Application Advice 101: The College Essay

Pat Money

By Patrick Money, Assistant Director of Admissions

GroupDo you ever wake up in the morning, throw your ego waffles in the toaster, open up to your favorite page of Webster’s Dictionary and say “these are some great words for my college essays that I need to write!!” No? Well give it a shot; it is an amazing way to start your day. BUT if you are saying to yourself “Pat, I don’t even have enough time in my busy schedule to enjoy the delicious ego waffles you are talking about, where am I supposed to find time to look through a dictionary and/or thesaurus for the essays I am writing?” Well this blog post is for you….you seniors out there that are preparing all of your college essays for your dream school (George Mason University). Writing a college essay can be very difficult, but I think if you follow a couple of these steps, you will find yourself writing stronger essays, applying to more scholarships, and most importantly…finding more time to enjoy those ego waffles I keep talking about!

The hard part is putting a post together that can be read, referenced, but still fun…I’m a light hearted individual, and I believe the admission process is nothing more than an opportunity for self reflection and self discovery. With this in mind – I am going to give you the top 10 list of Do’s and Do Not’s to hopefully guide you on your way!

(Insert dramatic drum roll for the duration of the reading)


  1. DO – Be yourself! Using the thesaurus for every other word, saying things you think Admissions offices want to hear rather than your own thought process – it will all take away your individuality. We want to admit the REAL you!!
  2. DON’T – Write these essays at the last second! Allow ample time for revisions and writers block (it will happen…allow yourself some time for thought and reflection)
  3. DO – READ THE PROMPTS!! IF an essay calls for addressing a specific topic, find your own way to discuss and relay your ideas to every point asked of you!
  4. DON’T – Use text talk (lol, k, plz, rofl….keep in mind you are applying to an educational institution!)
  5. DO – Ask for help as often as you need it! When you are stuck or find yourself struggling, ask your teachers, parents, college admission offices….we are ALL here to help! You simply need to ask when the time comes!
  6. DON’T – Ramble on for pages on end! Find a way to get your point across in the most efficient way possible! (You have to be able to read your essay and keep yourself interested the whole time if you expect an admissions office to do the same!)
  7. DO – PROOF READ!!!!! Double check that there are no grammatical errors, and that your points are clear to the readers
  8. DON’T – Come across as arrogant or boastful. The essay should focus on your accomplishments and/or knowledge of the prompt, not fondness for yourself!
  9. DO – Treat the essay as an opportunity, not a chore. The essay is YOUR VOICE!! Too many students don’t take advantage of holistic review – let your voice be heard. Allow your words to be part of the reason you get in to your dream school (George Mason University)
  10. DON’T – Submit at the last second or not submit at all! I have read a lot of applications during my time in the Admissions Office at Mason….my favorite applications have an essay component where I feel like I can connect with the student and gauge how they will fit at the University I have called home for over 10 years!

So are you saying to yourself – “Too easy”? Don’t worry!! Mason also has an opportunity for a video essay. If you are the type that does not believe written word can fully, and accurately describe how excited you are for admission – ask us for more info on a video essay! Want to submit both?!? As I often say – “Don’t threaten me with a good time!” The video essay can take place of the general admission essay (the Honors essay is separate and required if you are applying for that program), but there are students that submit both. The video essay is a unique opportunity to show off some sort of talent, a fantastic personality, or simply just a new way to convey ideas that will showcase why you are a strong candidate for admission.

So that is a lot to remember, but it all comes down to showing a college how YOU will benefit from the opportunities we are allotting you, and how WE will become a better institution as a whole with your addition. Ask questions, take your time, find your reason to write (have purpose with every essay you start), and HAVE FUN!!! You have already done the work the past three years leading up to this admission process journey…it is now time to put it all together in a package with a bow and send it off to the schools that are dying to add you to their campus life!

Hope to see you this year for a visit, but can’t wait to read your essay.