The Ivy Coach Daily

April 20, 2011

College Essays

Citing specifics is the cardinal rule of the Why College essay (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

As we continue to explore common mistakes college applicants so often make in their college essays, let’s take a look at another example of a paragraph that features some of these very errors students often include in their admissions essays. Or maybe this next paragraph is without an egregious mistake. It’s up to you to decide.

Here’s the paragraph:

I want to attend Stanford University because its beautiful Palo Alto campus offers the possibility of so many wonderful activities. I can see myself sitting under a tree reading or eating in the dining hall surrounded by so many smart and engaging students. Its highly competitive athletic teams excite me in that I plan to go to many basketball and football games to cheer them on. I’m so glad Andrew Luck will be returning for a final season.


This paragraph is typical of many students’ statements within why college essays. In this case, it’s a why Stanford admissions essay. In this paragraph, the applicant said absolutely nothing. Nothing at all is specific to Stanford with exception to the reference to their star QB Andrew Luck. Lots of universities have competitive athletic teams. You can read under a tree or sit in a dining hall filled with engaging students at any college. Well, maybe not at the University of Phoenix. There are no trees in cyberspace. And every college likes to think that they have a beautiful campus. So in the end, this college admissions essay paragraph was a complete waste of a wonderful opportunity for the applicant to express himself. A red X should go over it. University admissions counselors want to read specifics. They want to read specifics about what you like about their college – particularly the academic programs that you intend to pursue at the university – and what you can offer to their college (what makes you stand out and how can you contribute to the diversity of the incoming class).

Check out our blogs College Admissions Essay, College Essay Mistakes, and the first installment of this series College Admissions Essay Tips.

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