You’ve probably noticed that almost all of the colleges to which you are applying are asking you to write an essay. Below are some general suggestions, samples of two or three actual essays, and comments about them made by the authors of The College Essay available from www.collegeboard.com
Four Key Points about the college Essay:
- -All of the questions, no matter how they are worded are asking you to, tell the admissions committee about YOU.
- -That means YOU are the expert on that topic, and your task is simply to find a clear and interesting way to tell them what you already know.
- -The format is familiar to. This is a regular essay with, “you” as the subject.
- -This is not a Survival Show exercise to make you miserable and see if you survive. The admissions committee wants to see your writing style and ability and if you can write about yourself or some aspect that is not covered in your application information.
Four Common Mistakes:
- -Thinking that the admissions committee is a group of stuffy old professors that you need to impress. I met many admissions committee members at a workshop last summer (2005), and you may be assured, they are not.
- -Trying so hard to have your essay stand out that you come across as being odd or eccentric. Committee members are looking for students who will bring energy, scholarship, and be good additions to their campus. They are not looking for super nerds or “odd ducks”.
- -Writing a really predictable essay that is either boring (change the names and it could be anyone) or is so “canned” that it looks like one of those available on line.
- -Forgetting to ask a trusted teacher, your parents, or the counselor, for input and feedback. We will not write it for you, but we will give you direction and honest feedback. This is especially important for students whose parents are not English speakers.
Five Myths About The Application Essay:
- -You have to write about something never written about before. Not only is this something not expected, but to do it is a real risk on your part
- -There’s a right answer to the essay question. No! These are designed to get you to think, to approach yourself as a topic in a different way.
- -That you must be really funny or clever or downright wacky to get their attention. Just be yourself!
- -You have to do this alone. Do not try it. Everyone who fancies themselves a writer, even the most talented novelist, asks someone trusted for feedback. Follow their example.
- -Your essay can/will get you into the college. This is only true in those cases where the committee is unsure after looking at your transcript and letters of recommendation and they need a different view of you. That doesn’t mean the essay isn’t important. It is VERY important. It needs to showcase you as the intelligent, thinking, college bound person that you are.
- Do not let this task wait until your deadline for application is upon you. As with every well thought out task, it needs to be well planned. Think it through; write it; step away; come back and revise. Ask for feedback.
- My summer workshop experience and extensive reading about this topic confirms that Admissions Committees really feel you SHOULD NOT write about death, even when asked to write about a life changing experience. That topic is simply too difficult.
The College Application Essay by Sarah Myers McGinty. Her book is well worth reading or at least reviewing before you write your essays and will be available from the counseling office for sign-out come the fall.
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