Number sixteen of my twenty five ways to make your college admissions essay the best writing you’ve ever done is good advice for life, as well as your application.

#16. Be honest.

Several years ago I worked with a student who told me he and his high school basketball team helped a family rebuild their house after a devastating fire. I thought it would make a good essay topic and he wrote a fine essay. When we were finished, his father called me and praised the essay. Then he casually said, “Well then, I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s true.”

His son, it turned out, had embellished the truth beyond recognition (the actual facts are not important). I took what he said at face value (why not?) and never questioned him. I told the father that it certainly did matter whether it was true (certainly to me) and insisted that his son rewrite the entire essay.

Would an Admissions Director have spotted the essay as a phony? Probably not, yet that is far from the point. If you’re going to lie in your college application essay, you’re heading into college on a path of duplicity that will surely lead you off a cliff.

(I’m not even going to discuss what could happen should you get caught. Start with the humiliation and work down from there.)

Writing an honest college admissions essays isn’t easy. It takes time to find the perfect topic, many drafts to refine it. But if you do the job with integrity, you will have pride in what you’ve done, and you might even learn something about yourself. By lying on your essay you will not only be cheating on your application, you’ll be cheating yourself.

For more personal help with the Common Application essay, supplemental or any other college application essays, please contact Craig Heller at, or 818-340-1276.

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