To all College-Bound Juniors and Seniors:
The primary purpose of your college essay is to give a clear picture of who you are to the admissions counselors. Your essay should be original and creative and tell the college something about you that doesn’t come through in any other part of the application. But, it should also be well written and devoid of any grammatical errors or inappropriate word usage. When I am constantly shocked at how many essays, even from the most accomplished students, are filled with errors.
Not only do errors show laziness and inattention to detail, they are signs of weak writing skills. Your essay should exhibit your unique writing style and will be used to determine whether or not you are capable of meeting the rigorous academic requirements of college courses. Regardless of your intended major, you will need strong writing skills in order to graduate. You are intelligent and competent, so don’t let the admissions team think otherwise.
Examples of common grammar mistakes:
- Its vs. It’s
Its is possessive, while it’s is the shortened version of the phrase “it is.” The team lost its game. It’s up to the teacher to grade those papers.
- Fewer vs. Less
Fewer refers to things that can be counted. Less refers to things that can’t be counted. You have fewer classes than I do. I hope that less snow falls this season.
- Who’s vs. Whose
Who’s is the shortened version of “who is.” It is not possessive. Whose is possessive. Who’s still at work? I don’t know whose jacket that is.
I encourage you to purchase a grammar reference book, which will be useful throughout your college years and even into your adult lives. Review your final essay with a parent, family member or English teacher before submitting your work and don’t get too discouraged if you make mistakes.
Writing a solid and grammatically correct essay should not be difficult. Proofread, proofread, proofread! And, proofread again out loud. Reading something out loud is much more effective at catching errors and run on sentences than reading it silently to yourself. I can’t stress this point enough. You may feel awkward reading the same essay out loud over and over again but it’s better to be awkward by yourself than tossed into a pile of forgotten essays because an admissions officer thinks you don’t know how to write. Use this time to brush up on style rules, polish your application essay, and develop the skills you will need to write your college thesis.