A lot has been written
about how the college essay is one of the most
important parts of your application and what are
the components of the ideal college essay. A lot
has also been said about how the college essay
is your "one-way dialogue" with the
admission officer(s) and is a great chance to
express yourself. We won't be going into those
details here. Very few articles get around to
help you actually start writing the essay. We've
tried to do that here.
Your approach to writing the college essay should
not be particularly different from how you have
gone about writing essays for class. The steps
are the same, the stages are the same, and the
process is the same - the only difference is that
this time you'll be writing about yourself (and
not about how Edison invented the light bulb)
and never before has an essay about "you"
been so instrumental in deciding the future course
of your life.
In many ways, your education, your career and
basically the rest of your life depends on this
one essay about yourself (that was just to scare
you into getting serious!).
Now that we've established that this essay is
your last ray of hope of a successful life, let's
get down to business. The college essay will be
written in 3 distinct steps:
1. Planning 2. Drafting 3. Tweakig (a.k.a. editing)
During this step, you must start collecting ideas
which will form the core of your essay. Remember,
the college essay is usually asked for so the
admission officer(s) can learn about you - so
that should be the focus of most of your ideas.
Brainstorm About Your
Qualities Make a list of the qualities
(positive and negative) which you would use to
describe yourself. This first list includes all
your strengths, weaknesses, and any other exceptionally
strong characteristics. Remember, the emphasis
of this list should be broad and conceptual in
nature - try to list your personality characteristics
and traits, not specific events or happenings.
For example, you may have "exceptional communication
skills" (not "I can make good speeches").
After this, make a second list of specific events,
achievements and happenings of which you are particularly
proud of. This is a more operational level list
of things you've done and activities you've participated
in. Now you have 2 lists, a list of "broad"
qualities and a list of "specific" events
Research Yourself Repeat
the process above, but this time ask your family
members, friends and relatives for input and feedback.
More often than not, they will be able to show
you qualities (good and bad!) about yourself which
you never thought you had.
Link Qualities to Evidence
Now try to create links between the
2 lists you've developed. With the help of these
2 lists, when you start writing the essay you'll
be able to provide "real-world" examples
to support and backup the skills and qualities
you have laid claim to. Using the previous example,
when you claim that you have good "communication
skills", you'll quickly be able to verify
the authenticity of that claim by mentioning how
you effectively used those skills to win the state
Find Connections &
Create an Outline Try to group similar
ideas together and find further connections between
your qualities and achievements. How did you win
the state debating championship? Was it really
because of your superior communication skills,
or did the fact that you are quickly able to analyze
and respond to arguments play a more important
role? Or was it because you're a good researcher
and have a great ability to absorb information?
It's about time we started composing the actual
essay. The essay will consist of three parts -
introduction, body and conclusion. We'll quickly
move through these parts - the 3 parts of the
essay are discussed in greater detail in this
introduction is used to give the reader a feel
of the essay, including an idea of the content.
The introduction is usually several sentences
long, but can also be one sentence if it fulfills
the purpose. For example, a strong, concise statement
sometimes eliminates the need for a longer introduction:
"My 30 day vacation to Africa allowed me
to learn more about myself than I have in the
past 20 years."
body of the essay is used to present ideas and
arguments that support the main idea of the essay.
In this part, you should try to use events and
incidents to backup claims about yourself rather
than simply going and on about your great qualities.
conclusion is used to wrap up your ideas and present
a result of what the events and descriptions in
the body mean to you. Again, this can be a mid-sized
discourse of the lesson you've learned, or can
be a single, powerful sentence which conveys the
same message: "The corporate rat-race is
not for me... the satisfaction I get out of helping
the underprivileged is indescribable, and that
is what I intend to do with the rest of my life."
Essay Styles There
are several types of essays format, which you
can use while composing your college essay.
and safe, this is the essay style used by most
college applicants. Use the important points from
your outline and write one paragraph on each point,
making sure that you provide plenty of "real
world" evidence based upon actual events.
Remember, this is your one=way dialogue and you
should try to promote qualities or characteristics,
which would appeal to the admission officer(s),
but are not particularly obvious from the rest
of your application.
this approach, you focus on a single, powerful,
interesting event or characteristic. This works
especially well if you're supposed to write an
extremely small essay. A slightly more imaginative
approach than the standard essay, this will work
well if the single event or topic you write about
is exceptionally interesting.
this type of essay, you employ the narration technique
to pen down a short story and dramatic story.
Remember to conclude the story with a short explanation
of how the story or tale is related to you or
has affected you. This approach could be particularly
useful is the admission officer(s) are looking
for creativity and absorbing writing skills.
Tweaking (a.k.a. editing)
When you've composed the first draft of your essay,
it's time to go over it, correct errors, fix ommissions,
make improvements, and share it with a third party
for independent feedback and suggestions. Even
though you should bring others' opinions into
consideration, remember that it's your life, your
essay, your career, and you are the best judge
of what to include (or not include) in the essay.
Keep the following points in mind during the tweaking
Give it Some Time As
mentioned before, development of the essay is
an exercise which takes days, if not weeks. Don't
try to complete tweaking in a day or two - give
it some time and return to the task after a few
days to see if your main idea is what you want
it to be. Most probably in the "rest period"
you will come up with a couple of points or arguments
which you would like to add to your essay or use
as a replacement to other ideas.
Similarly, when you share your essay with someone
else, don't expect immediate feedback.
Give them a few days to think about what you've
written (remember to give it to someone who actually
give it some thought!) and come to your with suggestions.
making tons of term papers and reports, most students
are used to using big words and sentences to explain
theoretical concepts. That will not do. This is
a personal essay, so try to simplify and straighten
words out as much as possible. Instead of, "One
of the greatest issues threatening modern society
is the emergence and excessive use of narcotics.",
you may write "Drugs are one of biggest problems
Proofread a Million
Time Come on, I don't need to explain
the significance behind that one, do I? PLEASE
proofread a million times and make sure there
are no grammatical, typographical, or writing
By Shah J. Chaudhry