Frequently asked questions

Can i use contractions in a college essay.

Yes. The college application essay is less formal than other academic writing —though of course it’s not mandatory to use contractions in your essay.

Frequently asked questions: College admissions essays

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding your message and content. Then, check for flow, tone, style , and clarity. Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors .

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If you’ve got to write your college essay fast , don’t panic. First, set yourself deadlines: you should spend about 10% of your remaining time on brainstorming, 10% on outlining, 40% writing, 30% revising, and 10% taking breaks in between stages.

Second, brainstorm stories and values based on your essay prompt.

Third, outline your essay based on the montage or narrative essay structure .

Fourth, write specific, personal, and unique stories that would be hard for other students to replicate.

Fifth, revise your essay and make sure it’s clearly written.

Last, if possible, get feedback from an essay coach . Scribbr essay editors can help you revise your essay in 12 hours or less.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

However, some college applications offer an additional information section where you can explain your bad grades, allowing you to choose another meaningful topic for your college essay.

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

  • Extracurriculars, especially sports
  • Role models
  • Dealing with a personal tragedy or death in the family
  • Struggling with new life situations (immigrant stories, moving homes, parents’ divorce)
  • Becoming a better person after community service, traveling, or summer camp
  • Overcoming a difficult class
  • Using a common object as an extended metaphor

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

In a college essay , you can be creative with your language . When writing about the past, you can use the present tense to make the reader feel as if they were there in the moment with you. But make sure to maintain consistency and when in doubt, default to the correct verb tense according to the time you’re writing about.

The college admissions essay gives admissions officers a different perspective on you beyond your academic achievements, test scores, and extracurriculars. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants with similar academic profiles by telling a unique, personal, and specific story.

Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial to avoid distracting the reader from your college essay’s content.

A college application essay is less formal than most academic writing . Instead of citing sources formally with in-text citations and a reference list, you can cite them informally in your text.

For example, “In her research paper on genetics, Quinn Roberts explores …”

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

  • Overly personal (e.g. graphic details of illness or injury, romantic or sexual relationships)
  • Not personal enough (e.g. broad solutions to world problems, inspiring people or things)
  • Too negative (e.g. an in-depth look at your flaws, put-downs of others, criticizing the need for a college essay)
  • Too boring (e.g. a resume of your academic achievements and extracurriculars)
  • Inappropriate for a college essay (e.g. illegal activities, offensive humor, false accounts of yourself, bragging about privilege)

To write an effective diversity essay , include vulnerable, authentic stories about your unique identity, background, or perspective. Provide insight into how your lived experience has influenced your outlook, activities, and goals. If relevant, you should also mention how your background has led you to apply for this university and why you’re a good fit.

Many universities believe a student body composed of different perspectives, beliefs, identities, and backgrounds will enhance the campus learning and community experience.

Admissions officers are interested in hearing about how your unique background, identity, beliefs, culture, or characteristics will enrich the campus community, which is why they assign a diversity essay .

In addition to your main college essay , some schools and scholarships may ask for a supplementary essay focused on an aspect of your identity or background. This is sometimes called a diversity essay .

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

  • Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
  • Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

  • Is meaningful, specific, and personal to you
  • Focuses on you and your experiences
  • Reveals something beyond your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars
  • Is creative and original

Unlike a five-paragraph essay, your admissions essay should not end by summarizing the points you’ve already made. It’s better to be creative and aim for a strong final impression.

You should also avoid stating the obvious (for example, saying that you hope to be accepted).

There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay :

  • Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure
  • Reveal the main point or insight in your story
  • Look to the future
  • End on an action

The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style. You can write several endings using different techniques to see which works best.

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

  • For early action applications and the first round of early decision applications, the deadline is on November 1 or 15. Decisions are released by mid-December.
  • For the second round of early decision applications, the deadline is January 1 or 15. Decisions are released in January or February.
  • Regular decision deadlines usually fall between late November and mid-March, and decisions are released in March or April.
  • Rolling admission deadlines run from July to April, and decisions are released around four to eight weeks after submission.

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

  • Two reach schools that might be difficult to get into
  • Four match schools that you have a good chance of getting into
  • Two safety schools that you feel confident you’ll get into

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

  • Your personal information
  • List of extracurriculars and awards
  • College application essays
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters.

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count , and demonstrates the organization’s values.

If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships. Sometimes, you can even reuse or adapt your main college essay .

You can start applying for scholarships as early as your junior year. Continue applying throughout your senior year.

Invest time in applying for various scholarships , especially local ones with small dollar amounts, which are likely easier to win and more reflective of your background and interests. It will be easier for you to write an authentic and compelling essay if the scholarship topic is meaningful to you.

You can find scholarships through your school counselor, community network, or an internet search.

A scholarship essay requires you to demonstrate your values and qualities while answering the prompt’s specific question.

After researching the scholarship organization, identify a personal experience that embodies its values and exemplifies how you will be a successful student.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

You can speed up this process by shortening and smoothing your writing with a paraphrasing tool . After that, you can use the summarizer to shorten it even more.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

In your application essay , admissions officers are looking for particular features : they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

  • Use a standard, readable font
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing
  • If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
  • Stick to the word count
  • Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Include specific, personal details and use your authentic voice to shed a new perspective on a common human experience.

Through specific stories, you can weave your achievements and qualities into your essay so that it doesn’t seem like you’re bragging from a resume.

When writing about yourself , including difficult experiences or failures can be a great way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but be careful not to overshare, and focus on showing how you matured from the experience.

First, spend time reflecting on your core values and character . You can start with these questions:

  • What are three words your friends or family would use to describe you, and why would they choose them?
  • Whom do you admire most and why?
  • What are you most proud of? Ashamed of?

However, you should do a comprehensive brainstorming session to fully understand your values. Also consider how your values and goals match your prospective university’s program and culture. Then, brainstorm stories that illustrate the fit between the two.

In a college application essay , you can occasionally bend grammatical rules if doing so adds value to the storytelling process and the essay maintains clarity.

However, use standard language rules if your stylistic choices would otherwise distract the reader from your overall narrative or could be easily interpreted as unintentional errors.

Write concisely and use the active voice to maintain a quick pace throughout your essay and make sure it’s the right length . Avoid adding definitions unless they provide necessary explanation.

Use first-person “I” statements to speak from your perspective . Use appropriate word choices that show off your vocabulary but don’t sound like you used a thesaurus. Avoid using idioms or cliché expressions by rewriting them in a creative, original way.

If you’re an international student applying to a US college and you’re comfortable using American idioms or cultural references , you can. But instead of potentially using them incorrectly, don’t be afraid to write in detail about yourself within your own culture.

Provide context for any words, customs, or places that an American admissions officer might be unfamiliar with.

College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing . Use a conversational yet respectful tone , as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Aim to write in your authentic voice , with a style that sounds natural and genuine. You can be creative with your word choice, but don’t use elaborate vocabulary to impress admissions officers.

Admissions officers use college admissions essays to evaluate your character, writing skills , and ability to self-reflect . The essay is your chance to show what you will add to the academic community.

The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application , especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college . Scholarship essays are often required to obtain financial aid .

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College Essay Contractions: Some Grammar Rules to Follow

  • by Joseph Kenas
  • February 11, 2024

essay contractions

To write a good college essay, there are factors you have to put into consideration. There are guidelines worth following to the latter to get the right grade. Ensure you avoid mistakes that might cost you entry into the college of your choice. You need to be careful with the use of contractions. 

Contractions are the short form of two words : don’t instead of do not. Usually, there will be an apostrophe replacing the missing word. These contractions are mostly used in informal writing, such as dialogue and speech.

But avoid using them in formal writing such as essays. However, there are circumstances where the use of contractions in essays is acceptable , for instance, when quoting a speaker.

What are Contractions in an Essay?

A college essay is a form of formal writing. That being the case, as a student, you need to avoid contractions. They are less formal. However, you can use them in narrative essays or just sparingly in your writing.

Contractions In An Essay

When using the contractions, they tend to reduce the word count of your essay.

This might be a great way of ensuring you easily maintain your optimal word count.

You can reduce two words into one hence not exceeding the word count set by far.

Normally a college application essay ought to be personal. You have to tell a story that will fetch you good grades. In this regard, you can use the contractions.

However, there is always a catch. You should not overuse those short forms. Only use them when they make sense. Overusing them can turn your application as the worst essay to be received.

Can I Use Contractions in a College Essay?

Many tutors discourage the use of contractions when writing college essays. But there are circumstances whereby the use of contractions is acceptable.

For instance, you can heed that call when the instructions allow us to use short forms of words. Before you begin writing your essay, ensure you read the instructions thoroughly. You might find that clause allowing you to use contractions.

English contractions

There is always a clause in the essay instructions that tells you how many words you should write. Know what universities look for in your application.

Unfortunately, when it comes to word count, a significant number of students are prone to having a challenge.

Either they might end up with a lower or higher word count. However, you can avoid facing such instances. Embrace the use of contractions to ensure you manage your word count.

If the essay is not clear about the language to use, it opens a window for you to use contractions. However, there will always be the need to be careful not to overuse them.

You can also choose to inquire from your tutor to ascertain if you can use contractions.

This prevents you from going against the tutor’s rules while assessing your essay. So do not just assume that since there are no instructions not to use shortened words, you can use them. 

Analytical, argumentative, extended, and compare and contrast essays are normally formal. Therefore, any student undertaking those essays should desist from the use of contractions.

But with college application essays, you can break some rules. Since they are less formal, you can insert some contractions. The admissions board might be lenient and not penalize you for using them.

When quoting speeches in your college essay, you can use contractions. This allows you to write the exact words said by the speaker. It brings authenticity to the message you are attempting to pass across. The message is raw without any form of manipulation. For direct speech, do not shy away from using words such as doesn’t.

If you want your college essay to be casual and connect with the tutor on a personal level, then use contractions. They provide personalization to your message. You can easily speak your mind and tell your story. And that is the essence of a college application essay. You have to make it personal to tell the admissions board about yourself.

Why Using College Essay Contractions is Not Recommended

As stated earlier, most college essays require you to use a formal writing format. For instance, if your essay is argumentative, you have to show the seriousness it deserves. You have to avoid using contractions.

using contractions

They will not show the weight in the message you are passing across. This is also the case when writing an analytical essay.

You have to ensure that you avoid shortening words at all costs.

There is always the tendency of overusing contractions.

This is why most tutors do not recommend it. Even if the instructions allow you, ensure you use them sparingly.

The flexibility of using shortened words is not a go-ahead to overuse them. Take time and write words in full so that your essay does not seem like a text message.

Once you finish writing your college essay, read it aloud to ensure your tone is consistent. This is very important in making your essay appealing to the assessment team.

Shorten words are bound to derail the consistency of the tone you are using in your essay. So how do you avoid such an incidence from happening? Even if using shortened words is acceptable as per the instructions, make sure you maintain a formal tone.

Fulfilling the essay word count is not a walk in the park. At some point, the shortened words might make it hard for you to achieve the set word count. It will be prudent to write words in full so that you do not fall short of the threshold. So even if you want to prenasalize your essay, ensure you also consider the word count. 

And if your essay requires you to use a professional tone, then using short words is not a good idea. It is, therefore, your duty to avoid them as much as possible.

The use of contractions makes you sound less professional. Remember, contractions are popular in casual conversations and writings. Therefore, they might not be ideal if you want to present your message formally.

Tips on How to Avoid Contractions in College Essay

Most students find it hard to avoid contractions when writing college essays. Even worse, some go to the extent of overusing shortened words. However, there is always to avoid such a mistake. Here are some of the tips that you can use:

1. Normalize Writing Words in Full

This will give you the habit of not using short words. You will become a master in this art since practice makes perfect. And if you constantly practice not to overuse them, you will kill that tendency.

2. Reading the Instructions

Some students do not pay attention to the written instructions. This is where the rubber meets the rod. There might be a clause that requests you not to use contractions. So, if you do not read the instructions, you might make the mistake of using contractions.

3. Respect the Word Count

Maintaining your word count can be a problem. One of the reasons you might not achieve the word count is by using shortened words since they reduce the number of words. If you want to respect the set word count, then ensure you avoid contractions.

4. Seek your Tutor’s Guidance

Ensure you inquire from your tutor if you need to use contractions. You will get the guidance you need so that you do not make any mistakes in regard to shortening words.

Most students tend to use contractions in their college essays. If you intend to sound personal and casual, using contractions is not a crime. Do not just overuse them. But if you have to sound professional, avoid contractions like the plague.

can i use contractions in college essay

Joseph is a freelance journalist and a part-time writer with a particular interest in the gig economy. He writes about schooling, college life, and changing trends in education. When not writing, Joseph is hiking or playing chess.

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, is it fine to use contractions in college essays.

Yo, so I'm kinda struggling with my college essay here. Should I use contractions or not? Some people say it's okay to use them for a more natural tone, but others say it's too informal. Help, please?

Hey there! It's totally understandable that you're feeling a bit confused about the use of contractions in your college essay. People often have different opinions on this, but I'll share what I learned from my child's application process.

It's true that some contractions can provide a more natural tone and make your essay feel more conversational, but it's also important to strike a balance between that and sounding too informal. That being said, the occasional use of contractions is generally okay, but try not to overdo it.

Good luck with your essay, and I hope this clears things up a bit!

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can i use contractions in college essay

6 Grammar Rules You Should Break When You’re Writing Your College Essay

June 14, 2018 by Sharon Epstein Leave a comment

How to Write College Essays 6 Grammar Rules You Should Break

“You can do that?” she asked. “I’ve always been told not to use contractions.”

Like my student, you’ve probably been given a list of grammar rules to follow when you’re writing an English paper. But here’s the catch:

Your college essay isn’t an English paper. You’re telling a story. You’re writing in your own voice. You’ve got creative leeway.

Now to be fair, grammar rules are important. They help us clearly express what we want to say. They allow us to reach our reader in an effective way.

But it’s a big, creative world out there.

Look at me, for example. I wrote dialogue for soap operas. My characters didn’t avoid slang or contractions. If I wanted them to say, “Are you friggin’ kidding me, Alice? I’m outta here! I’m getting a divorce!”—they said that. I love how words sound and how I can combine them to make an impact. This is my style. The college essay is your style.

College Essay Writing Help 5 Grammar Rules You Should Break

6 Grammar Rules You Can Break While You’re Writing a Great College Essay:

1. Don’t  Use Contractions. Your essay should sound like you’re telling a story. It should be in a conversational tone. We all speak in contractions, so go ahead and use them. (Although, I avoid “would’ve” and “should’ve” because I think they’re too casual for college essays.)

2. Don’t   Use Sentence Fragments. Surprise! You might actually want to use a sentence fragment in your essay. A sentence fragment is short, so it’s like putting an exclamation mark on an idea. Think about using one when you want to emphasize a point. Here are three examples of sentence fragments:

I needed to find a new way to study. Because mine wasn’t working out .

The mountain was the tallest I’d ever seen. Which is why I knew I had to climb it . 

I finally remembered the answer. After the test had ended.

3. Don’t You Can Start Sentences With And , But and Or .  Want to start a sentence with a conjunction? Go ahead. In fact, you’ll be in good company. Here’s a quote from the Chicago Manual of Style , a guide that’s widely used in publishing:

“There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so . In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

4. Don’t End sentences with a preposition. We’ve been taught not to end sentences with prepositions, so we re-write our ideas to conform to this rule. For instance, when we want to say , “What space did you park the car in?” we change it to, “In which space did you park the car?”

This type of change often makes a sentence sound more formal. College application essays, though, should be more conversational, and that’s why ending sentences with prepositions is okay.

5. Don’t Use I. You probably know you should use “I” when you write your college essays. But it’s not always easy to write in the first person, especially if you’ve been taught not to voice your personal opinion. It can feel uncomfortable to make that transition.

How to write college application essay use I

You can disappear from your story if you write in the third person. For example, if you write, “A change in study habits was needed,” you’ve taken yourself out of the sentence. It feels like you’re a distant commentator, the outsider looking in. Put yourself back in your story. Use I. Instead, of saying, “A change in study habits was needed,” say, “ I decided that I needed to change my study habits.” And don’t be haunted by the third person.

6. No one-sentence paragraphs . One-sentence paragraphs can be amazing.

Toss the notion that all your paragraphs have to be at least three to five sentences. Sure, some paragraphs will be that long. But if a one-sentence paragraph will make your point, provide a transition, or be part of your creative flow, go for it. Don’t go overboard—you’re not writing a poem—but if it works with the rest of your essay, one-sentence paragraphs can do amazing things.

So, traveler, you’ve arrived in the territory of self-expression. You’ve traveled here to tell your story. You’ll still follow some important grammar rules: you’ll use descriptive words, choose the active voice, and make sure your subject agrees with your verb. But it’s time to stretch those creative limbs. And if you’re still not sure breaking these grammar rules is the right way to go, just open up one of your favorite books, by any good author, and read a few paragraphs. Some grammar rules are meant to be broken. So go right ahead.

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Can You Use Contractions in a College Essay? (Quick Answer)

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by  Antony W

February 16, 2023

Can You Use Contraction In A College Essay

A college application essay is one of the easiest to write. Sometimes it feels more like a personal statement   because it’s the essay in which you tell an admissions board about yourself and why you believe you make a good fit in their leaning institution.

We’ve given you the complete guide to write an admissions essay here   already. However, we’d like to address an issue that has to do with using contractions in this kind of an essay.

Put in another way, can you use contractions in a college essay or should you write all the words in full instead?

You can use contractions in a college application essay provided it makes sense to do so. Contractions are ideal in such an essay because it allows you to present a paper that sounds more personal. Contractions also reduce your word count, so it’s easy to keep your essay in just the right length.

The rule of thumb when it comes to writing a college application essay is to use your own authentic voice. Open it with a hook, tell a story and explain it if really have to, personalize the essay with personal pronouns, and use contractions if you wish.

As you write the essay, pay attention to the requested word count and make sure your work is on point. Your writing can be a little informal, only make sure that what you write doesn’t sound casual.

Can You Use Contractions in a College Essay?  (What You Should Know) 

Academics recommend avoiding contractions at all cost because they aren’t part of the formal academic language. While that’s often a rule that holds in academic writing, you may be able to use contractions in some instances.

To be clear, many types of essays, such as argumentative writing and the Theory of Knowledge Essay, require in-depth research, formulation of research questions ,  and formal writing. Therefore, the use of contractions doesn’t apply here and can as easily affect your overall scores.

It’s a different when it comes to creative writing, which is an aspect that we tend to see in personal as well as college application essays. Since contractions usually demonstrate a high level of personalization, it would be completely okay to use them in your college application essay.

What’s a Contraction in an Essay? 

A contraction is a combination of words, often a noun with a verb, linked with an apostrophe. Contractions shorten words, significantly lowering the number of word count in written as well as verbal communication.

Contractions, in both written and verbal communication stand out because they form part of the human vernacular. Not to mention that they’re simple in form and easy to pronounce.

As interesting as the use of contractions in verbal and written communication is, they tend to be less formal in nature, which means you shouldn’t use them in formal academic writing. They’re fine to include, at least sparingly, in personal and narrative essays, in which case it’s fine to use them in a college essay.

How to Use Contractions in a College Essay

As much as you can use contractions in a college essay since it’s a personalized kind of writing and usually less academic in form, it’s important to check if you really can shorten words in your writing.

  • The brief provided by the admissions committee can be handy. The document has all the instructions you need to write the essay, including the kind of language to use (whether formal or informal).
  • If the brief isn’t clear about the kind of language to use, consult the admissions board. It’s better to ask and get the essay done right than to assume and fail the test altogether.

Keeping the two points above into consideration will definitely help to point you in the right direction as you write your college essay.

Is the Use of Contractions Necessary in College Essays? 

Think of it from the point of view of a face-to-face conversation with a friend. Would you really use a forma language to talk to them in a standard setting that doesn’t require any kind of formality?

You wouldn’t.

From what we understand, an essay that’s about you is hard to write without some level of personalization. So while we appreciate the structure and value of formal writing in academic papers, it’s odd not to use contractions in a college application essay.

There’s an important caveat to using contractions in a college essay that you need not forget. Remember that while you have the flexibility to shorten words in the essay, you should avoid overusing this style of writing. Do it only when it’s absolutely necessary because a little surely does go a long way.

What We Think About Contractions in College Essays 

College application essays are usually less formal in nature than the likes of:

  • 1 Compare and contrast essays
  • 2 Extended essays
  • 3 Argumentative essays
  • 4 Analytical essays

 Given that they’re casual and familiar, you shouldn’t hesitate to bend some of the rules. That means the admissions board won’t penalize you for writing something like “I’m” instead of “I am”.

The most important thing to do once you finish writing your college essay is to read it out-loud to determine whether it’s consistent in voice and tone.

Can I Get Help With College Essay?

There’s no one right way to write a college essay, but your work has to be good enough to grab the attention of an admission committee.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to write an admissions essay if you haven’t touched a pen and paper to write anything significant for a long time after graduating from high school.

Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to help. Through our college admission essay service ,  you can get a comprehensive and interesting college essay completed in less than half a day.

All you have to do is to get in touch with us and we’ll do the best we can to point you in the right direction and get the essay written, delivered, and submitted in good time.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

  • Have your assignments done by seasoned writers. 24/7
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Can you Use Contractions in Essays: College or Formal writing

Can you Use Contractions in Essays: College or Formal writing

Contractions in Essays

Contractions in Essays

Most students tend to confuse that it is acceptable to write the way they talk. That is so because these students utilize the patterns from the spoken language to write down their points. Unfortunately, the situation may change as you switch to academic writing.

Before you write an essay, it is wise to consult your professor regarding the writing rules. Some will allow the use of pure formal English without making any exceptions. Knowing the teacher’s position on this matter will make your work easier. 

can i use contractions in college essay

People Also Read: Types of Paragraphs in Essay or Academic Writing: With Examples

What Are Contractions?

A contraction happens to be a short form of a given word. It usually combines two words. Some people prefer to avoid a contraction in their formal writing because they will weaken their sentence structures or make the sentence appear too casual. 

exampled of Contractions

However, contractions are helpful when you are handling professional writing. Furthermore, some people use them to add style and the entire format of the text. Generally, many have been using contractions when giving a speech. 

In many cases, when you are using contractions, use a noun and a verb with an apostrophe as a link. For example, here is the list of such words:

  • Do not = don’t
  • Would have = would’ve 
  • Cannot = Can’t
  • Is not = isn’t
  • I am = I’m 
  • They are = they’re 

Furthermore, you can still have a three words contraction as indicated below:

  • Should not have = shouldn’t’ve 
  • Might not have = mightyn’t’ve 

So, why use contractions? We use them in plain English since it is the way you can express yourself as you talk. When you write using contractions, the document will flow better and make the reading easier. 

Contractions will make the writing seem natural. Also, research says that the use of contractions enhances readability. If your writing sounds too strange without contradiction, then you should use them. 

Can you use Contractions in Essay Writing

Ideally, contractions in essay writing may not be welcome but are used by students if their instructor accepts them. Use the contraction as you paraphrase one’s work or when you are using a direct quote.

The quotes are necessary to enable readers to know the unique writing style of the author. When you eliminate contraction, it will be hard to deliver the author’s speech well.

Ideally, you cannot use contractions in writing essays, whether in college or formal writing because they are informal elements. It is highly encouraged not to use them. However, you can insert contractions in college essays if you are representing a direct quote from another writer or a source.

Again, you can use the contractions when using the first person in the same essay. You will encounter personal essays which use descriptions or a narrative approach. When you are writing personal essays, you can use contractions to indicate the real way of speaking. 

Ensure you are consistent as you use contractions. For example, the sentences will be inconsistent if you use a standard form like “I will “and then use a contraction. 

People Also Read : Writing a 400 Word Essay: Length and How to write it Well

How to use Contractions in College Essays

At the early ages of students, their teachers taught them to write as like they talk. As such, it implies that authors rely on contractions to promote verbal shorthand, which is evident in people’s speech patterns. 

using essay Contractions well

When it comes to college essays, the colleges pose an exciting challenge.

We all know that academic writing is formal; hence using contractions has its limits, or other colleges prohibit them. 

The best way is to learn how to use contractions and polish your skills to bolster confidence. 

Before you begin to write your college essay, confirm with your instructor concerning the writing rules. 

As earlier captured, some instructors will adhere to the dictates of formal English without making any exceptions no matter the nature of the assignment. As such, you will have to keep the rule for you to secure good grades.

A contraction is informal writing which one should avoid using in scholarly writing unless except for given circumstances. Such situations could be:

1. When Quoting

You can use contractions when you are quoting someone directly. Alternatively, you can use them as you paraphrase their words in the essays.

Direct Quoting

You involve quotes when you are capturing the manner of speech or the writer. 

You should consider what is going to get lost if you eliminate contractions.

You must not lose the meaning when you are removing the contractions.

For example, you can quote a direct speech as follows, “We don’t wanna do such tasks.” 

2. When Using First Person 

It is in the right direction to use contractions as you use the first person. It comes true when you are writing personal and revealing essays.

Those are narrative and descriptive essays which might also include comparison and contrast. When you are using contractions in personal essays, you are reflecting on how one speaks.

It is a way of expressing an individual voice. That is why it is not right to use such words. Therefore, consider replacing first-person language in academic writing unless when you are writing a personal narrative or an individualized story.

3. Footnotes 

One can use contractions when writing footnotes in the formal piece of writing. It is a way of making your writing have a stylish format. 

Read our comprehensive guide on how to write essays and learn more about the tenets of essay writing that make it inappropriate to use contractions.

People Also Read: Is Using an Essay Writing Service Cheating: It’s Legal

Effects of Contractions in Essay Writing

1. pace and voice .

Authors use contraction to deepen the character and the voice. You can use a contraction form to enable the readers to know the regional accents. Furthermore, it promotes the personality traits and the person’s social status when you are passing your message in the essay.  

2. Narration Style 

Contractions are key aspects of allowing the author to narrate a story. It will enable the writer to speak to the audience directly. It makes the reader feel a sense of belonging by knowing that the writer was addressing them.

When to Avoid Contractions 

The writer should refrain from using contractions when writing professional reports, formal essays, and other scholarly writing.

Although you can find contractions in many writing pieces in life, you should never use them if you want to restore a professional tone.       

People Also Read: Writing an Essay about Someone Who Inspires or you Admire

FAQs on Contractions

Are contractions bad in essays.

Contractions are okay when you are doing formal writing. They become essential when you are communicating a message in effortless style and tone. It makes the audience think that you are talking to them directly.  As such, the contraction makes the essay appear personal and friendly. 

Also, it could be authentic to use the contraction when you are writing dialogue. It is good to replicate the style of talking when you are quoting people from their speech. For instance, if you are giving a client testimonial, it is vital to use contractions. 

Should You Use Contractions in a Personal Essay?

It is much acceptable to use contractions in personal essays. You need to use contraction since you will be describing a key lesson that you extracted from your life experience. Such a report will be representing a key event from the first-person angle. 

When you use contraction in the personal essay, it compliments a conversational tone to express the writer’s talking style. The personal essay could be any memorable moment that changed you to have a different opinion.

What should you not Use in a College Essay?

We have a set of contractions that one should avoid in life. They include words like ain’t, should’ve, could’ve, etc. Instead, you can use a two-word version since it makes your writing appear awkward. 

When you are writing a college essay, avoid passive voice. Again, you should not use abbreviations. You should only use concrete and literal language. Avoid repetition as it makes the essay dull. 

Contractions are part of your writing process when you are working on your college essay.  As a rule of thumb, you should only use them once your lecturer gives you a nod. You should never apply them if the lecturer dislikes them lest you face cancellation of the paper. 

Josh Jasen

When not handling complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.

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3 Grammar Mistakes That Make Admissions Officers Cringe

Ivy Divider

“But, CEA,” you might be thinking, “what mistakes should I be looking for? How can I possibly comb through every word and weed out every error?” The truth, dear students, is that you may not be able to catch every last mistake, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! (Note: use double negatives with caution.) Some mistakes are more damaging than others, so to help you prioritize, we’ve put together a list of the grammar faux pas to avoid at all costs. Plus, we’ve pointed out a few so-called “mistakes” that you can let slide without fear.

1. Basic Spelling Issues

There are a handful of little everyday words that people mix up all the time because they sound exactly the same (to, too, and two, for example). We totally understand how, when you’re quickly typing out a draft, you might type the wrong word without even thinking about it, but these are the kinds of errors that can make an admissions officer scratch their head. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most common mix-ups:

  • You’re = the contraction form of “you are” (Example: You’re awesome!)
  • Your = the possessive form of “you” (Example: Your cat is awesome!)
  • It’s = the contraction form of “it is” (Example: It’s a T-Rex!)
  • Its = the possessive form of “it” (Example: The T-Rex could not scratch its head.)
  • There = a place that isn’t here (Example: My burrito is over there.)
  • They’re = the contraction form of “they are” (Example: They’re going to steal my burrito!)
  • Their = possessive form of “they” (Example: I am going to steal their nachos.)
  • Affect = generally used as a verb (Example: My healthy suggestions affected the school lunch options.)
  • Effect = generally used as a noun (Example: My attempt to make her laugh did not have its intended effect.)
  • Effect = used as a verb in very particular instances (Example: I’d like to become a doctor to effect change in my community.)

2. Capitalization

This is a tricky one! When should a word be capitalized and when should it just be treated like any other word in a sentence? Students have a lot of trouble with capitalization in their college essays because the rules for capitalizing certain academic disciplines, programs, majors, and degrees are not consistent. To help clear up the rules, remember these two simple tips:

  • Your major should only be capitalized in three (3) specific cases: (1) it is a proper noun (like languages or continents: English or East Asian studies), (2) you are referring to the specific name of the department, school or course (like the School of Engineering, the Department of History, or “Anthropology 101”), (3) it is the first word in a sentence. In all other cases, do not capitalize.
  • Degrees should only be capitalized when you refer to their full formal name, like Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and so on.

3. Punctuation Problems

Hyphens, apostrophes, and quotation marks are some of the most commonly used – and easily confused – punctuation marks that come with their own sets of rules, so listen closely.

  • Hyphens (-) are the dash-like punctuation marks that help you combine individual words into longer threads (like “never-before-seen footage”). When you are combining words to form an adjective, they should be hyphenated when they come BEFORE the thing they are describing, but not when they come AFTER. For example: “I was a 17-year-old student,” BUT: “I was 17 years old.”
  • Apostrophes are used to make contractions, which combine two words (like you’re and I’m) and possessives, which demonstrate ownership. They are almost never used to make plurals SO DON’T DO IT. For example: “I like Beyoncé’s dance moves. They’re awesome.”
  • Double quotation marks are the American English standard for designating quotes. Periods and commas should go inside quotation marks. For example: As Beyoncé always says, “I woke up like this.” On the other hand, question marks should go inside the quotation marks if the question is part of the quote and outside if it’s not. For example: Who said, “Beyoncé isn’t flawless”?

4. Contractions and Informal Language

You may have heard that contractions are a no-no in formal writing, but we beg to differ. The whole point of the personal statement is for you to speak to admissions in your own voice. We say, use contractions where they feel natural. If you’d rather say “I’m” than “I am,” go for it. Of course, you still need to keep in mind that the person reading your essay is evaluating you, so your personal statement should not read like a string of text messages to your friend, but more like an email to a teacher who knows you very well. Informal language is also welcome when it comes in dialogue if it helps you capture the way a person speaks and acts. It’s all a matter of degree and deciding which risks are worth taking for the sake of your story.

As you edit, infuse your essay with vivid details.

About CEA HQ

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Written by CEA HQ

Category: Essay Tips

Tags: college essay , college essay advisors , college essay help , college essay writing , grammar help , grammar mistakes , writing tips


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Contractions in the common app essay

Are contractions okay to use in the common app essay? ( bear in mind there is a word count which is why I’m using contractions)

Just remember, when it comes to common app essays, you ain’t s’posed to say ain’t

For the most part, contractions are fine; you have to use your judgment as to whether the passage reads well or not. In the example below, a contraction would not work, but there are a few other things that would help reduce the word count. Edit ruthlessly, but make sure you don’t lose the flow of your writing.

In addition to contractions, there are a number of things that you can do to help save some words (19 words)

Besides contractions, there are several word-saving tricks to employ (9 words).

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r/ApplyingToCollege is the premier forum for college admissions questions, advice, and discussions, from college essays and scholarships to college list help and application advice, career guidance, and more.

Can I use contractions on essays?

First gen here and I’m so confused on essay applications. Is it discouraged to use “won’t” or “I’ve” instead of “will not” and “I have”? Someone told me that those abbreviations were too colloquial. But if I expanded all my contractions I would be over the word limit.

I’ve read articles saying to be not be super formal, but not too casual—but isn’t avoiding the use of contractions too formal?

Please help! I’m praying that I do not have to go back and change my contractions, but if that will hurt me I will go back and do it ;-;

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On Tech: A.I.

Applying to college here’s how a.i. tools might hurt, or help..

ChatGPT might change the application essay forever.

can i use contractions in college essay

By Natasha Singer

I spent the last week talking with university officials, teachers and high school seniors about the dreaded college admissions essay.

I cover education technology at The Times. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, which can manufacture school essays and other texts, might reshape the college application process.

I was particularly interested to learn whether admissions officials were rejiggering their essay questions — or even reconsidering personal essays altogether.

Amid a deluge of high school transcripts and teacher recommendations, admissions officers often use students’ writing samples to identify applicants with unique voices, experiences, ideas and potential. How might that change now that many students are using A.I. chatbots to brainstorm topics, generate rough drafts and hone their essays?

To find out, I contacted admissions officials at more than a dozen large state universities, Ivy League schools and small private colleges, including Juan Espinoza , the director of undergraduate admissions at Virginia Tech.

Right now, he told me, many universities are still trying to figure out how the A.I. technologies work and what they mean for the admissions process.

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  1. Can you Use Contractions in Essays: College or Formal writing

    can i use contractions in college essay

  2. Can You Use Contractions in a College Essay? (Quick Answer)

    can i use contractions in college essay

  3. List of Contractions in English

    can i use contractions in college essay

  4. Three Simple Rules of Using Contractions You Must Know

    can i use contractions in college essay

  5. Can you Use Contractions in Essays: College or Formal writing

    can i use contractions in college essay

  6. College Essay Contractions: Some Grammar Rules to Follow

    can i use contractions in college essay


  1. Learn to use contractions in English like a pro #english #shorts #grammar #vocabulary #viral

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  1. Can I use contractions like 'don't' in a college essay, or is that too

    The use of contractions in college essays isn't a strict taboo. In fact, if contractions will make your essay sound more natural and conversational, they can actually be a plus. While the college essay is a formal piece of writing, you don't want it to sound too academic, as that may make admissions officers lose focus. ...

  2. Can I use contractions in a college essay?

    Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are: Overly personal (e.g. graphic details of illness or injury, romantic or sexual relationships)

  3. Can I use contractions in my college application essay?

    Removing contractions might make your essay sound more formal, but could also interrupt the natural flow of your writing. Consider asking for feedback from a teacher, counselor, or someone who has experience with college essays. They can provide you with specific guidance regarding the use of contractions in your essay.

  4. Is it acceptable to use contractions in a college essay?

    Hi there! I understand your concerns about using contractions in your college essay. It's great that you're thinking about the tone of your essay and how it might come across to the admissions officers. Using contractions can help make your essay sound more casual and conversational, which can be a good thing if that's the tone you're going for.

  5. What's the deal with using contractions in college essays?

    The use of contractions in college essays has been a topic of debate, but the truth is, it's perfectly fine to use them! The key here is to maintain a balance. If your essay is conversational and reflects your authentic voice, contractions can help it flow more naturally and make it more relatable to the reader. Colleges appreciate an essay ...

  6. Is it okay to use contractions in my college essay?

    Hi there! It's great that you're putting thought into your college essay. In general, using contractions like 'I'm' and 'they're' is usually acceptable in your essay. College essays are meant to showcase your personality and unique voice, so it's important for your writing to sound natural and genuine. Contractions can help achieve that by making your essay feel more conversational.

  7. College Essay Contractions: Some Grammar Rules to Follow

    You can reduce two words into one hence not exceeding the word count set by far. Normally a college application essay ought to be personal. You have to tell a story that will fetch you good grades. In this regard, you can use the contractions. However, there is always a catch. You should not overuse those short forms.

  8. Grammar Do's, Don't of College Application Essays

    When writing a college application essay it's best to avoid using contractions, slang or cliches. ... 10 Ways to Discover College Essay Ideas. View All 12 Slides. Tags: colleges, education, students.

  9. Are contractions acceptable in college essays?

    Contractions are generally acceptable in college essays, as they can lend a more conversational and authentic tone to your writing. While it's important to maintain a certain level of formality, admissions officers typically appreciate essays that sound like they were written by an actual person rather than a rigid academic. That being said, it's a good idea to strike a balance between using ...

  10. Is it fine to use contractions in college essays?

    Hey there! It's totally understandable that you're feeling a bit confused about the use of contractions in your college essay. People often have different opinions on this, but I'll share what I learned from my child's application process. It's true that some contractions can provide a more natural tone and make your essay feel more conversational, but it's also important to strike a balance ...

  11. Contractions in Formal Writing: What's Allowed, What's Not

    If you are writing about contractions (e.g., in a paper about language), naturally you must be able to use contractions as linguistic examples. If you are reproducing an idiom that contains a contraction (e.g., "don't count your chickens before they hatch"), leave the contraction (no need for "do not count your chickens…").

  12. 6 Grammar Rules You Should Break When You're Writing Your College Essay

    1. Don't Use Contractions. Your essay should sound like you're telling a story. It should be in a conversational tone. We all speak in contractions, so go ahead and use them. (Although, I avoid "would've" and "should've" because I think they're too casual for college essays.) 2.

  13. Can You Use Contractions in a College Essay? (Quick Answer)

    While that's often a rule that holds in academic writing, you may be able to use contractions in some instances. To be clear, many types of essays, such as argumentative writing and the Theory of Knowledge Essay, require in-depth research, formulation of research questions, and formal writing. Therefore, the use of contractions doesn't ...

  14. Can you Use Contractions in Essays: College or Formal writing

    Ideally, you cannot use contractions in writing essays, whether in college or formal writing because they are informal elements. It is highly encouraged not to use them. However, you can insert contractions in college essays if you are representing a direct quote from another writer or a source. Again, you can use the contractions when using ...

  15. 3 Grammar Mistakes That Make Admissions Officers

    4. Contractions and Informal Language. You may have heard that contractions are a no-no in formal writing, but we beg to differ. The whole point of the personal statement is for you to speak to admissions in your own voice. We say, use contractions where they feel natural. If you'd rather say "I'm" than "I am," go for it.

  16. Is it okay to use contractions in my common app/college ...

    Admissions Essay Bootcamp has a whole section on this - basically, "not" contractions (can't , don't, shouldn't, etc.) are generally OK. So are pronoun contractions - I'll, I've, she's, he's, it's, we're. ... r/ApplyingToCollege is the premier forum for college admissions questions, advice, and discussions, from college essays and scholarships ...

  17. Contractions in the common app essay

    Yes. Just remember, when it comes to common app essays, you ain't s'posed to say ain't. B-) For the most part, contractions are fine; you have to use your judgment as to whether the passage reads well or not. In the example below, a contraction would not work, but there are a few other things that would help reduce the word count.

  18. Contractions in College Essays : r/ApplyingToCollege

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