One: College Essay
select from the following common application essay question
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that
you have taken and its impact on you.
This question is actually a combination of two common questions:
Describe a significant achievement and describe a time when
you grew as a person.
questions show the admissions committee what you value, what
makes you proud and what you are capable of accomplishing.
A common mistake in answering this question is repeating information
that can be found elsewhere in the application. You should
not try to squeeze every achievement on your resume into the
essay. If you do choose to write about an accomplishment that
the committee can read about somewhere else on your application,
be sure to bring that experience alive by demonstrating what
it took to get there and how it affected you personally. Do
not be afraid to show them that you feel proud. This is not
the place for modesty. However do not fall to the other extreme
either-you can toot your own horn, but do it without being
snotty. You will not have to worry about either extreme if
you spend the bulk of your essay simply telling the story.
If you feel like
you have not done anything worth focusing on, then remind
yourself that the best essays are often about modest accomplishments.
It does not matter what you have accomplished as long as it
was personally meaningful and you can make it come alive.
Unless specified, the accomplishment can be professional,
personal, or academic. Did you get a compliment from a notoriously
tough boss? Did you lose the race but beat your own best time?
Did you work around the clock to bring your C in physics up
to an A. Do not think about what they want to hear-think about
what has really made you proud.
For the second
part of the question, they are asking you to open up about
who you really are. Although you do want to show that you
have matured, do not overplay what a terrible person you once
were just to make the point of what a great person you are
now. No one changes that much. Besides, the “before” portrait
might be the one that sticks in the admissions officer’s head.
Also, focus on your current personality rather than on the
“old you” or on every last detail of the event. The reader
wants to know what you are like now, not what you were like
a long time ago. Finally, describe real events and scenarios
to prove that your growth resulted from the decisions you
made and actions you took. Significant events and people can
serve as inspiration. Real change, though, always results
from the work, effort, and initiative you have put into yourself.
Take some credit.
examples of and short critiques for the Influential Achievement
Essay, click here.
some issue of personal, local, national or international concern
and its importance to you.
This question is among the hardest to answer. Even here you
need to stay personal. If a cause is important to you or you
have a strong opinion about it, relate it back to your life.
What about you, your experiences, or your upbringing has made
this issue resonate for you? Why do you care? Does the issue
affect you personally in any way? Be sure to write about both
sides of the issues to show that you can think objectively
and logically. Showing that you are passionate is great; showing
that you are one-sided or bull-headed is not. Finally, be
sure to refrain from making sweeping generalizations about
issues that would be out of your range of experience.
examples of and short critiques for the Social/Political Concern
Essay, click here.
a person, character in fiction, an historical figure, or a
creative work (as in art, music, etc.) who has had a significant
influence on you, and describe that influence.
This type of question attempts to learn more about you through
the forces that have shaped you. Many students make the mistake
of believing that this is an essay about a person. They go
on at length, describing the influential person in detail
without making a connection between it and themselves. The
school doesn’t care about your uncle, or some fictional heroine.
They care about you. What about that person made an impression
on you and how. What action did you take to turn this impression
into personal development and change?
a lot about your values and standards through your description
of your mentors. It is like getting to know a person by the
people he chooses to hang out with. If you are skeptical,
consider the different impression you would have of the candidate
who admires a dynamic, colorful athlete compared to someone
who looks up to an accomplished but soft-spoken academic.
Neither is better nor worse-just different.
There are no wrong
answers here. Far more important than whom you choose, though,
is how you portray that person. In other words, do not choose
someone because you think it will impress the committee. Name-dropping
is not only very obvious, it is very ineffective. Heed this
one word of caution, though. Applicants very commonly pick
one of their parents. Describing your father gives you the
advantage of knowing your subject well, however, it also means
doing some extra work to make your essay stand out from the
examples of and short critiques for the Influential Person
Essay, click here.
do you want to spend two to six years of your life at a particular
college, graduate school, or professional school? How is the
degree necessary to the fulfillment of your goals?
Knowing the schools to which you apply is an essential step
in answering any essay, but questions such as these ask you
to write about them directly. In answering these questions,
mention specific factors that tie in with your area of interest.
Doing this will help you to avoid the insincere, ingratiating
tone that is a danger in this type of essay. Each point will
be honest and well supported, thereby lending credibility
to the essay and, in turn, to you.
is finding a balanced yet truthful tone. Do not be cocky or
self-effacing. Show a solid, well-researched knowledge of
the school. Be honest and be thorough.
examples of and short critiques for the Future Goals Essay,
on to Lesson Two: Brainstorming a Topic
From ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO COLLEGE, by Amy Burnham,
Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan.
Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman. Reprinted by arrangement
with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.