Applying to college is stressful. While there are many factors you can’t predict, crafting a successful college admissions essay is entirely within your control.IMG_3028

READ: Check out an updated essay-tips article here.

With deadlines fast approaching – scholarship (Dec. 1) and regular notification (Feb. 1) – College of Charleston admissions counselors have a few tips for your admissions essays:

Don’t: Let the essay overwhelm you

The admissions essay is an important part of your application, but it’s not going to make or break you. Don’t spend so much time and energy on your essay that you miss college application deadlines. Deadlines are pervasive in college and well beyond graduation. Admissions counselors want to see that you can meet them.

Do: Use spellcheck and grammar check

When essays are submitted with obvious errors it shows carelessness – not what you want to portray through your admissions portfolio.

Don’t: Submit an incorrectly formatted essay

Thoughtful experimentation is one thing, but your essay should reflect what you know; you should know how to properly format a formal essay.

 EXPLORE: Learn about the admissions process at the College of Charleston

Do: Have a teacher proofread it

Teacher or guidance counselor—it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re not related to you. Family members might infer subtleties outsiders won’t and you need to be sure any reader will understand your message.

Do: Make it personal

You’ll hear about subjects you should “never” write about, but we want to learn about you as a person and as a student. If one of those taboo subjects has impacted your development, write about it. If you feel like you can own the topic and justify its relevance then it’s appropriate to write about.

Don’t: Use gimmicks

Unless you’re getting at something that will jump off the page immediately, don’t use text messaging shorthand or send a blank piece of paper to represent the greatest risk you’ve ever taken. Let your story and your writing – not a clever ploy – speak for you.

READ: Explore the College in Spanish

Do: Take advantage of the personal statement option (if offered)

Use the primary essay to talk about yourself, but write a secondary personal statement if there’s something you feel warrants further explanation – a poor grade or no higher-level language after junior year, for example.

Don’t: Make excuses

If you earned a bad grade or stopped taking language courses because you were lazy, don’t go out of your way to blame external factors. Conversely, if you discovered you have a learning disability or your school didn’t offer higher-level language courses, explain it in your personal statement.