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How to Avoid the "Typical" College Essay

calculus09calculus09 130 replies27 threads- Junior Member
edited July 2012 in College Essays
What are some things I should avoid when writing an essay for college admissions?
edited July 2012
115 replies
Post edited by calculus09 on
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Replies to: How to Avoid the "Typical" College Essay

  • MidwestMom2Kids_MidwestMom2Kids_ 6345 replies328 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Your room and what is in it.
    Death of a pet or a grandparent.
    Trip to a place where people are less advantaged than you, where you learned that everyone is the same, deep down.
    Your last felony conviction.


    Read "Essays that worked" for useful advice.
    Amazon.com: Essays That Worked: 50 Essays from Successful Applications to the Nation's Top Colleges: Boykin Curry, Brian Kasbar: Books
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  • the_hitch_hikerthe_hitch_hiker 151 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Hehe. To be fair to people who DID write about pets/grandparents dying (not that I did ;) what really matters is your take on the subject. If you write from real experiences, you won't go wrong.

    When I was writing my essays, I was one life-changing experience short. I considered putting some extra weight into the normal things I'd been through...like retrospective value..But stuffed that in the end. Instead, I wrote about some of the things that worried me while I was going through those things. That was real. And it worked :D

    Btw, I doubt I need to say this, but people still make this mistake: colleges have tricky names... when writing the 'why-this-college' essays, don't misspell their name!

    All the best with your essays :D
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  • thirstyicethirstyice 57 replies44 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Anything that'd bore you.
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  • sgtpepper08sgtpepper08 522 replies44 threadsRegistered User Member
    . do not write about another person and describe that person in great detail and nothing about yourself. do not write about scoring the game winning goal or missing the free throw in the state game or the day your grandma died or why your aunt is your inspiration or the habitat for humanity trip to costa rica unless you will describe it in a manner that's unique to only you! the adcoms will be receiving thousands of these essays and if yours could have been written by someone else, it will fade into the pile of generic essays. write about yourself, how you view the world and what makes you different from the 10,000 other people applying. i suggest you pick up a copy of harry bauld's on writing the college application essay. best book out there.
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  • ADadADad 3985 replies936 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Agree about Harry Bauld book.

    It's not the topic, it's what you do with the topic.

    Virtually any topic can make for a good college essay.

    The best topic for you is the one that allows for the most personal, detailed, honest and revealing essay.

    It doesn't matter whether hundreds of people have written on your topic. Your take, your experience can be unique in all history.
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  • atrophicwhisperatrophicwhisper 1683 replies61 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Your room and what is in it.

    OMG. I totally did that and still got into Berkeley. :) LOL.
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  • kawaiigurlkawaiigurl 417 replies125 threadsRegistered User Member
    howw? i mean, wut do u write about your room?
    how can that be an essay topic? how does that affect/related to u?
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  • ButternutButternut 1944 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Your room tells a lot about you. Organized? Messy?
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  • mintlemonademintlemonade 61 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    wow every one i've written so far has been mentioned on here! lol, the aunt one, the room one. blergh. good thing i have lots of time

    i went to this essay writing thing at wash u and they said that college admissions committees love the 'who inspires you' prompt but they DON'T necessarily want to hear 'my mom inspires me' or 'benjamin franklin inspired me'. so i guess you have to find a balance somewhere in there.
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  • chaucers_palchaucers_pal 240 replies23 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I think the take away really is that it's not the topic, it's what you say about the topic. When my d. was writing her essays, when I read the first draft I often ended up telling her that while it was well written, answered the prompt, etc. I didn't end up knowing much about her.

    She's private, so it was hard for her to open up about who she is. Eventually she wrote an essay about coming home from a library book sale, and what books were in her bag. She wrote it because she really came home from the book sale, and was excited. I said - gee maybe you should write about that! It was a great essay - it got at her love of books and a bargain, used the books to talk about some of her interests, used the fact that it was a relatively weird collection of books to talk about how she views learning and knowledge.

    Many revisions later, it became her Common App essay.

    So :-) write about library book sales
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  • DukeBlueDevilsDukeBlueDevils 361 replies83 threadsRegistered User Member
    overcoming adversity is so cliche it's not even funny.
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  • friedricefriedrice 1179 replies101 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You can write anything. It's how you write it is what makes the difference.
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  • silentsailorsilentsailor 1228 replies62 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    About how you're so normal and boring that it's extraordinary. Haha some kid I know did that and it suuuccked.

    The best college essays I've ever read are well-written, light-hearted, inadvertently self-descriptive, and about quirky things (fears, experiences, etc). You want to show your personality in your writing instead of outright TELLING them what you're like.
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  • yousonofatreeyousonofatree 1308 replies50 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Just keep in mind that adcoms are just people you don't know. Question to ask yourself: If you read your essay to a stranger on the street, would the be interested and enjoy it?

    Honestly, they don't care about your life. They just want to hear something interesting about you. I've read too many college essays where people just regurgitate a summary of their years in high school.
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  • '08Holla'08Holla 130 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Mostly restating what others have said, but just about any topic or event you write about can be typical. It's how you insert yourself into the essay that makes it stick out or at least not bore adcoms to more tears.

    Other cliche topics off the top of my head that are often abused and poorly done: Cancer/other illness, divorce, travel, and academics. It's not impossible to write a good essay on these, but it's difficult to separate yourself from the x,000 others also writing essays like that.

    For the record, one of my essays was about my room (more specifically, the area in and around my computers), but I wrote about why no one else's is like mine, and why I keep it the way it is. Then again, it wasn't written like an essay, more like a storyish blurb about me.
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  • collegeseeker200collegeseeker200 53 replies19 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Is it okay to write about religion, or might I run the risk of invoking a subjective bias in admission officers? My exploration of the Christian faith has been such an important part of my high school years, and it's been both an intellectual as well as spiritual journey. I think that it has contributed to who I've become, but I'm not sure if this is a risky move.
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  • CofaloafCofaloaf 95 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Honestly just write about a personal experience that gave you insight. It doesn't need to be super profound or life-changing. Just show that you can connect experiences to thoughts. For example I wrote about a conversation I had with a british couple where they thought I was talking about prince harry when I was really talking about harry potter. Then I talked about cultural differences causing confusion. Something simple will work, just do it with good voice.
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  • cuRRentcuRRent 436 replies19 threadsRegistered User Member
    i'm writing AGAINST religion. hmm
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  • aigiqinfaigiqinf 3842 replies190 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Don't write about an "outward bound" trip of some sort in which your realize that "all people are the same no matter where they live" etc. Adcoms are looking for "Slice of life" essays, so make it so that it shows a lot about you!
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  • shreya.iitkshreya.iitk 1025 replies27 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "The best college essays I've ever read are well-written, light-hearted, inadvertently self-descriptive, and about quirky things (fears, experiences, etc). You want to show your personality in your writing instead of outright TELLING them what you're like."

    ^ exactly............
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