Some Essay Pet Peeves - from someone who has read a lot of essays

By: Becky Georgenes

As an Admission Officer at Princeton University, it was my responsibility to read and evaluate 25 applications a day.  And on a good day, I could get through 20 or 21.  Needless to say, I worked a lot of weekends. As a college counselor for Road to College, I am still reading essays, but now it's typically multiple times. And I give suggestions to students on how they can refine and revise their work. Here are a few of my pet peeves that hopefully you can learn from. 

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LEAD  pronounced "leed"is a verb in present tense .  You could say, "I am going to lead a rebellion one day in the future." 

LEAD pronounced "led" is a noun. You could say, "My joke went over like a lead balloon." 

LED pronounced "led" is a verb that is the past tense of lead. You could say, "Last year, I led a rebellion."  

DON'T SAY:  "Last year, I lead a rebellion."  or more likely:  "Last year, as captain, I lead my team to victory."  That is just wrong. 

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YOU ARE THE WRITER OF THE ESSAY.  IT IS IMPLIED THAT YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING BECAUSE YOU ARE SAYING IT.  

You don't need to write phrases such as: 
"I believe, I know, In my opinion, To me, In my mind," etc.  You are saying it.  So the reader knows it.  (And you don't want to waste precious words on unnecessary phrases.) 

For example, instead of saying:  "I think that the courses that such-and-such university offers are...." Speak with confidence and just say it. Don't say that you think it.  (And while you are at it, use active verbs.) 

"Such-and-such university offers courses that...." 

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You will hear all sorts of advice on what to write about and what NOT to write about.  Some people say, "Don't write about your service trip. Don't write about divorce. Don't write about death." etc. etc. 

My advice is this: Just write your story. Be authentic. Use the essay as an opportunity to let the university learn more about you and your character. If your story is about your service trip, your parents' divorce, or the death of your grandmother, then that is OK.  Just write it in a way that only you can.   

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And finally.  Enjoy the process. It's a nice time for reflection. Make the most of it.