If you've ever applied to a university in the US, then you know that writing your personal essay can be agonizing. While getting accepted to any school is a crapshoot and totally subjective, some essays can be, well, pretty objectively bad. And after seeing college admissions officers on Reddit share the worst or most ridiculous essays they've read, you might feel a bit better about yours.
Without further ado, here are 26 of the worst or most ridiculous college essays these admissions officers have read:
1. "The worst CV I ever saw as part of an application for a graduate program was a barely intelligible, unformatted mess that included bits of information such as how she likes to spend her free time reading and her favorite book is 'Fifty Shade Gray.'"
2. "I used to intern at the admissions office at my university and got to read a couple of essays from time to time. While it's not exactly the worst, the most cringeworthy essay I read was by a guy who talked about how he was more mature than anyone his age, how he never talked to anyone in school because they were too dumb for him, and how he spends his free time having conversations with scientists on the internet. For some reason, he also 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. His GPA was pretty good and he seemed like a decent kid, but fucking hell, that essay was hard to read."
"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."
3. "A couple of years ago, a girl sent in an application in larger-than-normal packaging. Someone in the admissions office decided it was suspicious-looking and might be a bomb. A section of campus got shut down, and the bomb squad used their fancy toys to figure out that the girl attached lights to her application so it would stand out."
4. "I did data entry for the admissions office of the university I attended as an undergrad. It wasn't my job to read the applications, but since the job was tedious as hell, I often did, and I've seen some exceptional shit. 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 an invitational track meet on our university's campus. She went into detail about a fight they had at the meet and then explained that he had asked to talk to her privately to 'make up.' She said that they found an empty room in the field house, he 'was feeling romantic,' and they got caught having sex. She tried to play it off in her statement as her enthusiasm for the campus in the most awkward and horrible way possible."
5. "A college admissions officer once told me that a student wrote that they could 'distinguish bra cup sizes by a simple glance at a woman.' They were not impressed."
6. "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. Ten seconds into the call, she began panicking, 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."
7. "I was an admissions assistant at a religious university. Every applicant had to sign an 'honor code' that included no tank tops, no drinking, no premarital sex or anything close, etc. I think many kids have parents who make them apply because, occasionally, we'd get unrepentant stories about drunken nights of passion, like, 'The candles flickered gently as he asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?"' Each application packet also included an interview with a religious leader. Once, I read one that noted, 'Do not let this girl in under any circumstances. She belongs to a polygamous cult and may be coming to recruit.'"
8. "An 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 an essay consisting of Japanese characters that, when put through Google Translate, turned out to be a loosely translated version of The Cat in the Hat."
9. "I read essays for a scholarship, not admissions, and most were about mission trips through churches and how much the student learned. They're typically boring and mediocre. However, this one was packed with amazing imagery as the writer described her birth: Into the world of freedom and adulthood, she was born. She described pushing open the 'doors' and the light striking her face for the first time. It was so vivid. Then I reached the end, where she described getting a luxury car at her graduation party. This was a scholarship for needy kids."
"She didn't get it."
10. "He translated his essay into binary by hand. I'm not an admissions officer, but this student's mother was at an engineering conference, bragging about his 750 math score on the SAT, how brilliant he was, and how his application essay was so unique that he'd surely get into MIT."
11. "I've read numerous essays this year from middle- to 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."
12. "I'm not an admissions officer but a college essay proofreader. Once, I had a student who wrote a page's worth of complete, metaphorical bullshit. I could make zero sense of it. In it, he talked about how his fedora was his most prized possession. However, the best sentence was something along these lines: 'I delight in pondering life's endless choices, such as whether to indulge in extra guac: Is my palate worthy enough of the delicate mingling of avocado and coriander?'"
"Another time, I had a student who wrote about how adventurous she was, and used the time she lit her kitchen on fire as a supporting detail. No, just...no."
13. "When he can volunteer, my dad reviews college admissions for a not really well-known college in Wisconsin. Of course, the essay prompt stereotypically asks, 'What's an important thing in your life?' One year, this kid wrote that he had Asperger's and thus 'superior intelligence to all of the other normals.' (Yes, that's a quote.) He continued writing about his superiority and how people just don't 'understand him.' I didn't get to read the whole thing before my dad threw it away, but it just went on and on. The word limit was around 500 words, but he extended it to 2,000 words."
"I've got to give him credit for going the extra mile, I guess."
14. "This person answered a Johns Hopkins essay question asking what he would do if he had $100 — meant to see how you would spend a small amount of money for the greatest effect — by explaining that he would go to the local playground where homeless people congregated and host a mini Olympics. He would use the $100 to purchase 150 burgers from Burger King (during the Tuesday special), and the homeless people would compete for them. The idea was to feed them while also doing a study on human behavior."
15. "I have a few favorites. When asked for their GPA, one student wrote 95. Another student listed their high school as 'IDK,' and another put their intended major as 'teaching' and their minor as 'principle.' Once, I asked an applicant how to spell their name, and they had to ask their mother. Multiple people have also tried listing their IQ as a reason for admittance. Lastly, when you write your personal essay, do not title it, 'Why?' and write for the entire body of the essay, 'Why not?'"
"To clarify for the first student mentioned: The application does make it apparent it's asking for your GPA on a 4.0 scale. Maybe these aren't too ridiculous, but they stuck with me."
16. "'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 with her own family.'"
17. "I am in graduate admissions and read one essay that was essentially a love letter to the faculty superstar with whom the student wanted to work. By the end of the essay, I knew nothing about the actual student. However, what made it more cringe was the fact that the faculty member had never heard of the student. She didn't contact him before applying, but her entire essay took information from his website. His lab was also full then, so he wasn't taking new students."
18. "I have three: 1) An essay about your 'happiest place.' Her happiest place was the bathroom...while pooping. 2) An essay about meeting poor people while on a service trip to South America — a frequent cliché — that ended with them tossing soap, pens, and pencils to a small child who danced for them until he cried out of gratitude (or perhaps because teenagers were throwing things at him). 3) An essay about her school trip to Ireland, where she mentioned staring out at the Pacific Ocean from her hotel."
19. "I'm not an admissions officer, but I worked in writing centers for several years. We helped people write application essays. Once, somebody came in with a med school essay about how she wanted to become a doctor to offer her family free surgery. When I asked her about it and if she knew much about medical ethics, she said she thought operating on family members — especially for plastic surgery — would be fine. I then asked her if she knew about the Hippocratic oath; she'd never heard of it."
20. "I've talked with other admissions officers, and their biggest peeve is when someone talks about volunteering for an underserved population and ends with, 'I went there to help them, but they ended up helping me!'"
21. "It's not as ridiculous, but we once had an applicant send in a book they wrote and published themselves. However, it was difficult to read because, for some reason, the book really stank. We just put it in their file and shut the door."
"It was awful. The book itself seemed fine, but the odor made it really difficult to read."
22. "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 written by nonnative speakers. It takes 30 seconds to give the lowest score and move on. However, one memorable essay sticks out. A (rich, white, private school) student 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 by taking up these sports. His proposal was to host sports camps (in the suburbs) for students of color to attend."
23. "The essay question asked, 'What makes you think you can get into [university name]?' One essay was more memorable than the others; it started pretty decently. About 200 words in, the essay then read, verbatim, 'And bob was like, thats bodacious! but what sucks is...hes a pedophile! and he was stealing pizza when he was in high school man.'"
"I can't make this shit up."
24. "I read essays for a scholarship foundation, and the worst essay I have ever read was from a girl who wrote about how she was a good person. She backed that up by stating she was a virgin. First of all, I don't think that 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?"
25. "A student began his essay by bragging that he was the king of his school. He was a linebacker and captain of the lacrosse team and had been with 'four older, attractive girls in the last six months.' He was attempting to contextualize himself as a 'dude bro' to juxtapose his discovered love of poetry, but he only provided the committee with laughs and eyerolls."
26. "Admissions counselor here. I've been doing this for almost nine years, so everything blends at this point. I can't think of a specific 'worst essay,' but many fall into broad categories: sympathy essays, oversharing essays, poorly written essays, low-effort essays, and boring essays. In reality, for most students, the essay is the weakest part of the application. We realize that. For that reason, the essay is the least valued part of the application file in every office I've worked in. 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."
What do you think about these? Would you have given these students a chance? Did they make you reflect on your own essay? Alternatively, do you know someone who sent in an objectively ridiculous essay? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.