It’s important to have a life lesson in college essays, right? A great Personal Statement wouldn’t be compelling if it didn’t wrap up with a story about a life lesson learned, right? Maybe it’s about understanding the value of hard work. Maybe it’s about understanding the importance of perseverance and overcoming adversity in pursuit of your goals. Maybe it’s about realizing that all people are, in many ways, more alike than different. These are the kinds of life lessons that make for compelling storytelling not only in the Common Application’s Personal Statement but in the unique supplemental essays for the schools to which students apply, right?
One of these things doesn’t belong in college essays: a life lesson, great storytelling, and colloquial writing. Which one is it, you ask?
No, not right. But the regular readers of our college admissions blog know that the entire introductory paragraph above was one big setup. Life lessons have no place in college admissions essays to highly selective schools. Life lessons are cliche. You pulled your hamstring but nursed your way back from injury to compete in the 100 meter dash again? You may not have won but you tried your best? Cliche. You realized that the folks in Soweto, South Africa are just the same as you and your neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut? Cliche. You learn about the importance of love and family from your wise grandfather? Cliche.
Life lessons have no place in college essays. Let’s say it again. Life lessons have no place in college essays. When admissions officers are reading hundreds upon hundreds of essays, how many come-from-behind races can they possibly enjoy? The answer is zero. “Full House” was a terrific television show on ABC. And its sequel “Fuller House” is a nice followup on Netflix. For those not familiar with “Full House,” Danny, Jesse, and Joey often imparted life lessons on D.J., Stephanie, Michelle at the end of each episode. But college admissions essays are not episodes of “Full House.” So leave the life lesson out and don’t think twice about it.