(MoneyWatch) For students who are applying for college, one of the scariest parts of the admission process is writing the dreaded essay.
A common mistake that students make when tackling their college essays is to pick the wrong topics. It's a huge turn off, for instance, when applicants write about their sports exploits or their pets. I asked Janine Robinson, who is the creator of a wonderful website called Essay Hell and the author of an excellent ebook entitled "Escape Essay Hell," to identify those essay topics that teenagers should absolutely avoid.
Here are Robinson's college essay no-no's:
1. Listing accomplishments. You might be the most amazing person on the planet, but nobody wants a recitation of the wonderful things you've done, the people you've encountered and the places you've visited.
2. Sports. Do you know how many millions of teens have written about scoring the winning goal, basket or run? You definitely don't want to write about your winning team. And nobody wants to read about your losing team, either.
3. Sharing how lucky you are. If you are one of the lucky teenagers who has grown up in an affluent household, with all the perks that goes with it, no need to share that with college admission officials. "The last thing anyone wants to read about is your ski trip to Aspen or your hot oil massage at a fancy resort," Robinson observed.
4. Writing an "un-essay." Many students, particularly some of the brightest ones, have a negative reaction to the strictures of the admission essay. In response, Robinson says, "They want to write in stream-of-consciousness or be sarcastic, and I totally understand this reaction. However, you must remember your goal with these essays -- to get accepted! Save the radical expression for after you get into college."
5. Inflammatory topics. It's unwise to write about politics or religion, two of the most polarizing topics. Avoid any topics that make people angry.
6. Illegal activity. Do not write about drug use, drinking and driving, arrests or jail time. Also leave your sexual activities out of the frame. Even if you have abandoned your reckless ways, don't bring it up.
7. Do-good experiences. Schools do not want to hear about your church or school trip to another country or region to help the disadvantaged. You may be able to write about a trip like this only if you focus on a specific experience within the broader trip.
8. The most important thing or person in my life. This topic is too broad and too loaded, whether you want to write about God, your mom or best friend. These essays are usually painfully boring.
9. Death, divorce, tragedies. The problem with these topics is not that they are depressing, but that such powerful topics can be challenging to write about. Absolutely no pet stories -- admission officers hate them.
10. Humor. A story within a college essay can be amusing, but don't try to make the entire essay funny.
A Little Help with Capitals
This resource details standard capitalization rules.
Contributors:Chris Berry, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2013-07-12 11:45:25
This handout lists some guidelines for capitalization. If you have a question about whether a specific word should be capitalized that doesn't fit under one of these rules, try checking a dictionary to see if the word is capitalized there.
Use capital letters in the following ways:
The first words of a sentence
When he tells a joke, he sometimes forgets the punch line.
The pronoun "I"
The last time I visited Atlanta was several years ago.
Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things)
Worrill Fabrication Company
Golden Gate Bridge
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Family relationships (when used as proper names)
I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Abigail but not to my other aunts.
Here is a present I bought for Mother.
Did you buy a present for your mother?
The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books
God the Father
the Virgin Mary
the Greek gods
Exception: Do not capitalize the nonspecific use of the word "god."
The word "polytheistic" means the worship of more than one god.
Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names
She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.
I was able to interview Miriam Moss, mayor of Littonville.
Directions that are names (North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions)
The Patels have moved to the Southwest.
Jim's house is two miles north of Otterbein.
The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays (but not the seasons used generally)
Exception: Seasons are capitalized when used in a title.
The Fall 1999 semester
The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages
The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote
Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs (but not short prepositions or the articles "the," "a," or "an," if they are not the first word of the title)
One of Jerry's favorite books is The Catcher in the Rye.
Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups
Green Bay Packers
Friends of the Wilderness
Periods and events (but not century numbers)
Words and abbreviations of specific names (but not names of things that came from specific things but are now general types)