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Writing your College Admission Essay

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Writing your college application essay is an opportunity for you to stand out above other applicants. When grades, exam scores, and extracurricular are similar, the college essay may be the only opportunity for you to show your unique qualities to the admissions board. This is a chance to show you can think and are able to write clearly about those thoughts.

Writing your essay is similar to writing for your classes. Follow the same steps – prewriting activities, writing a draft, and editing your final essay. Prewriting activities are ones that will help you to collect information and organize ideas for your essay. They include the following:

  • Brainstorming – Make a list of your strengths and the things that are outstanding about you. Focus on your strengths, not your activities. If you played sports, focus on your commitment to the endeavor, not the sport. If you are having difficulty identifying your strengths, ask your family, friends, and teachers for their input.
  • Elaborate on these Strengths – Once you have a list of your traits, elaborate on these. List the things you’ve been or done next to each trait. Make sure the things you are listing support what you are trying to convey.
  • Look for Patterns and Similarities – Find similarities in the lists you’ve made. Group similar ideas and events together. For example, does your love of science show up in your involvement in the school science fair as well as in your after-school job at the lab?

If you still can’t decide on a topic for your essay after performing prewriting activities, don’t be surprised. Choosing your essay topic can be difficult. Without a topic you feel passionate about, you risk becoming just another essay. Spend a little time to come up with a topic that is dynamic and that you are passionate about. If you are still having trouble deciding on a topic, read some sample essays. A quick search for “sample college essays” on the internet returned many examples.

Now it is time to begin writing your essay. Most admissions essays allow great latitude in topic selection, but make sure you answer the question that is asked.

Your essay should have three parts – introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction will give your reader some idea of the content of your essay. Your introduction is generally very concise. A one-sentence introduction may be appropriate if it is dynamic. The body provides information to support the main idea of your essay. Use your writing to show, rather than tell your story. The conclusion will show the meaning of what you’ve written about in the body of your essay. It is completely acceptable to have a short conclusion.

There are three basic essay styles:

  • Standard Essay – Take a few points from your prewriting activities, write a paragraph about each, and provide plenty of evidence. Choose topics that aren’t apparent in your application and extracurricular activities.
  • Less-Is-More Essay – Focus on one interesting point about yourself. This is ideal for short essays and paragraphs.
  • Narrative Essay – A narrative essay gives a short and engaging story. You can omit the introduction and focus on a few dynamic narrative paragraphs that grab the reader’s attention. Make sure to elaborate on what this narrative reveals about you.

After you have written your essay, it is time to revise and edit. You may want to step away from the essay for a few days before revising. This will give you a fresh view of the work you have already done. When you do go back to the essay, find and correct any errors. Do not rely on spell check to do this for you. Spell check doesn’t catch all errors and you can’t afford to make silly mistakes. Have someone else look at your essay, preferably more than one person. You are looking to see if your main idea is apparent, if you are supporting your ideas with specific details, if you are successfully conveying what you are trying to say, and if your language is simple, direct, and clear. Proofread your essay several more times before calling it finished – mistakes will make your essay memorable, but not in a good way.


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