College Application Essays: Mistake #2: Trying too hard to appear intellectual

a) I can curse in twenty languages: A thesaurus is not necessarily your friend. Using words like, “plethora” or “myriad” only serve to drive an admissions officer to early retirement. Your teen need not swallow a thesaurus to “sound” intelligent.

This comes from The University of Virginia: An actual excerpt from a TERRIBLE essay….

 “From an early age, we accept death as the inevitable, but do not comprehend its actual denotation. Death is the impending future that all people must eventually grasp. In my early teens, my grandfather tragically perished. As a youth who did not identify with such a cataclysm I was saturated with various emotions. Initially, I was grieved by the loss of a loved one and could not understand why this calamity had to befall upon my family. I always considered death to have a devastating effect, but was shocked by the emotional strain it places upon an individual.”

Do you get any sense of the PERSON who wrote this? It’s just a collection of clichés put together with “Ten dollar words.” I get NO insight into this teen as an INDIVIDUAL.

b) That Pythagoras was no square: Your teen doesn’t need to discuss her love of Shakespeare or Milton if she thinks this slight fib sounds better than discussing the merits of the Twilight series. On the other hand, if she’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey you have bigger issues to worry about than what college she gets into.

c) Eszopiclone, Ramelteon, Triazolam, Zaleplon, Zolpidem: There are enough sleeping pills on the market so the admissions officer doesn’t need an essay to put him to sleep. I am not suggesting that the essay rival that of a SNL monologue but it can’t be boring either. Your teen can write about something as dry as my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving turkey but it needs to sound interesting in story, sub-text, personality, connotation, sentence length, syntax, and unique in perspective.