Admissions people want to know you. And the admissions essay gives them a picture of you they'd have a hard time getting any other way.
So you'll want to take the essay seriously, and you'll want to do it right. Here are five tips:
Get Focused: Read the essay question carefully. If the application asks you to respond to a particular question, the focus has been given to you. However, if you're free to choose your own topic, make sure it's narrow enough.
Whatever you write, you don't have to build up to it with your entire life story. Remember, you're writing an essay, not a book! Narrow the essay to a specific event, and make sure your essay is focused on that event and how you grew from it.
Admissions counselors want to know what you're passionate about, what makes you tick. So whatever you choose to write about, write about something that excites you.
Brainstorm Your Topic: Spend time brainstorming. Jot down whatever comes to mind about your topic. Then, corral those stray elements into an orderly outline.
Once you have an outline, it's time to start writing a first draft. Let the words flowkeeping your focus in mind, of course. This is not the time to worry about spelling, grammar and syntax. Just concentrate on getting words on paper in some orderly stream.
Now read what you've got, asking yourself, "What's my main point? Is that point clear?" Remember, you want to stand out from all the other people seeking admission.
Write Effectively: Even if writing is not your best talent, you can write an effective essay by following a few keys. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Use active verbs. Avoid passive voice. Keep sentences short. Use the introduction as a "grabber"it should clearly tell the reader where you're going and make the reader want to come along. Write transitions from point to point and paragraph to paragraph so they are clear and strong. All paragraphs should contain one major thought. Use the conclusion to summarize the piece and emphasize why the experience is significant.
Be Personal: Write as though you're having a conversation with someone. When admissions counselors finish your essay, they should feel like they know you. Make sure your essay is uniquely you. Be positive and personal. But here's a warning: Don't try to be unique by using faddish language and non-traditional spellings: light, not lite; gray, not grey; all right; not alright.
Then Edit Again! Let your parents read your final draft. They may catch mistakes or see something you've overlooked. But a note of caution: Don't let your parents put words in your mouth.
After you get comments from your mom and dad, it's time to begin the tedious work of editing. Read, re-read and re-read some more. Edit. Edit. Edit. Look for flow, sense, focus, spelling and grammar. And don't rely on spellcheck to catch all your mistakes. Polish your piece until you feel confident you've said what needs to be said.
After you're convinced you've done your best, ask your English teacher to read your essay. Your teacher can help you make sure you've not only written an essay that's grammatically correct, but also one that's interesting and makes sense.