This is a hard essay to write. You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper.
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Try freewriting. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping. What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? What do you want them to feel?
Just get out the ideas you have. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. Just make sure that you replace the generalizations with examples as you revise. A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one.
If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first. Applications that have several short-answer essays require even more detail. Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants. You are number 49, and your reader is tired, bored, and thinking about lunch. How are you going to catch and keep her attention?
For more tips, see our handout on audience.
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The voice you use and the style in which you write can intrigue your audience. The voice you use in your essay should be yours. The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences. By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea. Look at this anecdote:. An interesting tale, yes, but what does it tell you about the narrator?
The following example takes the same anecdote and recasts it to make the narrator more of a presence in the story:. The voice you use should be approachable as well as intelligent. Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style. You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language. But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place.
Keep in mind that this is a personal statement. Would you think you were learning a lot about a person whose personal statement sounded like a journal article? Would you want to spend hours in a lab or on a committee with someone who shuns plain language? Just use an honest voice and represent yourself as naturally as possible. A well-written, dramatic essay is much more memorable than one that fails to make an emotional impact on the reader.
BUT be careful not to let your drama turn into melodrama.
When Application Essay ‘Help’ Crosses a Line
You want your reader to see your choices motivated by passion and drive, not hyperbole and a lack of reality. Many guides to writing application essays encourage you to take a risk, either by saying something off-beat or daring or by using a unique writing style. When done well, this strategy can work—your goal is to stand out from the rest of the applicants and taking a risk with your essay will help you do that. An essay that impresses your reader with your ability to think and express yourself in original ways and shows you really care about what you are saying is better than one that shows hesitancy, lack of imagination, or lack of interest.
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But be warned: this strategy is a risk. Do not alienate your readers. One student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. Another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. Compiled by the Harvard Independent and in its third edition, this book is one that you can trust for its information. Furthermore, after each essay are specific comments written by admission officers and editors from the Harvard Independent.
By comparing your own writing with essays compiled in this book, you are able to learn how your writing can improve.
Additionally, the essays in this book are ordered according to its subject, making the collection organized and easy to navigate around. In the beginning, I was hesitant about picking up this book. However later, I have not only learned greatly about how one can get better at writing.
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For example, one does not have to write something as an application "essay". One can also draw a cartoon to represent one's ideas. But most importantly, I very much enjoyed reading the book! Initially, I picked up this book to get an idea of what college essays were like.
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However, after finishing the collection of essays, I learned more about the admission officer's perspective rather than the applicant's point of view. So many essays to read through can be tedious and mundane, but there is always a gem once in a while. I strive to create one of those gems when the time comes.
I liked some of the criticism, it told me why the essay was good for that specific university and vice versa. I loved the creative essays. Sue Tsai rated it really liked it Aug 02, Sara rated it liked it Jan 05, Kyle Rhoades rated it really liked it Dec 27, Jori Richardson rated it liked it Nov 22, Ajith rated it it was amazing Nov 16, Austin Moyle rated it liked it Jun 18, Jessica Bang rated it it was ok Sep 05, Jeong Hun rated it it was amazing Jan 18, Reem Z.
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