25 College Admissions Officers Share The Worst Essays They’ve Ever Read
Admissions officers are faced with a barrage of applications when it comes time for the newest batch of kids to enter college. These aspiring hopefuls are inexperienced in the ways of the world, and more often than not their admissions essays give it away.
One internet user provoked the most interesting discussion on r/AskReddit when they inquired from college admissions officers what was the very worst essay they had encountered. The officers did not disappoint as you can see from the hilarious collection of bizarre submissions that we’ve shared with you below.
A student began his essay bragging that he was “king” of his school. He was a linebacker, captain of the lacrosse team, and had been with “four older, attractive girls in the last 6 months.” He was attempting to contextualize himself as a dude bro to juxtapose his discovered love of poetry, but only provided the committee with a laughs and eye rolls.
Also read numerous essays this year from middle/upper-class white kids talking about how hard it is to be Christian in the United States because they are ridiculed, mocked, and even persecuted(!) for their beliefs
I know a college admissions person and one time they told me that a student wrote down that they can “Distinguish bra cup sizes by a simple glance at a woman”.
They were not impressed
I read essays for a scholarship foundation and the worst essay I have ever read was from a girl who wrote that she was a good person and she backed that up by stating that she was a virgin. First of all I don’t think being a virgin makes you a good person or not being one makes you a bad person. Second of all, who the hell talks about their virginity on a scholarship application?
I was an admissions assistant at a really religious university. Everyone had to sign an Honor Code that included no tank tops, no drinking, no premarital sex or anything close, etc. I think a lot of kids have parents who make them apply because from time to time we would get unrepentant stories about drunken nights of passion. As in, “The candles flickered gently as he asked, ‘”Are you sure you want to do this?'” An interview with a religious leader is included in your packet and I read one that said, “Do not let this girl in under any circumstances. She belongs to a polygamous cult and may be coming to recruit.”
I remember an applicant who wrote at length about how she panics under pressure, lacks leadership skills and can’t stand hospitals. It was a medical school application. I called her to make sure we weren’t getting trolled. 10 seconds into the call she began panicking and said she doesn’t do well with stressful phone calls and hung up. I called later to check up and she seemed to have recovered. No interview for her though.
Read essays for a scholarship, not admissions.
Most were about mission trips through churches and how much the student had learned. Boring and mediocre. But one…
Packed with amazing imagery, the writer described her birth. Into the world of freedom and adulthood she was born. Pushing open the “doors”. Light striking her face for the first time. So vivid. Got to the end and she was describing getting a luxury car at her graduation party. It was a scholarship for needy kids. She didn’t get it.
Ones with text speak (r, u, 4ever), ones where kids forgot to change the name of the school for a different essay, ones where they tried to explain they’re a good student despite a 2.0 gpa..
“My Mexican nanny was like a second mother to me and I know she felt the same way because she spent holidays with us instead of her own family.
I did data entry for the admissions office of the university I attended as an undergrad. Mostly I just confirmed the identification numbers on papers/e-docs that were sent in, and entered the applications components onto a sort of checklist on the applicant’s profile in the system. It wasn’t my job to read the applications for content, but the job was tedious as hell, so I often did anyway.
I’ve seen some exceptional s**t. I teach high school now, and I tell my students exactly what happens when you write an idiotically over-the-top-first-world-problem sob story or pretentious special snowflake essay. The underpaid data monkeys who process your s**t pass it around the bullpen and laugh our asses off.
The best worst one I ever read was a personal statement from a female student explaining a disciplinary action on her school report. Apparently, she and her boyfriend both ran track and attended the [University Mascot] Invitational track meet on campus. She went into detail about a fight that she and her boyfriend had at the meet, and then explained that he had asked to talk to her in private to “make up.” She went on to say that they found an empty room in the field house and that he “was feeling romantic” and that they got caught having sex. She tried to play it off as her enthusiasm for the campus in the most awkward and horrible way possible. My shift got nothing done that way because we all crowded around the
computer reading it out loud. Even the supervisors got in on it.
TL;DR If you get caught f*****g while visiting a university, maybe you shouldn’t apply there mere months later. Or, maybe you shouldn’t try to spin it as a demonstration of your enthusiasm about attending said university.
Admissions counselor here. I’ve been doing this for almost nine years, so everything kind of blends together at this point. I can’t think of a specific “worst essay,” but a lot of them fall into a few broad categories.
These essays are usually a big list of all the terrible things that happened to a student in hopes that we will admit them because we feel bad. Don’t just tell us all the things that have happened to you and nothing else. A LOT of prospective students have gone through the divorce of their parents, death of a friend or family member, medical issues, car accident, etc. You need to explain how these events shaped you as a human being, what you learned, how you handled adversity and still managed your academics and so on.
These are kind of like sympathy essays, only with much more graphic details. I’ve had some essays where students share intricate descriptions of sexual abuse they have experienced, or abusive relationships they were in with high school girl/boyfriends… This may have been a major experience that shaped you as a human being, but I don’t think is appropriate for a college essay. If I feel the need to take a shower after reading your essay, that’s not good for anyone. Also included here are essays where you admit that you didn’t try hard in high school or take your academics seriously, but you’re going to start in college. Maybe you should start in junior college then, and we’ll see how it goes before you get to a four-year university.
Poorly written essays
Spelling errors, grammar mistakes, no formatting… THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS. Have someone read your essay before you send it. Have several people read it! It’s not cheating; we encourage you to do this. Also, if you’re using the same essay for multiple colleges, make sure you change the name of the college referenced in your essay before you send it to that college.
Some students submit an essay that is about five sentences long and doesn’t really say anything. If it takes you more time to attach your essay to the application than it does to write the essay, that is not a good thing.
Most essays are not all that interesting to read, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If your essay doesn’t stand out at all, it probably means that you answered the essay topic and didn’t make any, or many, mistakes. That’s about as much as we can ask for. It’s not your fault that the typical high school experience for the vast majority of high school students is… typical. You probably didn’t enter your freshman year thinking, “I better do some really cool stuff during the next few years so that I can write about it in my college essay.” That’s fine, we get that. Just do the best you can.
In reality, for most students, the essay is the weakest part of the application. We realize that, and so in every office I’ve worked in, the essay is the least valued part of the application file. We’re much more interested in whether you challenged yourself academically, earned good grades, scored well on the SAT/ACT, and got involved in extracurricular activities. These things are all way more important.
Former admissions counselor here:
The worst essays, generally, are not particularly interesting. They receive the worst scores because they are short, incomplete, riddled with grammatical mistakes, or are written by non-native speakers. It takes 30 seconds to give the lowest score and move on.
However, one memorable essay sticks out. A student (rich, white, private school) wrote eloquently about how inner city black students ought to take up more sports. Specifically, polo, lacrosse, and squash. With conviction, this particular student, woefully unaware, wrote about how inner city students could learn more about competition and overcoming adversity from taking up these sports. His proposal was to host sports camps (in the suburbs) for the students of color to attend.
I worked in writing centers for several years and we helped people write these essays. Somebody came in with a med school essay about how she wanted to become a doctor to offer her family free surgery, so when I asked her about it and if she knew much about medical ethics, she said she thought operating on family members–esp. plastic surgery–would be just fine. I also asked her if she knew about the Hippocratic Oath and she had never heard of it.
Not an admissions officer, but when I was applying to colleges, an admissions officer told us about one student who wrote about tomatoes. Specifically, how people either like tomatoes or hate them; there is no in-between. She got in.
I love a question I can legitimately answer!
There was a happiest place prompt. Her happiest place was the bathroom. While pooping.
A story about meeting poor people while on a service trip to South America (a frequent cliche) that ended with tossing soap and pens and pencils to a small child who danced for them, until he cried of gratitude (or perhaps because teenagers were throwing things at him)
Someone who wrote about her school trip to Ireland, where she mentioned staring out at the Pacific Ocean from her hotel
For their GPA they put 95. One student listed their high school as “idk” One student listed their intended major as teaching and their minor in “principle” I asked one person how to spell their name and they had to ask their mother how to spell it. Multiple people have actually tried listing their IQ as a reason for admittance. If you get to write your own personal essay do not write “Why?” As the title and the entire essay be “why not?” Maybe not too ridiculous but they stuck with me
The worst CV I ever saw as part of an application to a graduate program was a barely-intelligible, un-formatted mess that included such bits of information as she likes to spend her free time reading and her favorite book is “fifty shade gray”
Image source: dimgray
Not an admissions officer, but a college essay proofreader. I had a student who wrote a page worth of complete metaphorical bs that I could make zero sense of. He talked about how his fedora was his most prized possession. The best sentence, however, was something along these lines: “I delight in pondering life’s endless choices, such as whether to indulge in extra guac: Is my palette worthy enough of the delicate mingling of avocado and coriander?” Had another essay where the student wrote about how adventurous she was, using the time she lit her kitchen on fire as a supporting detail. No. Just… no.
The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a “Harvard man” is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.
April 23, 1935
John F. Kennedy
I wont say how i know this person but he answered an essay question asking what he would do if he had 100 dollars by explaining he would go to the local playground where homeless people congregated and host a mini olympics where the homeless could compete for the 150 burgers he purchased with the money. The idea was to feed them but also do a study in human behaviors. This was for John Hopkin’s and I’m pretty sure they were not pleased. Haha.
I used to intern at the admissions office at my university and got to read a couple essays from time to time. Firstly, you won’t believe how many of these essays contain a sob story, or a story about how the kid went on a service trip and how it changed their lives.
Not exactly the worst, but I think the most cringe-worthy essay I read was one where this guy talked about how he thought he was more mature than anyone of his age, how he never talked to anyone in school because he thought they were too dumb for him, and how he spends his free time having conversations with scientists on the Internet. Also for some reason he felt the need to mention multiple times that he was straight edge and didn’t understand how other kids of his generation found alcohol and drugs fun.
I mean, his GPA was pretty good and he seemed like a decent kid but f*****g hell was that essay hard to read.
I used to work in admissions and my boss had pinned an essay up in her cubicle with the name whited-out. The entire thing was written like the applicant was a cat. She talked about coming to learn with silly humans and how art would be a cat’s true passion if cats had passions. She said that she didn’t care about getting in, she just wanted to prove that she could. I don’t think she was accepted, but that would have just been because of grades or text score, not the essay. That essay was legendary.
A applicant literally wrote something along the lines of please don’t accept me I don’t want to go to your school in the addendum section of our application because his parents forced him to apply.
Another time an applicant submitted a essay composed of Japanese characters that when put through google translate turned out to be a loosely translated version of cat in the hat.
My favourite teacher in high school used to grade provincial English exams. Basically they put you in a room and you rate essays out of 5 all day. You have to do one paper every 5-10 minutes. And you’re supposed to do it in absolutely stone cold silence.
He’s in the middle of grading a pretty blasé paper and he can just sense the guy beside him losing his s**t. He’s practically convulsing he’s trying so hard not to laugh. He cracks and is openly howling and people start to get up and gather around to see what’s funny.
The kid ended every single sentence in exclamation marks.
We went to the mall today!! The mall was really packed!! We went to buy shoes!! The kind I wanted weren’t there!! I was sad but then I bought another pair of shoes!!!! They’re okay! I like my new shoes!!
Who does that?!
My dad reviews college admissions for a certain not really well known college (in the middle of Buttf*ck Nowhere, Wisconsin) when he can volunteer. The prompt was of course the stereotypical, “What’s an important thing in your life” or whatever. Y’know, the “big event” in your life. The kid wrote that he had Aspergers, and thus had “superior intelligence to all of the other normals” (A quote from the essay). Kept on writing on and on and on about how he’s superior, and how people just dont “understand him”. I didn’t get to read the whole thing before he threw it away, but it just went on and on. The word limit was like 500 words? He extended it to around 2,000. Gotta give him credit for going the extra mile I guess. He didn’t get into B*ttf**k Nowhere University, what a shame.
Girlfriend is a college admissions officer. She read over a hundred essays from Chinese prospective students that all talked about “helping the blind”. Had no idea that so many Chinese teenagers were active in their blind communities.