Applying to college is a difficult task for many prospective students. When English is not your first language, writing a college application can seem even more daunting.
To help you, we’ve listed some of the most common mistakes students make so you can avoid making them and wow your admissions officer with flawless writing. Enjoy!
Not planning before writing
Your personal statement is your opportunity to explain why you would like to study a particular course. This is your chance to talk about his personal skills, ambitions, experience, and achievements. He doesn’t make the mistake of rushing into this.
A good personal statement requires careful planning.
Tips: Before you begin, it’s a good idea to create a mind map to help you think about the main topics you want to include. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the wonderful things you’ve done! Then start thinking about how this relates to your chosen course.
Inclusion of random anecdotes.
It is important to structure your experiences and show how your achievements and interests link to the course you are applying for. Do not include achievements and stories if they cannot be connected to your course in any way!
Tips: To avoid including random anecdotes, use the ‘ABC’ writing structure.
Action: What have you done that has helped you learn about the course you are applying for?
Benefit: What were the benefits of taking those actions? Did you learn?
Course: How has what you learned prepared you to take this course? How will taking this course benefit you in the future?
4000 words or characters? Don’t confuse them!
Universities often specify how many words they expect you to write. This is known as the word count. Sometimes they will mention a number of characters. Spaces, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation count towards the character count.
The online University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) undergraduate application form allows you to type 4000 characters, which is approximately 700 words.
Tips: Know the difference between a word count and a character count and pay attention to what is being asked of you.
The opening paragraph cliché
Learn to tell stories. Why are you requesting your course? What happened in your life sparked your interest in the subject?
Many students start by saying something like; “I want to study X since I was a child”. This is not interesting to the admissions officer since a) you have probably read hundreds of other applications saying the same thing and b) the length of your interest doesn’t tell them much about you.
However, knowing how your interest was born is another story. This is something they want to hear and that will pique their interest.
Tips: Did you have a specific moment or experience that sparked your interest in your chosen course? Write about it in your opening paragraph!
Excessive use of the thesaurus
A thesaurus is a very useful tool and will come in handy during your time at university, however, it is important to know when and how to use a thesaurus. Using the wrong synonym interrupts the flow of your writing and causes reader confusion.
If you type the adjective ‘hardworking’ into an online thesaurus, you’ll be presented with words like ‘assiduous’, ‘persistent’, and ‘seditious’.
Don’t just change the word “worker” to one of these words, as they have different nuances. If you use one of these words in the wrong context, you are just showing your admissions officer that you used a complicated word without really understanding what it means. And they will not be impressed.
Remember, many words have more than one meaning, particularly phrasal verbs!
Tips: Only use words from your thesaurus if you are sure you understand the meaning of the word in context.
Excessive use of cohesive devices
You want your college application to read and flow naturally. Words that you can use to help tie parts of your application together are known as cohesive devices, also known as linkers, link devices, transitions, transition phrases, or signaling language.
Can you guess the most common mistake students make with cohesive devices in their college applications? Yes, as with synonyms, students abuse these words in their writing.
It is important to use your language with a purpose. When writing your college application, only use words or phrases that you understand and that really make your writing easier to read.
Tips: Use the Internet to find model examples of college applications. How many cohesive devices do you use and which of them could you use in your application?
Since you are writing for academic purposes, the tone of your writing should be formal.
Tips: Once you’ve written your application, review what you’ve written and make sure you haven’t used contractions or slang words.
Forget to correct
Don’t rely on grammar and spell check to catch every mistake. Words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings are called homophones. ‘Their’ and ‘there’ are good examples of homophones.
They create problems for students of English in writing because they often forget which spelling is correct for the purpose. The spell checker will not detect inaccurate use of homophones, so it is important to check your application for spelling and grammatical errors yourself when possible.
Tips: Use software like Grammarly to catch some of the mistakes that the spell checker won’t catch.
Get no help
If you’re serious about writing a college application, you really should think about getting help.
Now go and apply for the course of your dreams!