Continuing our series on common mistakes college applicants often make on their college application essays, let’s take a look at a sample paragraph we’ve written below that is emblematic of a type of essay college admissions counselors often receive. After the sample paragraph, we’ll analyze the writing and give you our insights on why it works…or why it doesn’t.
Here’s the paragraph:
“My trip to South Africa was a remarkable experience. I got to explore Soweto, a place Nelson Mandela once called home. To see children living in poverty without access to a good education was truly unsettling. After Soweto, it was off to Cape Town where I got to climb Table Mountain and see the most beautiful of ocean views. Before I returned home, I had the opportunity to go on Safari at Kruger National Park. The chance to see lions, elephants, zebras, and cheetahs was one I will not soon forget.”
So many applicants write about trips abroad on their college application essays. There are few things that university admissions counselors find more boring than reading a college essay about the litany of activities a high school student experiences on trips in exotic locales. What does this type of paragraph actually say about a college applicant other than her parents could afford to send her on a trip to another continent? This essay is by no means going to increase her chances for admission to highly competitive universities. University admissions counselors wish they could go on safari at Kruger National Park but instead they’re stuck reading application essays, and so an envious college admissions counselor is not likely to want to admit this student.
What else does this college essay say about the applicant other than she wrote about poverty-stricken Soweto and how the children there don’t have access to a good education? And then the applicant moves on to hiking up beautiful Table Mountain. If anything, this essay demonstrates that the writer is superficial as well as apathetic to the world’s problems. This is not the type of student that admissions officers are seeking. Instead, they want to admit students who care about making the world a better place, students who want to personally tackle the world’s problems and make them their own.