The College Admissions Essay • Admissions officers are most interested to see what you’ve learned outside of class • Perfect grammar, strong structure, and deep thinking will only get you so far- what admissions officers want to see more than anything else is you. • Your readers will be composed of fair, even-tempered, relatively young people. Many colleges even hire recent graduates as the first wave of admissions readers. • Admissions directors are well aware of the need for diversity, and their jobs depend on recruiting a varied array of artists, athletes, computer whizzes, intellectuals, and tree-huggers. • Grades and scores are important, but they say nothing about what kind of person you are.
Types of Essays to Avoid • The Resume: a combination resume-essay in which you detail every single academic achievement, usually in chronological order • Don’t repeat the information that can be found in the application. • Resumes focus entirely on the accomplishment instead of the insight gained from it • The World Traveler’s Account: the world traveler is usually so busy naming every place he/she has ever been that he/she forgets what lessons or knowledge the experience delivered. You’re better off focusing on one specific destination and the effect it has had on your outlook on life.
The Super-Rounded Student: Nothing tops having a sustained passion in one area., but rather than listing every activity in which you’re involved, focus on one and describe what it means to you. • How has it changed your life? • What have you learned? • What kind of experiences have you had in one club, sport, or hobby? • What was the most significant moment and why? • What challenges have you faced and overcome? • The “How I Saved the World” Essay:Some students do service for the sole purpose of having something to write about for their application. This is especially likely if the student didn’t begin doing service until his or her junior year of high school. You must focus on what those experiences meant to you. • How has it changed your life? • What have you learned about others? • What have you learned about your own self or life? • How will this experience influence your life path?
Qualities Worth Flaunting to Impress the Admissions Committee • Self-Awareness You have to be aware of what you have learned, how you have grown, or what perspective you have gained. Recognize changes in yourself. • Curiosity Curious people seek out new things, always eager to learn, discover, and create. Essays give you a great opportunity to demonstrate curiosity by discussing your passion for something specific. • Life Experience A life experience can be something very mundane, something tragic, or simply something that had a huge impact on you. The scope and prominence of the experience is much less important than what you’ve learned from it.
Sustained Passion A sustained passion is one you have stuck with for a year or longer, and whether you’re highly successful or just mediocre, your enthusiasm keeps you going. • Strong Writing Skills Demonstrating life experience, maturity, and insight is ultimately more important than a fancy vocabulary and stunning sentence structure, and if your uniqueness really shines, it can easily eclipse otherwise pedestrian writing skills. • In the admissions essay, YOU are ultimately the topic, so use the brainstorming process to look over your own life, discover who you are, and decide what aspect best sells you to the admissions committee. Your essay serves as your face to the admissions committee, and you want to put your best face forward.
Structuring the Essay • The Chronological Structure Most of these essays ask you to choose a topic and discuss the impact or influence it has had on you. Here, the topic is the person/experience, the thesis is the effect on you, and the three or more paragraphs of the body are delivered in a before-during-after chronological narrative. • The Half and Half It’s usually used to describe a cause and effect or before and after relationship. You must remember that you are the topic, and your viewpoint is what counts. Don’t get so caught up in describing the experience that you forget your own role in it. • The Three Elements This is very similar to a standard essay. Each body paragraph is used to focus on individual thoughts, all of which pertain to the thesis. You are not arguing a point. Instead, you are describing each point in detail, in a way that gives a vivid picture of who you are.
Writing the Essay • You must punctuate well and follow all grammatical rules. You have had your entire life to master writing skills, so the admissions board will not tolerate mistakes. Along with proofreading, show your essay to friends, family, and teachers. • As you write the essay, you must remember six things: • 1. You are the topic • 2. Make your essay stand out. Every detail you include will make you specific as a person. The more people feel like they know you, the more difficult it will be to say no to admitting you. • 3. Emphasize strengths your application overlooks • 4. Use humor wisely. Never sacrifice honesty and sincerity for a joke. • 5. Be descriptive. The more vivid an image you can put into the minds of the admissions committee, the more they will feel like they know you. • 6. Stick to the topic. If an application requires you to write on a specific topic, don’t surprise them with something else.
Introduction and Conclusion Tips A Strong Introduction Might Include • An interesting observation • An intriguing comment • A thought-provoking question • An anecdote • A confession • A shocking statement • A preview • A quotation • Relevant dialogue Tips for a Great Conclusion • Don’t repeat the same points • Tie up loose ends • Don’t summarize • Don’t introduce new topics • Keep it brief • Leave a strong impression • Match the rest of the essay in tone and content • Expand to broader context • Create a feeling of completion • Make your strongest point