A major college essay blunder is to quote the dictionary. Or the encyclopedia. Or to replace words you use in everyday speech with words you discover in the thesaurus. Do you know those amateur essays that start, “According to Webster’s Dictionary, success if best defined…” Yeah, don’t do that. Don’t ever do that in your college essays. We promise college admissions counselors will not be enticed to read on much more after starting with the opposite of a bang. Quoting the dictionary is not an example of good writing. It’s an example of terrible writing. So avoid that at all cost.
College admissions counselors don’t care in the least what Webster has to say about success. They care what you have to say. So if you have something interesting to say about success, write about it in your own words. Show, don’t tell. Tell a story of someone who has succeeded at something and write about why you admire them. But don’t just write about them. Through this story, you’ve got to shed light on you and what you’re all about. Because, after all, your college essays should be about you. They should share insight into your character to college admissions counselors. That is their purpose and it is your task to make sure they achieve this purpose.
So throw away the dictionary. And the encyclopedia. Don’t quote Wikipedia either. Ever. Seriously. Never ever. And use words that you regularly use — there’s no need to try and impress college admissions counselors with fancy words that you may or may not actually know the meaning of. College admissions counselors can read right through that in seconds. And that’s just about the only time they’ll spend reading your college essays when they realize you’re the type of applicant who tries to impress. Be yourself instead. That’s always the best strategy.