Answer the Essay Question
Be aware of the question being asked, understand what is being asked of you, and try to answer it in summary form early in the essay. Don’t drift off setting the stage for the big answer in the third paragraph. By then, you have lost the reader.
Your own life is what makes you unique and separates you from every human that has ever lived. Write about what you know best: You. Write YOUR story. This is what makes you stand out and allows the admissions officer to get to know you. Express your own passions, beliefs, and struggles honestly. You may think your life has been average and mundane, but it is your authenticity and conviction about what you genuinely enjoy that shows up in your writing.
Be Specific/Use Specific Examples/Draw the Reader In/Telling Your Story
Specific Examples: If you say, “I am a world traveler,” follow it up with specific travel experiences – “When I was in Spain for a month, my host family spoke only Spanish with me which really nurtured my language skills.”
Drawing the Reader In: Saying “I love to help people and I am involved in a number of community service activities” is not engaging. Instead you could say, “Working in the afternoons this year at the local boys and girls club was incredibly enlightening. Seeing the look on 8-year-old Sarah’s face when she succeeded at reading an entire paragraph on her own was unbelievable.” This specificity makes the reader become more connected with your story and want to read more.
Write. Sleep. Read. Edit. Repeat.
It can take three or four versions (perhaps more) to polish a 500 to 600-word essay to a final document. Make sure you read and re-read your essay to catch errors and improve flow. Pay attention to mechanics – spelling, punctuation, and grammar are very important. We encourage you to have the counseling staff, and a member of the English department, read and give constructive suggestions as well.
Do Not Reiterate Your Resume
The admissions evaluator will already have a list of your extracurricular and leadership activities in addition to your activity essay. You do not need to repeat these, or narrate your life’s events in your essay. Choose a theme or an event from your life that is related to the Essay Question, and focus primarily on one or two events.
Do Not Tell the Admissions Staff What You Think They Want to Hear
Essays are far more interesting when they come from your point of view and experience. Write what you believe, feel and think, not what you think an admissions officer wants to read.
Do Not Fall Into the Thesaurus Trap
Use your words, not someone else’s. If you use the words “myriad” and “plethora” in everyday language, it will be obvious to the reader in the flow of your essay. If it is not natural for you, don’t do it.