English teachers and college essays can often be a bad mix. What might be good in an English paper on Jane Austen or J.D. Salinger might actually not be good in a college essay. In fact, there’s a good chance it isn’t. One of the main reasons is that your college essays should not read like reports. They shouldn’t go on and on dissecting a book unless this really demonstrates something about you, the writer. That is, after all, the point of college essays!
College essays should have an informal tone. It’s okay to write a fragment. Sometimes, fragments can even be powerful. It’s okay to start a sentence with “but.” We know your English teacher likely told you in fifth grade that you should never start a sentence with “but.” BUT, on college essays, you sure can! It can be a powerful way to start a sentence and it’s way more fun that starting a sentence with a “however.” Try not to start sentences in college essays with “however” or “nevertheless.” College essays aren’t term papers and nobody talks with “howevers” every other sentence. The tone needs to be casual. We can’t stress this enough.
So go through your college essay. If you had your English teacher read it over and give comments, great. But now go through it and count your “howevers.” Count up your “nonetheless-es.” And then delete the vast majority of them. Don’t go crazy now with being completely informal. It still should be a well structured essay but there’s no need to write like you’re writing a college thesis. Because that’s not what college essays are. Yeah, we started that sentence with a “because.” What are you going to do about it?