The Ivy Coach Daily

April 12, 2016

Colloquial Writing in College Admissions Essays

Writing in College Essays, College Essay Writing, College Essays
Dare to write colloquially in college admissions essays (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

The best college admissions essays are written in a colloquial style. Maybe a student dares to start a sentence with ’and’ or ’but.’ Maybe a student dares to write a fragment. Maybe a student writes a one-word sentence for extra emphasis. We’re all about that kind of writing — as regular readers of our college admissions blog know very well since we too write in a colloquial style. In fact, we are all about defying the very rules that so many high school English teachers ingrain in their students. Those rules…they’re boring and they make for uninteresting writing.

Too Many Students Heed the Advice of Their English Teachers

If we had to read another college admissions essay that began with the words “I” or “I’m,” we’d eat beets. And we don’t like beets. Not one bit. Yuck. So often, the very students who begin their essays with “I” follow up that sentence with a string of sentences that also start with “I.” That drives us nuts. Mix it up a bit and try to avoid starting sentences with “I” or “I’m.” What are you, Popeye the Sailor Man? “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man; I’m Popeye the Sailor Man; I’m strong to the finich; Cause I eats me spinach; I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” Oh Popeye…

It’s also a pet peeve of ours to see so many “howevers” and “neverthelesses” in college admissions essays. Writing such words isn’t the mark of great writing. And never use a big word when a small word will do. “But” is a smaller word for “however.” “Yet” is a smaller word for “nevertheless.” Who are you trying to impress with your big, fancy words? Stick to the little words. You shouldn’t have to use big words in order to write effectively. In fact, the very best writers don’t use big words. Have a listen to a speech by President Obama or President Reagan. These were two great orators with phenomenal speechwriters — no matter your party affiliation. They understood that a simple word always beats a big word. When you use a big word, it comes across like you’re trying to impress people. I’m smart. I know big words. Admit me. But that kind of approach in the highly selective college admissions process is not an effective one. It renders a student unlikable. Our task at Ivy Coach is to inspire admissions officers to root for our students, to render them entirely likable. It’s why our students use little words.

So as you work on your many college admissions essays (and there are many!), we urge you to colloquial it up! You’ll be glad you did!

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