How to Write an Outstanding Admissions Essay (2)

How to Write an Outstanding Admissions Essay (2)

Step 3. AMCAS essays and college application essays are the same in one way: you need to  leave the reader with a lasting impression that is difficult to shake.

How do we leave these emotional fingerprints on our reader’s mind?

In order to leave your indelible mark, you must make a connection with the reader. A connection isn’t necessarily forged by the fact that you saved the world from famine, or that you won the nobel prize for literature. Something that is significant to you, can and should come across as significant to the reader. Here’s an example from a medical school admissions essay:

Other games and competitions followed, but the outcome was the same. Patients were moving muscles, and not just in their arms and legs, but the rarely utilized fibers required for smiling and laughing. Bob Barker’s passive followers were briefly transformed into active human beings. Expanding rib cages were no longer the only signs that these people were alive. Animated expressions, roaring laughter and spirited personalities were proof that life was more than just a series of breaths.

This original AMCAS essay was entitled…you guessed it My Summer Vacation, but in the end, it is clear that what this candidate learned was more than just how to live off minimum wage.

So, you’ve got the basics admissions essay strategies down and are ready to write. Here are the four most common hazards to avoid.

Step 4. Avoid these common application essay traps.

Plato’s Pitfall

Greek philosophers from ancient times discussed themes such as the ideal republic and civil piety. In the year 2002 A.D., however one must never fall into the trap of over philosophizing in your essay. I cannot count how many essays I have read that started off:

Ever since the dawn of complex society, individuals have struggled to incorporate religious themes within cultural bounds.

…Nothing glaringly wrong with that opening, but remember, you are not writing a research or term paper. An admissions committee wants to know something about you. Philosophizing about religion should be saved for college level classes, not the college application essay.

Attack of the Thesaurus

Did a giant meteor kill off the last thesaurus during the Mesozoic era? Absolutely not, thesauruses are alive and well on all our word-processing machines. They give us the ability to replace our own thoughts with similarly meaning alternatives. Although the thesaurus means well, its overuse often confuses readers and interrupts that consistent flow we all strive for. Here is the result of a thesaurus gone awry.

The conjectural anecdote resulted in a most calamitous insurrection directed at my nostrils.

Not sure what the writer is trying to say? Try this one:

The hypothetical remark got me a punch in the nose.

This second sentence shows how saying what you mean, without the aid of a thesaurus, can be much more effective than overusing word-processing features.


Many a student sees the admissions essay as an opportunity to put his or her best foot forward. The problem occurs when our aspiring college student tries to condense his or her attributes, awards, and extracurricular activities into one single literary masterpiece. The admissions essay, however, is not a resume. The admissions essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee one or two interesting tidbits about you as a person. Attempting to jam eighteen years of accomplishments into a few sheets of paper is a harrowing task that should be held off until graduation day.


An admissions essay writer must learn to skate a fine line between being profound and being formulaic. Unique candidates do not:

Win one for the team

Find money the root of all evil

Give me your tired, your poor

God bless us, everyone

These are all clichés that over time have been used again and again. Admission officers will be quick to go numb after reading an essay filled with these overused phrases. Coming up with different ideas or a unique perspective is the challenge of any writer. This is what separates an average admission essay from an exceptional one.