How to make a good essay for your application

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Your goal is to write an essay that will make them fall in love with you

Your goal is to write an essay that will make them fall in love with you

Think about it before you sit down at the computer to write your essay: a room crammed with admissions representatives and faculty members, seated around a large table covered with files. Admission staff, often young and underpaid, are excitedly excited, while teachers take frequent breaks to remove their glasses and rub their eyes.

These exhausted gentlemen, with hyperactivity induced by cookies and brownies, have been participating in committee meetings for days, after spending months reading applications, many of which look very similar: baseball = life, or debates = life, or “I went to a developing country and I discovered that poor people can be happy ”.

They crawl through the long lists of candidates, state by state, region by region. The best and worst applications do not reach the committee. It is the gigantic pile in the middle that provokes arguments.

Truth be told, most essays are common. Many are boring. Some are just bad. But occasionally, one of them will have the admissions representative walk down the hall to find one of the classmates and say, “You have to see what this math Olympics winner said about Hamlet.” Your goal is to write an essay that will make them fall in love with you.

Once you have the time and emotional energy to sit back on your chair and write, you face an intimidating task: finding out what to write about. If you are in doubt, you are in good company. With such freedom, this mission becomes a challenge for most students.

Here’s a tip: choose a topic that you really want to write about. If the subject doesn’t matter to you, it won’t matter to the reader. Write about what keeps you up at night. It can be about cars or about coffee. It may be your favorite book or the Pythagorean theorem. It may be why you don’t believe in evolution, or how you believe that kale must have hired a public relations firm to get people to eat it.

A good topic will be complex. At school, you were probably encouraged to write texts in which you took advantage of something. This works in academic papers when asked to argue in favor of a position, but in a more personal essay, you want to express a nuanced thought and explore your own conflicting emotions. In an essay, conflict is good.

For example, “I love my mom. She is my best friend. We wear the same clothes and watch editions of ‘The Real Housewives’ from three different cities ”would not work as the subject of a good essay. “I love my mom, though she makes me clean my room, hates my guinea pig, and is crazy about disgusting foods like kale cabbage” maybe it leads to something.

Even if the essay has to be about a more personal topic, the reader can learn a lot about you from anything he chooses to focus on or from the way it is described. One of the favorite examples, when I worked with admissions at Duke University, started with “my car and I have a lot in common”. The candidate then described a car that smelled like a wet dog and went from zero to 60 km / h in … Well, it never reached 60.

Another boy wrote about cooking kimchi [a typical South Korean dish] with his mother. They would go to the garage and talk, really talk. “My mother once said to me in a strong Korean accent, ‘Every time you have sex, I want you to make sure you use a condom.’ I burst out laughing and said, ‘Mom, this can be a little expensive!’ One girl wrote about a feminist decision made by her mother to place silicone implants on her breasts.

A car, kimchi, a mother’s decision – candidates used such objects as vehicles to convey what they had to say. Such objects allowed the writer to explore the main subject: this is me.

Don’t brag about your successes. On the contrary, look at the times when you suffered or, even, those when you failed. Failures are “essayistic” gold. Find out what you have learned from this. Write about it. Be honest and say the hardest things you can. And remember those responsible for admissions, sitting around a table during the winter. Shake them out of this diabetic coma and give them something to cheer up about.

10 things students should avoid in their essays

Repeating the format.

Admissions officers know what will be in the applications. Don’t start with “A time that I failed was when I tried to beat up my little brother and I realized he was bigger than me” was bigger than me ”). You would start off by saying, “As I pulled my arm back to throw a punch, it struck me: My brother had gotten big. Bigger than me “(” When I raised my arm to punch, it immediately came to mind: my brother had grown up. He was bigger than me “).

Leave the dictionary out.

Unless you are using the term “prink” (ornament) or “demotic” (popular) or “couloir” (a deep gorge), you must assume that the reader knows the meaning of the words you have written. So it’s best not to start your essay with “according to Webster’s dictionary …”

The epigraph.

Many essays start with quotes from another writer. When you have limited space, you shouldn’t give that precious gift to someone else’s words.

You are there!

When writing about past events, the conjugation in the present does not allow reflections. All you can do is tell the story. It happened, then it happened and then something else happened. Some beginning writers think that the present tense allows for more interesting reading. And you’ll realize how fallacious it is if you pay attention to how many suspense stories have been written in the past.

Sound effects.

There! Woohoo! Pow! Are you thinking about comic books? Certainly, good writing benefits from discreet onomatopoeia. A beat is a good option. Or an effervescence. But by adding exclamation points, you are entering dangerous waters. Don’t start your essay with a bang!

Active body parts.

One way to make your reader shiver is to give body parts life of their own. When you write an excerpt like “His hands threw up”, the reader may have a visual image of hands throwing up. “My eyes fell to the floor”. Ew.

Clichés give the message for you.

And here goes one of them: there is nothing new under the sun. We steal phrases and ideas all the time. The advice of the writer George Orwell: “Never use a metaphor, analogy or another figure of the speech that you usually see in print”.

To be or not to be.

Get rid of the verb “to be”. Replace “was” in “The essay was written by a student; it was amazing and delightful ”(“ The student’s essay amazed and delighted me ”) and you will have“ The student’s essay amazed and delighted me ”. We went from a static description to one full of energy, and we still cut the number of words in half.

Word packs.

Some phrases – free gift, personal beliefs, final outcome, very unique – come in a package that we shouldn’t worry about the opening. They are redundant.

Rules to ignore.

In English class, you might have to follow a list of rules that the teacher said were necessary for good grammar. Do not use contractions. Not even fragmented sentences. It is imperative to avoid the “split infinitive”. Ending with a preposition is the kind of thing that teachers will not tolerate. And don’t start a sentence with conjunctions like “and”, “but” or “because”. Pick up a good book and you will find that the best authors ignore these stifling and stifling rules.

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