This goes double if you're writing about not particularly exciting achievements like scoring the winning goal or getting the lead in the play. The application already includes your resume, or a detailed list of your various activities. Every athlete tries to write this essay. Unless you have a completely off-the-wall story or unusual achievement, leave this overdone topic be.

Did you learn a valuable lesson about how privileged you are? Unfortunately, so has every other teenager who traveled on one of these trips. Unfortunately, many of the hard, formative events in your life are fairly universal. Only detailed, idiosyncratic description can save this topic. It's a technique that seems clever, but has already been done many times in many different ways.

This is especially true if your solution is an easy fix, if only everyone would just listen to you. Starting with a famous quotation. There usually is no need to shore up your own words by bringing in someone else's. Of course, if you are writing about a particular phrase that you've adopted as a life motto, feel free to include it. B ut even then, having it be the first line in your essay feels like you're handing the keys over to that author and asking them to drive.

They are like this, and like that, and people love them for all of these reasons. They are just like me. Paying tribute to someone very important to you. But if you decide to write about, your essay should be about your learning and how you've been influenced, not about the other person's achievements. Edvard Munch probably didn't submit "The Scream" as his admissions essay.

He smartly saved all that existential angst for his post-bac! The ending should be short and sweet, so your reader doesn't start wishing you'd turn into a human cannonball. Want to build the best possible college application? Download it for free now: Follow us on all 3 of our social networks: I'm really curious as to how you could've written an essay solely on Disney princesses. I will never go out of my way to eat a tomato but they're whatever if they already come on my burger.

It is definitely true that it is better to have a large of options than to have a small of options which I will show in this essay by using examples from history which are Randy Johnson's perfect game in and Anne Frank's life and the murder of famous rapper Tupac Shakur. When Randy Johnson was pitcher for the diamond backs he threw a perfect game against the Braves who are from Atlanta and it is very difficult to throw a no hitter, particularly 40 years old which Johnson was at the time and had many options in that game, but he decided to throw a no-hitter and become the oldest pitcher to do so and if he had fewer options he couldn't have done this.

One person who had fewer options was Anne Frank. She probably wanted the options available like to leave the country she lived in and go somewhere else. He was really starting to have his career but it was cut short by an unknown murderer possibly Biggie. This removed the options he had. In conclusion it is true what I said earlier.

That's the conclusion to conclude all conclusions right there. The diary of Anne Frank that was later published by someone other than Anne Frank for the public use by more people who are not Anne Frank.

Anne Frankly, I could not give a damn about it. Anne Frank didn't hide in an attic and then he doesn't even know what country she lived in. A kid tried to justify a massive amount of absences by explaining that he had a phobia of worms and was unable to walk to school after it had rained as worms had crawled out into the sidewalk.

I've been doing this for almost nine years, so everything kind of blends together at this point. I can't think of a specific "worst essay," but a lot of them fall into a few broad categories. These essays are usually a big list of all the terrible things that happened to a student in hopes that we will admit them because we feel bad. Don't just tell us all the things that have happened to you and nothing else.

A LOT of prospective students have gone through the divorce of their parents, death of a friend or family member, medical issues, car accident, etc.

You need to explain how these events shaped you as a human being, what you learned, how you handled adversity and still managed your academics and so on. These are kind of like sympathy essays, only with much more graphic details. This may have been a major experience that shaped you as a human being, but I don't think is appropriate for a college essay.

If I feel the need to take a shower after reading your essay, that's not good for anyone. Also included here are essays where you admit that you didn't try hard in high school or take your academics seriously, but you're going to start in college.

Maybe you should start in junior college then, and we'll see how it goes before you get to a four-year university. Spelling errors, grammar mistakes, no formatting Have someone read your essay before you send it. Have several people read it! It's not cheating; we encourage you to do this. Also, if you're using the same essay for multiple colleges, make sure you change the name of the college referenced in your essay before you send it to that college. Some students submit an essay that is about five sentences long and doesn't really say anything.

If it takes you more time to attach your essay to the application than it does to write the essay, that is not a good thing. Most essays are not all that interesting to read, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

If your essay doesn't stand out at all, it probably means that you answered the essay topic and didn't make any, or many, mistakes. That's about as much as we can ask for. It's not your fault that the typical high school experience for the vast majority of high school students is You probably didn't enter your freshman year thinking, "I better do some really cool stuff during the next few years so that I can write about it in my college essay.

Just do the best you can. In reality, for most students, the essay is the weakest part of the application. We realize that, and so in every office I've worked in, the essay is the least valued part of the application file. These things are all way more important. Not to try to put the weight back on your shoulders or anything, but I think the importance of the essay depends on the type of college you're applying to. For a big public university, the essay is likely de-emphasized.

For a small selective private college where a lot of applicants are valedictorians with high test scores and awesome extracurriculars, the essay may count much more as a method of differentiating students. I'm a senior and just finished the application process. I was really worried about certain weaknesses I had, but was surprised at what college I was accepted to.

They have weekly "rate my chances" treads during application season and are generally nice people. In my country things like essays or extracurricular activities or anything aren't required to start in college, so I always wondered what exactly those extracurricular activities are.

Extracurricular activities are basically organizations you participate in or things you do outside of classes and academics. These include things like athletic teams, academic related clubs Spanish club, honors societies, etc. The idea is that by participating in organized activities, you become more "well-rounded" and learn skills that may not be as emphasized inside the classroom.

Skills like social development, time management, leadership, and so on. Most were about mission trips through churches and how much the student had learned. Packed with amazing imagery, the writer described her birth. Into the world of freedom and adulthood she was born. Pushing open the "doors". Light striking her face for the first time. Got to the end and she was describing getting a luxury car at her graduation party.

It was a scholarship for needy kids. She didn't get it. With 5 years in admissions I can tell you that we are not impressed with your service trip.

You went to the beach for 4 days, volunteered for 4 hours. Help out your local community. The worst essays, generally, are not particularly interesting. They receive the worst scores because they are short, incomplete, riddled with grammatical mistakes, or are written by non-native speakers. It takes 30 seconds to give the lowest score and move on. However, one memorable essay sticks out. A student rich, white, private school wrote eloquently about how inner city black students ought to take up more sports.

Specifically, polo, lacrosse, and squash. With conviction, this particular student, woefully unaware, wrote about how inner city students could learn more about competition and overcoming adversity from taking up these sports. His proposal was to host sports camps in the suburbs for the students of color to attend. A girl in my school wrote about how she thinks the essay portion of applications should be removed because it's degrading to the student.

Don't remember if she got in. I don't think my essay was the worst- my high school teacher told me it was well-written. It was also a true story. But it was fucking weird. I wrote about how I learned to take on and enjoy responsibility through helping my parents with dog breeding.

That's not so bizarre, but the climax of my essay was the story about how I, monitoring a dog's whelping birthing , left the room for a minute only to come back to the dog standing up, puppy breaching and about to fall to the floor. Well that's something else. At the very least it'll make whoever is reading it stand up and take notice.

My senior english teacher had an assignment where we had to submit one of our essays and have her grade it, have it peer reviewed, etc.

I had already applied and submitted my essays, but had to do it anyway. When I got mine back, there was a laundry list of everything I did wrong attached.

It was too long, it was too wordy, it was an unconventional format, on and on she went. I didn't say anything. Several months later, when I got into the University , I just walked up to her, handed the rubric back, and said "I got in anyway.

I feel your pain. I almost didn't graduate from HS because I didn't take senior English. Had to appeal in front of my state board of education. They made me submit a senior paper, but I got away with not taking the class. So for that paper I just re-formatted the paper I had gotten an "A" on and turned it in. HS teacher gave me a "C". Reading all of these stories makes me realize my college admissions essay was actually pretty good.

I used to work in admissions and my boss had pinned an essay up in her cubicle with the name whited-out. The entire thing was written like the applicant was a cat. She talked about coming to learn with silly humans and how art would be a cat's true passion if cats had passions. She said that she didn't care about getting in, she just wanted to prove that she could.

I don't think she was accepted, but that would have just been because of grades or text score, not the essay. That essay was legendary. Not me, But someone I know who used to be a College admission officer. The Essay question was: One essay was more memorable than others. The essay started pretty decently until you get words in. This was actually mentioned in the essay, word by word, according to my friend, And I quote " and bob was like, thats bodacious!

Ones with text speak r, u, 4ever , ones where kids forgot to change the name of the school for a different essay, ones where they tried to explain they're a good student despite a 2. I knew someone in high school who submitted a hardcore SonicxTails fan fiction to a college.

No, they didn't get in. I'm not a college admission officer, but this essay is hilariously bad. What's up with the editor's handwriting? It's almost worse than my cursive, and my cursive never progressed past 3rd grade level. I was thinking that maybe it was because it was fake and a kid wrote the comments.

But I'd really like for it not to be fake. I read essays for a scholarship foundation and the worst essay I have ever read was from a girl who wrote that she was a good person and she backed that up by stating that she was a virgin. First of all I don't think being a virgin makes you a good person or not being one makes you a bad person. Second of all, who the hell talks about their virginity on a scholarship application? Aren't all college entrance essays the worst.

Full of cringe worthy self praise. I hate writing them. I went to community college as well In fact, I just finished. At least we had two years extra before crippling debt. I've been an admissions counselor for a year now at a small private school, and there's just so many things that high school kids and their parents don't realize about what they put us through. One kid in particular made an entirely last minute decision to come to our school literally the week of move-in , and since we're a small, numbers-driven institution, we take anyone and everyone who wants to come.

I spent ALL WEEK explaining to this kid every aspect of our paperwork, all the things we need from him, and we even hand-picked this kids roommate. College admission officers have not been in high school for a very long time. They might have been through a divorce or had to support their spouse through the death of one of their parents or children.

But they have a bit more perspective on relationships than the average high school senior, so they will probably not find the demise of your junior year relationship as poignant as you do. And while that experience may have really affected your life, it affects the lives of thousands of upper—middle class students around America in the exact same way, and they are all writing the same essay about it as we speak.

If your time in Sierra Leone really feels like what you need to tell your dream school about, talk about a specific experience, like a conversation you had with someone who lived there. I once had a friend show me an essay he wrote in which he had to describe the best day of his life. Naturally, he wrote about the time he slept until five in the evening, ate some ice cream, then went back to sleep. However, he was not a lazy kid at all. He was really into piano and lacrosse, but he wanted his essay to sound off the beaten path and unique.

So rather than talking about one of his passions, he decided to write about something he knew no one else would try…the time he slept all day. Unfortunately, there is a really good reason no one else wrote that essay. The same goes for trying to be creative and responding with one word, one sentence, or a poem.

Although those are very different responses from what admission officers reads, this does not mean they are good responses. There are other ways to stand out without compromising your intelligence. The first time I went to Harvard to hang out with friends, I met a student who was raised by wolves.

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The best worst one I ever read was a personal statement from a female student explaining a disciplinary action on her school report. Apparently, she and her boyfriend both ran track and attended the [University Mascot] Invitational track meet on campus.

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The Worst (and Best) Essay Ever Written If you are new to the internet, or simply haven’t seen this yet, check out this essay that was written some time ago as a joke. It’s a hilarious read for sure.

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You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe at this awful college application essay. THE VERY WORST COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS GETTING OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT-IT'S HARD TO DO WORSE THAN THESE OPENING SENTENCES 1. Sure, lots of kids like to start fires, but how many of them have a propane torch.

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hey guys, just stumbled upon this when i was reading up on college essays and i wanted your opinion on one. If you haven’t read Part I in this series, go back and check it out. Or don’t. There’s no need to read these in order! Why? Because a bad topic is a bad topic is a bad topic. You’ve heard the phrase, “Go with your.