College Application Essays: Mistake # 6: Negativity is a bummer

The admission officer who is reading your essay is trying to get a sense of "you." He doesn't want to worry that you are going to either be the kid up on the clock tower with an automatic weapon or locked in your dorm room with a "Keep Out" sign on the door.


Word Choice is extremely important. The following “sound-bytes” come from a first draft. The girl is writing about being a Muslim in a Post- 9/11 world. Notice the language. BTW....she's 4'11" with a soft voice, a cherub face who wouldn't hurt a fly. After you read this first part, ask yourself, "Do I want this person to be my roommate?"

  • “Faced the same abuse…”
  • Soiled Muslim image…”
  •  “Erase the grime…”
  • “When others realized that I was human…I acknowledged it as well.”
  • Forced to go through the motions of being a Muslim…”
  •  “Face the realities of the world…”
  •  “A religion with a tarnished image…”
  •  “Ease the burden of future generations…”

If you want THAT person as your roommate, you will be sleeping with one eye open all the time.

Same essay….nothing in the content was lost. Notice the word choice now.

  •  “A sense of self-respect and pride…”
  • Love and…Muslim community…”
  • “Perceptions can be changed with honesty, patience and education…”
  • Misguided information…”
  • “Erase the stigma…”
  • Defuse myths and assumptions with a smile and understanding demeanor…”
  • Supportive friends from all backgrounds who believe…in tolerance.”
  •  “I aspire to further promote the positive reality…and acceptance…”

Now THAT is more like it. You much always be POSITIVE in your essays. Don't insult teachers, your parents, the students in your school, the adults in your town. THINK about what you are saying and how it will be perceived. POSITIVE. Always positive. Even when you write about something that could be considered sad or tragic.....optimism and a positive attitude must prevail.