Top Ten Suggestions

Wordworks’ Top Ten Suggestions of What Not To Do

1. Don’t stress out! Enjoy the process of discovering more about who you are and what you want.

2. Don’t “thesaurusize.” Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that big words make good essays. Advanced vocabulary is fine if you use it appropriately and it comes naturally to you. After reading thousands of essays, admissions officers know which students have come up with difficult words by themselves and which have looked them up in a thesaurus.

3. Don’t use fifty words when five will do. One of the easiest ways to find wordy, awkward spots is to read your essay aloud.

4. Don’t tell us, show us! If you are passionate about dance, don’t announce your zeal with a statement like “I have always loved to dance.” Instead, take us to one of your dance classes or describe dance posters on your bedroom walls.

5. Don’t get too conversational. Slang terms, contractions, and an excessively casual tone should be eliminated from all but the most informal essays.

6. Don’t repeat the same sentence structure. A common faux pas in application essays is to begin sentences with “I.” Consistently starting your sentences in this way makes the essay read like a list and can create the impression that you are egocentric.

7. Don’t write about an activity that is adequately covered elsewhere on your application.

8. Don’t lecture. Be careful about preaching strong political or religious opinions. Your job is not to convert or persuade but to reveal who you are. If you want to write about a cause or a belief, focus on your involvement and commitment.

9. Don’t write about information that is unflattering (e.g., a serious legal violation), too personal (e.g., your sex life), or boastful (e.g., a self-celebratory account of an heroic act).

10. Don’t fall back on clichés (e.g., “hard work pays off” and “never take your loved ones for granted”)