Your college application essay can affect your chances of admission, especially if your grades, SAT scores or other criteria aren't as strong as you'd like. Writing an effective essay is challenging, so start early, write several drafts and seek feedback from teachers and mentors. While you can write college essays on a wide range of topics, some things should not be put in your essay.

Repetitive Information

Don't repeat information from the rest of your application in your essay. Admissions committees want to learn about your personal qualities and experiences, not reread a list of your achievements and extracurricular activities. In addition, don't brag about what you've done or appear too egotistical; write about what you learned from your experiences and focus on telling a story.

Jokes and Sarcasm

It's difficult to communicate humor through writing, and what seems hilarious to you or your friends may be less amusing to the admissions committee. Sarcasm and profanity are also very difficult to use successfully in formal writing, so don't take unnecessary risks. If you decide to include something edgy or risky, test it on your parents and teachers first, and remember the person reading your essay might have different political and social views than you and your peers.

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Admissions committees read hundreds of essays, so use an original theme rather than a hackneyed cliche. For example, don't write about wanting world peace or how hard work pays off, according to Liberty High School Career Center. If you can't think of a topic, browse essay questions from other schools' applications. In your essay, try to be yourself rather than writing what you think the admissions committee wants to read. Develop a personal angle with stories, concrete examples and specific details.

Plagiarized Information

Writing a college application essay can be challenging, but avoid the temptation to copy or purchase an essay online. Admissions committees have read thousands of essays and can easily spot plagiarism, even if you change parts of the essay, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Plagiarizing your essay could ruin your chances of admission.


Mistakes in your essay make you look careless and distract the reader from what you're trying to say. Don't just rely on spell-check; proofread your essay carefully and ask a friend or mentor to proofread, too. In addition, ensure your essay is written in standard formal English. Avoid text-speak or casual abbreviations, even if you're submitting your essay online; remember you're writing an essay, not an email. Finally, if you use the same essay for multiple schools, double-check that you've changed the name of the school and other school-specific information.

About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.