I have been editing a lot of admission essays and I just wanted to share some general tips and some of the biggest mistakes I have seen over and over. (This is not just my thoughts; I attended several webinars on admission essays WITH REAL ADMISSIONS OFFICERS sharing their do's and don't's, from very different colleges.)
Tip 1: Share YOU. The admission officers want to "meet" you in your essay and get a sense of how you are so they can decide if they are a good fit for you and vice versus. What do you want them to know about you? That you are a loyal friend? Resilient person? Curious learner? Give examples of instances where you have displayed/practiced that.
Tip 2: Do not start with a quote. Quotes are great for adding to your point/argument but the officers get really sick of essays that start with a quote. Often, I recommend the quote be moved further in the essay. Often the quote supports a point made later in the essay and it makes more sense to have it with that paragraph.
Tip 3: Drama is not necessary. It's ok if you have a dramatic story to tell, but admission officers get frustrated when so much time is spent telling the story that they don't read much about what you learned from the situation and how it shaped you. If you do have a big story, leave plenty of space to highlight how it changed you. Descriptive language shows your writing skills, but have balance and don't spend too much time describing.
Tip 4: USE A THESAURUS. I cannot highlight this enough. This is my personal tip; the thesaurus added zing to my writing. Out with the commonly used phrases and words, in with the specific adjectives and strong active verbs. Find yourself using a phrase/word over 3 times? Grab the thesaurus or look up Wordhippo. Also, never assume the new word fits perfectly; look up the definition yourself to varify that this word gives the flavor you want.
Tip 5: Avoid wordiness. Many essays I edited were over the word limit. I combed through each sentence and found places where 3, even 6, words were used instead of 1. Wordiness can be hard to identify as the author because you feel every word has reason. Find a picky proofreader and amazingly, you find yourself within the word limit with clarity and smoother flow.
Tip 6: Avoid writing "biographies". Writing about influential people in your lives can be a great essay, but admission officers say that these essays make them want to admit the influential person, not the student. It may be a beautifully written epoch, but it simply tells how great this person is and not you. Some people are very embarrassed to write about their experiences and accomplishments but it is what the admission officers want to see. Remember, they want to see YOU, not your grandfather or aunt.
These are my top tips, gathered from experience and the personal advice of current admission officers. Hope this helps somebody and please, if you have any questions or other tips, comment below!
This was EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you so much.
You are very welcome! Good luck with your essay!
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