If you ask an Admissions Officer at a university "How Important is the Essay in the Application Process?" - you will probably get the response, "Very." A poorly written essay can cause a brilliant student to get rejected. On the other hand, exceptional application essays can help students with marginal scores get into the school of their dreams. There is no one 'right' way of approaching essays. Instead, there are several things one should keep in mind. In this article, I give you 10 simple tips to help write a good essay.
Starting the essay can be the hardest part. It is important to spend some time thinking about what the essay is asking you and brainstorming different ideas, such as stories from your life that you want to include, your strengths, your personality traits, and so on. Be creative, and let the ideas flow before you start writing.
2) Spend Time and Effort
Good essays aren't written in a day. Once you've decided what to write about, create an outline, list out the examples you want to use and where you want to insert them. Your first draft might not be great, and that's ok. You'll go through several drafts before your perfect your essays. You need to be patient, and spend a lot of time and effort to make your essays perfect.
3) Write about 'You'
Essays help admissions officers understand how you, with your unique personal qualities, will contribute to their college. So your essays need to focus on YOUR story - your thoughts, achievements, failures, and aspirations. Use your writing to highlight your maturity and depth in character.
4) Don't Repeat Yourself
Essays have word limits, so don't unnecessarily repeat facts that are already covered in other parts of your application, such as reiterating your test scores, or listing out all your extracurricular activities. Utilize the essays to talk about things that the admissions officer won't know from reading other parts of your application, and which add value to your application.
5) Keep Your Focus Narrow and Specific
Avoid lists while writing an essay. Don't try saying too much about too many things. This restricts the reader from understanding what you want them to concentrate on. Develop a focus on a few aspects about yourself, and let the reader identify your main idea and follow it from beginning to end.
6) Show, Don't Tell
Simply stating facts doesn't always get an idea across. You need to include specific details, examples and reasons to demonstrate a fact. For instance, stating "I like to help people in need" isn't saying much. Instead, explain a situation where you did help someone in need who did you help? How? What impact did it have on them? What did you learn from the experience?
7) Concentrate on Tone
It's important to balance the tone of your essay. When you're talking about achievements and strengths, there's a risk of sounding like a braggart. So try to balance pride with some humility. When discussing a failure, such as a bad test score, your tone could suggest you take responsibility, and that you learnt something from the experience; you shouldn't come across sounding like a whiner.
8) Don't Undermine Grammar and Structure
Besides your personality, essays also showcase your writing skills. A good essay has three distinct parts - introduction, body, and conclusion. Follow a logical structure; make it easy for the reader to understand what you want to communicate.
Avoid grammatical or punctuation errors and bad language. These reflect a careless attitude and lack of quality control in your written work. If English is not your biggest strength, seek support and get feedback to improve your essay quality.
9) Get Feedback
Show your essay to your family, friends and teachers. Ask them if it brings out your personality, and if it sounds like you. Take their feedback seriously, because these are the people who know you and understand you the best. But keep in mind, that at the end, the essay should sound like your own. Don't feel compelled to talk about things you aren't sure about. Be convinced about everything you write.
10) Be Honest
Don't get tempted to write what you think the admissions officer wants to hear. Instead, stick to the facts. Being genuine is imperative. Exaggeration might make your stories more exciting, but remember that Admissions Officers have years of experience reading thousands of essays. They can tell when you aren't being honest, or when an adult has written or edited your essay. Also, keep it simple - don't use unnecessary words, and avoid an over-formal tone or business-like language.
Writing good essays is hard work, but the experience can be fun. Good essays have tremendous impact on your college application, so don't neglect them or leave them till the very end. An application requires you to concentrate on many different aspects - academics, extra-curriculars, standardized tests such as SAT, essays, and letters of recommendation. Each requires time and effort. So start planning early, and work hard to get into a college of your dreams!
Lisa Jain, Country Representative-India, College Board
She is the Representative of The College Board in India. In her role, she works extensively with schools across India to help with the implementation of College Board programs and also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board's programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process. She pursued her MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and her undergraduate degree in Industrial Economics at the University of Warwick in UK.