Ah, the college essay. I feel confident to say that this must be the highlight of a high school student’s life. It’s right up there with exams, bullying and pimples as one of the most enjoyable aspects of the school experience.
I mean, the questions are so lucid and clear. Take, for example, the University of Chicago’s ‘how do you feel about Wednesday?’ the University of Pennsylvania’s ‘you have just completed your 300 page biography please submit page 217’ and Tuff’s University’s ‘are we alone?’. It’s almost like they gave you a map with a dotted line to a big ‘X’ with the words ‘here be treasure’ written below them, don’t you think?
In case you don’t, (or in case my sarcasm has started to bore you) let’s look at some tips to get that essay just right.
Be concise writing an essay
Your letter is not the only one that the application office people have to read. In fact, chances are, they’ve got a pile higher than Bilbo Baggins on his tippy toes to read through and if they’ve got to spend more than 10 minutes on reading yours, that’s not going to make you very popular. So learn to say more with less. Also, you can use helping apps to boost your writing skills.
It’s pretty straight forward. Don’t lie. If they find out then you can kiss any chances you had for getting accepted good bye. And if the university is competitive enough, you can be sure they’ll find out.
In the movie ‘the life of Brian’ there is a famous scene where everybody chants in unison ‘we’re all individual’ and ‘we’re all different’.
Don’t be like them. Instead, be like that guy who says ‘I’m not’ as he’s the most distinct of the lot. Now go away and meditate on that for a while. And then go and find the biggest tree in the forest and cut it down with a herring.
Your words should not be a train of thought, nor should you jump from one idea to another without carrying your audience along. Coherence is a vital aspect of any essay. The easiest way to be coherent is to know where you’re going to finish before you start. Perhaps consider writing out in bullet points what you’d like to discuss and then filling it in. If that sounds like too much work, at least decide on your conclusion before you begin. That way you can find the red thread that runs through your piece.
Don’t make mistakes
Be they grammatical or otherwise. Really, don’t. It’s ridiculous in this time and age when there are so many tools available to help you avoid it. Take Grammarly for example. It’s free and will tell you almost any mistake you’re making.
Honestly, if you’re too lazy to copy and paste your text into it and figure out what you’re doing wrong, you don’t deserve to go to university.
Use experiences and visuals
Visualization is one of the key elements of good communication. We feel far more engaged with texts when we can actually ‘see’ or ‘hear’ what’s going on. So use the senses when you communicate. The easiest way to do so is to recount a story from your past. Really try to visualize it in your writing. If you do that then the person on the other end of your essay will be able to visualize it as well. And that will make for a far more interesting text.
It can be hard to both impress upon people how amazing you are and not sound like an arrogant little turd. The trick is to show implicitly that you’re a pretty cool person without spelling it out explicitly. So, don’t say ‘I have 100 friends’ Instead, talk about how you and a whole lot of friends hung out on the weekend and had a great time.
Be careful with humor
You know how I’ve been using jokes and all that throughout this piece? Don’t do that. The only reason I’m using humor here is because my future does not depend on this writing piece. Your future does actually depend to an extent on that essay. And you can sell that future short if your humor falls flat.
Court controversy (if possible)
Don’t toe the line. Everybody toes the line. Instead, be willing to stand up for your alternative beliefs. This does not mean be coarse, or rude, or racist, or nasty. Remember that most universities are quite left wing and they don’t appreciate that kind of stuff. But if you can be controversial without being any of those things, go for it!
Don’t just talk about what you do
Universities are about intellectual pursuits, so talk about what engages you mentally. That’s what they want to hear about. That’s, after all, what universities are about.
Don’t sweat it
A great essay will help. An average essay won’t really hinder you that much. The universities understand you’re under a lot of pressure and they’re asking some weird things. They just want to see if you can think outside the box (And then communicate those thoughts). So don’t freak out. The college essay is not the end of the world.
That fate is reserved for the college interview (pam pam PAAAAAAAAM)