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What You Want to Show and What You Want to Avoid

Information adapted from Fiske Real College Essays That Work.

Overall, you want to be genuine in your essay, but Fiske has some general guidelines about what you want to show and what you want to avoid in your essays.

There are innumerable qualities that you might want to emphasize in an essay, including that you:

  • have a sense of humor
  • value diversity
  • embrace learning
  • notice the little things
  • are deeply committed to an activity or idea
  • can overcome adversity
  • have initiative

There are also qualities that can be real turnoffs. They generally appear unbeknownst to the author and can undermine anything good in the essay. Avoid any suggestion that you:

  • are cynical
  • think you are a finished product
  • are likely to turn inward in college
  • are depressed
  • are self-destructive
  • lack integrity
  • tend to blame others

Your essay may be the only time that the admissions officer gets to hear your voice. Think of it as you on the page.