Curious to know what bad college essays look like? Pick any college essay at random submitted to a college — even the highly selective ones — and there’s a great chance that you’ll pull out a bad essay. And why’s that? Because high school students just plain can’t write. It’s a conclusion we came to years ago, one reinforced over the last several years. In fact, in all of our years helping students with their college admissions essays, we can remember one (one!) essay that was actually great before we started helping with revisions. The writing of American high school students (and the international applicants are way worse!) is, quite frankly, horrible.
Let’s give our readers an example of some bad college essay writing. Here is a sample paragraph from an essay. Tell us what you think is wrong with it in the Comments section below: Winning the race was a really big accomplishment for me. It made me really proud to stand on the podium and wave to the crowd, surrounded by so many people I love. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget that win. It taught me so many valuable life lessons about never giving up and about what it takes to succeed. In this way, sports symbolize life.
And let’s hear your comments on this sample paragraph from a terrible college essay that we’re making up on the spot: Being first chair violin can, at times, be very stressful. If I mess up a note, the whole orchestra can follow my lead. I sit right by the conductor. I am who the audience is looking at. There is so much pressure. And yet I love it. Playing the violin makes me feel alive.
So what’s wrong with these sample paragraph? Is anything right? Definitely not! If you thought anything was right, you might want us to have a look at your college essays. We promise that they’re a whole lot closer to these sample paragraphs than you might think!