Busting 5 Common College Essay Myths

College application season is in full swing, and we thought it would be a good time to address some common myths about the college essay – one of the most important pieces of the admissions puzzle for many schools.

As this article states, especially when it comes to the more selective colleges, the college essay can make or break your chances of admittance. Before writing your college essay, check out these common myths and some helpful facts to keep in mind:

Etchings & Odysseys
(Photo Credit: 028 Etchings and Odysseys 1973 Number 1 via photopin (license))

Myth #1: Your essay must be written about an impressive topic.

While you may think you have to have a grand, exciting adventure to write a good college essay, the fact is, what most colleges really want to hear is a story about how you learned something important about yourself, or grew in some way as a person. As the article says, “colleges want to know what you learned, not what you did.”

Myth #2: Your essay should sound sophisticated, like a college professor.

What colleges really want to hear is your voice – not that of a famous writer or your English teacher. It is perfectly fine to sound like a high-school senior – after all, that’s what you are! This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check (and double-check) your essay for errors, run spell-check, and make sure your grammar is correct. But don’t worry about trying to sound like a seasoned author – just sound like the best version of yourself.

Myth #3: The admissions officers won’t find out if you have someone else write your essay for you.

Unfortunately this is all-too-common, and the colleges absolutely hate it! If they even suspect your essay may be plagiarized, or partly written by an adult, they may not even consider your application for admission at all. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth risking your chances of getting into your dream school. Take the time and write your own essay, and then feel free to have someone else take a look at it to catch any errors. But do your own work!

Student writing
(Photo Credit: Student via
photopin (license))

Myth #4: You have to write your essay “the right way.”

In truth, there is no “right way” to write a college essay. Find the process that works best for you. Write an outline. Brainstorm. Watch inspiring videos and relate them to your own experience. Find a topic that speaks to you, and write, revise, edit, tweak, review, revise again, until you have a piece that tells the story you want to tell. This is the story the colleges want to hear – not some formula.

Myth #5: You have to have an impressive resume or a momentous experience to write an essay that will stand out.

Similar to Myth #1, this is just not true. Your essay should be about something that is important to you, or that had an impact on you – no matter how insignificant you may think it might be to others. Write about your passion, write about a problem you solved, a lesson you learned, or something that inspired you. Write a personal story that brings the reader into your world and gives them a glimpse of what it’s like to be you.

Whether the topic is a family vacation, a safari in Africa, serving the homeless, or just hanging out with friends, if you follow these guidelines, your essay will shine – and you will improve your chances of attending the school of your dreams!

We help families plan, prepare, and pay for the great expense of college. If you would like some guidance through this process, we’re always here to help – just contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our college planning advisors. 614-536-0246.


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