Writing Your College Essay
NEED HELP WITH YOUR ESSAY'S
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Choose a theme
When writing your college essay, avoid creating a list of your activities and accomplishments. Tell the reader something about yourself that isn’t evident in the rest of your application. Think about your best personal trait, your interests, values, and goals. Focus on one of these qualities and make it the theme of your essay. For example, your best trait might be determination, creativity, or compassion. Tell a story that makes that trait clear to the reader. Provide evidence by citing specific instances from your life.
Be clear, concise, and direct
Be clear about the theme of your essay from the first paragraph. Grab the reader’s attention with a compelling opening sentence. Avoid clunky phrasing. For example, instead of “it was really very important to me – and my parents too - that…” use “it was imperative that I…” Keep your essay around 500 words unless otherwise specified in the application.
Make your story unique
Many students write about similar topics in their college essay: family; loss; vacations; sports; career goals. Your job is to make your essay unique. One of the best ways to do this is to use imagery and sensory details. For example, instead of, "The culture of Paris made an impact on me." try, "My outlook on life shifted as I sat, lost in a whirlwind of language, mesmerized by the Eiffel Tower, while a warm banana-Nutella crepe melted in my mouth." Be creative. Your essay will surely stand out.
Use your voice
Don’t let nerves get the best of you. The college essay may be your only opportunity to show your personality to the admission office. Avoid writing it like a research paper. Instead, let your personal voice shine through. If you are witty, show the reader your sense of humor (But be cautious. What you think is funny, someone else may not.). If you are more thoughtful, take on a slightly more serious tone.
Accentuate the positive
Even if you are writing about a painful experience, focus on what you learned from it and how it changed you for the better.
Find a balance
Your college essay gives you the chance to talk about your best assets. But remember to remain modest. While your essay should convey your best qualities, you want to avoid bragging too much. If you write about an activity or an experience, focus not on how good you are or what you have accomplished, but instead on what the experience/activity means to you.
Type your essay
Unless otherwise directed in your application, type your essay.
Proofread and edit
You may have a beautifully crafted essay or a wonderful story to tell, but if you don’t take the time to proofread, your essay may be overlooked and end up in the rejection pile. Spelling errors are unacceptable. Careful proofreading shows the reader you care and you aren’t sloppy. Before you send your essay to colleges, have someone you trust read it and provide feedback. Usually, your English teacher will be happy to take a look.
Do not let anyone else write your essay
College admission officers are usually able to detect an essay not written by the student. The result is usually immediate rejection.
Most of you are now — or will soon be — editing your
critical application essays and personal statements.
When Soar consultants review and edit your essays,
they go through a process I call the editing funnel.
When you edit your own essays, you should follow a similar process.
Here’s how it works…
1. Start with the Big Picture (Top of the Funnel)
At the top of the funnel you evaluate your essay in the context of the application. Does it add to the reader’s knowledge of you? Does it introduce the reader to a dimension not revealed in the boxes, numbers, and transcripts? If you are submitting more than one essay in your application, do they complement each other?
2. Then Begin to Narrow Your Focus (Middle of the Funnel)
Going deeper into the funnel, your focus should narrow to the individual essays. Check that each essay has a clear theme and logical structure. Ensure that it addresses the question(s) posed. Finally, look for the specifics that will add life and distinctiveness to your writing and your application.
3. Move to the Nitty-Gritty (Bottom of the Funnel)
At the narrowest part of the funnel, check writing mechanics: clarity, grammar, style, word usage, spelling, punctuation, and all the nitty-gritty details of writing. You may be a little bleary-eyed at this point and almost unable to view the essay(s) objectively. To restore a little objectivity, put the draft away, preferably for a couple of days; if you don’t have that much time, then at least a couple of hours. When proofing your essay, read it out loud. Doing so will slow you down and allow your ear to catch some of the little errors that your eye may miss.
Review Your Essays Like an Admissions Consultant:
Use the Editing Funnel
Five Tips to Help You Assist Your Child With
College Application Essays
Make a date with your teen to discuss his or her chosen
colleges' application essay requirements. During your date,
chat about a system you and your teen together can put in
the place to structure writing time and complete the essays,
as well as handle privacy issues during the drafting process.
Agree to and write down a timeline for developing the essays.
Don't nag your teen about completing first and later essay drafts.
First, ask for his or her suggestions about how you can help.
Write those suggestions down and thank your teen for helping
you understand the kind of help required. Ask if you might add a
few ideas to the list for your teen to think about. These might include
hooking your teen up with sources of help--books, professional college
admissions counselors, relatives, and neighbors who write well or are easy
to talk with, as well as reputable editing services that work with high school kids,
honoring their abilities to write and coaching them one-on-one.
Instead of worrying because you think your teen is taking too long to write the essays, read writers on writing, and then offer your teen advice in the form of articles from websites and writers' magazines. He or she will be able to use the advice authors give on writing since they are now engaged in either writing or procrastinating about writing. Both are activities professional writers expound upon frequently. Caution: pass on only what inspires you.
Don't judge your young writer's ideas when he or she bounces them off of you. Often the least developed of the bunch, the one that seems hardest to get a handle on, or the one that seems almost silly will yield the most interesting application essay. Ask your child what interests him or her about the idea and what he or she thinks might be included in writing about it, no matter how personal or unusual it might seem. Engage in conversation that elicits details that might add to the young writer's information and memories.
If you are your teen's first reader as the drafts develop, be sure to let him or her know what you've heard by repeating words and phrases you find memorable and by revealing where the writing engaged you and why and where you felt disappointed not to learn more. Knowing what is going on inside a reader emotionally really helps a writer bring more onto the page--writers want to please readers, even if they are parents!