College Admissions Essay Myths

Robin Farris College Advisor writes about College Admissions EssayBelow is a copy of a flyer the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill passed out to me to share with our students. I thought you might want to see exactly what colleges are looking for in the college admissions essay.


1. The most impressive college admission essays are those that have powerful vocabularies. “I’ll appear smart and intellectual if I ‘wow’ them with words. SAT words are better and will earn me points.” Simply not so!

2. College admission essays don’t really matter. Most colleges simply do not have the time to read them. Most colleges that ask for essays do indeed read them.

3. College admissions essays are the most important piece of a college application. Definitely not! Grades earned in high school and the strength/appropriateness of your curriculum are the most important factors at virtually all colleges.

4. Be careful and as neutral as possible when writing your college admissions essay; probably best to be politically correct, not confrontational. You don’t want to stand out. Not so! The reverse is true. You absolutely want to stand out. You want them to remember your essay, but, of course, you do not want to offend or be absurd or outrageous.

5. Writing college admissions essays is a contest. Only those who write the best essays will be admitted. Oops, again no. True, essays are important at many colleges, but not that important.

6. Grammar, language mechanics and spelling do not count. Think again.

7. The word limit they suggest is just a minimum. It won’t hurt me if I write more in an effort to really get my ideas across. Sorry, but no. The word limits that colleges suggest are usually the maximum they want. It is O.K. to exceed it by a little, but an insult and aggravation if you disregard it and write considerably more. Remember that Admissions counselors read thousands of essays, often late at night when they are fatigued. If your essay is 200 more words than suggested, they will not be pleased and probably will not read it all.

8. I need to explain any weaknesses in my essay. Your generic personal essay statement is usually not the place to explain those C’s you earned in the 10th grade. Your personal essay should reveal something interesting and compelling about you, usually something that is not evident in the rest of your application. Better to explain any failures/shortcomings in an optional essay format or in a separate note included in your application.

9. The Internet is a great place to find college essays, and they’re free! First, they are rarely free. Secondly, they are not your ideas or work. It is fine to read some different types of essays on Internet sites, but your essay must absolutely be only your work.

10. It’s wrong to have someone else proof my essay. Absolutely not! It is smart for someone to read it over and proof. It is not recommended for several folks to review it. Sometimes you are overwhelmed with multiple suggestions, and your essay may become the work of a “committee.”

Robin Farris is a College Admissions Advisor at the Marine Military Academy in
Harlingen, TX.  MMA is an all boys private college preparatory boarding
school. For more information about MMA visit our website: