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Title: The College Essay Author: Patrick Geschke Last modified by: Patrick Geschke Created Date: 10/5/2009 12:20:21 AM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The%20College%20Essay

The College Essay
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  • This essay is your opportunity to reveal your
    best qualities and to show an admissions
    committee what makes you stand out from other

  • A 2006 report published by the National
    Association of College Admission Counseling
    (NACAC) found that while grades, admission tests,
    and class rank remain the top factors in the
    college admission decision, a majority of
    colleges and universities consider the essay to
    be a key factor in determining which academically
    qualified students they would choose.

  • In other words, when all else is equal between
    competing applicants, a compelling essay can make
    the difference. A powerful, well-written essay
    can also tip the balance for a marginal

What Are CollegesLooking For?
  • Can you write well?
  • Can you support your ideas with logical
  • Can you tell something about your personality?

Different Types of Essays
  • The You Question
  • The Why Us Question
  • The Creative Question

The You Question
  • This question boils down to "Tell us about
    yourself." The school wants to know the student
    better and to see how she will introduce herself.
  • Example "UVM values a diverse student body. What
    contributions might you make to our campus
    community outside of academic achievement?"
    (University of Vermont, 2005)

The You Question
  • Plus This type of direct question offers
    students a chance to reveal something about
    themselves other than grades and test scores.
  • Danger The open-ended nature of these questions
    can lead to an essay that's all over the place.

The You Question
  • Tips
  • Encourage students to focus on just a few things
    and avoid the urge to "spill everything" at once.
  • Advise students not to simply write out their
    resume in paragraph form. It's better to develop
    one small event, person, place, or feeling with a
    lot of narrative and specifics.
  • Explain to students that this is a "tell us a
    story" question. Students should tell a story
    that only they can tell.

The Why Us Question
  • Some schools ask for an essay about a student's
    choice of a school or career. They're looking for
    information about the applicant's goals, and
    about how serious his or her commitment is to
    this particular school.
  • Example "How did you become interested in
    American University?" (American University, 2007)

The Why Us Question
  • Plus This type of question provides a focus for
    the essay that is, why the student chose this
    particular school or pathand the answer to that
    will (hopefully) be clear to her.
  • Danger Any factual errors in the essay will
    reveal that the student really hasn't thought
    deeply about her choice. For example, writing
    that she wants to attend Carleton College to
    major in agriculture would be a blunder.
    (Carleton doesn't have an agriculture major.)

The Why Us Question
  • Tips
  • Advise students to make absolutely sure they know
    their subject well.
  • Warn students not to go overboard with flattery.
    They should sound sincere but not ingratiating.

The Creative Question
  • The goals of the "creative" question are to
    evaluate a candidate's ability to think and write
    creatively and to assess the breadth of her
    knowledge and education.
  • Example "Sharing intellectual interests is an
    important aspect of university life. Describe an
    experience or idea that you find intellectually
    exciting, and explain why." (Stanford University,

The Creative Question
  • Plus This kind of question gives students an
    opportunity to convey their personalities and
  • Danger Some students may take the "creative"
    aspect of the question as license to be obscure,
    pretentious, or undisciplined in their writing.

The Creative Question
  • Tips
  • Emphasize to students the importance of writing
    an informed essay. For example, they should not
    write about a fantasy meeting with a famous
    artist and get the titles of his paintings wrong.
  • Advise students to use common sense ("creative"
    doesn't mean eccentric or self-indulgent).
  • Warn students not to write about high-minded
    topics or exotic locales simply to impress the

Essay Writing Tips
  • Write simply.
  • Keep your focus narrow and personal.
  • Provide specific evidence (facts, events,
    quotations, examples) to support your main idea.
  • Use vivid, compelling details (show, don't tell).

Essay Writing Tips
  • Address the topic squarely. For example, if an
    application asks you to explain any deficiencies
    in records (e.g., a low grade or bad semester),
    provide a straightforward, reasonable response.
  • Dont repeat information that is found elsewhere
    in the application, such as lists of courses or
    extracurricular activities.

Essay Writing Tips
  • Write about something unique and differentnot
    just what you think the admissions officer wants
    to hear (they read many essays about the charms
    of their university, for example).
  • Apply principles of good composition (e.g.,
    organize the essay with a beginning, middle, and

Essay Writing Tips
  • Structure your writing in a way that allows the
    reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
  • Revise and proofread to make sure there are no
    typographical, spelling, or grammatical errors.

One Way To Compose a Draft
  • Step 1 Think about yourself
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are
    your best qualities? Are you an intellectual? A
    creative type? Curious? Passionate? Determined?

One Way To Compose a Draft
  • Step 2 Choose a positive quality you'd like to
    convey to the admissions committee
  • Don't pick an event or something you've done.
    President of the Nuclear Awareness Club is not a
    personal quality. Focus on a quality of your mind
    or of your character. Complete this sentence "I
    am a very _________ person."

One Way To Compose a Draft
  • Step 3 Tell a story
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes. Pretend you're taking
    an exam at high school and responding to, "Tell a
    story about an experience or time when you showed
    you were a very _________ person." Use the
    characteristic you identified in Step 2. Write or
    type non-stop for 20 minutes force yourself to
    keep telling the story and what it reveals until
    the timer goes off.

The Parts of the Essay
  • The introduction gives your reader an idea of
    your essay's content. It can shrink when you need
    to be concise. One vivid sentence might do "The
    favorite science project was a complete failure."

The Parts of the Essay
  • The body presents the evidence that supports your
    main idea. Use narration and incident to show
    rather than tell.

The Parts of the Essay
  • The conclusion can be brief as well, a few
    sentences to nail down the meaning of the events
    and incidents you've described.

Three Basic Essay Styles
  • Standard Essay Take two or three points from
    your self-outline, give a paragraph to each, and
    make sure you provide plenty of evidence. Choose
    things not apparent from the rest of your
    application or light up some of the activities
    and experiences listed there.

Three Basic Essay Styles
  • Less-Is-More Essay In this format, you focus on
    a single interesting point about yourself. It
    works well for brief essays of a paragraph or
    half a page.

Three Basic Essay Styles
  • Narrative Essay A narrative essay tells a short
    and vivid story. Omit the introduction, write one
    or two narrative paragraphs that grab and engage
    the reader's attention, then explain what this
    little tale reveals about you.

  • Let It Cool Take a break from your work and come
    back to it in a few days. Does your main idea
    come across clearly? Do you prove your points
    with specific details? Is your essay easy to read

  • Feedback Time Have someone you like and trust
    (but someone likely to tell you the truth) read
    your essay. Ask them to tell you what they think
    you're trying to convey. Did they get it right?

  • Edit Down Your language should be simple,
    direct, and clear. This is a personal essay, not
    a term paper. Make every word count (e.g., if you
    wrote "in society today," consider changing that
    to "now").

  • Proofread Two More Times Careless spelling or
    grammatical errors, awkward language, or fuzzy
    logic will make your essay memorablein a bad