Admissions

How Formal Should A College Essay Be?

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Am I allowed to use contractions (don't, won't, isn't, etc.) in my college application essay? All of my English teachers have advised against them in formal writing assignments, including college essays, but I wasn't sure about this because I think a college essay should seem more relaxed than a research paper. So I wanted to know what The Dean thinks.

You don't need to avoid contractions in college essays, and your teachers shouldn't have insisted that you mustn't use them. ;-) Contractions can work in every section of an application from short, specific questions to entire essays. In fact, your essays — especially your primary essay — are not supposed to be formal at all. The main purpose of a college essay is to give admission committees a look at what makes you tick and to showcase an interest, experience, accomplishment or characteristic that the rest of the application doesn't fully reveal.

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