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What Do Admission Officers Not Want to See in Your Essay?

What admission officers don't want to see in your essay & how to improve it. Avoid clichés, self-promotion without substance, negativity, and jargon.

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Dec 14, 2023

Admissions officers generally dislike essays that exhibit certain negative qualities or lack the necessary depth to make a strong impression. Here are some examples of what they typically do not want to see, along with suggestions on how to improve them:

Clichés: 

Admissions officers read numerous essays, so using clichés can make your essay sound unoriginal and uninspiring. For example, starting an essay with “Webster’s Dictionary defines success as…” is a common cliché. Instead, aim to present unique perspectives or personal experiences that highlight your individuality.

Bad:

“I want to make a difference in the world and help people.”

Improvement:

Be specific about your aspirations, experiences, or goals. Instead, focus on a particular moment or event that inspired your desire to make an impact, and provide concrete examples of how you have already taken steps toward achieving this goal.

Self-promotion without substance: 

While it’s important to showcase your achievements, simply listing accolades or boasting about your abilities without providing context or depth can come across as arrogant. Instead, use your essay to demonstrate personal growth, reflect on challenges you’ve faced, or discuss how your experiences have shaped your aspirations.

Bad: “I am the best candidate for your program because I am incredibly talented and accomplished.”

Improvement: Rather than making unsubstantiated claims, demonstrate your skills and achievements through specific examples, experiences, or challenges you have overcome. Show the admissions officers how your unique experiences have shaped you and how you can contribute to their program.

Example (poor): “I am the best student in my class, and I have won numerous awards. I am confident that I will excel at your university.”

Example (improved): “Through my academic journey, I have encountered setbacks and obstacles that have taught me the value of perseverance. Overcoming these challenges has shaped my determination to pursue my goals and contribute positively to my community.”

Negativity: Focusing excessively on negative experiences or complaining about past circumstances can create a pessimistic tone. Instead, try to maintain a positive and optimistic perspective. Highlight how you have learned and grown from difficult situations.

Bad: “Secondary school was terrible, and I hated every minute of it.”

Improvement: Instead of dwelling on negative experiences, focus on the lessons learned or personal growth that emerged from challenging situations. Discuss how these experiences have motivated you to pursue your goals or contributed to your character development.

Example (poor): “My high school experience was filled with disappointment and frustration. The teachers were uncaring, and the curriculum was outdated.”

Example (improved): “Navigating the challenges of my high school experience inspired me to seek opportunities outside the classroom. I took the initiative to explore online resources, engage in extracurricular activities, and develop my own passion projects.”

Excessive jargon or pretentious language: Using complex vocabulary or excessive technical jargon can make your essay difficult to read and may give the impression that you are trying too hard to impress. Strive for clarity and simplicity in your writing to ensure that your ideas are easily understood.

Bad: “The hermeneutics of poststructuralist discourse has fundamentally influenced my epistemological framework.”

Improvement: Avoid using complex language solely for the sake of sounding impressive. Clearly communicate your ideas in a straightforward manner that reflects your own voice and genuine enthusiasm. Use terminology or technical language only when necessary, and ensure it is understandable to a broad audience.

Example (poor): “My proclivity for circumscribing the depths of existential enigmas has led me to pursue a multidisciplinary curriculum encompassing the confluence of abstract philosophical ruminations.”

Example (improved): “My passion for exploring deep philosophical questions has influenced my decision to pursue a diverse range of academic subjects that allow me to engage with complex ideas from various perspectives.”

Remember, the goal of a personal statement is to present a unique and authentic perspective of yourself. It should showcase your personality, values, and experiences while providing insights into your goals and aspirations. Admissions officers value authenticity, genuine self-reflection, and unique perspectives. Crafting a well-written essay that showcases your personal growth, aspirations, and contribution to your community can greatly enhance your chances of standing out in the admissions process. 

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