5 Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Your Personal Insight Questions

College admissions essays are not just about you.

They’re also about the school, so your essay should be tailored to their specific requirements.

It’s a good idea to do some research on each school before you apply, and keep in mind that they all have different things they want students to say about themselves. You may need to tweak your essay for each one.

The typical college essay is also a great way to demonstrate your writing and communication skills. Even if you never think about this as “marketing,” it’s still helpful to put yourself in the admissions officers’ shoes.

They want to get a glimpse of who you are beyond the grades and test scores they see on paper, and learn more about the “untold story.”

In this blog post, we will discuss 5 common mistakes to avoid when writing your Personal Insight Question essays.

Mistake #1: Telling the reader what you want them to know

There’s a difference between sharing information and telling the reader what you want them to know.

A college essay should be about more than just bragging about your accomplishments, because that will tell admissions readers very little about who you really are. Nobody wants to read an essay in which every other sentence begins with “I.”

Admissions readers want to feel something when they read your essay. They want relatable moments where you’re vulnerable and honest about who you are, so it’s important to focus on the reader as much as or even more than yourself in your college applications.

Remember: The reader doesn’t know you, or care about what your interests are. Your college essay is NOT a vehicle for you to tell the admissions committee everything they need to know about you! Instead, focus on creating an interesting story and delivering it in a creative way.

Mistake #2: Not getting right to the point

Admissions officers are busy people. They don’t have time to read your essay and try to figure out what you want them to know about you. If it’s not clear right away why the admissions committee should care about your life story, chances are that they won’t bother to find out.

Given the 350-word limit for each personal insight question response, it’s helpful to:

  • Get right to the point with your introduction
  • Say what you have to say in the first paragraph, and get on with it!
  • Focus on making your story compelling.

Thus, your college essay should get right to the point quickly. Only then will you have a chance of achieving a meaningful connection with your audience.

Mistake #3: Repeating yourself needlessly

Your readers are busy people too and they don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again! If there’s a straight-forward way to express an idea, use it. Don’t try to impress the admissions committee with flowery language that doesn’t say anything new.

Scour all of your PIQ responses for unnecessary repetition. While you’d like to communicate one central theme or image about yourself, you’d like to do so, while showcasing different dimensions of what makes you unique.

This is a fine balance that takes practice, but is ultimately what you should strive for.

Increasing your vocabulary and general writing skills will allow you to do so more successfully (an odd tip – try reading some Shakespeare leading up to essay-writing season, if you’re looking for inspiration).

Mistake #4: Lacking a clear narrative structure

Let’s face it; college essays are complicated! They’re supposed to be personal stories that reveal something about you and your values (a tall order). When writing about such complicated things, it’s easy to lose focus and let your essay fall apart.

However, if you remember one thing while writing your college essay, it should be this: College essays are stories.

That means that they have a

  • Beginning (the exposition),
  • Middle (rising action),
  • End (a satisfying conclusion).

If you follow this narrative structure, your essay will be more interesting to read and easier for the admissions committee to understand.

It would be wise to write in a clear, concise manner because admissions officials are often reading thousands of applications for undergraduate courses. Writing in clear, concise sentences makes it easier for the reader to understand your writing and what you’re trying to say.

The best strategy is not to use complex words or phrases when simple ones will do just fine – instead of “seek”, use “look”.

Emphasizing key points with strong verbs and commas will make your writing sound more natural and engaging.

For example…

Instead of “There was an apartment complex on our left,”


“We passed an apartment complex on our left.”

Mistake #5: Writing without passion

College essays are hard work! But even if they were easy, nobody would want to read about a boring life that consists of nothing but classes.

College activities, essays and sleep require a great deal of introspection, so when you’re writing your college essay, it’s easy to get caught up in your memories and forget that there are real people reading what you’ve written.

Real people, with real emotions (to which you can appeal).

That’s why it’s so important to channel your passion into your college essays. Your application readers want more than just a description of who you are; they want emotional moments that bring you to life as a person.


College essays are stories and all good stories have a beginning, middle and an end. If you want to know how to write your college essay, remember that they should be structured like a story: exposition (the introduction), rising action (the body of the essay) and a satisfying conclusion.

This is basic information, but it’s often overlooked by college applicants when writing their essays. As a result, many essays lack focus and become monotonous to read.

After reading this article, you will know how to avoid these mistakes and write your college essay with ease! We hope that you found this helpful!