The Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College gives step-by-step advice on every aspect of the college search. It also offers advice on how to write a winning college essay, including what not to do:
Most admissions officers are near nausea with applicants who “want to help people.” Think of something that is unique about you.
An essay that reads as if it has been churned out by Dad’s public-relations firm will not impress. Let the real you shine through.
Colleges want bright, active people-not wet blankets. A positive approach to life, and to the essay, will score points.
Make sure your essay has a point. An endless stream of phrases like “then I did this, and then I did this” is sleep-inducing and doesn’t say anything meaningful.
Essay that goes on forever.
More is not better. The colleges want a concise, well-reasoned essay-not the sequel to War and Peace. Try not to exceed the amount of space allotted for each essay.
The thesaurus syndrome.
Don’t overutilize ostentatiously pretentious language to delineate the thematic observations you are endeavoring to articulate. Big words aren’t impressive; a clear, direct style is.
Source: The Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College.