What is a Great Essay?: College Admissions Essay Help
What exactly makes an essay great? While there are variations in taste between admissions counselors, there are many points on which most agree.
It's All About You
A great essay should be personal. Many of the Common Application topics prompt you to explore something external, whether it's a work of art, a heroic figure, or an era in history. But your goal shouldn't be to write a term paper—it's to reveal something important about you. You don't need to sound like Hemingway, provide unique insight into the Obama administration, or explain why your high school's debate team should have won the National Championship.
The bottom line is that the essay is meant to give admissions officers an idea of who you are. Period. Do anything else with your essay, such as explain why Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer of all time or why the life of Mother Teresa was inspiring, and you've blown your chance. Remember, schools are cutting back on interviews and record numbers of students are applying to college, so writing an essay that provides a glimpse of who you are is more important than ever.
Of course you will be judged on the quality of your writing. You'll need to show that you have a good grasp of language and essay development. But just as important is your message. Your essay must not only make you come alive, but also help your reader(s) to connect with you. Therefore, choosing your message—the story you tell about yourself—is as important as good grammar and vocabulary.
A strong essay also has a clear focus. It doesn't try to showcase everything you've achieved since your first day of freshman year. Most of that has been listed else where on your application. With only about 500 words to tell your story, a lack of essay focus means that you'll end up with a laundry list rather than a personal, in-depth look at who you are. Here are some examples of essay topics and how they can be focused:
- A volunteer position at a hospital. Instead of a wide-ranging description of all the good you do (and to avoid sounding conceited), zero in on a positive interaction with one person, or one memorable aspect of your position.
- A love of long distance running. Ditch the cross-country team victories and defeats—they're not as personal as a description of what you see on your favorite route, what you listen to, or how running helps you stay centered.
- An award-winning photography series. Awards are already mentioned elsewhere on your application (as is the volunteer position and the cross country team). Take this opportunity to discuss what you've learned by looking through the lens of your camera. Get specific—clichés not only bore readers but also ruins your chance to make a positive connection.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
WE'VE GOT A GREAT ROUND-UP OF ACTIVITIES PERFECT FOR LONG WEEKENDS, STAYCATIONS, VACATIONS ... OR JUST SOME GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FUN!Get Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process