Number twenty of the twenty five ways to make your college application essay the best writing you’ve ever done is often a tough one for students to accept. Simply put it’s…

#20. Don’t sell yourself (at least obviously)

Everyone, including the Admissions Committee member who will be reading your essay, is fully aware that you are trying to make a good impression. Yet students who come on too strong risk arousing “push back” in the reader. When confronted by an essay that is little more than a student’s advertisement for him or herself, the reader’s attitude can quickly turn sour. “Oh, really? You think you’re that great? Well, we’ll just see about that.”

It’s a fine line to walk but important to find the appropriate balance between demonstrating a student’s strength and coming on like, “Are you serious? How can you not accept me?” Wry self deprecation can be both charming and disarming. A touch of healthy humility can enhance your likability and bring a smile to a reader’s face.

More specifically, avoid turning the essay into a narrative resume, with the general rule being, don’t put the spotlight on activities and accomplishments that are listed elsewhere in the application. You can mention them in context, of course, but the focus of the essay should not be to aggrandize yourself by touting what you’ve done. Even more precisely, do not mention money. While a hundred and seventeen dollars might seem like a lot to have raised for your local Animal Rescue Shelter, it will not elicit more than a shrug from a reader.

Step Twenty One will go into more depth about how to have your essay achieve its objective without alienating a reader. So, stay tuned!

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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