Admissions Insights

The College Match Plus Blog

The Cardinal Rule of College Essay Writing: Do No Harm

On the web, you’ll find lots of helpful tips about how to write a good college admission essay-one that lets the admissions committee at a particular college learn something personal about you that may not be reflected in your academic record or extracurricular activities. One of the best is found on the College Board’s site, BigFuture that provides 8 valuable tips for crafting your best college essay.

Also remember that good writing is a result of good thinking and that requires time. A few years ago, a student asked me to review her Early Action essay to an Ivy League university a few days before the deadline. In this student’s case, the essay wasn’t her best effort. In fact, I knew if the student submitted this essay, it might actually hurt her admissions chances. While most college essays will not dramatically change your admissions fortunes, a poorly organized and written essay could impact your admission decision. Keep in mind the cardinal rule of writing college admissions essays: Do No Harm.

Give yourself plenty of time to determine what essays you need to write, brainstorm ideas, develop a draft, refine the essays, and let parents, your guidance counselor and others review them. Since you will likely be applying to six to eight schools or more, you’ll need to determine which schools have supplemental essays or their own homegrown applications (the latter is true of many public institutions). The summer before your senior year is the best time to draft essays with the goal of making sure admissions officers gain insight into your special qualities or strengths.

Above all, make sure your essays are authentic, reflect the real you and are free from grammatical and spelling mistakes.