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Admission Essay Writing – Don’t Blow it Off

October 15, 2015 - Posted toStudy

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Admission Essay Writing

Getting into the college of your choice is a big factor in what you do during your junior and first half of senior years in high school. You work hard to keep those grades up; you take the ACT or the SAT a couple of times to get the best score possible; you try to stay or become involved in as many activities as possible in order to demonstrate your well-roundedness; you volunteer in the community to demonstrate good citizenship. In short, you want to be the ideal candidate. Here’s a news flash – every other student trying to get into the same school you want is doing the very same things. All of you will have very similar academic and co-curricular records, so it really may come down to that college admission essay that you will be writing. It could be the final deciding factor. With that in mind, here are the three elements of an outstanding admissions essay and some tips that will help you write a great ne.


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Understanding the Prompt

Whether you are writing for undergraduate or graduate admissions, there will be a series of prompts, and you will be asked to choose one or more as the basis for your essay. Your first task is to read each prompt carefully and be certain that you understand it. And as you read through them be thinking of those that relate to experiences, situations and circumstances that you could write about. For example, there will always be a prompt about leadership. If you have had a leadership position in an organization and you can speak to a situation in which you had to demonstrate good leadership, then that may be a prompt to consider. There will always be a prompt related to an event, an experience or a circumstance in your life that shaped your values; another prompt may relate to your goals or to how you went about solving a major problem in your life. There may also be a prompt related to identifying a personal hero and describing the qualities of that person that make him/her that to you.

Getting your Prompts Early: You have access to these essay prompts any time you want them, so get them early, at least by the summer between your junior and senior years in high school or college. If you are in high school and using the Common Application essay, the prompts are published all over the web- just Google them. They have not changed in the last 5 years. If you are applying for grad school or if a college does not use the Common Application, then you can usually find the prompts on the school’s website. If not, request your application package in the spring of your junior year, and you will have them.

Getting Your Prompt(s) Ideas: Once you have decided on the prompt(s), you need to begin to keep a running list of things that could go into each essay, as you just go about your daily life. The best way to do this is to get a phone app that will just let you drop stuff into a file. As something comes to mind just make note of it. By the fall of your senior year you should have plenty of stuff to open and print out. And yes, you should print all of those ideas out so that you can see them all at once and eliminate or combine them as you work toward a thesis statement for you essay(s). College admission essays require all of the steps and elements that any other essay would.

Getting Your Sub-Topics: These will be 3-4 main points that you will be making in your essay and each will be given a body paragraph. So, identify a sub-topic and then start putting those details that relate underneath it. Many student worry that they do not know how to write an admission essay, but if they have ever organized information or thoughts for any type of essay, they really do know how to do this.

The Final Check: Once you have your sub-topics re-read that prompt and make sure that they really speak to that prompt.

The Writing Process

This will be no different than the process for any other essay you have written. And, if you have struggled with organizing thoughts or grammar and composition, then this is the stage at which you really need to get some help. That may be an English teacher or professor who has helped you in the past; it may be friend or family who is a strong writer; it may be a professional you hire. The point is this: a university essay for admissions is just too important to have structural, organizational, grammatical, or mechanical errors. It really must be perfectly written.

Write the Body Paragraphs First: If you have not normally done this before, do it now. You can’t really develop a thesis statement for your introduction until you have those paragraphs written and have an overall picture of what you are trying to get across.

Your Introduction: Two things – state your topic and make your thesis statement. If you are writing about a personal hero, for example, you will identify that person and then provide a general reason why this person is your hero – that is your thesis statement.

Your Conclusion: Tie everything back to your thesis in a different way. Your personal hero? You might want to speak to the fact that you hope you will be able to model the values and principles of this person as you move forward in your life.


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Yes, the winning essays are always quite creative. They begin with an amazing opening sentence that immediately engages the reader. But more than that, you want to find a unique and creative way to present your entire piece. This often requires help from someone else as well, especially if you do not have a “creative streak” in you. Using humor if the topic lends itself, is always good. Here is an example of just such a creative presentation:

A female high school student was applying to Princeton. She easily met the GPA and Princeton SAT requirements; she had plenty of outside activities and leadership positions. She was also very creative. Her selected prompt asked her to describe an incident in which she had a problem to solve and to discuss the steps by which she solved that problem. She selected the problem of killing a fly that was buzzing around in her room and being a constant irritant. She demonstrated how she used a well-thought out problem-solving process, and her essay was a hit.

A Final Thought

One way to get some great ideas about structure and creativity is to read examples of great admissions essays that are published online. They may spark some ideas about how you can give a unique approach to your topic.

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