THE BETTER YOUR ESSAY, THE BEilER

YOUR CHANCE OF ACCEPTANCE BY THE COLLEGE OF YOUR CHOICE!

GUIDANCE IN PLANNING AND WRmNGYOUR ESSAY

• ADVICE FROM SCHOOL ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

• A STEP·BY· STEP WRlnNG

PROGRAM

• PLUS

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ACTUAL ESSAYS

SUBMITTED TO COLLEGES BY SUCCESSFUL APPLICANTS

BURNHAM, KAUFMAN, AND DOWHAN

THAT WILL

INTO

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Amy Burnham Daniel Kaufman Chris Dowhan

BARRON'S

Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS , ." , , :v

INTRODUCTION viii

A NOTE ABOUT PLAGIARISM 'X'

PART ONE Preparation 1

CHAPTER 1: ASSES'S YOUR AUDIENCE 3

Profile ofanAdmissions Committee , . , 3

How ImpQrtantAre the Essays, AriyWay? o •••••••••••••••• .4

What Are "Th.ey" Looking For? , , 5

What They Are Tired of Finding , 16

Get Feedback! , 18

CHAPTER 2: GATHER YOUR MATERIAL 19

Start Your Engines , 19

Assess Yourself c • , ••••••••••••••••••••••••• 20

A Note for Everyone Tearing Their Hair Out , , .. , , .. , ,25

Research the Schools 25

Special Adv'ice for Transfer' Students 28

PART TWO Strategy 31

c H A PT ER 3: C Hob $ E YO U R WE A PONS 33

Find Your Focus ," , 33

Dual lnterests 37

YOlJr Personal Points , 40

Working with Se.ts of Essays .....•................ ,." 41

CHA.PTER 4: PLAN Y,OURATTACK _.,."" , 53

A Note'About Shortcuts=UseCeution , 54

Essays AbouXYoLir Growth .arid Development 54

Essays About Goals . , , . , 56

Essays About Role Models and Influence 59

Essays About Achievements , ................• , 61

Essays About Hobbies and Interests 63

Essays About ChiJdhood Experiences 64

Essays About Your Fay6Hte. .. . , 65

EssayS About Soda I Issues-and Current Affairs 66

Essays Tl-iat Target thEi School .. , , ,6.7

Essays 'AboLit lntematiena] E~perience 70

Essays Aboyt Family , 70

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ESSAYS' THAT Will GET yOl! INTO. Call EriE

PART THREE The Essay 73

CHAPTER 5: AT 'LAST, WRITE! r , ••••• , •••• .7$

!=reating an Outline ., ,. ,. , , . , .. ' '75

Structured Does Not Mean Stiff .............•. , , , , 17

Paragraphs 130

Transitions ....................•...................... 81

Word Choice , ...•..................... 82'

Sentence Length,i'ind Structure ., ....•.................... 83

BeQinnings and Eridings .......•....... ' , 83·

Leading the Way , 85

(:,Iosing Your Ca~¢: 88

Tak!:!: a Br~ak! " '89

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CHAPTER 6: MAKE IT P'ERFECT 90

Revise •.................... ; 90

Proofread ..........................................•. 93

Read It Out Loud . .. , , 93

Get Feedback , , 94

Sad But'True: Real Essay Gaffes , 94

PART FOUR

Essays, Graded and Ranked ·97

The Top Ten ..........•....................... , , 99

Mixed Reviews . . • . . . • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , 123

EssCiysThatWorked(And How They Could Have. Been

Ev~en Better) ...................•..................... 132

ESSAY INDEX ,' , , 153

APPENDIX InteNiewing the Interviewers 157

INDEX ..................•.•.•.....................• 163

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.. : .. : ..... ". . . . .".

"The authors of this book are aJI part of an Internet-based company called IvyEssays., Sinceits creation iri 1996, IvyEssclYS' goalhas been to help students .gainadmission to leading colleges and graduate schools by providing them with a variety of resources. These inelude examples ofpresiouslysuecessful essays and-professional editing.services; Weare extremely happy to beworkingwith Bartori's on this'hookserles,wh\ch will puto.llfextensiveinformationand advice Into print for university applicants,

We owe our sincerethanksto 'two ,groups ofpeople, First, We thank all of the . students who have permitted us to publish their admissiOrisessays so that they might help 'illuminate the way forfuturerounds of hopeful applicants. second, we thank the team ofI-vyEs_says contributors, made-up of pastand present.admissions officers and professional writers-whotogether have logged over 'SOy:eilfs of admissions experience. This series would not.have been possible without the assistance of those listed below:

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ThomasVance Sturgeon has over eight years 6fekpe-rience in the, admissions process asAssociate Director of Admission at Duke.Urriversityand Assistant Director of ~ssiOI)-at Guilford College. Mr, Sturgeon is currently the Director of AQmissIonsanli t:oliegePlilCement at the South Carolina.Sohool forSclenceand Mathematics, Today, Mr. $turgeon isa wi~ely puhlish~ author .and.leeturer (1) thesubiect of college admissions, He has been quoted inMoneyMOjaZi,ne'sO"iije toCiJJleges8:fid published'in the Journal 6fCollege AdniiSSiiJ1is.

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Marcy Whaley istheformer Associate Director of Admissions atthe California .InstituteofTeehnology and Assis.tant bean of Adniissio.o at.the Illinois institute of Technology • She has overa decade of experience in college 'admissions and is currently an independent admissions.consultant and- freelance technical writer.

Scott Anderson is 'Currently Associate Director of Admissions at Cornell Univetsity. Mt: Anderson's past experience includes the position of Assistant Direetor' of Admission at Vassar College, He has also been-on theadmissions staffs at the University of Vermont, St, Mlchael'sCollegecand the University of Vtfginia,

Elizabeth 'Whitney Soule is currently the Associate Director of Admissionsat Connecticut Coll~ge. She isa graduate of Bates College, where she also served as Associate Dean,:ofAdrtiissions. Ms. Souleis.also a widely published writer. Her

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ESSAYs THAI Will GET YOI! INTO COil FGE

articles have appeared in E(ige Magazine, TheJournat 01 College Adm iss io n$, Audio File magazine, and The Mother 1$ Me magazine.

Patricia M. Soares 'is an independent educational consultant for underprivileged youth with years of experience as an admissions officer. She has been the Assistant Director of Admissions at Connecticut College and anadmissions officer at Rhode Island College.

Joanna Henderson was the Director of Graduate Admissions responsible for MBA programs ,at Babson for fouryearsand the Dean of Admissions at ColbvSawyer College for five. She is currently 'the Director of the-New England Ad~ missions Office at Matietta College in Ohio and is an advisor / consultant for Stanley Kaplan Educational Center. She is the author of ZJlVGERS! Creatjng Achievements from Ordinary &periences, published in 1988.

Mirium Ruth Albert is currentlyan Assistant Professor of Legal and Ethical Studies at Fordham University SChools of Business. She was a Legal Methods Professor and Associate Director of Admissions at.Widener University SChool 'of Law, While there, she counseled prospectiveapplicants 'and evaluated over 4,9QOapplications. She also taught an LS.A. T. course for$tan'ley Kaplan EdJ.,cational Center.

Amy Engle has.worked at the Hofstra University SChool of Lawlor over seven years and currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Admissions.

Helen LaFave is currently an independent consultantwho counsels prospective students through all stages of the admissions process. She has also served asSenior Programs.Officer and Recruitment Program Officer at Columbia University. While there, she helped numerous 'students through extensive graduate school application processes.

Ellen M. Watts has worked in .graduateadmissions for nine years-and is currently the DirectorAdmissionsand Student Affairs at Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery, where shescreens over 2;000 applications annually. In addition, she serves as an independent admissions counselor.. specializing 'in interview skills workshops.

Amy Yerkes was an Instructor at the University of MmlandScbool of Medicine where she taught a course designed to increase the writing skills of prospec-

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live medical studentsfor the.Office ofMinoritYSttid~nt Affairs .. She has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently Assistant to the Dean at Johns.' Hcpkins.UniversitySchool of Continuing '$ttidiesand a.Leeturer at We.stern Marylat):d College.

IvyEssays was founded basedon the belief that some people have far more accessthanothers.to the-resources' and information that improve one's.odds of getting into thetQP schools. While admissions officers do, their best to take these disparitles intoacccuntstudentsjnust.equip themselves for the application process to thebestoftheirabilities. IvyEssays hopes thatits services 'Call help level the: admissions.playing field by providing.resources thatmight otherwise be available. to only the more privileged. Good hick and good writ:itig:!

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Introduction

The EssaYS-Why All the Fus$?

How would you feel if getting into the school of your choice: had nothing-to do with your grades and your test scores? What if your accomplishments and class rank were irrelevant to the admissions process? Imagine for a moment that the only thing an-admissions committee would ever see is your essay. The committee would have :tq makeadecision thatwill change the rest of your life based on only one or two double-spaced pages,

Doesthis make you elated, or nervous? AlittleofJjoth? In any case, this should be your frame of mind during the writing process. Everythingyouhave done up to now is completed-past tense. You could not change things if you wanted to, so stop worrying. However, even if you have strong test scores and a solid G.PA, this is not the time to rest on yourlaurels, The essays lie ahead. Until you have completed them, you, should treatthe essays like they are the orily thing that matters; As one admissions officerstated:

St~d~nts do hase. a lot o/control._ Th,eyfeel 'it is all in our hands, b,ut what they show us is up_ to them" They shol;lldn 't 'Underestim!1t£ tltlrimp,QrtanqJ 0/ this.

Are the Essays Really That Important?

The answer is yes! However, do not take our word on it. listen to an admissions officer:

While at Duke, 1 did astuiiy of how well sittgllillariablespredicted an, tlppli· can,t's chances of admission. Being number one ;11 the clas: gave an. ,applicant about a SO-SUchance of gefting in. Having a c(Jmbineti S,A 7: greater than 1,4()() gave the student about a65 percent chanc'e. Receiving the highesfscore an admission ()fficer couldcon[er·on an €$Say raised the odds to', over 90 percent.

Think of your essay as the face of your application. An application.without an

essay isa statistic=just.another faceless person in a crowd. One committee membersaid:

The application is a lifeless thing--(J few sheets of paper 'flnd a feurnum,bers.

The essay is the best way to breathe li!e -into'il,

An application with a poorly written. essay does not give admissiorrs Officers the chance to careabout you. Use simple-psychology: make them feel thatthey know you; arid it will be harder for them to reject you. Make them know you and like: you, arid they might. accept you despite- your weakness in other areas.

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Introduction

Understanding the importance of the. essays is a necessary first step toward perfectingyour college application. However, that knowledgealonewill not do you a whole lot of good. In f<l.ct; it could even hurt your efforts- if it only makes you nervous. SO if all offhis hasyou sweating, you can relax now. Taking the process seriouslyis the first step; Weare here to. help you getthrough the rest of them.

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How Will This Book Help?

We have developed a 'powerful program to help you Write the most effective essayspossible. We. give youthe tools that you need and couple them with a strate,gy that works. We will.help you understand the gQal~ ofyour-essays, get1:he words ontopaper.andpolish them to perfection. Here isa taste of what you will find ahead:

1. Preparation: Before you can start Writing, you need to understand your.audience. (Who arethoseadmissiorrsoffieers, and what do they want?) You must also understand yourself to gather the material you will use to create colorful essays.

2. Strategy: Once you understand what is expected and are armed with plenty of potential material, you willneed to develop a strategy. By using examples of essays that have, worked inthe past, we Will help YOh decide how to focus your essays and how best to present.them in light of the questions asked.

3. The Essays Whell you have chosen atopic.andknewexactlywhat you want to say in your essay, you should begin typing. We win help you develop a structure, build powerful paragraphs and sentences, and create attentiongrabbing opening lines. When you have presented your ideas ina solid first draft.we will show-you howto work.ltlike.a piece of-clay, writingandrewriting until your essay is worthy of being the face of your-application.

4"A Graded EssaySections Before you can write 'accept'able essays, you. need to understand exaqly what acceptable means to an admissions officer. In this section, we do not tell you what schools want to receive, we show you. This part presents '25 real essays graded and ranked by a panel of admissions officersfrom top schools across the'country We have included all their comments about what made the topten essays so good-and what could have been done to mak€; the average ones even, better.

5 .. Interview Tips' andAdvice; Because theinterview holds So much in common with the essaysj.anQ because we had a panelof admissions officers ready and willing to give us tips and advice, we deelded to turn the tables on our admissions.teant and interview the interviewers. The information pre-

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ESSAYS THAT WI! IGET yOI! INTO

sented here is based 100 percent on what we: learned about making the potentially nerve-shattering experience of interviewing a little easier.

Armed With this step-by-step program, you areguaranteed to produce. essays' worthy of notice. Remember that your essays are the most important parts of your application light now because you can still contrelthem, With that in mind,it is time to getstarted.

A Note About Plagiarism

Throughout this book, we have emphasized the need for honest. personal application essays. To submit anything' else to the Colleges that you are applying to is not only stupid-it's illegaL

If you do borrow material from other sources, be sure to credit it properly. If you are not carefulabout this, you may hurt your chances of getting into a particular school. To purposely avoid giving credit where credit is. due is.to court disaster.

In Chapter 1, a.n admissions officer is quoted as saying, "After fifteen years of reading hundreds of essays a ye~r, you develop an amazing ability to see strciig ht throuqh the bull." This is also true of detecting plag iarisrn. Admissions officers do read hundreds of essays eve.ry'Year. In doing so, they have developeda sense of whether or not the author of the essay is being honest. Although it may sound impossible, these admissions officers also tend to re-. member many of the essays thaJ they read. If it is discovered that you have "bor- ; rowed" someone else's essay, you will undoubtedly be denied admission.

You oWe it to yourself to be honest, forthright, and sincere.

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Preparation

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Listento how a top admissicns.officet described his view of the' typical college applicant:

The deadline gets clbSer and the applicant is still sitting ,'n: that chair doing nothing and she's thinking to herself, 'When I get it right in my head, then I'll wri'te itdiJwn. " She is gililty o/two 'thingS, First, she ~fes- the thought Q/ writing ab.outherself and she, thinks tbat is a sufficient ~e not to write. Butit!s 1I;0t. Secomi,she is kopit,g her dread will be Sf!,1,Jduedf!y impiration,djvi1l;e (JT otherwise, beca!f,S,!she thinks- that;s what w"'ters do. So she waits anxiously tQbein" spired. 'The worst wr#i1JK ever set down was ,untier the inflllence o/inspiratitm.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, what carl you do about it? The same ad-

missions.offioer continues:

Success is built on the comPletion Qf small, incremental steps. Ask any suec~l !f.Iriter and they ,will tell you, "Thisi» hprJ work. ;-,

~t ready to embark onour own writing program of small, incremental steps de.signed tp help you write the. best essay possible, YOll will noticethatby following this program, you will not actually start writing until more than halfway through the process. There is a reason for this. Good writing does not happen. in a vacuum: it flows from solid research andpreparation, The quality of any piece of writing relates directly to the thought that is put into it beforehand. H you try to craft-an immediate, off~the:-toJXlf-your-head response to the questions, your essays will bethin.flat.and best suited for the recycling bin.

This section leads you through the first two prepan!.torystepsyou will need to take.

Thefirst Chapter, "Assess Your Audience," takes you inside the heads qf the people who will be reading and jti.~YOut eSsays, Jater-"-the admissions officers. Chapter 2, ~GatherYoUr Material;" shifts the focus to you. It'offers brainstorming-exercisealntendedto uncover the most colorful, distinctive facets of your character: It will give your tllGughts--and your pen-the jump start they need to get things moving.

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Assess Your Audience

When we write, we imagine an audience. and consciously or not, we write for that ~u,~ence. If yo~ picture the admis~i()ns'co~~ asa group of dry, nitpicky academics or solemn, medieval executioners. your essays willbecome .dry, nitpicky, 'or solemn themselves. If you make this, mistake, you will slowly but surely drain the humor. Wit, and creativity straight out ofyotir essays.-th~ very ingredients essential for your.success.

In this chapter, we take some time to get familiar With the real individuals who will be reading and evaluating your essays: who they are, what they lookfor in essays, and what they are 'tired offinding; 'Without haViilg' a clear-understandingof your- audience andtheir expectations, you risk writing to the stereotyped version of the committee created in yoUT mind by anxiety and nervousness=whieh inevitably results in es$.1YS that lackcolor and focus,

Profile of an Admisshms Committee

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One admissions committee member explained:

The.uast majority of admissions. officers are-"peopkPl1tSons; " We sh;r'ink/rom using statistics in the admissions proc~and see those, who rely on thttnastiJld, calculating, and unconcerned with individuals. We are warm,friendly, helpful, eager to please; altd anxious to, keep akum(Jh/ace on. this, cumbersOme process.

Contrary to popular belief, admissions officers are; not reading each :file with a

red pen in hand eager to place- the next candidate into the- rejection pile because of a few grammatical errors or a poorly chosen topic. Rather. they look forward to reading interesting, colorful essays written by real Individuals. They'wantto like what they find when they open an application, One admissions officersaid:

Admissions people are stUdent centered first.' Whnt we are trying to do is--help studentsjind the right match, the place where they will be the hpPPiest. If our college isn't right !oryou,sometimf!S we will suggest ~nother sc~oolor,pass,the name along. There is- more c{)()peration than competition among the most pres-

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ESSAYs THAI Will GE-I y011 INT-O call EGE

tigious schools. We'dt> not haoe agatekegp~r, mentalil,~. ~,are not inte1it on rejectingapplitants.

The first people to read your application are 'the admissions assistants. It might surpriseyou to learn that this group is typically made up of recent college graduates-people orily four or five years older than you. So if You want to knowwhat they-are really like, justlook at your friendsand their different personalities, interests and preferences, and then jump ahead five years.

It theassistants like your essay, they Will pass iton to the associate directors, This middle tier of the committee reads only what the assistants pass along, Then the associate directors choose-which essays to pass a:Iogg to the director, who makes the final decision. So essentially, the mysterious group that holds your future in its hands is composed of a few recent grads of the college, a couple of associate directors; and a director-who must evaluate thousands of applications in a month or two.They are bleary-eyed and overworked. Two- of them explained:

I can read three to four per hour dfJPen(iitJlf upon the length and depth 0/ each essay.

When pushed, I have- read 30 in a day. That meansJhat by the end of the day.

l'v~developed a very low tolerance to nonsense. .

They read so many essays thai sound.iikeso many others that if your essay is original, if it contains thoughts, ideas, and experiertceSJhat areuniquelyyour own, it will make a vivid impression. They will thank you. for it

How Important,Are the Essays, Anyway?

One way to get inside the heads of admissions committees is to understand what is important to them. We asked.our admissions panel to tell us what.was the most important part of a'student's application. Theyanswered.i'The essays." We .asked them what aspects of the applicfltion students should focus on during their senior year. They answered, "The-essays.' We asked them over what part of the "application process the students have the most control. The resounding reply was (big surprise)" "The essays!"

You might think that if you are an exceptionally brilliant valedictorian withstellarscores and art abundance of honors and awards under your belt, the essays Will playa lesserrole in the overall admissions package. That is simply not true, While being top in your class is dearly going to give you an advantage, the fact is that over 20,000 valedictoriansapply to colleges every year. Numbers and rankings Will always be important, However, no matter howlmpresslve they are, you still need to distinguish yourseltfrom all the others who lookjustlikeyol1 statistically; One panel member.stated:

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CH-A.pTER:1: ASSess Your Audience

Clearly, since,Ivys regu/a,rly deny valedictorians, and aPPlicants with 1,6{)f) on, the SA, 1:. i being Petfrd in those categories is}t't as impOftanf as other areas. If one thing :could be per/et!; I'tshould be the essay.

If youarenormally a procrastirrator.you need to understand that your-success. depends entirely on the amount of time and effort you put into the essay writing process, An admissions committeemember explained:

The essay is 0/ pn'mary i1flp()rtance simply because it is.the only part 0/ the public[.ltion over which the applicant has one hundred p~rcent con-trol. Even a greaJ interview can be discountet/ if thein.terv.iewer,is prone to inpate her sum,mary.

We ate not. trying to create stress or scare rou With this 'information. On the contrary, this krrowfedge.shouldmotlvate.you, even if wtitingis.not.your strongest area, The.essays are more aboutrevealing the personality of the author than they are about showing off any specific skill or achievement. They provide you with a -sure way to make a positive impression with your application. You shouldthink of them as a vital opportunity to express yourself, to give your application a face, and to vault yourself from obscurity into the spotlight

What Are' "They" Looklng For?

As,we have said before,knowing how important the essays are' is half the battie, The other half is, understanding 'what makes an essay good. Whether consciouslyornot, you probably already have an image in ~our head of what the committeeslook for in an applicant.Many studen.ts assume that they: look for onlyextrerne academics. Therefore, the applicants try to make ali impression by cramming their essays full of S.l\. '[-type vocabulary quiz words; or they try to sound mature by using a stiff, formal tone, Nothing could be more misguided! In reality, these ate exactly the kind of hackneyed essays the committee is tiredof reading,

Believe it or not; the aetivities portion is more important than the awards- portion an an appllcation.antl it receives morescrutiny. Theadmissions committee 'looks for 'how your activities will translate totheircampus, Does; your record of activities show that you stick with an interest and follow it throughjDo you jump around a lot and show a lack of focus instead? An admissions officer explained:

The most important thing for students to realize is- that colleges are not just trying to-admit peQple who are smart enough to do the work; 'they want to admit interesting people who will makea-coniribution to the incoming class. The biggestmistake thatstlJdents aPPlying to top colleges make is thinking that good academ}c;:tredentials are all they need. They d() not put much timeor e/fifrtfnto listing tlleirfXIracUfflcular' activiti!!$ or community lnvolvementbecause they thhtli it i$ a waste 0/ time, They are concerned with lo'oliingserious, and they ate afraid that the admissions committee will see these things as frivolous,

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If the committees are not looking for the superintellectuals, who are they looking for?

The Real You

To write the best possible essays, all you need to do is show the: committee members who you really are. Try to engage them, and aim high, Do.not.be afraid to take risks. Thevery best essays are the ones that get a real reaction fromthe reader .. One admissions officer said:

I've been moved totears)owl!Stru,ckj laughed until I gasped, impr~$ed, and most importantly, educated hymany of the appfitati(),h$ I've read,

lWlat does presenting a reaLp·erson actually mean, though? It m~an$ that you should BE YOURSELF! 'One committee inemberexplained:

It is ,througH the esSay1hat the admission officers reading the application' will feel they have trUly gotten to know yOu. You mus: develop your own voice and tell YOUR story, not the s.toryypu t~ink th¢ reader wants to hear.

Be completely sincere. If the question asks you about your favorite book, do not :writeabOl,ltMoQY Dick or The 94yssey because you think it will make you-leek smart, Be-proud of who you are and what you love, and stop worrying aboutwhat thecommittee will think. If you Write-sincerely about yom true passions, a real person will materialize.and you will capture the committee's interest, If, on the other hand. you pte sent a series of statistics or bore the admissions team with an. overly.stiff or serious style.you will notendear yourself.to them-you will simply make them yawn. Here.is how one admissions officer put it:

Admissions officers tend to have a very emotionat, almost romantic, 1)ision a/their jobs. They love people; and they love to tell anecdotes about people. They prefer the partic_ular to thi! general, the specific to the universal, and the anecdote to theqbstrqft (and what reader doesn'tr). They are searchingfor some intangible quality in the t~pPlkat_ion_ that no- number could ever reveal. They hoPe to find it in the esSay. Never squander the chrmce to tell th.emwho you are in the essay. It helps them to 'reassure themselv(!s that the_proce~ is human and that whaflhi?y-dofor a living matters to another human being.

E,ngineers,Compllter Jocks, and OtherTechie Types

If you are ODe of the millions of computer iocks but there who assumes that this does- hot apply to high-tech schools like MIT and Caltech, get ready for a wake-up call. You might be bankingon the fact.that they-will overlook weak e.ssays in lieu of your-stellar math abilities, The facfis, tbeugh, that you techies. have an even greater need to hu manize yourselves than your liberal arts-counterparts. listen to what an eight-year admissions veteran who has served at Caltechhad to say:

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C HA PT E Rl, _Assess Your Audienc_€

Applying to Technical Institutions By Marcey Whaley

The, qualities that prestigious technical institutions such-as Caltech or MIT seek in their applicants are very sfmilar to those sought by the: best liberal arts CO#f!Iles' Many students appljing to technical institutions haue the impression that writfng o,bi#ty, social skills; anti extracurricular involvement cam little weight. They think that high S.A. T. or A. CT. math scores and hours logged in front o/a computer are oil that matter. Unfortunately, many high school counselors are under the same impression.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that te:chnical institutions, like :their liberal arts'cou,nterParts, are seeking to build a class, a grojJ,P of people who 141#1 iive togethercomjortably, create an intt?resting and stimulating environment, an4,conJributftiJ th(dnstitution:The. image ofplaces like Caltech and MIT as havensfdtsocially inept comp,utet jocks is completely false.

Admissions offie,ers at such praces seek studen,ts w.hoex('!el in several different areas. You demonstrate this by havi"gstrong SA. T. a niJ/orA. C.T. scores in science and ma(h, hav_ing strong grades in science and math ChISSes, and ParticijJating in science- andmatlz-telatetl activities. These include science fairs and c()mpetitions,summerstience programs, and empliJymenl'1'ilated to science 0" math. One th'jng thti!' usually catches the eye 0/ an-admissions officer at a technicalinstitution is entfyinto the WestinghouseScience:'€ompetition. Even ,y you do not wi~; the time and tr()ublerequired jore'1tering the ,contest qttest to a stronginteres,t on J(Jf:lrpart. Other indic(ltions 'l/strang aptitude aniJaQifityjor-science andmath are,: awq1'f,lssuch as the Ba,usch (JndLomb at graduation.,Admittedly, you #J,ust show a strang aptitude for and interest in science" math, or engineering.

In addition to demonstrating your ability in science and math, however, all other {lSPects 0/ your application must be strong, Grade« in h~manities and social science dasse: must be top 'notch: It is .the kiss of death, to t>ubmit transcrip,ts with uneven grades in these ,subjects. It is even worse to excuse such grades by claiming to be bored with subjects not related to math of science. You will be exPected to takeclasses-i« humanities (ind social sciences no matter which inetitutionyouattend; Employe1'Sathigh~tetJi companies incteaSinglyseafth/dY employees who possessn'ot merely technical skills but strong communication skills

as well. '

While the personal essay required by technical institutions may not carry as much weight as those submitted loa liberal arts school, I can assure you that your esSay is read and reread very carefully. At the very least it must be coherent .with ideas flowing logically from one to another, with correctgrammar and absol~tely no spelling mistQkeS. (Do not r~ly solely on your spell checker: ltwill not pick'up misplaced homonyrn$ like to and too.) The essay is your chance to $hQW the admission officer,how youtiifferfronz,_ the. thousanf1$ 0/ other applicantswfthtopscoresanti-grade$. Wkatcoytd you bring to the tnstitutio,n that no one else in the applicant poothds? Write/with conviction and confide,nce. Try to add a little' humor if yOu can manage it, without being obnoxious!

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ESSAYS THAT Will GET YOII I·NIO CO·II EGE

It is i",portanJ to €:St(1blish gOfJd relatiQnshiPs with $!!vlJral oi your, teat;hers and with your counse'oT. The admissionsfomm.ittee l(1ke.stheirinpul very seriously w~{m:epalu.at{ng applications, All ~perienf;ed a(jmissl;ot) QiJicflr,caf(SPot' the dlfie,renc.e between a,g/oWitJC letter written by a teachet who knows you well, -and a polite but not very detailed notn»ritten by someonewko has neoe« eue» sPbke,n to. you_butsi'deOj Class.

The area ,nwhich aPPlit;ants to fech1licalinstitution5:, are weakeslis U$ual7 ly l!X(racurntulat a:ctiviUes~ JIlearlyevpY'Y (1PPlicanl in the pool hi1.$stro1.tg test scoreS and gnuiesand has demonstrated intefes/and abilityt'n tnatho,tscience. Those things-simplygetyOu past thejirstcut. The .fi:;ietois that determine Who w'ill/inaUy be'oiiered admission are less'£Usily defined but crucial. The admissio« committeelooksjorSiuiJents who will 'be able lo.bring something besides mere intelleCtual muscle. to the entering clqss.Theylook/ormusiciat,tS; artists., 'athlet€:S, (lnd'debaters. Stud{!nt 'lead'ers·,(j,re diJ!;irable, but so-ere those w.hoquj~ eJly wqrk behind the scenes -to get things done. liyo-u lJavehad inler~_ti1Jgtratr elexP._eriences; hpd pq_e.try puhl4hed, or-scored tite:wi1lt!ing,touchdow.n for ypur team,·you shoulJmentioni/, Ii you have' done, community .service, earned the ,ranko! EagleScout, or tutoredgrode~scho,ol kids, the, committee'wantS to hedt aboutit. Bediuse o!fam.ily drcumstati-ces yOu nuiy have hiid to warkagrellt deal and may no/have had timilo,. as ma'!)! activities tiS youwould,have:liked, This is important t()m~e1ttion; as well~

Technical institution$':O./len' receive applicatiansjri:)mstu,denIsWhose!iJ1ni. lies discbutageinvOlvement'in, erlracurl'icularactiiJitieS;believingthiit the admiSSion comm,i#ee may iegatdsuch activities as fyiV(j/-ous. Suth well-meaning parents.ojten·dtman(J th:aftheir students fo'tus on st'udieslo the exclusion oiall dther activitie& This, is un/ortunaie. When a;narimission c011Jmitiee sees tlui! a student is able te maintain outs.ta,n(jing grades and. becQ1'MProficrent in some o.th~r~r_e(l, i( {peaks lJo1!mr~ ,{1bounha.tstuden!s(lbii_ityto manage. time, 'main~ tilin pt;io.ri#es,at!d::ca.n,tributetothe la·rg_et community, The: l:pmmitfee rarely givest'he#lost seriou: considetlJtiordostude.nts wh_oseapplica.tions betray anarro:w !ocus:on academics:

In 'shprt,much,oithegood adtJice.ypu reati eise:wlterein this bo.ok abouthow to creati;/czstrongaPPlicqtionioratfmissiont()a lib~ra.l. att$ :instifittio1f,'applies to you:r application to a~er:hnfclll institution, The most import@t thing to 1'e· m,emberis that admission committees seek to build a :tlass oiP'eoplf. who will enjoy spending fljut yeots together- and Who will contributesometMngto the in-

stitutio« as well. -

Frve K.ey Attributes

Now that you understand that admissions officers want to find teal, live human beings when they locktoyour essays .It is timeto get mare specific. We haveidentified five crucial factors for makingyout essays come to life. These factorsar€! based on 'our interviews with top admissions of~cers:ar~)Und the country, They are Hstedbelow.

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"C HAPTtR,il :.Asses.s Your Audience'

1., Get Personal

The best way to shoW' a committee who you re,aliy areis to make your essays personal, When YQU do this, youressaY$ will automatically be more interesting and engaging, helping you to stand Qt,tt from tile hundreds of others thecommittee will be reviewing thatweek, One admissions-officer explained:

Perso,uilite your essays as" muck as possibJe"...-generit essuys are notonlybor~ ing to read, theY're a waste of timebeceuse theY dOn't tell jail anythingaoout

the appUcanl thdlheIj>s-you get to know them better. ' "

What does it mean to make your essays personal? You must drop the formalities and write aboutsomethingyou find truly meaningful: Include a story oranecdote taken from your life; use lots of details arid colorful itnag:ery to give the essays life, and above.allbe honest

All of the top five essays included in Part FO'Ut orthisbookare-gnodexamples of essays that got peTS()Il~.L Essay 31 is perhaps the best exampleofall; this apPU~iUltwntesan Intenselypersonalacceuntof growing up gay and Asiav. He-writes about his first crush, aboutthe alienation he has en dured , and about.trying to-suppress his sexuality; He also-writes about his growth and development through all these experiences, howhehas.changedand .how his identifi cafi on With the.variousstereotypesof homosexuality has defined and limited his world. Importantly, he-writes using-his-own yoke and OQ his own terms, referring to himself-at one point, for example.as a "crusading warrior princess.'

It is ve-rS"itnPOft.<lht to note" though,thata,sonea,dmissionsofficef put it

A personal epiPhany, tragedy, lije:change, (}r,earth-shattenng event is no/ es~ sen/ial to a st,rong essay. Trxe, these, tiJpiesOjten tug .at the heartstrings 'and therefore gef more notice. But I>ve read eSsays aboutafamily vacation" a g'arden, a'grandmolher-even a pen!--dhat rue thOUght have been fqbulous;. 'You

@1I't need to be a gay A,sian acUvist to,g~,noficed" ' "

We cannotstressthis enough. Personal does not h~yeto mean heavY, emotional, or even 'inspiring; Og.iya'sm.alltWnority ofstudents will trulyhave.hada life-changing everrt.abeutwhich townie. Perhaps theyhavesnent time livingabroador'Have experienced.death or disease ' from closeproxirnity However, this is the exeeptiortnot the nile.

'Infactstudeuts who; rely too heavily on these weighty experiencesoften do themselvesan igjusti!;e. They oftendo not think about.what bas really touched tbem.orfnterests-them because-they arepreoccupiedwith the topic they think Will impress the committee, Theywrite about theirgrandfather' s' death because they think that only death (0'1' the emotionalequivalent) Isslgnificarf] enough to make them seem deep and mature. Theseapplicants often rely,On the experienceitself to speak for them and neverexplain what it meant to them or give

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ES,ayS T.HAT Will 6Ft VOl! INTO COl I E.GE

a solidexample (if how it changed them. In other words, they do not make it personal.

Poor Jessica

Anarticleby Carey Goldberg that appeared in the December 311 1997 edition of the New York Timesexainines the perceived difficulties college3:pplitarttsface w-hertthoosing atopicfor their 'admissions.essays, It begins With the-story ofIessica, then a high school student.in.Massachusetts. "In her desperation," the articlebegins, "17-year-old 1essica ... found herself Wishing that somebody-any" body~inher family had died."

" 'Because then I Gould wfitg aboutit,' she said, 'It's horrible and 1 hated I1JYself for it But 1 just wished I had.sornethitrg tragichappen to. me."

When Van Sturgeon; the fortrierAssociate Director Of Admission at.Duke Urn, versity-and now the Director of Admlssions.and College Placement at the: South Car;o~:'&ho.Qtf(jdk.ien~ and Mathematics saw this-article, hefelthe simply had to respond, not just to Jessica, but toallstudents who believe thattheywould not be able to produce-a good essay-without having had-something tragic happen to them. He submits the following-to anyone who has felt themselves-in "poorIessioa's" shoes.

Mr. Sturgeon~s Response

This dismaying article provided the front page headline for theN ew Year's Eve edition of the Durhiim' Herald Sun. What a way to end the year. Poor Jessica. 'She is makihg 'twogrievbus mistakes. And Y,Oll are prone to make them, too. so you may want to read this carefully; Herfirst-mistakeisassumingthat someoneelse's death would ennoble her. Theotheris her-conviction that she could write effectively about it.

Let's take the second assumptionfirst .Iessleatakesit for gratltedtha~ since deathis So extraordinary.her resulting prose would be towering. 'SOrry, Jessica, Life doesrr't.workthatway "Listen, Jessica," 1 would say, "ify'ou can't write.forcefully about how to tieyour shoelaces-vou'llnever be able to writeconvincingly about the tragic, awe-inspiring; terrifying mystery called death. Death hasprodueed more nonsensical, under whelming; and lurching prose than any topic, in; history ,(with perhaps the exception of love.) ,;

Iessica'srdream" essayaboutdeath would be assimpleminded, trite, and inelegant as-her eomments'tnthisarticle. Since 1 have read.thousands of college.essay's, I can tell y(m exactly'whatI essica would have written hadshe been blessed to have someone she truly cared about swept into-the abyss.She.would havewritten the "Permanent Sallctifying;Effect" essay. It goes like this:"I had everything. I took it aJI for grantedagain," My ITlotherlfatheJ/friend./<:at/gqldiish died.lessica -was looking for some cQnv,enient way t,o 's:~y,"1 was' once a thoughtless irn-

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CH APT E Rl, Assess Your Audience

mature adolescent. I survived a rite Of passage. I am 'now a thoughtful, mature, productive adult And, oh, by the way:; accept me to Harvard." Unfortunately, no one, she knew had the-decency to die forher educational salvation,

"Ihisbellefin sanctification by ordeal.comesin a varietyofpackages..death.disaster, divorce, and disease top.the list, .A11ofwhich produce the same h~ckneYeq essay. "I had everything.;." IUs one of om most well-guarded myths 'that suffering has a lasting sanctifyihg effect onus. You' know, triisery makes us better. No. If someone dies or a hurricane strikes, or a river floods a town, people, suffer. Rarely does itmake us "better:" Becoming-a "better" person takes dailypersistence and commitment, whether or not there is: tragedy-in.our' lives.

Sn;lp out of it Jessfca. J hope I've' convincedyou to forget tl}~ deatl}sl1rll Now let me ask youthis: Why do-you want to go to Harvard il)lyway? To get a hjgh P<:iYing job,or for the. prestige" or because.your parents-are needling you (not to death, J hope), Lotikatound you. I mean really lookat.all the wonderful opportunitie~ that are begging for your attention.LQO:K!The author of this article quotes sta·tisticsirom Harvard, admissions officers tromWelles1ey,':Swarthmof.e; andWilliam andM.arY.The heck with them, As unthinking and 'banal. as you are, Jessiea, there arestill'hundreds of colleges that would h€: eagerto admit you and couldperhaps doa better job than Harvard of helping you overcome your shallowness,

Jessica, do 'you really believe you canget a better educationat Harvard than .an:YWhere'el$€?Noso~ just want the name brand because, your beliefs ate so superfieialthat you define yourself by the clothes-you wear, the car YO!,i drive', the 'name -on yourdegree.jmd by who you know that died .. If you cared a, wit about education, y@ could never have stooped to wishing far the deathof a loved one; no matter hOw'''horrible~ you Claim it makes youfeel, If you cared aboutanything meanihgful,yob'd have'yourtopic-rightthere. If you had listened to your English teachers for the last twelve.years, and hada.thought in yourhead other than how, to get agoodgrade on'th€: test ~() you could get-into Harvard.you'd know howto write an effective, essay.

Learn to think. Hunger to grow; ~t_,SOOle. meaningful goals for yourself then pay the price day in and day: out to meet 'those goals, But. most of all, get over yourself.

Read Essay 5Lror'an example of this .. The al?pllcantwritesabout his mothers bout with cancer, He writes about an experience.thatundoubtedly must have affected him. quite deeply: However.norice the.reactienit'recelved from theadmissions officers:

I yearn to know more .

1'hingsse,em a bit too tidy .

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ESSAYS THAi WI!,! ,GET _'(Oll INTb-CQLLEG£_~._

It's too easy and convenienf to be believable, ... This essay smells of'coniriuance ....

'The writing style [is! artificial and a bit maudlin, , ; .

J don't believe the "epiphany" in the conc_lttsion a~ it:'i desCn"/Jed ....

What is the real reason this-essayflopped? The essayist reliedon a personal subject but did notwrite.about it in -a personal manner. Essays that do.just the opposite-that take a commonplace topic or experience but an; personal-are often highlysuccessful. Essay 34 is agoqd example of this. The applicant writes about catching his.firstfish at the age of seven. Compare the following comments to' the previous ones:

I get a strong i'mprffsSiono!the kind of person tfzis young man must be ...

This could have been another bland esSliy, but the writer took you on.the. adventure with him ....

[The writer] was abTe to take. the experience and make the connection to lJis lift and goals of today, ...

Ill} de.scribes-vividlyand mov{ngly the young boyts'first exp-en"ence with death

and with pers01!al resp(Jnsibility. . . . '

Comparing the different reactions should help you better understand what it means' toget personal in your essay. However, it can still be a hard quality to achieve and even harder to' recognize in your own Writing. One way to gauge the effect ofyouressays is to have some-one objeetive-cpreferably.sorneone who does not already know YO'U well-eread them over when you have finished. Ask-the reader if he or shegot a sense ofthe kind of person you are .or wasable to pictureyou While reading them. Then ask the reader if he or-she would wan t to spend the next four yeats with-the person pictured.

2. Details, Details, Details

One way tomake your essay Instantly morepersonal and interesting is to use plenty of details. An essay without details is like pizza without sauce. It mightfill you up but who wants to eatit? One committee member explained:

Details provide the color, the spice,andjhe life of theessqys.

Using detail means getting specific. You need to back up each and eVery point that yO'U make by specific instances, examples; and scenarios taken from your experience. These details make your story special, uniq ue ,and interesting, Look at the detail used by the writer of Essay 37, for example; HE; is very specific, even from the first sentence, He boarded a plane-at "The end of July of '95," that took him from "Cincinnati, Ohio, to Nairobi. Kenya." Then he really expands into col, orfuldetailin the third paragraph, describing the "Hippus floating like rocks in

12

CHAPTER 1: Assess. Your Audience

Lake Victoria,'! and the "Flamingos balancing knee-deep-in a salt-lake." He-didn't just climb a mountain. He "Hiked 17,000 feet above sea level to the peak of Mt. Kenya," This whole paragraph Gould have easily-been boiled down to,'''living, in Africa for a year was an unforgettable experience that taught me, many things." This is the difference between a fun, interesting treatment of a story and a yawninducing account that 'could be attributed to any 'of a thousand applicants.

Using detail also means that you back up all your Claims and assertions with tangible evidence or descriptions of results. Use. actualexperiences or even numbersand statistics if you have them. Essayist 41doesthlswhe.n writing about-the success' of his ~ridge club. "Sixteen new students learned how to play bridge; five enjoyed the game so much thatthey are now frequent players at duplicate games:'

Essayist 45, on the other' hand, is an example of.a good writer With a solidand interesting topic who would have benefited eaorrnously-frorn taking this advice. In the essay, he focuses . on two qualities that make him unique-pragmatism arid idealism. However, all he ever really does is assert that.he has these qualities. He tells us that he has them, but does not show us. Had he: described even a sin,gle scenario to back up his claims, the essay would have gone from good to great. As one admissions officerput it

Gi1J~m~ on« concrete example ,oj a change JOJ/IJe alreadY made. Be genuine enough. to give the, reader a gooilifaith dep:osit on you.!' loflyprodamations.As the saying goes, ""ljyou'ri! gOijilotalk the Jalk, you better walk the walk."

3. Be Different/UniquellnterestingiFunny

Being different is easier than you think-after all, you area unique person.

Showing you are different is: harder, but this is what will make your essay stand out, In order to accomplish this, it pays to take calculated risks. An admissions committee member explained:

APP~icants ~houldnot /).e rI/rai¢ to .. go ou( tma lintb 'and bethemselves---'(3tJ€n 'when that mean:sint;oryorattng humor, or bting a little. bitcontrotJersia/, They are so Qftenafraid ajmaking the correct impression that they edit out anything that would help their eSsay standout. They submit a ".safe" eSsay that is, in re-

alitj,sterile, monotonoUsiand deadly boring. ..

Just as you need .not have had art emotional, life-altering experience to make your essay personal, you also do not need to have had an unusual upbringing or background to have an unusual or interesting essay, Do you have any interesting hcbbies.nrpassions? Essayist 41) for example, made himselfstand out by writing about his unusual passion for playing bridge.

Even if there is not a single thingabout yourself th at you feel differs markedly from. anyother student, do not despair. In the end, how you 'write about your topic will make you interesting and unique, not what you write about. So even if you

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feel like you are Mr. or Ms.Jo Blow Boring-you can still be creative by coming upwith.an interesting slant on an ordinary life event. Essayist-Sf is-the most extreme example of this: She writes about something that all of us do on a daily basis: 'shower'; However, she writes about-her topic creatively enough to land her essay 'in out top five ranking.

We have one word of caution. In an effortto make yourself.sound more unique or more interesting, you may be tempted to create an image ofyourself that looks great on paper but is not exactly accurate. Being creative and different is .great but it is. even more important to ...

4. He Honest!

Yi,>u should uphold this point Without exception. Nothing about the application process couldbe more simple.more straightforward, or more crucial: be honest, forthright, and sincere. Admissions officers will not tolerate-hype. Do not try to create a larger-than-life impression of yourself or worse yet of someone you think the committee-would accept You will be perceived as immatureatbest and unethical at worst An admissions officer explained:

After 15 years o/reading hundreds -of ~says ayear. you develop 'an amazing abiliiy to-see straightthrougft the bull. '

Some of the. essayists-in this volume go so far in being honest til a t they admit to weaknesses, mistakes, and other instances thatcould be 8€;enas. drawbacks, evenwhen they arenot specificallyasked to do so. Essayist38, for example, wrote, "I must admit that my record was not very impressive. Never-before had 1 completed anything. I played soccer. I quit. I was a Cub Scout. I quit I played trumpet Lquit, Karate was all I had left." In this case.this approach works because it helps to explain thesubsequent, drive and ambition he shows when training for his fight.Itis.also crucial that he demonstrated that he did finally commit.to somethigg (karate in this case) . That way, he highlights growth rather than failure,

Others admitted to weaknesses less successfully Essayist 43, for example, Wrote; "I admitthat I was born a coward." One admissions officer Wrote: "If Ihad been advising the author before he sentin this essay, I mighthave suggested that he make the tone just a little less self-deprecating. [It]. , . plays against the overalltone ofthe essay:" The- admissions officers also noticed th;it the writer of Essay 40 mentioned having a "Lack of time for academics, due to my involvement in all these exciting activities." Although the essay overall was received well, the writer definitely did not need to bring this up. It made one officer "Hesitate a bit ... Ifher transcripts revealed-weak grades, I would seriously doubt her ability to manage her-time well enough to keep up With the increased demands of collegelevel academics.';

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CHApTER'l: Assess'Your Audience

Being sincere does, not mean that you have to admit to your every follY. Drawingattention to negatives is not a requirement of truthfulness=youcan be honest andstill be completely-positive about yourself and your qualifications. UltiP1at~ly, it isa very-personal decision. Uyou do call attentiors=in anyway-to your drawbacks, he sure to get P:1~n,ty of feedback from all objective person before you send your essays in. You should feel confident that you haveaddressed these weaknesses with finesse and 'have not weakened your stance,

5. Tell a Story

Incorporating a story into your essay can be a great way to make it interesting and enjoyable. The safest ahd most commonmethod ofintegratingastory info-an essa.y is to tell the storyfirst. Then step back into the role of narrator and-explain whyyoupresenteditand what.lessons you learned. The reason this method works is that it forces you to begin with the action. It can he tempting tpwnte an introductory paragraph before you begin the story=-but resist! These introductions rarely work Severalcommittee members explained:

The applicant should never begin an essay with grand proclamations aboutthe nature of man and the unl~verSe. Tell a simple sti.!'ry; and let the reader make inferences from it.

Ifthejirst paragrapkdo.esn/t }iXmy attention, Uiteanyoll,e doing requited reading, Pm prone to begin skimming.

The essay section contains many examples ofapplicants who have done this well. Essay 34; for example, -usesthe'Stnry 'Of the Writers fishing adventure as the bulk of.the essay. The writer steps away from it only iii the concluding paragraph, where he explains how thestorvhas affected him and how it ties into his present life. Essayist 32 uses story to a much lesser degree. She sets upherscenarioonly in the first paragraph. Then once the reader is drawn in, she uses the story as a springboard to discuss the year she spent in Switzerland,

Some Writers choose-to write the entire essay as a staty without.ever stepping out 'Of theaction .. Essay 44, for example; says all it needs to say purely in the context of the hospital visit. The writer literally offersno explanatory text. Most of the admissions 'Officers enjoyed this essay. One "Absolutely loved it," and notes the "smooth transitions" and "crisp imagery." Another, though, remarked.t'lt doesn't say much of anything!" and it "is sweet, but I don't know quite what to make of it.,"

If you ate not comfortable Writii1~ an. actual 'story of piece of action into your essay, yOU can-still add interest by writing your. essay to read like a story. One'way to do this is to soften thelanguagethatyou use. Write with your real voice; informally, as though you were telling someone a story Committee members said:

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F 55 AYS THAT W II I G FT y'q U IN T,o.__u:u_.L.E.G..E.._ . . ~_

Use a amoessational styleanie(JSy-to-1!nderstand langUage to. projeCt a genuine, relaxed image.

Make sure that your eS$ay is readable; Don't make us work. Giveyozl1' essay momentu-,n-tlza"ke. sure (ft,e parts UJ()rk together and inove to a pOin'l, 'carrying the reader alonK:

Like an advice, though, take this with a grain 'of S;;Ut. Golng' too far With an informal voice orincorporating humor can rub: some committees the- wrong way. They want to know-that you take: the process seriously, Plus, humor is highly individual-what You find funny mightoffend an admissions.officer, One-stated:

HU"lod's a powerfUL tool; so use it cf.visely. Gimmicks are. a big mistake, and a sarcastic-or flippant tone will often;offend, 'biit real humor, inventiveness, and dry wit are always .ingood taste.

What They Are Tired of Fin~g

N otsurprisingly, much of what admissions officers are tired of finding is simply the-converse of what they hope to receive. In other words, do not try to be something you ate not. Do not lie. Do not hand in a poorly written, ill-constructed document riddled with grammaticalerrors,

Admissions officers cited a few pet peeves so "frequently, however, that they bear repeating. After all, they would 'not be pet peeves if people were Q9.t still doing them,

Dpn't Be Dull!

One committee member, emphasized:

Don't Qore us! More offen it is the mOlioton:ous style, and not fhe subject matter, thqt make« these essays dull.

This was by-far the' number one don't 011 the list. Thlspitfall.again, results from the applicant writing for some stereotyped image of what schools want, Even the most interesting or impressive topic tan be killed by writing ina d~y, academic style, Another admissiorisafficer·said:

What diJ [hate? Large words used clumsily, 'Colorless adjectioes and weak verbs. Long lists.of actioities and accompli~hments.

One way to avoid this trap is to put your thesaurus away. Make it a rule to use it only when a specific word is right on the tip of your tongue but you cannot quite remember what it is. Whatever-you do, do oat use your thesaurus tofind big words that you think will make, you sound smarter. Adniissions officers pick upon this quickly. One officer commented about Essay 43, forexample:

I wonder if the word "travails" in thefirstsentence was a_ctuallythe fitst UJord

C II liP r [II 1. Assess 'YOU r Audience

thatcame to theauthor'e mind. Itsounded immediate/yto me as thOugh he had theckedi.l'thestiiirus/o'r a funcier uordthan "trials" or ''probletrl~·,''and it sounded:"unnatura1and forced. A$ a rule, try notto use"wordsthal YQU woultin.'fus.e in norme; CO!lversatiotl,

Another pitfall that.resulrs.ina dull ess'ay IS to: do "ittle more than listactivities, interests, qr achievements thst ran: be 10u09 elsewhere in YQur'tl)e. Oneeernmittee member emphasized:

Listings ojdnytlitng are dull; 110 matter how impressive. Save them for the

other parts o/your atiPl£calidh.· '.

YOlJ can write about an-award or honor (some questions specifically ask for it), but be sure to reveal somethingabout yourself in the process. Tell a story about what it took loge! you there an d how it has.affeeted you since, The writer ofEssay 54 falls, into the list trapandwas not received wen by any ofour admissions officers-becauseof it. "Blah. Tells me little more than I would otherwise getfrQni a. list of extracurricular activities," writes one, Anothercomments:

This,w(Js'an"I did this and Idid thdY'rype of essay ... It seemed to-be derived from the studenfs list olextracurriduiqr actillities; Essqys should be. about more thqn a run'tli~Jg tally a! accomPli$/t.ments, It is obvious ijratthi$st~dent isquite inte~ligellrand im;oJved, SQ I fitj.dthis attemPt ot.a tpllege:es$ay rath.er bqf fling.

Mind the Mechanics

you Can make.no excusefo} having typographi« or grammatical errorsin Your essay. These are the types of errors ypu can easily correct and are qostly if YOu do not One surprisingly common mistake is; forgettinKto replace the name of the correet school throughout the essay: Th ifs; Harvard receives essays each ·year beginning, "The reason I_ wan; toattend Stanford .... :"

We have listed below a few other common-mechaaicalerrors ascited by bur admissions team:

Keep the essays within: reasonable length. EXcessively long eSsays'shoUl a lack o!consl:dpratiQ,n--wehave thouspnds more likeyours to read, and seeing>a long

one just makes us tired. .' . .... ,. . > ." ..

Don't-cram yOilr essay onto the page with a tiny font. Ifl can't read it withe out a magni/jingglass, 1 UJi):11"i read itaf:all.

ACTUALLy ANSWER the question ,,:l/tey ask Many People, Just list off their accompltshiiT£1tts alid net'er relate it to the the1jteO! the question.

Proofread! Eave others,prvp/read!SMllqheckI It's stut)ning howmany.peo-ple ,have"careles$"fven;rea'UY~~1jiou.$ f_yjJo§>ilf their #ate.fJJl!nts, It makes the ap'p#caHt look slpPPy,Utljl:Jterester:i;UllinttUi"geltt.

17

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Get Feedba.ck!

t

J I I

,

ESSAYS THAI Will GET YOll INTO CDII EGE

We have mentioned this several times already. but it bears, reiteration: it is imperative that you get feedback about your essays beforesubmitting your final versions. For a variety of reasons, many ofthe don'ts-listed above are hard to spot in your own writing. Find an honest. objective person to read the entire essay set.for onesehool, As comforting as it mightbe.do not accept a simple, "They'regreatl" Ask the reader to look specifically for the dos and don'ts listed in this chapter. Ask that person to recount to you the main points you were trying to make. Have him or her describe the-impression he or shereceived about your-strengths and weaknesses.Approach the readeraweek after that person has read the essays and see what (if anything) has-remained memorable. Finally, if the person is not familiar withwhat a successful admissions- essay looks like, have thatindividualread some ofthe samples from 'The Top Ten" section in the back of the book to have a measuring stick by which to judge your work.

Lastly. do not rely on only one person's.opinion, especially ,if you know the person wen or disagree with the points he Or she has made: Even the most objective reader has his or herown setofbiases and opinions. No one person can accurattly predict the reception your writing will have at the school to which you apply.

One way to offsetthis potential risk is to have one at-your evaluations done by a professional. A number of these types, of services can be found on the World Wide Web. (See page 94.)

1.8

Cf:jAPTER 2

Gather Your Material

NOW that you have a better understanding of yout audience and some of their.op .. inibn.s~about what makes an ~ssay exceptionally good or bad, you may feel ready to begin writing, You may even feel inspired about a pare ticular topic and have gptten some good ideas for presenting it Before you turn on your computer, though, stop 'for a. moment.andassess your situation,

Creating an essay full of imagery and detail will require you to think carefully about your .subject matter before you begin writing. This means much more than simply knowing what your-topic will be. It means, first and foremost, that you know yourself Interesting, reflective.randrevealing essays always result from careful self -analysis, It also means that you understand the specificpoints .you -wish to make in your essays and have identifiedconcrete details to use in support of each of these points. We often forget the details of our lives overtime, Yet these details Will provide the material for your essaysmaking them Vibrant and alive.

This chapter containsanumber of brainstorming activities designed to help you get to know yourself better and gather the material you will need towrite a calc orful essay. We begin with the. basics in "Start Your Engines." The exercises, in this, part will offer solutions to OPen the.channels of your mind and get your pen moving. If you already have lots of ideas for your essays and do not feel the need for a jump start, you might want to skip this section and go straight to "Asses~ Yourself' and "Research 'the Schools."

Start Your Engines'

To get the most benefit out of this section, put your anxieties aside. Do not think about What the admissions committeewants. Do not worry about grammar or .style, Especially; do not worry about what anyone would think. Worries like these hamper spontaneity and creativity. Focus instead on Writing Quickly and recording every thought you have the instant you have it You Will know that you are performing these exercises correctly if you are relaxing and having fun.

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ESSAYS THAI Will GELYaiJ INTb COII'EGE

Stream of Consciousness

Take twenty minutes to answer each ofthe questions: Who are you? and What do you want? Start with whatever-comes.tc.mind first, and write withoutpausing for the entire time. Do not limit yourself to anyone area of your life such.as the career you wishto have. Just let yourselfgo, be honest.andhavefun.You.might be 'surprised by what kind ofresults can come from this type of free association.

Assess Yourself

Morning Page!>

If you have the discipline to practice this technique for a week, you may.end up doing it for the rest of your life. Keep paper and a pen at your bedside. Set your alarm clock to ring 'twenty minutes-early, In the morning When yo.u are still in bed and groggy with: sleep, start writing. Write aboutanything that comes to mind as, fast as you Ca11, and do not stop until you have filled a page or two.

.Journal Writing

Keep a journal for a few weeks, especially if you are stuck and your brainstorming.seems to be going nowhere, Record not what you do each day but your responses and thoughts to each day's experiences.

Top Ten Favorites

Write down your top ten favorites in the following areas: movies, books, songs, musicians, .sports, paintings, historical eras, and famous people. Step back and look-at the lists objectively. What do they say about you? Which favorites are you mostpassionateabout? How have these favorites affected youroutlook, opinions, or direction?

Free .. Flow Wi'itinvg

Choose a word from your questions such as influence, strengths.career, eliverSity, or goals and brainstorm around it. Set a timet for ten minutes and write Without stopping. Write down everything you can think of that relates to the topic, including any single words that-come to mind,

We hope that the exercises in the last section successfully stirred your thoughts arid animated your pen, If so, then 'it is time to impose more focus on your brainstorming. These nextexercises help you 'do just that. They concentrate onfindiJ;1g the specific points and details that can be used to.answereachof your questions. Asyou work oil them, besureto retain the open mind-and creative attitude with which you approached the last exercises;

First, make a list ofall the questions you have to arrswer.for.eachschoolIeav-

CHAF>TER 2: Gather Your Material

ingplentyof space next.to each. W9rk on the following exercises-proactively; keeping these questions in mind 'as you Write. When you have uncovered a point Of example that-could potentially-be used in response.to.one of them, make a note of it next to the question and then go right back to the brainstorming, If you Can applyonesituation Of experience to multiple questions, do so. Do not Censor yourself. At this stage of the-writing process, more 'is better=we address honing in and culling down in Part Two, '"Strategy."The objective now is to accumulate multiple items for each question ..

The Chronological Method

Start-from childhood and record any and all specialor pivotal experiences that youremember, Go from gradeto.grade and jobto job.noting-anysignifieant lessons learned" achievements reached.painfulrnoments endured, or obstacles overcome, Also, include your feelingsabout those occurrences as you rememberthem, If. you are a visual person; itmighthelp to drawa timeline. Do not leave out.any-significant event.

Because so many questions ask about your past, this exercise can help you uncover material thatyou will likely use in several places. A few schools will ask yOU directly about your childhood anti have you highlight a memory from your youth. Do nat auto mati cally discount memories that you think will-seem trite or silly. If an experience from your childhood was meaningful to you.what anyoneelse thinks does not matter. The writer of the essay below, who was accepted info Princeton, built a wonderfully reflective piece around his recollections of playing in a creek as a child:

ESSAY 1: Princeton, Childhood Experience

A creek is no place for shoes. I think it's unreasonable to ask children to keep their shoes. on in such a plate. My bare feet were always covered with calluses from walking down the rough pavement ~f Pearda-Ie Street and around the corner, past the weepirig willows, but notas' far as the Lindsay's squeaky old SWing-set. 'It was hard to see from the road, and asfaras I could tell, nobody .ever went there-except for me. Large pines nearby stood tall and erect, looking down at the ripples and currents that nudged each otheraboutplayfully, like children in the back seat of a car on a Icng drive. $tonesand pebbles lined the shallow bottom and allowed the water to glide. 'in creative patterns over their smooth surfaces. Larger; moss covered rocks dotted the bank and provided ideal spots ferachild to sit and watch and wonder,

The creek often tauqht me things; it was my mentor. Once I discovered tadpoles ln several of the many eddies and stagnant pools 'that lined the small rivulet. A cupped hand and a cleaned-out

21

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ESSAYS THAI Will ·GET VOII INI.O (:OIIEGE-

niaydhn~ise jar aided mein clumstly.scoopinq up some of the more slothfullndividuals. With muddy hands and knees, I set them on the kitchen counter, and watched them daily as theydev.eloped into tiny frogs. I was fas~inated by what was taking place before my eyes, but new questions constantly puzzled me; Dad was usually responsible for assuaging these curiositles. He told me about different kinds of metamorphosis and how-other little tiny creatures lived in the yvater that I couldn't see without a. fancy magnifying glass.

By the creek, my mind was free to wander. I remember _sittingsilently ona mossy rock and watchir:1g the birds; I used to pretend I Was OnE!. As my body-lay still, my imagination would take flight. High above, loaking down on thi,sstream from the pale blue heavens, the wind whistled over my face .end the sun warmed my body. When my eyes flickered open, it was usuailythne to go horne, Sometimes I even did.

I was always up for a challenge. My sister arid I used to jump from rock to rock, in a kind of improvised hop-scotch obstacle 'Course that tested our balance and agility against'one another, She was four years older and I had to practice every morriing when she was at school in order to keep up. On the rare occasions that I outdid her, I wore a goofy smirk for the rest of the day.

Thetreek was a frontier, The stream extended far inte the depths of the woods. I thought that if I wandered too far into its darkness, I might be consumed by it and never heard from again. Gradually overcoming my fear, I embarked on expeditions and drafted extensive maps using my father's old compass, a sheet of paper, and a few colored pencils.

As my' body grew in height and weight, my boundaries.qrew in extent and breadth.

Years later, 1 happened to be walklnqto a friend's house by way of the creek. It occurred to me that what-was once an expedition Wii~ now merely a.shortcut. Although I had left this stream behind, I found .others: new questionsend freedoms, new challenges and places to explore, But this creek would remain foremost in my memory, whatever

stream, river, or ocean I might wade. .

You can also use a childhood example to demonstrate a long-standing' passion or to emphasize how, an aspect of your character is so ingrained that it has been with you since youth. The writer of Essay 1 does this, for.example, when explaining his early passion for exploring,

A$sess Your Ac~omplishments

Write down anything y:ouare proud of doing; no matter how small or insignificant itmight seem. Do not limit your achievements to your academic career. If youhave overcome a difficult personal obstacle, be sure to list this too. If something is important to you, it speaks volumes about who YOu are, and what makes

22

CHAPTER 2: Gather Your Material

you.tick, Someaccomplishments will be obvious, such as any achievement that received public acknowledgment Others-are less so. Many times. the most defining moments of our lives are those we are inclined to dismiss.

The essaysincluded in Part Four of this book demonstrate a wide range of accomplishments, ranging from winning a martial arts competition (Essay 38) to helping amend with Down's syndrome (Essay 4,~) to winning a "GripTest" in gym class (Essay 49). The main thing to remember When brainstorrrting ts not to worry about how big or small the accomplishment is in anyone else'seyes. Simply write down whatever comes to mind, choosing what was personally meaningful to you.

List Your Skills

Do a similar assessment of your skills. Begin by looking-at the-accomplishments you listed for the last exercise, and list the- skills, that these accomplishments demonstrate. Wifen you have a list of words, start brainstormingabout specific scenarios that demonstrate these skins. Pretend that you are defending these skills in front of a panel ofjudges: Stop only when you hav«;! proven each point to the best of your ability;

Some of your skills will be obvious, such asartistic, musical, orathletic abilities. Others Will be more.subtle but just as importantl These include the skillthat Essay 26 (found on page 61) highlights: time management Writing aboutthisskill works forthis applicant. because he uses it as a platform to discuss his many extracurricufar-activities and achievements. Essay 19 lsaboutjhe writer'sleadership skills-and dedication, He also uses many examples from his extracurricular activities to back up what he claims. One example says, "Volunteering' to help out.at a handicapped lock-in at an unfamiliar youth center when no one else 'wanted to."

Analyze Personality Traits

Take advantage of the often fuzzy distinction between skills and personality traits. If you are having trouble listing and defending yourskills, shift the focus to your qualities and characteristics instead. Make a.few columns on a sheet.ofpaper; In the first one.Iist some adjectives you would use'todescribeyourself Irrthe next one; listthe words your best friend would use. Use the other columns forother types of peeple-=perhaps one for your favorite teacher and another for family members-or classmates,

When you are done, see which words come upthe most often. Then group them together and list the different situations in which you have exhibited these characteristics. How effectively can you illustrate or prove that you possess these qualities? Proving your points is important The writer of Essay 45, for example, wrote about his two defining characteristics: pragmatism andidealism. Hechose good

23

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ESSAYS THAT Will GET YOII INTO r:OII EGE

qualities. However, his essay would have benefited had he provided better examples Of howhe hasactively demonstrated these qualities.

Note, Major Influences

you can refer back to your 'Top TenFavorites" lists for help getting started with this exercise. Did aparticular book or quote make you rethink your life? Did a particular person shape yourvalues.andviews? Relationships.can be, good material for an essay, particularly one that challenged you to look at people in a differentway Perhaps.youhad a wiseandgenercus mentor from whom you learned a great deal. Have you had an experience that changed how you see the world or defines who you are? What details of your life, special achievements; and pivotal events have helped shape you arid influence your goals?

Some admissions officers caution against using a parent as an influence, simply because so many, applicants do so. Howevervscme of the essayists featured here reference the strong influence their parents have had anthem arid do it well, such as Essayist25 on page 5~. The writer of Essay 51 was less successfulin mentioning his mother's influence. Other _applicants spoke more 'generally ofthe tamIIY'influynce. such as the writers of Essays 20 and 55 on pages SO and ISO.

Many questions ask 'specifically about certain influences, such as .a faverite teacher (see Essay 17), book (see 11 and 16), or character. However, this exercise can be-helpful even if your questions do not specifically askaboutthesepeople's influence: Iftheydo do ,not worr Y yet about making finaldecisions.Let.yourmind wander free. for now, have fun,and list as many possibilities as you can,

24

IdQ-ntify Your Goals

The first step' of this exercise is to let loose and write-down anything thatcomes tomind in response to the following questions. What are your wildest dreams? What did you want to be when you were a child? If you could do or be anything right now, regardless of skill, money, or other restrictions, what would it be? Think as "broadly as you wish, and do not limit yourselftocareer goals. Will' you have kids? What kind ofhouse-will you live in.and what kinds of.friends will_you have? What would you do if you were so rich that you did not have to work?

Second, play the alternate realities game. Choose your two 'favorite subjects" arid think about the way your life would 'look in twenty years if you pursued either one asa . college major and then, a career. Do not warty if rou define your career broadly, College admissions committees understand that you will not know exactly what yo~u want to do with your life when they ask questions about your career goals. However, they do 'want to know that you have at least thought about it=and thought about the role that their school will play in your goals.

CHAPTE-R2 Gather Your Material

It, On the other hand, you do already feel passionate about a particular career. by all means play it up! The writer. of Essay 42 .. for example; has already chosen the unusual.career of psychoneuroirnmunology A high schoolstudent rarely has such specificand unusual plan-s. It is certainly not necessary. In fact, had this applicant not sufficiently supported his goal with evidence that he knew about the field (because of his parents' work) and had some personal reasons for choosing it., he would have come across as simply trying to impress the oommlttee-i-alwsys a. huge mistake!

Again, do not forget to brainstorm about your'personal goals as well. The writer 'of Essay 24 on page 57 seems like she must.have had a lot of fun doingthis, and. it shows. Her essay is interestingand fun to read, It presents her as an imaginative andambitious person.

A Note for Everyone 'Iearing Th'eir' Hair Out

If these exercises have proved more, than a little difficult for you and you are still struggling to find something worth writing about, it: could bea sign that you need to step back and reassess the schools to which you have decided to apply. Truly stubborn writer's: block could indicate a number of different problems that you should address before beginning the application process. It could mean, for example that You are ambivalent about the schools you have chosen. Make sure that the schools are youi"choices and that you are.going for your reasons. It could also mean that you have not adequately researched yourcheicesand are-not confident.that you have. made the correct choices.

The next: section, about researching the schools, should help you decide whether-you have made appropriate choices or whether you need to go back and do some. reassessing, When you feelcomfortable With the choices that you have made and confident that you would be happy at each Of the schools on Your list, then go back to the brainstorming exercises found in this chapter. Yq!J should see a big difference in the- progress you make!

Research the Sch~ools

Gatheringmaterial aboutyourselfwill undoubtedly help you whenitcomes time to begin writing. Do not forget. though,that you also need to gather material about the school as well. It.is as.irnportantforyou asit is for your essays that you think aboutwhere you are going and why you want to get there.

Researching the colleges of your choice involves more than a quick skim of the catalogs, Do not underestimate-what each.sehoole literature- Will tell you about them=after ;,lII, 'the admissions officers wrote 'those catalogs to convey what they consider valuable and unique about themselves. A thorough reading Will give you

25

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ESSAYS THAI WIll GET YOLI INTO

a very good idea of what each school prides itself on, what values and principles they consider Important, and what they look for in their student body; GO through the catalogs with a felt-tipped pen and-circle all of the-significant words and phrases that youfind, 'Often. a few keytermsshow up more frequently than others ina school's catalog. Makea list of these main ideas, then use this list to make connectiens between yourself and that particular college.

Getting this kind of general sense Of a -school is a good starting point However, if you really want to "wow" theadmissions commlttee.you will need to push yotitself further. When .you have done your-research, it.shows,

Admissions Tip: Know the School!

One admissions officer explained:

Ihaue. on occasion, when speaking to large groups, askfJd thejoll(Jwing: 'Will all of yOu applying too« Ivy League sc_hool please stand up. n a/course, since I know my audience; I knouf they will all stand up. WOW, any of yo« who Can name a faCUlty member at thi university if is your dream to attend, remain standing, everyone else sit down." How many do you suppose remain on their feet? Rqrelya1l)l. JWypoint ~ tlt'lt appUcantsneedtQ move away from abstraetiM and grQund themselves in, reality. I have jusr demonstrated tha.t even the, brightest kids appJying to th(l be~.tschiJols can't provide a simPle, direct, and easily attainable piece a/information tha__t can setth(lffl aparlfr()m lhe'r_est. In or: interview, when.tiSked:;"Why do you want to attend," iheywill offer up some staleredtation from the viewbook or cite the injluence a/a/riend. Never in an interview have I had a student say anything remotely like, "I just read Henry; Petroski's book To Engineeris Human. I,want-so badly to take one of his classes. " Ivy fa cutty are laden with well-kno.wn thinkers ,and wnkrs. Know who they (Ire and. use that -information to your advantage. J:Ou may just learn something really meaningful tha/you didn't k,now abq~t YfJur al~eged "dream" ,college in: the pro,tess;

The first, and most important, question to ask is Do you know what you want? ntis section presents a series 'of issues to consider and isdesigned to help you determine the most important factors for you. Remember that although you are going to college to learn, y01jare also going there to live. Think about what will make the.nextfour-yearscomfertable and fun-this isiust'asimportant.as what that degree will get you once 'you have graduated. Every year; hundreds of students get into Ivy League schools and turn them down. They opt.instead for schools with less prestigious Daines that, for whatever personalreasons, seemed to suit them better.

Now getready to: ask.yourself.somequesfions, Inthe following, yQU will find justa few ofthe things worth considering when researching schools.

26

C HAPT ER2: GatherYbur Material

Location and size

How far away from home are you willing to go? Consider that if you :go too far, you will not be able to visit home vety often. Do not neglect.to take into account tire cost oftransportation. Nothingis more depressing than being stuck on an empty campus during a major holiday becauseyou cannot afford to :go home. lastly, what 'part of the country is the.school in, and how much do you know about it? Can you 'handle a climate change?

Also think about the environment the school is in, whether big city, suburbs, Or rural farmland. Small, rural schools, mean 'smaller classes and more personal attention. Big schools mean more-activities and cultural opportunities. However, big schools also require you to take more responsibility for your education and Iivingarrangements.

QutsidEt Influences

ObviQUS pros andconscome with attending the same school as, your highschool friends. Some students look forward to getting a 'fresh start with a clean slate in a place where no 'one knows where they came from or who they were in high school. Going to college is truly a chance to reinvent yourself. OIl the other hand, going to a.strange place.where you know no one cart belntimidating. Familiar faces can make thetransition more comfortable.

Also-and we hope this is obvious-don't tail 'to apply to .acollegesimply because your parents want you to, anddon't.apply to a school you have no interest in because they do want you to. Subject the colleges that your parents-suggest to the same scrutiny as any other college on your list, The same goes for your guidance counselor; The quality-of counselors varieswidely Many are terrific and can be excellent resources. Others are seriously overworked and recommendthe same schonlsover and over. If the counselor does notknowYOll by sight, take the guidance with a grain of salt.When heeding advice; always consider the source,

The Serious Stuff

You can use the overallreputation of the school.in addition to the-average SA T.s and G .EA:~, to get an idea ofacademic rigor. Do you want to betheacademic star on campus? Do you instead want to be challenged in an environment where most of your peers have scored better than you? You probably want a stimulating environment with students Whose academic skills and abilities are equal to, but do not significantly exceed, your 0_\Vi1.

Also look.at things like d~sssize,smd~nt-teacher ratios, and faculty prestige.

Think of how amazing it would be to take classes taught byyourfavorite author. Alsq try to find out if a school places heavy emphasis on faculty research. This.

27

ESSAYS THAt "WI! I GET YQII INTO COil EGE

can mean that while the faculty is enormously prestigious, you-will never see them because you wiIl betaking classes taught by their graduate assistants,

Cost·

Idea.l1y,costwould not be an overriding consideration when choosing where to apply, but we all know that reality can be very different Luckily, most.competitive colleges offer generous financial aid packages.Including loans, grants, and work, study programs, to students who cannotafford to pay the full tuition price .. Remember, though.that tuition is a jumping-offpoint for other financial discussions, Doyon miodjuggling several outside jobs or graduating with a heavy debt? Would it bother you to go' toa school where everyone has more money than you do?'

Sp~cim AdVice for Tra.nsfer'StlIdents

According to E. Whitney Soule, the Director of Transfer Admission at Connecticut College; knowing the school well Cl!11- be especially helpful to transfer .students,

Tips for the Transfer Ess,ay

Tronsjerringfrom one institution to another is competi#ve and cdmPlicated.

Before a studen.t can even :think dboutthe details ojiransjerable credit, housing, an,d jjnant:ial aid, he or she must get admitted.

Like freshmen applicahfS; trans/erstudents· compete for: limited space in fJ college orunivetsity. Submitting solid academic credentials is an obvious reqJ4irement. However, most institutions will require an essay that explains the student's reasons for transferring·. If done well, the essay tan be the most powerful and convincing part of a tran.sfer student's- application,

Admissiohofjicers reviewhundfeds, sometimes thousands, of applications every year and have to make decisions quickly based on the information .aoailable at the time of ~ew. They will be especially discerning when considiring trqns/er aPPliea:iions. Alter all" the student has ~lready._been throUgh the' apPlication and enrollment praces,s once (sometimes twice!), and an admis#on of' .ficer will want to be sure that the next landing is for good:

Since it is unlikely that admission officers will have the time to call an afr .pUcantformore in/armation,questions often get answered by extrapolating from ihe £nformation a'vaila~le in. Ote aPPlication. -TherejrJre,an'applicant musfanticJp_ate the questions anadmjssion committeemi'ghtask andJhen answe,r.them

in the essay (s) . . .

Without exception, 'tratlfjer students have specific and tangible reasons for wanting to ieaoe one college and attend anothe1: Every admission committee will wantanexfJfana(ian. It _is both appropriate and ('nportantjortheapplica.;t to be able to Qrticulate ihe reasons for t:hoosing th~first school, why that school is no jdngerthe nght./it, and why the next school will be betten

CHAPTER 2: Gather Your Material

For ~t;z*ple,if a student writes a simple €S§ay ~plaining that he wants'/() transfer from University A to College B, "8ecauseCoUege B is- smaller and on the east coast," the admiSsl'on cpml1fitteemay inte,rPret that the student prefers smallerc/as-ses, is homesick', p.refers anundergra4Ull_~enr.(ljority, and so on; Yet" had the student written a; detailed essay about how his originqldesir~ to atten.a alargeun!versity in the Midwest wusno longer appropriate given 1, is new pas" sion to-study marine biolo.gy in College Bs new science facility, the aimission committee would haee confidence in the student's moiiuation t(}' pursue transftrring,

Naturally, if an applicant's credenti'alshave. obvious inconeistencies, the essay will need to addresslhose as well. For onei1pplittmt, the problem mightk(1ve :to do. with (l curiou« drop in- C.P.A andfor a:ndthet', ilmay have, to d!J with a, switch in majororconc(!ntration.

Unfortunately, Uttk,consistency exists among colleges and universities regprding transfer deadlines, application requirements; admission!ormulas, t;Inli (rt;znsfer credit euaiuatio«. However, all tra1i$fer students will be exper.ted to ex~ plain their circumstances and choices, most often through an essay or two. The transfer essasis a .. student's opportunity to tell it like it is, to get to the nittygritty and def(md it with confidence.

E. Whitney Soule

Associate Director of Admission Director of Transfer Admission Connecticut.College

29

Strategy

By now you. should have uncovered plenty of material for your compositions, The next step i iir to decide- how to focus your essays and how-to position them.in respOnse to the questions yOil need to answer. Ifyou skip 'this-step and.attemptto useeverythingyou have collected without.carefullyconsidering the questions, your essays-will Jack the.focusthey-need to 'convey something meaningfulabout you.

'This seetion represents the last steps you will.need to takebefore.creatingyear first.drafts. The firSt chapter; "Choose-Your Weapons;" presentsexercisesandadvice whelp youJdentify thsmostimportant points you need to make whetheryou need to write one.essayor ten. The second chapter, "Plan Your Attat~"'suggeststopic ideas and strategies to answer specific questionsusing examples oLessays that have worked in recent years.

31

CHAPIER 3

Choose Your Weapons

O· ne of the biggestrttistakescollege applicants make isto cramtheiressays full of .every detail they-have-uncovered about-themselves, While feeling' .afraid:oiIeavingoutsomethhi'gcTutial, snmeappllcants forte laundry Iis"ts of aecomplishrnents; honcra.andsignlflcant experiences onto the reader.which (as we know from the fi,rst, chapter) is one of admissions offieen;' biggest pet peeves,

Y6u have a wealth ofmaterial that is available to y()u~frOIl1 yo!lf skills-andao compllshmentsto Yourfatnily background, academiclife, extracurricular interests, eareer.development, and professional'and personal goals, Therefore.choosing-what to use and what to discard. can be a difficu.it'andfrtts,trating step. The sectet to say .. ing.a IPlwithout~ying too much Is lrnQwmghQw to focus. All the material you have gathered can be brought-together to support justa fewofth~n1Q'stlmportantpoin:ts youwant'to make.Tohelp you identify.yourfocus.frythe exercises below"

Find Y()urFoCUs

What isfocu~? When we saytllalYQur essay-needs focus, we mean something other thanfinding a topic. The topic of your essa.yisusu~ provided by the ques'tionand is ver'y broadly defined. Examples oftopicsare your favorite extraeur-

"." .. ; ... ..

ricular actieities, your career goals, . or your growth-and. deseloprrrent, A focus is more specific~it:coujd bean event, person.Influence, or'thdu.(~htthat sheds light on the topic .. To understand this better, look attheessay on page 54 written for Stanford. The writer's topic is himself and howhe has changed .in the last four :years. HisJoeu.s; though. is his boardingschool.He talksabout a few specific a,spects of the school to demonstrate-end highlig'ht his growth. The essay discusses-theemphasls on Iearning, encouragement.of ccmmunity activity,and fostering, oirespect

Because-topics Can beso broad, findil:Ig a focus will help yoUt essay make a strong~r impact. You can often :find the focus of cme:ssayby cjlocentrating on a

"3'3

I have learned a great many things from participating In varsity football. It has changed my entire outlook onand attitude toward life. Before my freshman year 'at [high-school}; I was shy, had low self" ~ste~m and turned away from seemingly impossiblech.allenges. Football has altered all cfthesequalltles, On the first day of freshman practice, the team 'warmed up with a game of touch football. The players were split up and the game began. However, during the game, I noticed that I didn't run as hard as I could, nor did I try to evade my defender and get open. The fact of the matter is that t really did not want to be thrown the ball. I didn't want to be the one at fault if I droppedthe ball and the play didn't succeed. I did not want the responsibility of helping the .team because twas too afraid of making a mistake. That aspect of my character led the first years of my high school life. I refrained from asking questions in class, afra'id they might

ESSA.'l's THAT WIIIGEI YOU INTO COil EGE

particular area of your life, such as sports or family life. To get started, try looking back to the material you gathered in the last chapter. See if the items you have listed can be clustered into categoriesrepresen.tingthedUferent areas of your life. Your categories might include your academics..extraeurricular activities, community and volunteerwork. and family experiences, WJ1ich category containsthe most points? Ate they distributedevenly throughout, or is one favored over' the rest? Do you feel that the distribution accuratelyreflects your priorities?' If you are lucky, you will have-a particular ta1ent,abiIity,or passion that will make this .exercise simple.

Arhletes, .ar tists, and musicians are all examples of people who are provided with an obvious area on which to. focus, Still, even these students can be reluctant to write about-a single. aspect of their lives, worried that they will-appear one-dimensional, Instead, they maybe involved in so many activities that they cannot stand choosing one aver another, so they try to-write about all ofthem, Do not fall into this trap: You will more likely produce a mediocre essay by being too broad and general than by providing too much focus. TIle writer of Essay 24 made this' mistake by trying to write about four different interests: math, computers, sports, and volunteering. Because he tried to write about so much, he was notable to do justice to anyone of them. The result was that he seemed less interesting than he should have-to the admissions officers. Remernber'that admissions officers do. not use the essays'to find out everything you have been doing during the.pastfour years-that is the purpose of the test ofthe application, They use the essays to get a sense. of the kind of person you are and the passion you bOOR to your activities .. A.pplicantswho chose to focuson'the'mostdominant areas of their lives wrote the following examples.

ESSAY 2: Princeton, Athlete (fo Qtba II)

. . .

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CHAPTER 3: Choose Your Weapons

be considered teo. stupid or-dumb by my classmates. All the while, I went to. practice and everyday, I went heme physically and mentally

~®~. . ." .

Yet my apprehensio.n prevailedasl continued to. fear getting put in the game iii case another player was injured. I was still afraid of making mistakes and getting blamed 9Y screaming co. aches and angry teammates. Sometimes these fears came true. During my sophomore seasen,my posltionatbackup guard led me to play in the varsity games on many oocasiensOn such occasions, I often made mistakes. Most of the time the mistakes were net significant; they rarely changed the outcome of a play. Yet I received a thorough verbal lashing at practice-for the mistakes I had made. These occurrenees only compounded my fears.of playing. However, I did riotalways make mistakes. Sometimes I made.great' plays; fer which I wascengratulated. New, as I dawn en my senior year of football and am faced with two starting positions, I feel like a changed parson.

Over the years, playing football has taught me what it takes to. succeed. From months oflough practices, I have gained. a hard work ethic. Frem my coaches and fellow teammates, I have learned to. work well with others in agro.up, as it is necessary to. cooperate with teammates on the playing field. But most important, I have also gained self-confidenee. If I fail, it doesn't matter if they mock or ridicule me; I'll just try again and do. it better; I realize that it is necessary to. risk failure in order to. gain success. The coaches have always said before games that nothing is impossible; I knew that now. New, I welcome the chalienge.Whetber I succeed or fail is irrelevant; it is only important that I have triedandtested myself.

Comments

'The topic of this essay is 'how the applicant has matured and changed since hisfreshman year. He focuses on football. One of the strengths of this essay is that it is. well organized. The applicant clearly put time into thestructureand planning of this, essay. He. usesthe platform offootball to discuss and demonstrate his personal growth and developmentthrough the high school years. Whflt he could have done better was-spend more time describing himselfafter he made improvements, As-it is, he only tells us about his. newfound confidence and drive. This essay would have been stronger had.he actually shown us, perhaps byineluding a storyor-describing.an event where his confidence made a-difference.

ESSAY 3:, Columbia, MU$idan (cello)

For some reason, my parents felt the necessity to inundate me ata young age with e'xtracurrkular activities; After school, I was always befng driven from tennis to. vio.lin to swimming to. cello. to baseball to piano. to. karate to. near' craziness! I could have been called the world's busiest kid at the time. Frem two. of the activities, I have resped the

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Es.sAyS THAT Will GF-T YOI! INT,

most benefits. Although my cello has been used 'less freq,uently than my tennis racquet, the musical instrument creates the most meaningful ideas in my life.

However, my-appreciation for playing the cello did not come immediately. From the time I was nine years old Ijntil I left for prep school, I detested Sunday. The first day of the week W;;i5 torturous "cello day": I practiced all morning, had a lesson during the afternoon, and came home in the evening exhausted. But today, I thank austere old Professor (teacher's name] for forcing me to lear'h the art in music,

With the hecticschedule I have year ro;unq, being overwhelmed isnota difficult task. Therefore, I consider playing the cello oneof the most rewarding aspects of my life. Very few people have the luxury of being able to absolutely enjoying themselves in the middle of a workday. I can bomb a physics test, and then five minutes later be in heaven. Totally relaxed, I sway back and forth to the rhythm treated by my bow and my fingers; both of my arms work in harmony. Eyes dosed, I reach the final note and my I,eft hand creates a slow, soothing vibrato=-mediccre cello playing at its perfection.

The cello reigns as the supreme instrument ir my mind. Whether blusteringly chaotic or lovingly sweet" good cello playing, with its.deep, rich tones' and fantasticaUybroad range is the epitome of expression. I also have ample opportunity for the other half of art-interpretation. I feel a delight beyond description when listening to Pablo Casals or Yo-Yo Ma. I am able to just sit there.and think about my life, and their masterful music can make me feel ebullience or rag~., Most importantly, whether l listento music or play it, I can reflect upon and enjoy life as one special being.

I wish the-venerable Professor {teacher's name] could he alive today to hear me play the cello. "With feeling," he would always say:

Whenever I played ,a note out of tUM, Mr. [teacher'snarrre] would yell at me until l cried. But now, with my newfound love for the cello, even if he screamed in my ear, I would continue to relish my playing and let him go until he became hoarse.

Comments

This-essayist does aclever job ofcombining his focus ,OIl the cello with gentleremindersthat he is involved in much more as 'well. He does this by beginning with brief mention of "tennis ... violin ... swimming . , • cello ... baseball .... piano .' .. karate .... " in the second sentence, Then he quickly honesin on the cello alone, making opJy one additional indirect mention of the "hectic schedule! have year round." He, wisely does 'not go into more detail about the other activities, This single reference is enough; since, the admisslons officers can easily refer to the.restofthe application for more detail on his other involvements. This writer also does: a good job of.showing his love for the cello by painting a picture of himself playing: "totally relaxed, Lsway back and forth to the rhythm

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C HAPT ER 3: Choose Your W~apohS

created by my pow and my fingers; both of my arms work in harmony. Eyes closed, I reachthefinal note andmy lefthand creates a slow, soothing vibrato ... " This image is likely to be the one that sticks 'in admissions officers minds, mak-

. .

iog him more memorable.

Dual Interests

Althoughchoosing to focus on only a.single area of your life can be vefy effective" it is nota hard-and-fast rule, Ifyou are. equally involved in two activities Qf interests, you can still write a focused essay by comparing or contrasting the two. Students who did just thatwrote the following essays,

ESSAY 4: Coh:iri'lbia, Athlet"e and Musician (sailing 'and bass guitar) WHtea chapter from your autobiography.

Chapter 34: One MemorableSailing Practice

Th e su n's·g lare off the water forces, my watery eyes to cI ose even more. Spray leaps over the bow and blocks my vision as itslams into me like hundreds of little pebbles. The .salt water hasirritated my eyes enough already, but I am only beginning my practice for today" The Buzzards Bay Regatta is onlythtee days away; and I must get comfortable with the boat.

Skimming over the waves on "a screaming pla'ne,the boat senses every movement. The boatis like a leafbeinq blown across a pond. With only the rear end of the hull in the water, I am half flying and concentrate on positioning my weight, aft for the most speed. I shuffle my butt half a foot aft and the boat rounds up towards the wind, but I 'fight tne motion off with the helm and regain my original course .

. With one hand on the tiller and the other holding the rnainsheet, I see that my hands are in the same position when I play my bass guitar. Comparisons between the' two mesh together in my mind as I realize the similarities between bass guitar and sailing. I recall the practicing involved in bass and see how sailing requires the same diligence. My thoughts no longer focus on fine tuning my sailing, but they vividJy . connect bass guitar playing and sailing.

I probe to find out what the essences of sailing and music are. While on the water in a sailboat, I accept the elements as they present themselves.to me. Given certain wind and wave conditions, I manipulate the sailboat to attain the best harmony between by boat and its immediate environment, I imagine the sailboat is an extension of my body and plunge, accelerate, and rock with the sea and the wind, as the boat does. Sailing stresses technique because I need proper form to 'adjust to all of the different combinations to have twelve different notes in the musical alphabet with which to work, and with my technique I manipulate-those notes and arrang.e them to adjust 19

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varied moods I want to express. Again, painstaking technique is emphasized because by body mustencompass the bass to attain the pure harmony between nw expression and the notes on the instrumei1t. Meticulously, I pluck, pull, and slide my fingers on the strings as I ~djus~ to the countless combinations. MusicianS' and sailors alike practice their technique to reach perfection, whether-it be in the form of th,e fastest sailboat or the most sortorous melody. Rooted in the same essence, I discover that I draw from the same method to sail and play music.

Seemingly unrelated .experiences converge. Bass guitar and sailin,g do not seem to relate toone another, but I discover the similarities. linking bass guitar and sailing consummates the understanding of two of my hobbies. I seek the mastery of my sailing, but I realize that I sim,ultaneously increase my understanding of bass playing as well.

My focus shifts from new realizations back to my sailboat, but 'the waves are turning into ripples as the sun sets. There Will not be any more: ~ailing today, but I tan nOW continue practicing with my bass.

E-S'SAYs THAT W.lI,1 GET YOU INTO COLLEGE

Comments

This writer-maintains focus by; making the-similarities between his twoactivities the-topic of the essay. The: detail with which he describes both activities and the depth with whloh he analyzes their sirniiaritiesclearly demonstratethepassion that he brings to both.

ESSAY 5: Emory, Dual Academic InterE:;!sts (science and humanities) What are your intellectual interests?

Well, g'ee. Ldon'1 really know.

Let's try to harrow it down. Do-you li-ke the sciences orthe humani~;es,? B9th.

Come.on now. YOIl can't possibly be interested in both. You're ,going to. have to choose one or the other.

HQW often goes a dialogue like this one occur? The challenge of choosing between the sciences-and the humanities is one which most finp simple, but some find impossible. I can speak for the latter group because.my interests lie in both areas. Certainly, each manner of thought has its own strengths and weaknesses, but, joined together,

the two can combine to form a very effective and proficient way to handle many issues. My interests in the pure sciences like chemistry, biology, physics, and higher mathematics area reflection of my ability and tendency to think logically and to use deductive reasoning to solve problems. At the same time, I cannot rightfully call r,nyselfa pure scientist, Knowledge Without effect expression is useless, and I recognize the importance of eloquen,ce and language. I truly enjoy-the art forms of writing and acting, and history also is very important to. me. I find that, coupled together, the humanities and sciences allow me to

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C H.Ap T E R3: ChooseYour Weapons

take the most out of life's experiences, and to tackle problems very efficiently.

I possess an insatiable curiosity about how and why things happen.

My q west for exp la nations has. often led me to the. stu dy of sclence. While mathematics, physics, and biology oftentimes serve me with answers to my questions, I also enjoy chemistryChemistry, because of its mysterious natu re and large Iy th eoretica I foundation, is very thoug htstimulating for me. It offers the opportunity to use creativity to solve open-ended problems like energy crises, bib-chemical diseases, and engineering dilemmas .. I suppose that my interest in the sciences is a result of my tendency to think analytically, rather than the converse. Regardless, I find that science can provide me with the answers tosome of my intellectual inquests as wE;!1I as providing me with a useful tool with which to solve problems, a refined method of thinking.

While I find many answers in the study of the sciences, many remain unanswered, History, English, and the arts fill the void left by the sciences. The study of history is very interesting to me because of its capacity to contribute substance and meaning to the world in which I live. The two months I spent studying in Israel this past summer offered me explanation forsomeofthe Jewish traditions which my {~mily observes" and it also lent me something more. History is an important part of mY' life, for it gives me a sense of identity and one of belonging to something much largei'than rnyselt, be it a religion,.a nationality;dr a race. By the same account, literature, wri~ing, and art also present opportunities for personal introspect, contemplation, and expression. As a whole, the humanities offer me a way to be a complete person who can take answers to questions, and ~ejgh them for personal

value,

The combination of the sciencesand the humanities forms the structure of my intellectual being. My thoughts are not idle intangibles, however. I use my method of thinking deductivelyand logically, as well as my sense of self to-accomplish many of my .goals. As three-year class president, I have found my place asa leader who likes to help people realize their goals. I have experie:ncedgreat success in approaching the issues facing me' in the scientific manner of analytical thinking and deductive' reasoning. The same approach j~s generally efficient in other activities in which I am involved. I ani an active peer counselor and tutor; instances in which good expression is as important as accuracy. Prevention Players, animprovlsational drama troupe serving the community's need for education by powerful presentation, is another activity which merges knowledqe 'of social issues with the arts and humanities. Because of my interests in both sciencesand arts" I findalJ of these activities to be very rewarding arid enjoyable. My intellectual interests actively shape my character and personality, as well as guide my life iii rewardins directions. The su:m of every oneof these: factors

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Your Personal Points

ESSAYS I HAT W II! GET you I NIO ,Cal I EG E

gives my life meaning and will hopefully lead me to a place in the future where lean find intellectual stimulation in all of my areas of 'interest.

Comments

This essay addresses a common-consternation among college applicants. Y:ou might feel pressure to market YOUf$eIf as either a science or humanities person, and, in truth, this has-merit, However, the vast majority of students do not.know yet wha~ they will majorin-and that is O.K too, This essayist tackles his own ambivalence head-on, By.showing.that he has given-a Jot of thought to his options and to all the areas of study he mentions, this essay works. Alsq, the conversational tone of the first few lines effectively gets the reader's attention 'and interest. This is a good -example of why students with multiple interests do not need to worry about appearing scattered as long as theywrite with depth and introspection.

Do not worry if you did not find an immediate focusfor your essay. You do not need to be a varsity athlete or violin virtuoso to have a good topic. Plenty 'Of other possibilitles exist, You can, for Instance, focuson a skill, personalitytrait, int14ep.ce, event, or scenario. To helpfind that focus, look again over tile results-of last chapter's brainstorming exercises. Start highlighting words, ideas, phrases, and points that stand out or are 'especially meaningful to you. Then 'separate these favorites into columns of skills" traits, interests, activities, events; and influences. Patterns should begin to emerge. Do your different columns reflect and support any general tendencies? Carl you draw relationships 'from "the Skills to the. activities to the events?

Sily,(or example, that your tOP skill is leadership. Does one of the' activities you have listed support this, such as involvementinstudent.government? Does a specific event demonstrate this involvement, like a hard-won election? H so.fn your essay you can demonstrate your Ieadershfp 'skills and your extracurricular involvement by telling-the story of the election. Essayist 52 does exactly this.If you can find strong connections, ideas [or essay topics will eventually present themselves, Your points probably are not.going to fall into such neat patterns right away__;:just keep fiddling With your material and brainstorming until something begins to emerge.

The advantage of this strategy is thatit gives-you more freedom to tailor your 'essay to the question. Examples of-a variety of different focus areas tan be found in the next chapter, "Plan Your Attack," along With tips and advice for tackling .some of the different question types.

.C:HAf>TE~3: Choose. YourWeap,ons

Working with Sets of Essays

Some schools require you to write answers to a seriesofquestiens ratherthan submit a.single personal statement If thisoccurs, then you will need to consider the impact that your essay set as a whole is going to have. You need, in other words, to put as much thought.and planning into the structure, balance, and content of yeur.set asyou do into each of your separate essays.

Working With multiple essays has many advantages. First, more essays mean more opportunity W sellyourself to the committee, Second, you do not need to worry about having- to cram too many points into oneessay or having to leave something out Multiple-essays give you ample space to do justice to all the different.areas of your Iife.Third, because you have the chance to present many differentsides of yourself, you can be more creative and take riskier approaches with one of them, knowing that the other essays will back you up if your approach does not.go over well With all of the readers'.

Essay Set Strategy

Making an impact With multiple essays requires that you plan and strategize for the set just as you would if you were preparing a single composition. Begin by tmtki,ng two lists. One should cover allthe points that youwould like to make about yourself. Thesecond should include.allthe differentareas.ofyour life aboutwhich you would like the committee to know. Your first list might includeskills or personality traits such as perseverance, dedication, or enthusiasm, The second will include some of the topics discussed in the last section such as your extracurricular involvements,international experience, or academic interests.

When you have finished.look atyour questions and begin'thinkingaboutwhich ones youcan use to convey which points and areas. Picture your essay set as a jigsaw puzzle. Each essay provides a different piece of the puzzle that, when read together; form a single, cohesive image.

DQ pot be afraid to be creative when it comes to fitting the different areas of your life into the framework of the questionsas.leng as you answerthe questions asked. You could use a question about your accomplishments to discuss yourdivifig trophy, for example. Then surprise the committee members by 'focusing on your love-of traveling in answer to a question about extracurriculars,

Tips for Answering Short E$SClYS

When you are required to answer multiple questions, the schools-usually impose astrict wordlimit for the answer. These questions need the same care-and attention as longer essays, The best way to approach them 'is to write a regular, full-length essay-and cut Begin by reducing the introduction and the conclusion

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ESSAYS H;tAT Will GET YOU INTp

from-one paragraph to one sentence .each, Choose only the dearest, most direct parts. Thisis avery effective methodforwriting anything. You should always let yourselfcontirrue to write as long as you are inspired, '0.0 not worryabout time limits or length constraints. After you have the ideas onpaper, you can gO back and look for the pieces of gold buried under all the words.

Some short-answer questions-ask for lists of activities, summer work, jobs, honors, reading, and so. on. You can take either oftwo approaches to answer this type of question: the list or the paragraph: For each method, provide complete information about the items you list, J(llIOW the same format for each question. Be sure to include the- activity; your involvement, and the time commitment. Make it dear that your activities have involved responsibility-and effort. Do not worryabout the number of activities you list-e-whenit comes ta quantity, less is oftenmore,

ESSAY 6: Georgetown, Saudi International Relations

For many years, , have been interested in studying international relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors whkh have.affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi FpreignService, I have grown up under the shadow of internationalaffairs, Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in interrrational relations is patriotism. Throuqh the Foreign Service, I would not only have the opportunity to serve my courrtry, but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others. Finally, asa Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience h_as taught me to look for differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in Hfe,c.ombined with a dgorQus.academiceduca_tion, will ena ble me to pursue a successfu \ ca reel' in the Sa udi' Foreig n Service.

ESSAY 7: Georgetown, Favorite Class

At St. Albans, especially inour later years, Weare given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However, from these classes, one; holds an extraordinary amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus: History, a combination of American and European history, There ereseveral reasons for my Weat interest in, this class. First, lam fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as a means of looking forward into the future; while allowing us to avoid the mistakes of the past.

C HAPT E R 3: .Choose Your Weapons

Second, history teaches many lessons about the nature of human' behavior, both past and pres!;!nt, providing ins_ight into the actions, desires; and aspirations.ofthose around me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines, including political science, economics, and international relations, three fields of great interest to me.

ESSAY 8: GeQrgetpwn, Visual Arts

Another major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to express myself. I began with black and white photoqraphy, fqcusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this medium, I received ahaward at the St. _ Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to. glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover, by arranging several glass panes-into a sculpture, I moved my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award. Currently,1 am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a Mondrianstyle, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media, creating my own-style of artistic expression.

ESSAY 9: Georgetown, Wr~stHng

I.n"the past four years of rnylife, no activity has affected me more than wrestling. Fouryearsof varsity wrestling and the honor of being a team captain has instilled many qualities in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous' dieting, wres.tling has qiven me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my personality, includinq my moral character, work ethic,anq p res erve re nee, Another quality wrestling hasqiven me is leadership. As a team captain, I have learned to lead b;y example, both on and off the mat .. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life, Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice; adversity; and success. Exposure to these feelings-which are, in my opinion, the essence ofbeing-b-as-allowed' me to truly appreciate life, I hope to continue wrestling at Georgetown.

Comments

Whatimmediately strikes the reader about this set-before even reading itis, the balance between the 'essays. Each answer contains onl¥ one paragraph, each of approximately equal length, The solid structure of each eSsay and the focus of each reflects this outward balance. Each one focuseson a completely different area ofitswriter's life, another striking detail. The .first focuseson.his career goals, the second on his interest in history, the third on his interest in the visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling. This is a perfect example of the jigsaw puzzle approach. When put together, you have a well-rounded individual with passion, depth, and involvement in many differentareas,

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ESSAYS THAT WI! I GET yon INTO COIl FGE

ESSAY 10,:, Duke, Sports/Debate

Thrqughout my life, I have: tried to be a well-balanced person.

Growing up in the South, I had a hard time fightingthestereotypicaJ image of ~ Chinese person. I was expected to be a math and seience genius and nothing mora.As it turned out, I defied my detractors by excelling in English and htstoryalortqwtth math and science. And over the years, I have continued to maintain my academic standards.

Nevertheless, I have also made surethat I ern more than en academic person. I am an active one aswell. In middle school, the most popular game, during lunch was a basketball game called Salt.and Pepper (white vs. black). The first day of school, I stepped onto the basketball courts and was greeted by cries of consternation, '''Who is he? Is he salt or pepper?" But after the game, I had made a name for myself. From then onward, I would be known as Spice, and the game we played became $alt, Pepper, and Spice;

When I moved to California, things were no different, Icontiilued to play an active part both academically and socially. My involvement, with Cross-country, Speech and Debate, Ultimate Frisbee and numerous dubs guaranteed that I would not be only knownasan Honors student,

Like myself, Duke, is much more than an academic institution; it is a living institution. I feel that I will be .given the opportunity to .excel both academically and socially, Duke is a university known for its rich history and strong academic program; And, at the same time, it is also known for its innovation and progressiven,e~s. These are qualities Which draw me to thecoHege.

In addition, Duke and I have a lotin common. Thetwo most important extracurricular activities I have are·a major part of Duke University; Duke's. Speech team is known for its strong Extemp squad, I remember the time when my speech coach asked me. what schools, I was applying to. When I had list~d my top five choices, he frowned at me and said, "Out of all those schools, I will only respect you if YQU either loin us ateerkeley or go to Duke andextemp." I hope I will be, given the opportunity to contribute my part in the Duke-Speech team.

Equally important, the Duke University has' a well-known Ultimate Frisbee team. I look fcrward.expectantiy to becoming a part of the team. Strange as it.seerns, Ultimate Frisbee is one of my top criteria for choosing my future college. It delights me that Duke places such great emphas_is on the two extracurricular activitiesthat mean most to me.

My' first year.s.t Duke should be .agrea:t one. Majoring in economics ~t Dukeshould allow me to' both pursue my major studies and allow me time for personal interests in Chinese and the Humanities; Moreover, in my spare time, I plan to join the Speech team and the Ultimate Frisbee team. Hopefully, with my previous experience; I will have an early start in bothSpeech and Ultimate. Yet, Iwill never forget why I'm in colleg,e 'in the first place; As. lo,l')'g as I give. organic chemistry a wide' berth, I

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c H APTE R 3: Choose Your Weapons

should be able to continue my level of academic excellence. Overall, my first ye:ar at Duke promises tb be excitin~, if a bit hectic.

e:ssAY 11: 'Duke. Books

I find Hermann Hesse's.book, Narcissus and GoJdmund, intellectually exCiting. After reading the book last year, I remember putting it down and sighing contentedly, I had, after a sleepless night" finally finished. What I reveled in was not the fact that I could sleep; but that I had come away with an inexplicable something. It was not an understanding which could be pinpointedand explained. Rather, it was a sense I felt in the depths of mysoul. And yet, what delighted me more was that I knew that I had only begun to understand the book;that there remained countless messages which I could only sense but pot. grasp, Here, finally, I had a: book which could be re-read. Andevery time I finished, I would come away with a new underst;aodingofsomething I Could not put into words.

Unlike the normal academic, Ida not want to find the final answer for everything .. Throughout my life, I have always felt a sense of loss after succeeding in a long search. Por me, it is not the ends I seek, but the means themselves. I am perfectly content to never find the final answer as long as I will always be able to find a better onta.

ESSAY 12.: Duke .• 'Chinese Culture/Ec()nomics

Born in Taiwan. I came to the United States when I was five. Armed with only two words ("hello" and "popcorn"). I braved the uncertainties ofa complex, new environment. Twelve years later, my vocabulary is considerably larger and I have adapted well to my surroundinqs. At the same time, I have neither forgotten my native culture nor its language.

My ties with my native Chinese culture remain as strong as ever. I visit my relatives in Taiwan regul;arly almost every summer and have traveled throughout China. And to everyone's continuing surprise, I have yet to forge~ how to-speak Mandarin. Nevertheles~, twelve years in Americ~ has made its impressions upon me es well, lam as "Arrrerican" as anyone my age,. The songs I listen to, the sports I play, and the way I .speak are all a reflection of that. In short, I am a combination of both East and West.

Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether speaking Chinese at horne and visits in the summer are enough to maintain my ties with my native culture. Often, when I see my parents reading old Chinese literature or poetry, I feel that I am only in touch with half-of what I am. This sense of loss has led me to seek out myold roots .. I turn to the East to rediscover what I have lost.

Yet, I cannot reslgr myself to merely studying my own 'culture and lahguage. I want to be able to apply my knowledge ·as wEtI!. To me, pursuing a career in business is a very pragmatic solution to my future.

45

ESSil;YS THAT WII I GET yOI! INTO COl lEGE

welfare. My father is a businessman in Taiwan and! have had numerous opportunities to watch him work. Through him, I have discovered my own interests in the business field, I find the way business operates in the East to be very exciting. At the same time, my father has soothed my sense of morality by showing me that it is possible to be an honest businessman in Asia.

Before I learned about Duke, I had made up my mind to study economics and to ultimately pursue a career in international business. I had come to see this path as the best combination for fulfilling both my aspirations towards knowledge and my pragmatic goals of a future livelihood. China, my planned area of focus,is an expanding market with .a dearth of skilled business professionals. But I had misgivings because I wanted a school with a strong focus on the humanities as well.

Thus, I find Duke University exciting and perfect for' me. It gives me a strong economics curriculum, but still allows rneto pursue my interests 'in the humanities. With economics at Duke University, I will have access to a wide arrayof studies-both within and beyond my chosen rnsjor.l will have an edge in the business world by virtue of Duke

After attending Duke. (if I am accepted, of course), I will have a clear path before me. My studies at Duke should vlrtualiy guarantee me for any graduate business school. And, after my graduate studies, I will be able to realize my dreams" Perhaps, , will be able to serve asa bridge between East and West,

Comments

These- three Well-written essays create. a strong set. The first and the.lastwould have been impressive on their own. Reading-them all together magnifiestheir impact considerably. This student-does-an especially _good job of targeting the school. This student focuses his first e-ssay on hisextracurriculars. and relates them to why Duke would be perfect for hint He focuses the-third on his. Chinese background-and how.it relates to his career goals-and academic interests, Then he also relates these interests to why Dukematches. him perfectly. His-favorite 1;I()_Qk provided the focus of the-second essay. What makes this second essay better than nthers like It Is that the applicant manages to put himself into the question, He does not just talk about the book. he uses it to talk about himself and stress the inquisitive nature of his personality-ealways a.plus,

ESSAY 13: Dartmouth, De,bate

Participating in my high school's debate program has been my most meaninf1ful activity these past four years. I have learned how to speak in front of a crowd without becoming nervous; how to think on my feet and how to arg~e the merits of a~y side of an issue. Being on the debate team also .allows me to educate myself on current topics of

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C HA PTE R' 3: Choose Your Weapons

global importance such as the homeless problem, health care.rand pollution.

Throughout the three years I have dedicated to the activity; (high school) has always maintained a successful squad and lam quite proud to know that I have earned many' of the trophies and awards that have helped make the program 50 successful and (high school) w~1I known ort the debate circuit.

Because of the activity, I have learned that from education to communication, from argument to en/ighte'rim,ent, debate is necessary for two or more humans to transcend mere exchange of thought and achieve synergy instead. I now view success in debate as far more than a trophy; I nowsee it as evidence thet I can successfully communicate my beliefsto ethers and have them logically accept them as their own, thus priming me for any, future challenges involvirrq human interaction.

ESSAY 14: D'iutmolith. Honors and Awards

My most important honors since tenth grade have been winnil"tg the Brown University Book Award for my skills in English, being named as

a National Merit Semifinalist (Finalist status pending), winning the Journalism Edu<;:ationAssociqtion National Write-off Award of Excellence ih the Editorial division at a national conference, being selected as a Semifinalist in the NCTE Writing Contest for my work in prose, being named as an lllincis State Scholar for my academic achievernent in nigh school and my high A.C.T. scores, beihgselected to the Spanish Honor Society for my consistent success with the language in the classroom, being selected as the Student of tne Month in the Foreign Language/Social Sciences division two years ina row for my success in those classes, and in aculrninatinq event, being featured in Who's Who Among American High School Students for my overall scholastic success.

ESSAY 15: D.artmouth, Summer at Dartmouth

Most of my past summer was spent away from home. In that brief month in which I remained in (town name) I worked at Gob) in order to earn the money I was going to spend on my trips; My first excursion was to the east coast where I visited several schools and took in the atmosphere of an area to which my midwestern self was somewhat unaccustomed.Orie school I was conSidering that J did not visit WaS Dartmouth. After all, lspent a month there later In the summer, As a participant of the Dartmouth Debate Institute I spent a lot of time in Feldberg, Dana, and Baker libraries; resided in the well· known Choates; attended sessions in Silsby; and dinedin the Full-Fare section of Thayer. There was also time for recreational activities such as rope swinging, volleyball, frisbee, sleep (every little bit was cherished), and beautiful

47

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ESSAYS THAT~.LLL_G£..I_j'~TO CO.! I EGF

. -- --_ --_--

I !

hikes up to Dana. I did manage to sit down and work in such a clean, openenvirorrment, however, The instructors made sure of that. The four-week institute honed my skills in speaking, researchlnq, structuring arguments, and thinking. Asa result, my partner and I were able to break into the elimination rounds at theinstitute-ending tournament which included the top debaters in the nation, Aside from the debate skills I learned, I found the institute very favorable because of the exthange of ideas taking place betweenthe students and staff. What I learned from those exchan'gesenlighten.ed rne not onlyasa debater but also asa person.

Alth~ough I enjoy all of my subjects, I reg.ard classes I have taken in the, socia I sciences. to be the. rrtost mea n i ngfu I. Wh ereas scm e cl asses use formulas to describe natural occurrences, the social sclences show that not everything is ex:plic;abiE:) in such a clear-cut manner. Thesocial sciences describe people; they describe the people who make up the, formulas arid how and why that was done. Thesocial sciences also explain the past so as a society, people can avoid past catastrophes arid build upon past-successes. Not only do they describe how we act as we 00, but why we act as we do.

I am not a student who always likes to follow someone else's rules.

While mostsubjects allow for free· thought, the socialscierrces encourage innovatiVe thinking. Those classes expect students to explain why something happened based on certain conditions. I didn't learn that the Iron Curtain was· an economic measure in any math class.

As a student my ultimate gb·~1 is to understand things. I feel the best way to understand is not byrecitinq another's thought, but by formulating my own and :debating it with people who disagree with me. I believe that exchange of thought is vital in every curriculum, but the social SCience? do the most to promote that exchanqe. I highly doubt that anyone will be debating Einstein'S ideas in the near future-c-arrd be right.

C9mments

This essayist dedicates the first essay to his involvement.in debating. He managesto communicate quite a lot in a shortamounrof space (what he has learned, what he has achieved, and what debating means to him) without ever losing hIS focus, The-second essay is an example of an answer to a list question ("Ust your honors and awards"), The third gets more j)€rs6nal by describing the summer he spent at-Dartmouth, The strength of this essay isthat he 'sells himselron his knowledge and f~miliarity of the-School. The weakness of this essay is that he tries to do too much antl loseshis focus after the -second paragraph -. The conclusion does not seem tb fit with the points he has made in the essay-ethe-last line particularly seems to come from nowhere,

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C.HAPfE[<3: Choose-Your Weapons

ESSAY 1~: Harvard, Favorite Books

The novel BJack Like Me was the most stimulating book I have recently, read. J was taken aback by the cruelty the narrator experienced when he wasblackcompared to the hospitality he found as a white man. Possessing the same occupation, clothinq, wealth, speech, and identity did not matter when his skinwasanother color. Giventhat this WaS a non-fictional piece, my reaction was even stronger. The book made me favor equality of opportunity for all in every endeavor so others' opinions of th:em are based on perfcrmance.jtct preconceptions;

ESSAY 17: Harvard, F~vorite Tea!;her

lselected Mr. (name) because he taught me more than U.S. History; he taught me how to think independently. This wasn't done, only to . prepare me for the free-response section of the AP .. test, either. I know he.dld it to make his-students responsialecltlzens and responsible, 'adults. From the outset, he wanted to make sure that we knew how we stood inour political philosophy: strict constructionists or loose constructionists. He wanted to make sure that we didn't gravitate towatds emptycateqories like libe'ral or conservative, but rather focused on issues separateJy whenever we needed to take a standori them. Imagine my surprise when I, the sOh of two very conservative parents who constantly bombarded me with their rhetoric,discovered that I had strong llberal tendencies on some issues. AsidE! from political 'affiliations, Mr. (name) taught us: how to make sense out of history by trying to understand the personal motives that went in to any chain of historical occurrences, In his class, I Came to the realization that history isn't only a series cf names and dates printed ih a textbook, but a more complex subject that requires deep thought and analysis- for full "Comprehension. Because of Mr. (name), history is now my favorite subject. Hehas also been ,a motivating force outside of the classroom, He always had faith in my ability and constantly encouraged me to do my best. I believe he respected my abilities and wanted to see them developed further. In fact, had it not been for his fal~h in me, I would have never appl ied to H arvard, the schoo I I plan to attend in the faU.

ESSAY 18: Harvard. 'the "grip test" Refer to Essay 49 on page 139.

ES~AY 19: Harvard. L~adership through Oe,dication

To me, leadership, does not iieces'sarily mean accumulating as many titles as possible in school activities; I feel one leads through his dedication, actions, and contributions. I have always-trled to lead in almost everything I set out to do. I feel I have been successful at that. Superficially, I have earned such titles as president of the National

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ESSAYS' THAT Will GET ~iQ____c._QLl...E...G..E . _

Honor Society chapter at my school, Editor-in-Chief, columnist, Investigative Editor, and Epitorial Editor of the school newspaper, senior vC)rsity leader in debate, and a Class Representative for Student

Council, How:ever, those titles don't begin to tell the story 'Of my abilities as a leader. They don't reveal how I volunteered to help 'outat a handicapped lock-in- at an unfamiliar youth center when no one el-$e wanted to, theydon't reveal how I alwayssouqht to be on time for work-and to avoid boondoggling, they don't reveal how I aided younger debaters with their argumentation so they can have the same SUccess I WaS lucky enough to enjoy, they dorr't rev.eal how I became a role model for the JETS squad by studying my material often;

eventually becoming the most rnedaled member on the team, and they don't reveal all the effort I put into learning my lines and acquiring a good stage presence for ImageS, my first stage production ever, so I wouldn't single-handedly jeopardize the whole show with my lack of experience .. All those actions stress the quality I feel is most important

in a leader, dedication. With .dedication comes hard work and the ability to-Seek out solutions when problems get in the way, whether they are with a neWs page layout or in a-student's diction. Because of this dedication, taking charge. is second nature for me; People are always willing to follow one with a dear sense of direction.

ESSAY 20: Harvard, Close-knit family

I don't view my important characteristics as different from those my family has Imparted on me throughout the years. The pride, care, dedication, effort. and hard-working attitude that I view as critical to any success I may achieve have all descended upon me courtesy pi my close-knit, Italian family.

Born the child of two immigrants who came here with nothing. only one possessin-g a college degree, the importance ofa good work ethic was stressed by my parents from day one. Through their actions in their jobs and through the verbal lessons on life I began to get from the moment lcouid communicate, they set an example for me to follow, one of being proud of what I do, no matter what it was, and above all, to care about everything I do as if everything had a pig impact. This meant that everything had to be done right and be done well. Undoubtedly; following their oW-if advice carried my parents from their status as blue-eoller im·migrants who labored as.a factory workers to white-collar citizens, oneof whom owns his own business while the .other works asa bank officer: Those ascensions from nothing only served as other examples for me to follow, examples thatdelineated the ability for a person toimprove through effort.

Another quotation from my father propelled me from the time I started school to today: "No matter what you-do, you have to be the best." This set up the iriner drive that motivatesall my actions. It was

CHAPTER J Choose Your Weapons

what forced me to try hard in school although I didn't know English well ei)ougn to always understand the teacher. It's the reason why I have developed my skills. It accounts for my dedication to <!ill activities, and to the hardwork I put into all of them as I strive to lead both in class and out. Ess-entially, my parentage was the first quality that diStinguished

me,as a leader. ' '

Despite all the talk of heing a leader; I have never lost sight ofthe importance of my family: r know lowe my family everything, and as a result, I'll always be close with it.

ESSAY 21: Harvard, Fun

I pursue a variety of activities for fun and relaxation. I enjoy reading books and m",gazines(my tastes range from' Timeto Gentlemen's Quarterly) on a regular basis, imitating Beavis and Butt-head, and most of all, spending time with my friends. Although I am fan of playIng pickup games of basketball, football, and roller hockey, the phrase "doing nothing. with my time" doesn't bother' me since lean have a good time just hanging around. I think people, not places, make for a good time.

ESSAY 22: Harvard. Social Concerns

My majorsocial concerns all revolve around the future. In other words, lim concerned about what prevents people from rising above their disadvantages. Specifically, I am most concerned with the handicapped, education, and crime,

I feel society's response to handicaps is what really hampers the potential of the disabled. It is important for the disabled to get a better sense of worthand to be able to adapt to, and survive in, today's world. Through National Honor Society, (NHS); t have done just that. t have helped out at a lock-in that was desiqned to foster interaction among the children of the organization, as well as cit Special Olympics, where the children participate in sports on a competitive basis so their talents and abilities can be recqgnized. Whe:never the disabled can be successful at an activity, the harrier between them and the rest of society is drastically reduced.

Education is key to other problems suchas gangs, drugs, and crime because it tan prevent and eliminate them. I try to get students in our school to maximize their opportunities by using the educational resources available, By setting up a tutorinq prog'ram through NHS; I have matched up needy students with other students who can asslst them with their problems in-classes. More directly, I helpstudsntsout with English and show them how to use the Writing Center' Lab,an indispensable resource for English students at anylevel. The rnoreeducated a person is, I believe. the more able he is to be successful in the future.

I have dealt with criminal problemsin my school by discllss:lng solutions to gangs and other crime in the Student Advisory Committee.

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ES-SAYS THAT WII I GET YOII .I.NTO COl IEGE-

We have drafted several proposals to help reduce those problems in our school,

I:ducating people about such social concerns is also very crucial because they won't fix whatthey don't think is broken. That is one objective of our newspaper, in whi_ch we have written variousedltorials and news steries 10 educate the student body on sodal topics. Through debate, I myself have become knowledgeable on such topics as the . homeless, poverty, health care, and the environment. That way I can practice what I preach.

Comments

Harvard is: notorious for its long list of essay questions; as you can see from the-sevenessaysthis applicant had to write. The first essayis astandardfavorite book essay. His second, about his favorite teacher; goes into more-depth and reveals more about the candidate, that heenjo.yS learningadmires independent thought, an"d plans to studyhistory

The third essay in this set (featured on page 138 in our graded essay section) stands out from the rest Had the panel who were gradingthe compositions onderstoodthe context-of this essayin light of the sixothers in.the .set, they probablywould havegiven it more credit Its strength lies-in its-funny, lighthearted approach-s-it shows a completely different aspect of the candidate's personality; Without it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably a bit dull, However, showing the wittier side Of himself strengthens the set considerably . . It is a good example of allowing. yourself to take a risk in one essay, as long as moreserious approaches in the others balance it

B~fore You Move On ....

We. have stressed in numerous places.throughout this book the importance of proofingyeur essays and getting feedback. While most applic-ants are-stringent about taking this step after writing individual essays; some forget to apply the-same .advice.to their essayset as a whole. Before you send in your application, .be sure to 'assess the impression your essays will-make when taken together. Use the folloyting checklist-to be sure that you have addressed the large-scale problems that can be missed even after diligent proofing of individual essays:

'" Are the main points that I am trying to make evident?

• Do redundancies or apparent contradictions occur between essays;?

• Do the essays present a cohesive, coherent image; and does each essay contribute to the same-image?

··ls the voice and style used throughout the essays co-nsistent? Does it sound like the same person wrote them?

• Dues the essay set support the impression made in the rest of the application]'

CHAPTER 4

Plan Your Attack

EvaluClte'Clsignifi-cant experience or achievement that has special me .. ning to yOu.

Discuss some issue of personal, loC'al. national, or international concern and its importi'lnce to you,

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and, describe that influenc~~

Do these sound familiar? These ate just a few examples of some of the more common questions you will find on your applications. Now: that you have thought about the material YOU want to use in your essays lind the focus you want them to have, take some time to think about.the questions you need to answer for the differentschools, You should already ,have a sense of the main points you want to make and the areas oil which you would like to focus. Now keep in mind creative ways to position your topic in light of the.specific questions. Decide where and how to incorporate your main points into each.

To maximize your efforts" make a.list ofall of the questions you need to answer and carry it around with you fora week or 'SO, Thoughts are like dreams=-they can come to us with powerfulimagery and emotion, but the clarity fades qUickly. If you do not get them down on paper when inspiration hits, you will find them nearlY'impossibleto remember later when you start to 'write.

If you keep the questions playing in the back of your mind as you go through your day, you will be surprised at SOITl.€; of the creative ideas that pop into. your 'mind. Still, being more proactive in your brainstormingand idea gathering will help speed the process. To assist, we have compiled a list of common question types and essay topics alongwith strategy tips-for tackling.each one. Because so many questions are.left open or can beinterpreted creatively; yo~u will be able to, get ideas for strategies from categoriesunrelated to your specific questions. The best approach to take here is to-read through all the sections and not-just from the ones that apply to you.

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ESSAYS THAT Will GET y011 INIb (:'(;)11 F.GE

A Note About Shortcuts-Use Cantton

You have probablyalready figured out that you can save yourself-time and energy by tailoring answers 00. questions for one school forusein similar questions at different.schools. If you are creative; YOU will be able to plug inmanyof your answers into some not-so-similar questions, too.

The possibilitiesfor.swapping data are endless, It is fine to lift whole paragraphs cr even entire essays andqpply them to different questions=aslong as you QO so, seamlessly. Be absolutely sure that you have answered the question asked, Pay special attention to the introductions and conclusions-this is where cutting and pasting is most evident

Thorough proofreading is absolutely imperative if you take shortcuts like-these, If a school notices that you have obviously swapped essays Without even bothering to tailor them to the questions at hand, it reflectspoorly onyour sincerity. This also indicates to the admissions committee that this is not.your first-choiceschool.

Essays About Your Growth and Development

These questions try to find out about you by asking how you have grown and developed over thepast few years. Some ask this directly Others are more ereative.such as the question that asks you to attach a picture' of yourself and describe. how you have grown (see the following example).

Making you compare yourself at two different stages of your life is a Clever way to get you to open up about who you really are, Although you do want. to show that you have matured, remember that "the child is fatherof the man:" Po not overplay what a terribleperson you once were just to make the point of what a great person you are now. No one changes that much in fiveyears. Besides, the before portrait might be the one that sticks in the-admissions officer's head.

Remember the essay from the last-chapter written by the football player? He spends most of the essay showing us about what aninsecure and fearful person he was but then mentions only briefly in the final paragraph that he is now confidentand successful.Learn from this example and show, db not ten, howyouhave 'changed and who you are now.

lastly, describe real events' and scenario's to prove.thatyour growth resulted from the-decisions youmade and actions you took; Significant events andpeople can 'serve as inspiration. Real change, though, always results from the work,effort; and initiative you have put into yourself. Take credit for your hard work!

ESSAY 23: Stanford, Picture of self

When I look at this picture of mys.elf, I realize how much I've grown and changed, not only physically, but also mentally as a person in the

CHAPTER 4: Plan Your Attack

last couple of years. Less than one month after this photoqraph was taken, I arrived at the [schocl'snarne] in [school's location] without any idea of what to expect. I entered my second year of high school as an innocent thirteen year-old whowas about a thousand miles from home and was a new member of not the sophomore, but "lower-middle" class. Around me in this picture are the things which were most important in my life at the time: studyinq different types of cars and planes, folloWing Michael Jordan's latest move, and seeing the latest blockbuster show like "Phantom of the Opera" or "Jurassic Park". On my t-shirt is the rest of my Iife---tenT!is. Midway through my senior year atthe special [school's name] school, the focuses in my life have

changed dramatically. " ,

If there is one com rnon occurrence which takes p lace for everysin,g Ie person in the diverse student body at [school's name], it is that we all grow up much faster for having lived there. I do not know whether this speeding up of the maturing process is generally good or bad, but I definitely have benefited.

The .classroorn hasbecome a whole different realm for, me. Before, the teachers and students alike preached the importance of learning, but it: was implicitly obvious that the most important concern was grades. At [sch ool's, name] teache rs gen uinely bel ieve that learn i ng'is the most importance objective, and deeply encourage ustccollaborate with each other and, ma_k~ use of air resources that we may find. In fact, in a certain class this year; my-teacher assigned us to prepare every day of the week to discuss a 'certain book; there were only-two requirements in this preparation-we had to maximize our sources, gleaning from everything and everyone in the school, butwewere not allowed to- actually look at the book. As a result, I know more about that book than any other that I have actually read. It is teaching methods-such a~ this which ensure that we will learn more. Indeed, this matter of "thinking" has been one of the most important aspects of my

experl ence. Whether in Physics or Eng I ish, I'm req u i red to approach every problem and idea independently and creatively rather than JUSt regurgitate the teacher's words. In dlscussion with' fellow students both inside andoutside of class, the complex thoughts flowing through everyone's brain is evident.

However. I believe that the most important concepts which I have espoused in being independent of my parents for half .of each year, deal with being a cosmopolitan person. The school's faculty and students are conscious about keeping all of the kids'tattention from being based on the school, Every single issue of global concern is, brought forth by one gro.up or another whether it be a faculty member, publication, ethnic society.ror individual student, Along with being aware of issues ofimportance, after attending [school's.name] my personality has evolved. First, my mannerisms have grown: the school

55

.ESSAYS THAT WI!' GfT YOlf 'NTO CPL' LJ' E,,-,G~- E"---- _

stresses giviiig respect toeveryoneand everything, Qur former headmaster often said, "Character can be measured not by one's interaction with people who are better off than him or herself, but by one's interactions with those who are worse off." The other prime.qoel of the school's community. is to convert every single timid lowerclassman into a loud, rambunctious senior. Basically, if you have an opinion about something, -it is wrong not to voice that opinion. Of course, being. obnoxious is not the idea. The key is to become-a master of communication with teachers, fellow students, all of who are a part of the community, and most importantly, those ,Who are outside of the community.

I do not Want to make [school's name] sound as if it produces the perfect students, because it doesn't. But the school deserves a lot of credit.for its efforts. Often, some part of the mold does remain. As the colleqeexperience approaches, I am still the same person, only modified to better' maximize my talents, Although I still have some time to play tennis and see movies, perhaps one of the few similarities betweeri this photograph and me now is my smile.

Comments

This essay is very well written. The essayist makes boarding school his focus, using it to explain and describe how .and why he has changed over the years. Alot ofstudentswrite about-what wonderfulpeople theyhave become.but they fail to. do.a.good job Of understanding-and explaining the forces that prevailed to makethem change.This writer focuses on the strengths of the school itself. He' demonstrates the sort -of - values it tries to instill in its students such as, "Encouragingus to-collaborate with each other-and make use of all resources that we may find, " and "Giving respect. to everyone and everything." Because the writerdoes so, the. reader never doubts <that the applicant possesses all the: .qualities that he credits to the school. Using this method has two advantages. First, the positive, upbeat attitude he has toward his institution is rare. Second, Stanford, for one, recognized thatthis would reflectwell.on his ability to adapt to and bea positive force at their school.

Essays About Goals

You ean.generallyapproaeh questionsthat.ask directly about your plans for the future (What are your career goals, and why did you choose that. particular career? How do you see yourself ten years frdm-nowr) in one of a. few ways. You might already have some realistic and specificallydefined goals, such as becominga social worker or a politician. If this is the case, show that you have built your goal around.a true passionand based .it in reality. Tit: it in with what you have already been involved in and accomplished.

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CHAPHR4: PlanVourAtta.c;k

Most students. though. db not yet know exactly what they want to do for acareer. If the question allows, you may choose to write ab9ut SPIne more personal goals instead. Do you want to have traveled to Africa, or climbed a Mt, Washington, or run the Boston marathon by then? Perhaps your goal is something smaller.like learning to play the piano or cook a gourmet meal. A1so consider-chaosing an overriding theme like philanthropy, happiness, Of success, Then define the theme in your own terms. and discuss the ways in which you hopeitwill comeinto fruition. No matter what you choose.rshow-that it isa realistic-goal and not just a pipe dream. You can eith-er outline a game plan or prove that you have already taken the first steps towards making the goals come true.

Many of the questions in this category are worded creatively" or ask you to use your imagination, This is intended to get you to loosen upand be yourself. If the question takes yoh off YOUf guard, let it-it means thecommittee is looking for an unguarded answer. This' makes lWUlY applicants uncomfortable. They try to present themselves objectivelybut end updistancing themselves from the subject matter with everly long words and a dryacademic tone. This isa grave mistake since the whole point of this essay is to reveal something about yourself, The essayist in the following example did this by- wri~g a fun piece.about her idea of ail ideal life at 50.

Writihgthis-type ofessayalso gives-you a great opportunity to show-the admissions committee that you consider their in!:l;titution to he an integralstep toward attaining YOllT goal. Showthem that you have done your research and have chosen them for specific and personal reaSO!1S.

ESSAY 24: University of PEmnsytvania, busi-ness, leisure, and travel Wr~e page 217 of your 300~paige autobfography.

and that ended the mast terrifying expertence of my life .

. Surprisingly by agl" .50, my lucrative business lost its thrill, and I felt like it was time to move onand experience more of what life had to offer; I had enough of the problems and headaches of mainstream life and decided to sell my business to my husband. Witba couple million dollars as pocket-money and a picture of my family, I moved to Jamaica where stress IS low and "hakuna matata" is the national motto. I wanted to .start my new life fresh. I found a perfect, cozy beach house that overlooked the white.sand beach and the clearblue 'ocean, It served as a beautiful sight to collect my thoughts as the waves methodically crashed to shore. While I was overlooking the sea and watching the red-gold sun disappearihto the horizon, I realized how truly happy I was. Once ag,a1n I felt the thrill of new beginnings arrd the excitement of things to come,

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My husband, on the other had, was still heavily involved in the business and insisted on buikling a pool house with a basement that served as his office. This mock office, fully-equipped-with the latest communication technoloqy.enabled him to spend more time with his family, which was our agreement and our compromise. A night-owl and workaholic, my husband frequently worked from dusk until dawn

My two children, now 20 and 18, are in college having the time of their lives. My sen decided to trensfer to O:x.ford while my daughter decided to attend my.alma mater. With my children away at school, my husband and I planned a year's vacation around the world. Although he inSisted on bringing his mini-fax machine, his pocket computer, and his video-phone oil the trip, he promised business would not get in the WillY, and he kept his promise,

O!Jr flrststop=-New York. I wanted to' rnarvel ln the Statue of Uberty's third renevatlonand catch the revival of the works of 'Andrew Lloyd Webber on Broadway. We spent seven glorious days, in the Big Apple and reveled in aU the urban experiences-that we could cram in.

Next stop was Argentina, where we stayed with a family friend in Buenos Aries, Theqreat abundance offood and its high quality leather are, two things that stand out in my mind when I look back on our trip'. We ate so much food I thought we would be accused 6f the sin of gluttony, put (J.ur only excuse was the fact that our friend served three appetizers, two salads, fcurrnain ceurses.iand tWo dessertswithevery meal. As for Argentine leather, I must say its the finest crafted leather we· had ever seen. My husband bo.ught so much leather in the form of cowboy boots, pants, and jackets, he look like an over-aged vaquero ready to work on a ranch. A$ for me, I was glad I got the opportunity to practice my rusty Spanish while b.argaining with the leather store owner, We enjoyed Argentina so much that we extended our stay to see the fest of the country, hut after a couple weeks of touring, we had to say goodbye to ourfriendand catch a plane to 'our next destination, Madagascar with a stop over in Tanzania, Africa.

On O\Jr' way to Madagascar, we encountered a major problem in

E'SSAYS THAI WLlI:G ET YOII INToeD! !.EGE""", •. -. --,

Comments

This. writer took an unusual approach when answering this question by writing about her future. Most students-see this question as asking about an ineid.~Qt in their past Th~s applicant, though, approached it creatively by writihg a fun. light-hearted piece about her wild-est hopes and dreams. The image of her living it up in the sun at her private pool or traveling the world while her' husband slaves away in the basement office or drags along his fax and laptop (to run the business that she sold him) is quite funny anddefinitely reflects O!l her spark and wit

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C; Ft A P TE R 4: Plan Your Attack

Essays About Role Models and Influence

This type-ofquestionattempts to learn more a,Qoulyo~ through the forces that have shaped you. Many students make the mistake ofbelieving that this is anessay about a person, trip, or' pastime. They go on at length, describing the influencein detail without making.a connection between it and themselves. The school is notlnterested in learning moteabouta dear relative, a memorable holiday, or a" motivational book. They are interested in learning more .about you, What aspectts), specifically, of the book, person, or event made an impression on you,and how? What action did-you take to turn this impression into personal development andchange?

Colleges learn a lot about your values and standards.through your description ofyour mentors, It islike.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 athletecompared with someone-who looks up 1:0 an accomplished but soft-spoken.academic. Neither is better or worse=just different.

There are no wrong answers here. Far more important than who you chose, though, is how you portray that person. In :othet words; do not choose someone because you think it.will impress the.committee, Name, dropping is not only obvious.it is ineffective, Heed this one word of tau tien, though._'Appliqmts verv commonly pick one of their parents. This- does not mean that itis wrong, put it does mean that you will have to do some extra work to make your essay stand out from the crowd.

Some, questions about role- models.aimfor the le-ss serinus.r'If you could-walk in someone else's shoes for a day, "Cir "If yOU could have .lurrch with any person dead or alive," Whereas the other role model questions askfbrmentors, this question asks for heroes. You do not need to be as realistic inyour response-feel free to .locsen up andhavefun, However, always: consider what the committee rnernbers will infer from your choice, Why did you choose that person? Was it because heor she is similar or dissimilar to you? Did you cheosetowrite aboutthatindlvidual because of what you could learn ortoeffectachange?

ESSAY 25: -Wellesle)" lrifluente'of"niother

It took me eighteen years to realize what an extraordinary influence my mother has be,en on my life. She's the kind of person who has thaughtful discussionsabout which artist she would most want to have her portrait painted by (Sarqant), the kind of mother ;who always has time for her four children, and the kind of community leader w.ho has a seat on the board of every major project to assist Washington's

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ESSAYS THAT Will GET YOll INtb COl leGE

impoverished citizens. Growing up with such a strong role model, I developed many of her enthusiasms. I not only came to love the excitement of learning simply fQ'r the sake of knowing- sornethlnq new; but I also came to understand the idea of giving back to 'the community in exchange fora new sense of life" love" and spirit.

My mother's enthusiasm for learning is most apparent-in travel. I was nine years old when my fami-Iy visited Greece; Every night for three weeks before the trip, my older brother Peter and lsat with my mother on her bed reading Greek myths and taking notes on the, GreekGods. Despite tbe fact that we were traveling with fourteen-month-old tNin~, we managed to be at each ruin when the site opened atsunrise. I vividly remember standing in an empty ampitheatre pretending to be an-ancient tragedian, picking out my favQrite sculpture 'in the Acropolis m useurn, and lnserti n9 our fa rili Iy into mod ified ta les of the battle at Troy. Eight years and half a dozen passport stamps later I have come to value what.l have learned on the~e journeys aboutglot;lal history, politics and culture, as well as my family and myself.

While I treasure the various worlds my mother has opened to me abroad, my life has been equally transformed by what she has shown me- just two mites frorrt my house. As a ten year old, I often aecornpanied my mother to (name deleted), a localsoup kitchen .an~ children'S center. While she attended meetings, I helped with the Summer Program by chaSing children around the building and performing magic tricks. Having finally perfected the"floating paintbrush" trick, I began work-as a full time volunteer-with the five and six year old children last June. It is here-that I met Jane Doe, an exceptionally strong girl with a vigor that is contagious. A.t the end of the summer, I decided to continue: my work at (name deleted) as Jane's tutor. Although the position isoften difficult, the personal rewards are beyondarticulattorr, In the seven years since I first walked through the doors of (name deleted), I have learned not only the idea of giving to others, but.also of deriving from them a sense of spirit,

Everything that my mother has ever done has beenovershadowed by the thought behind it. While' the raw experiences I have had at home . and abroad have bee:nspectacular, I have learned to truly value them by watching my mother. She has enriched my life with her passion for learning, and changed it with her devotion to humanity, In her endless love of everything and everyone she is touched by, I have seen a hope and life. that is truly exceptional. Next year, I will find a rie.w home miles away_ HQwever, my mother will always be by my side.

Comments

The topic of this essay is the writer's mother. However, the Writer definitely focuses on herself, which makes this essay so-strong. She manages to impress the reader with her travel experience, volunteerand community experience, and

CHAPTER 4: Plan Your Attack

commitment to learning without ever sounding boastful or full of herself. The essay is-also-very well organized.

Essays About Achievements

Your answerto questions like "Describe a significarrtehallenge you.have faced," and "Describe yourgreatest accomplishment," say a Iotrnore about youthan.simply-what you have accomplished. Itwill show the commlrtee-whatveu value, what makes you proud, and what you are' capable of accomplishing. Acommon mistake made in answering this question is repeating information that can be found elsewherein theapplication. A good student .. for example, will be tempted to fall back on stressing his' or her high G.P.A orSA T. score. A person who has Won a nurnber of awards or aoknowledgments Will try tb include all of them and end up: turning their essay into little more than a prose.list

If you do choose to write.about an accomplishment that the committee can read about somewhere else on your application. be sure to bring the experience alive 'by demonstrating whabittook to get. there and how itaffected you personally. Do not be-afraid to show them that you leel proud. This is not the place for modesty . However, do not fall to the other extreme either-you can tootyour own horn, but do itwithout being didactic or preachy. You Will not have to worry about either extreme 'if you spend the bulk.of your essay simply telling the, story.

Ifyou feel like you have n otd one anything worth focusing on, then remind yourself that the best essays are often about modest accomplishments. It noes not matter what you accomplishedas.long a-sit was personally meaningful and you can make it come alive. U nless specified, the accomplishment-can be professional, personal. or academic, Did you get acompliment from a notoriously tight-lipped, harddriving boss during a summer job? Did you lose the rate but beat your own best time? Did you work around the dock to bring your Cfn physics up to anA? Do 'not think about What they want to hear-think about what has really made you proud,

ESSAY ~6: Michigan, Time-management Skill

One of my most important talents has to be my ability to manage time. wisely, My passion forirtvolvernent.ln school activities has-far .surpassedanysimpledesire, it has become a minor neurosis-All these activities could crowd out my schoolwork, but luckily enough, I've been able to. balance my schedule rather nicely. But what if they somehow happened to coincide, to somehow fall in one day? Be prepared for A NOT SO TYPICAL; BUT VERY POS'SIBLE, DAY IN THE UFE OF (name).

It!s 6:45a.m. and I'm in the shower. Normally I would wake up earlier to take care of that task, bu.t I didn't need to wake up in the morning.

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Five-days and several drafts.after Starting my Kin,g Lear paper I still couldn't tie the theme of justice to filial jngrati~udEl. Solution: pull an allnighter, Inrny characteristic euphemistic manner, I like to refer to the whole fiasco as my way of easing myself into the wonderful wdddof term papers. By 7:30 I;m in my first-hour class, ironically, but

expectedly, bright-eyed, although not as bushy-tailed as normal. After school, I prepare for the rough time I'm about to have juggl'ing all of my extracurriculars. I also realize that I won't be returning horne for ?I prolonged period of time. Boy, do I miss that lunch bourthis year. It's really hard to convince myself that taking extra elective classes are worth corporal punishment, but thinking of the supply-demand curves I learned in Economics, all doubt leaves my mind. Nonetheless; I scurry to the Writing Center for my hour of tutoring . After completing my thesis-teaching, participle-undanqlinq duties, I rush off to my National Honor Society Meeting where I preside over the boardand arrange plans for this year's Special Olympics. I find both of those activities very rewarding because of the-service that accompanies them. Not only do I share my talents and abilities with the less fortunate, but I also learn as much as the people I help because I view my own abilities from a different perspective. I learn to appreciate my talents like that lost lunch hour and learn how to put them to even greater use by sharing them. By 4 p.rn., I also appreciate that the Student Advisory Committee

meets during school. Whrle that forces me to miss class, in turn .giving me even more' homework, I would rather not have to rush talking with the principal about matters concerninq administrative policy and how it affects students. As: far as l'rn concerned, if school decisionsdon't get student input they're meaningless. Nor will I hesitate to put that in writing in the school newspaper. Soatfour o'clock I head into the computer lab an hour late in order to publish the next issue of the (scheol newspa per). My staff advi ser is So mew hat m ad at me' beca use oftha angered reaction the School Board had toward my biting

editorial on administrative waste (true story), so ina .somewhat self.confldent. way I mention that my national award wa,sn;t won by waffling on touqh stories. This issueseems to be going well as far as layout, and it looks like I might get to go horne as early as eight o'clock. So I thoughLlrr that funny wayFate has of reminding us not to guess the future, the Entertainment Editor rnis-sizes an ad, forcing the whole

page to have to be redone. Moments like those make me want to quit the paper, but I enjoy the-writinq and planning of theperlodlcal too much to ever make my threats serious. I also feel it is my duty to inform the school about events thateoncern students; especially unfair ones, and to state my opinion on such policies, Withoutthat service, m'any would be in the dark about very important issues. I view that as a trage,dy,

E S S At S I HAT WI! L...frEL.Y!liLI.H.Wcc..n.u..E..u'.L.._ _

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CHAPHR 4: Plan Your Attack.

I fin-ally le.aVeat'9:30, and return home to eat,studyfor'tdmorrow's JETS competition, planoutdebate arquments.rdo homework, and makeup for yesterday night's lost sleeP'-C'l1l within .a four hour period. So much forfi.nishing that T.S. Eliot antholoqy I enjoy. It's always difficult to put aside somethIng one likes to do, and I still don 't understand how I sacrificed my love for science for other activities; Ever since I perused my first.science book In the-first grade, I've hada love for the subject which only' intensified when I began ,9 etti rig hands-on experience engineeririg experience,from projects, I copied out-of library books.: I miss electrolysis, making devices from meusetrapsand my first-place science.fair project. Stuqying engineeringWDul<:! allow me to P\Jt my interest and abilities in that field to use for others as I enjoy dOing with eVery activity If only I hada University of Michigan engineering degree to 'help me desiqna solution to that problem,

Comm4!nts

This essay's strength lies.in.how detailed andspecifio.the.author gets by walkmg thereaderthreugh 1.1 crai inhis life. He-writes With alight tonethat.somewhat helps-to modify some of his more boastful claims, He manages to talk about a vetyWide rangeof.interests by tying it all into the. focus of hisschedule.fer that day. This essay could have been improved, though, by not tryingas hard-to impress, by mentioning :KiI_lg Lear; the NatiOQa.i Honors Society, tlJ.e-j_E'TS·cPrQ· ~titi!Jn;arid his position on the newspaper. 'When taken-all together; this is apt to soundtoomueh like name dropping. He would have .done better by leaving some.of these out {they are.after (ill, Iisted elsewhereinhis.application) 'and cgg.centrafing on showing more.depth in justone or two of the areas.

Essays About Hobbies and Interests

Qu'estiohs about your extracurricularactivities and interests ("Describe asigrtifieantinterest or value," "Wha.tdo you do' for fun?'-' "Write,;abb.ut a meaningful activity") arelmpcrtant for showing the' committeethat yo:u are a' well-rounded and passionate Person. Show thatyou .are dedicated, funny, offbeat, or interestiQ.g~aftera.u,tlw.se types of traits make people and essays more exciting; Communicate feelings of passion, commitment! and devotion.Whereverpossible, also demonstrate the leadership abilities -'you 'have developed inthese.activities.

As withall questions; you cannot write.any wrong' answers here .. Do not.feel that.you heed to limit yourself to the standard type.ofschool-relatedextracurricularslike playingsports-orhelping with the literary magazine. This book contains: essays describing-a wide-variety ofinterests, Essayist 47, for-example; writes about herpen pal relationships. Essayist 33 writes passionatelyabout.his interest.in philosophy, The writers of both 10 (p:lge44) -and 13 (pa_ge 46) write about debating, Essay'S: (page 43J focuses-on the-visualarts.

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ESSAYS THATWJ.lI GET YOll INTO,e.b:11 FGF

ESSQ.YS About ChUdhood Bxperienees

Some questions directly askfor stories from your youth, such as "Please define your-current personality with anecdotes from your childhood," These essays, can be particularly fun to write, To answer many oilier questions as well, you can highlight a point with a childhood anecdote or focus on how your upbringing has affected who you, are now: 'This .isa great opportunity to tell a story 'USing .as many colorful details as possible. You must; however, remember to relate. the anecdote 'to 'who you ate today.

ESSAY 27:CorJ1ell, Childho'od Anecdotes

Plea$e:define your current personality w;t.~,al)ecdote$ from your childhood.

By unlocking the door to (name), past, one sees his thoughts and actions when they first took hold of his persona, This essay serves as a key to that door-and to my current personality.

The first beloved books in my life were the 'Sesame Street Encyclopedia volumes. At three, I wasn't old enough to read them, but I always wanted to have them read to me. In fact, I memorized the ten volume set so when my parents would skipsome pages I would ask them to read What they skipped. After learning to read on my own, my 'favorite book became-the anatomy volume in the Charlie Brown Encyclopedia. Courtesy of a supermarket book offer, I W<;iIS the only kindergartner Who knew about fertilized egg tells; As I grew older, I continued to read largely because reading taught me so much outside of what we learned in school,

Since kindergarten, my eXtensive reading also originated my various interests, especiallyin science, Living within walking distance of the library, I went thereevery day, enabling me to dabble in a different subject during each visit. By-the fourth grade, I had read all the chemistry books containing fewer than 200 pages, by the fifth grade I was reading about Einstein's Theory Of Relativity, During that time period, I became so interested in astronomy through Odyssey Magazine that I sold holiday cards door-to-door in order to buy a telescope.

Readih'g also helped me in school, A little ingenuity didn't hurt, either. FOr example, as part of my third grade readihg grade, I needed to do some independent reading. Every Sixty pages in a book counted for one star of credit and in order togatan "A," I needed fifteen stars.

I was greedy and saw this as ali opportunity to shine far above the rest of my classmates. Instead of reading many short books, I devoured 300- page sagas by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When everyone else got eighteen stars, the little banana with my nameon it had 45. This inner drive and competition still motivates my work today, but unfortunately, rio, one gives out stars anymore.

CHAPTER 4: Plan Your Attack

Despite .this desire todo my best, I was quite normal, except for a slight perfectionist's twist to ,everything. I too owned a cabbage patch doll, but it was taken away because I cared foritexcessively, On one Halloween, I dressed up as Dracula just likea dozen other kids, but I wanted my hair to look so realistic that it took a week to wash out all the gel I used. Fir:tally, much like any other child, I fantasizedabout adventures, but I took fantasizing one step further. I recorded my makebelieve advehtures on tape so they could be critiqued afterward.

One of the few things I was not a perfectionist at was-my writing.

Due toa lack of self-confidence, I would plan papers well in advance but put them off until the very last minute. This habit continues today, Ciccounting for the transltlon-lacklnq stream-of-consciousnessstyle found in almestall my writing. I just hope it appeals, to Cornell adrnlssions officers,

Comments

This writer undoubtedly made an impression as a child with his voracious.reading skills. He is unfortunatelya.llttle 'too aware of this 'throughout the essay. His attempt to make himselfappear driven and ambitious ends up coming across as a ~ii over the top, and one wonders how such an extremeperfectionist will be able to take the pressuresofcollege life. He could have also done 'without the bashing of his writing skills in 'the last paragraph. This display of insecurity undercuts the overconfident tone of the rest ofthe piece, making, the readersuspect that.itmight havebeen more bravado and it desire to-impress than his true voice.

Essays.About Your Favorite ...

Writing about an influential book, character, or historical figure intimidates even the- best students. The best strategy is to stop worryingabout what the committee will think of your choice and simply be honest If YdU cannot decide between favorites, try selecting aquality that you consider representative of yourself asa whole, Then select a book, "a person, at). Issue.or an incident that.sheds light on this quality.

If at all possible.avoid obvious choices designed to impress: an admissions.committee, like Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, or The Canterbury Tales; unless they have a real, personal meaning to you. Even then, reconsider. Pick somebody you have a genuine admiration for, whether famous or obscure. Support it with observations, reactions, opinions, perceptions,andrefiections.Subjective support is better than objective factsbecause, once again, it reveals something about you.

ESSAY 28: Harvard. Favorite Characters

Of all the characters that I've "met" through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want toemutate. They are Attacus

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f...S...S..A.'(S,IHAT Wtl I GEIYQU )NTO COl lEGE

------"""'--

Finch from To Kjll A Mockingbird and Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams. They appeal to me because they embody what I strive to be. They are influential people in small towns who have a direct positive: effect en til ose a TO'U nd them. I, too, pia n to live in a small town afterqraduatinq from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.

Both Mr., Finchand Dr. Graham are strong supporting characters in wonderful stories. They symbolize good, honesty, and wisdom. When the story of my town is written I want to symbolize those thinqs. The base has been formed for meta live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout I represent those thinqsthat Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I'll be enterinq the adult world, a world in which l'rnnot yet prepared to I,ead.

l'rn quite sure that as teerraqers Attacus Finch C!flq Moonlight Graham often wondered What they could doto help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year presidentof our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, andgivihg. I have seen him spend his Christmas Eves taking gifts of food 'and joy to indigent families. Often when his bank could not justify a loan to someone in need, my granqfather made the loan from his own pocket. He isa real-life Moonl:;ght Graham, a man who has. shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Firtch do much much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in mY'fi':!rt1ily I [eel I have acquired thevalues and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for-a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enouqh, I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledqe, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want toin the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guidem,e toward the' life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.

Comments

This essay is :a great example of how 'toanswer this question well. 'flJis applicant chose characters who demonstrated specific traits that reflect on his own personality; W~ believe that he is sincereabout his choices because his reasons are personal (being from a small town, .and so forth). He managed to tell us a good deal about himself his values; and his goals whilemaintillnmgastrong focus throughout.

Essays About Social Issues and, Current Affairs

Questions that-ask your opinions about.social or political movements or current affairs ate amongthe'hardest to, answer.' Even here you needto stay personal,

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CHAPTER 4; Plan Your Attack

However, discussing an-issue of broad social concern can be difficult, If a cause is' important.to you or you have a. strang, opinionabout.it, rela~)t back to your life. Wh~tabout you, your experiences, or your upbringing has made this issue resonate for you? Why do you care? Does the issue affect you personally in anyway?

Be sure to Write about both sides ofthe issue to show "that y6u can think objectively and logically, Showing that you ate passionate is great; showing that you ate one sided or bull headed is not, One . applicant who answered this question well is the writer of Essay 36 who chose the Middle East peace debate as his focus. He names why the issue is close 'to him (because he is a Jewish-American who debates the issue at his private] ewish school). The-writer presents. both sides with a level head, briefly explaining why he.is on theside.oftheopposition.

Refrainfrom making sweeping generalizations'or'comrnentingabout issues th-at would be out of your range of experience, Essayist 48 falls into this trap when he writes about medical ethics. One-admissions officer-found his assertion that there have been no ethical considerations in the medicalfield until recently to be "simply wrong," "Whoa, boy; Easy, Trigger! This writer dives in way over his/her head" reacts an other. To avoid this response, the writer could have focused more on the experience Of his brother's illness and why it made- this issue personal for him. As' With all your essays, getting good feedback will be key.

Essays That Target the .Seheol

Knowing the schools to which you apply is an essential step in answering any essay, but some questions ask you to write about them directly. When answering a question such as "Why do you want to go to [school's name]," showthat you understand what the school has to offer in your anticipated area of study or-extracurricular involvement. 'Mention specific factors that tie in with your area of interest. Doing this will help you to avoid the insincere, ingratia~ tone thai 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.

Another challenge is finding abalanced yet-truthful tone .. 00 not be cocky or self-effacing. Show a solid, well-researched knowledge of the school. Be honest and be thorough.Jf youcannot.find any connections, you might want to return to C:hapter 2 to gather more material about your schools.

ESSAY 29: Georgetown'" School Target

When I think of Georgetown University! I think of Wi3.shington and world affa irs. I do not know-yet exa ctly what type of profession al ca reer I will pursue after schooling; but I do know that I wish to be internationally aware and involved, and that Georgetown would provide me with a solid foundation for that gqal.

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ESSAYS THAT WI! I GET VO)I INI.0 COil FGE

I am glad I do not know specifically what I want to do lateren, because it should be an adventure choosing which coursel will take in life. Thus, I have time to experiment and learn from a wide variety of topics. At Georgetown, I am present with the: opporturrity to-take any classes I want and to be taught by some of the most learned and dynamic professors in the world, I was once told that in cQllege., I "will take classes in subjects I had never thouqhtor heard of, " and I am very excited to do this.

If I were required to pick a major at this instant, I would choose history. If history were -only studying~ mernorizinq arid regurgitating events', fads, and dates, I would be just as uninterested as most

people. However, in studying history, t get a chance to contemplate ideologies and the nature of human- beings. I believe that Georgetown University is the best place in the- world to study history. It is a school located in Washington, D.C, the capital of the country, of outstanding academic reputation and recqgnition; my resources would be absolutely unlimited. Living in Washington, I would feel the pulse of our world . today. The United States is the world's dorninarrt power and every issue of grea,tglobal importance is brought to the country's capital.

I have beerrtold that although Georgeto~n has approximately ~,OOO undergraduates, the students and faculty alike feel asifthe school is a small, interwoven community. I believe that this sense of doseness is a vital aspect in an outstanding colleqeexperience. We learn most from lnteractions among other people, and the fact that this reputation of faculty accessibility .andstudent involvement=-both in the immediate Georgetown community-arid in Washington, D.C.~xists,is very attractive to me.

ESSAY 3'Q: Johns Hopkin$j·$thool Target

The college admissions and selection process is avery important one, perhaps one that,will have the gre~test impact on one's future. The college that a person will go' to often influences hls personallty, views, and career. Therefore, when I hear people say that "it doesn't matter that much which college }IOu go to. You can get a good education anywhere, if you are self-motivated," 1 tendto be rather skeptical. Perhaps, as far· as actual knowledge is concerned, that-statement is somewhat valid. Physics and mathematics are the same, regardless of where they are taught. Kriowledge, however, is only a small piece of the puzzle that is college, andlt IS in the rest of that puzzle that colleges differ.

At least as impcrtant, or even more. lrnportant, than knowledge, is the attitude towards that knowledge. Last year, when my engineering team wascompetlnq in the NEDC Design Challenge, held at Hopkins, after the competition I and a few friends talked toa professor of dvil :engineer:ing. What.struck me is the passion -with which he talked about

CHAPTER 4: Plan Your Attack

his field of study; At Hopkins, e_veryone~the students; the faculty; the administration-displays a certain earnestness about learning. This makes Hopkins a good match for me, ClS I, too, am very enthusiastic about the subjects I study. 1I0\le learninq, and when -tnos,e around me do too,it creates a great atmosphere fram which everyane benefits.

My enthusiasm and activeness extend not just to' academics, bvt to' other aspects af life as well. lam very involved in extracurricular activities, participating in my school's engineering club and math team, and I love sports, havine played an the varsity soccer and tennis teams for three years. This makes Hopkins, with its great sport traditions and a multitude of clubsand arganizations, a great choice. Further, while in college ,I intend toexplore new activities. Because of my school's small size and dual curriculum, theJe isa relatively narraw spectrum of activities available for me. Hopkins affords a great opportunity for me to branch out and participate' in organizations to which I previously had no access.

Another aspect af Hapkins that attracts me greatly is its student body, diverse and multicultural, but at the same time uniformly strong academically. Since I myself am a refugee from Russia, where I experienced social and cultural anti-semitism, multiculturalism and acceptance of different groups are very important tamer not to' mention that it allows me to meet peaple of different backgra.unds and learnof theirvaryirt:g perspectives. Arid this summer at the U.S.A. Mathematical Talent Search Young Scholars' Program, I experienced the thrill of working in a group where everyane ison the same, or higher, 'intellectual level as I. I think that, given my academic and cultural backqround, I would fit in well with the student life at Hopkins and cantributeto it.

Academically, tao, I .believe lwould fit Hopkins well. Though Hopkins is most known for its medical pragram, its engineering school is also one of the best, :and that is theqeneral area of study I intend to pursue. In high school, I've. most .enjoyed my mathematics andscienceccurses, partlcularly physics, and I have participated in the engineering school, so attending Hapkins' ·engineering program wouldbe anatural extension af my high school interests. However; my interests are not confined solely to the sciences. I enjoy caurses from all areas of curriculum, particularly unorthodox and thought-provoking ones. Therefore, Hopkins, which according to the view book "is geared toward educatinq students in the fundamentals of their field of interest while 'illuminating wider possibilities thraugh interdisciplinarystudy" is perfect for rne,

Of course, none of-those aspects.of Hopkins, neither their great student body, their wortd-renowrted faculty; their research Centers, nor their' dubs and extracurricular opportunities, are worth anything unless one takes, advantage of them. That, however, is exactly what I intend to

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ES·SAYS· THAT WlllGft YOII INTO COLLEGE

do, While many p~ople find the transition to college overwhelming,

th erefore notparticipati ngin the student life fu lIythe first 'year, I hope to phmqeirnrnediately into the full array of possibility and make as much use of them as possible. Though my soccer and tennis skills might prove insufficient to earn me a place on Hopkins' varsity teams. (though

I hope that's not the case.)' I nevertheless want to play sports (It least on the dub level. Other than that, however, nothinvg is set in stone except for one thing:---;to take: as full ,and broad advantage of what Hopkins has to offer as possible.

Comments

Both oftheseessays do a good job of showing that the writers knowthe.schools and have some specific reasons forwanting' to attend them, The first focuses more on the.academic environment and surrounding dty. The-second combines several aspects- such as aeadernics, extracurriculars, and a diverse student 'body. Both applicants a1$0 use the opportunity to show that they would fit in by highlighting theirown interests and activities (an interest in history in the first and math, tennis, and, soccer in the second).

Essays About International Experience

If you have had. some interesting travel experiences or anunusual international background, You may want to use this as the focus-in one of your essays, You will be able to highlight this experience-or background in answer to almost any question. Doing: so can go a' long way in differentiating yourself from the crowd. Show both how and why the experience has affected you. Make the experience itselfinteresting, Use, Vivid and colorful details, as the writer of Essay 37 did. Instead, explain how the experience or background has changed you andwhatvou have taken away from it. as Essayist 32 did.

E~ys About Fa.nrl.ly

Writing about your family' life. and background can be natural and easy for some applicants but daunting for others. Few questions ask about your familylife directly, SQ for most writers it is a choice. For those who do not have 'the choice, remember that no family is ideal. YOll need not have had 1.5 siblings, a dog, and a white picketfencein order to write.comfortably aboutyour family.ln fact.a.unique background will set you apart StiU,this is no place to-air dirtylaundry, U a question aboutyour'familyhas you staring uncomfortably at a blankpage, then stop thinking about trying to describe yOJJr entire family history in a few paragraphs. justthink of two or three 4efining qualities or characteristics of your home life, and use one ortwo specific incidents to illustrate them. After you have done so,

CHAPTER .4: Plan Your Attack

yOU will find that by focusing on the parts, you havepainted an accurate picture of the whole.

One pitfall that you want to avoid is seeming so attached to your 'frunily that'the transition away from them-into college will be difficult. One example of a student who made this mistake is EssaYist 55, \'1 have' always been a bit le_ery,"writes one officer in response, "of essays that stress $0 much the loyalty to one's family. College is a time for loosening ties to-family somewhat, and learning to think and act independently. Please understand that. I am not, by any means, criticizing love and loyalty to one's family. But an: admission officer will want to feel sure that the applicant will be able to establish a vibrant life in an environment far removed from the-immediate fami1y:"Note, though, that the bad marks this essay receivedresultedrnore from the lack of detail and color rather than from thesubject;

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PART THREE

The Essay

Congratulations! You have made it through all the preparatory steps needed to write the best essay possible. Give yourself a pat on 'the 'back; you are almost done, "But how Can that be possible," you may ask, "When Lhavenot even started writirigyet?"

If yoU followed all the steps prior to this one, then yoU should have ,a clear picturein your mind of what you plan to say and how you plantosay it" All you have' to do now is transfer the essay from your mind to the paper. Believe it. or not, this step is easier than youtbip,k.

Writing is difficultonly when you do not know what points you want to make; have not decided which material to use to make your Points, or are insecure about yourwriting skills. If you have been following along through the information and exercises ofthe first four chapters, then you have' addressed the first two potential problems already, The next chapter is designed to helpvou get past the third. It takes you step-by-step through the process of actuallywriting an essay, using plenty of examples along the way. So put your anxieties. aside and get ready to write.

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CHAPTER 5

At Last, Write!

Nowthatyo~.knOw.whatYOt1~ant ~Iy~ay in eac~ OfY6ut'esSa .. Ys, it. Is tirh. 'e to start writing. First, set a time limit of no more than one day for each.

eSsay. The longer your tim e frame, , the more difficult it will be: to write your first clraft.The point is do notallow yourself to' sJt around waiting for inspiration to strike. As one admissions officer-said, "some of the worst writing ever crafted has been done under the guise of inspiration."

Relieve some-ofthe pressure-of writing by.reminding yourselfthatthis is just a.draft. Rid yourself ofthe.notion thatyouressay can be perfect onthe firsttry Do not agonize oyer a: particular word choice Or the phrasing of an idea-you Will have plenty of time to perfect.the essay later. For n,OW, you just need to start.The 11,1Ost important thingisto get.the words onto paper.

Crea;tiIJgan Outline

Theeasiest.way t\lsabo4!.gefll,1 the, work you have; done SO far is to skip this step, Writing is as much adiscipline as' it is an art. To ensure. th at y(jur e,ssaYs'tlow well and make sense, you need to construct.solid outlines before you write, Unless-you conscientiouslyimpose structure around your 'ideas, your essays Will be ramblirrg.and ineffectivewithout.an outline,

Based on the infcrmation you haw developed throughout the last chapters. choose one essayand construct an outline that.contains the central-idea as wen as its supporting points, At its mostbasic, an, outline will be 'as simple as this:

Patrigrqpll 1

Iiitrciduction thatcontains thecentralidea

Paragraph 2

Topi« sentence that ties into; the. central 'idea. Fir$fsuppQrting point

EVidence for point

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ESSAYs THAI WI! I GET yOll INTO cal lEGE

Paragraph 3

Topic sentence that links the above paragraph to the next Second supporting-point

EVidence for point

Paragraph 4

Topic sentence that links the above paragraph to the next Third suppOrting point'

EVidence for point

ParagraphS

Conclusion that reiterates the central idea and takes it one step further

An outline should make sense on its own. The tdeas-should follow logically in the orderthatyou list them. Adding content around these mainpoints should s,Upport and reinforce the logic 01 the outline. Final1y,the outline should conclude with aIJ. insightful thought or image, Make sure that the rest of your outline reinforces this conclusion,

You can take this simple outline structure and apply it to the material you have in many different ways. Look, fat example. at Essay 25 on page 59 written in response to.a question about influence.

Paragraph 1 (Introduction)

Leadi'V sentenfe:~Ittookrn!! eighteen years to realize what an e_$~ordinaryinfluence my mother has been on mylife:" '. .. .' - ,

Summary {)lmainpoint:J: "I IlQt'qnly cametolove the exclternentoileamtng simply:1o_r the sake of knowing something new, but I also came to understand the idea Of giving back to the community in exchange for a new.sense oflife, love, and spirit"

Paragraph 2 (First Suppomiig POint)

Transition sentence: "_My mothers enthusiasm for learning is most apparent in travel." Supporting point: Her mother's enthusiasm for.learning.

Evidence: Learning through travel by using the example of a triptoGreeee.

Paragraph 3 (Second Supporting Point)

Transition sentence: ~iie I treasurethe various worlds my mother has_ opened to me' abroad, my-life has-been equallytiarisformed by what'she has shown 'me jUst two miles from my house."

Supporting point: Her mother's dedication to. the community ..

Evide1lce: Her multiplevolunteer activities such as hetpirl,g at the local soup kitchen.

PQrograph 4 (ConcTusion)

TransitiOn senteKce: "Everything that my mother has ever done has been overshadowed by the thought behind it."

Reiteration of main poinf3:MShe has enriched my life with her paj!$io.n for learning, ana changed it with her devotion tohumanity"

Takingitimestep fi,rther. MNeJq year, I will' find a new horne iriilesaway, ijoWev:er" my motherwill always be by Wysiqe."

Although 'alrriost all good outlines will follow this generalstructure, you can modifyit in multiple ways according to the type of essay you want to write:

CHAPTER' 5: At Last, Write,!

Structured Does Not Mean Stiff

Ybu might.be thinking: "But I am writing a creative essay; I don't need to have structure!"

Wrong. AJI essays need structure=-even creative ones, Being creative or unusual <toes notgive you license to be- sloppy or careless-not if you expect to make a good impression.Ifyou are going to take a creative approach. do it with the same kind of planning and organization that you would put into any other important piece-of Writing.

On a similar note, you db not need to be dry, boring, at academic to appear logJcal and well-ordered, What-makes an essay interesting and inventive is: its topic, word choice. and. imagery=nc; its lack of organization, Remember, the most ereativeand colorful writing in the world=poetrv=is also the most structured, planned, and precise.

Like a poem, your essay does not need to followthe traditional outline.presented above- to be well structured. There are as many different ways to structure a piece of writing as there are pieces of writing; TO' gather ideas for the best way tostructureyours, read through the, descriptions and examples of-some of the basics provided below.

The Example Structure

This is a good structure to use: when you want to· make a_ single, strong point Its-power lies in itssimplicity, Because it allows you to present several points neatly in support of a single claim, it is-especially useful when yOll are trying to be persuasive-or make an argument. However, you can certainly use it in response to almost anykind of question.

For an example of this type of structure, look at Essay 36. The writertakes the first two paragraphs to introduce hisargument, (He probably could have done without the. first For-more aboutthis, see the section "Beginnlngs and Endings,") He. states his position in the last.sentenceof the second paragraph.r'Ladhere to the views of the Likud (opposition) party, which opposes the-peace process. ~ Ute next paragraphaddressee the first example of arguments against his position.r'Ihe accusation ... of promoting war and violence. ~ The next. addresses the second, 'The question of whether they have the right to influence Israeli policy." The fifth paragraph addresses the-third example, being "identified with condoning the assassination [of Yitzhak Rabin]? The, last paragraph summarizes and restates his argument.and then takes: it one step. further byconcluding that the debate has "demonstrated the necessity of objectiveness and removal of emotions from the discussion: "

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ESSAYS THAI W-.LLt GET YOll INTOLUJ...J....l::...u..J=---- _

ChronologiCal Structure

To facilitate smooth transitions, you might apply a chronological approach to your-outline. The-sequence of events will help reinforce flow from one stage of the essay to the next. One downfall ofthis approach is that you may create -ah essay that reads like a ship's log. Be sure that the element cf timedoes notstifle.the 'message you want.to conveythrough the stOr'y. DQ not feel obligated to tell more of the story-than you need to-convey your point adequately,

The chronological method does not have to SPan many years or even months.

Essay 26c(1O page 61 used itto demonstrate.the events ofa single day. Itbegins with, an introduction stating his main point.fime-managementskills, The second paragraph b€rgins atthe start of his-day, 6:45 A M. Itproceeds through to 7:30 A.M. when he is in hisfirstclass, then 4:00 P.M. when he is heading into the computer lab. He begins the last paragraph at 9:30 P.M. andconcludes by restating his argument. He takes it one: step further by-addressing that he wishes-he could do 'even more in one day; He finishes in the-last sentence with a catchy and clever statement, "If only I had a University of Michigan engineering degree to help me design a solution to that problem."

Description Structure

This is.similar tothechronologic~struc:tureexcept that instead of walking stepby-step through increments of time. it follows-step-by-step through a description of a place. person, or thing. An example of this would be Essay 46, which takes the- readerthrougha tour of his bedroom. The-first paragraph gives an introduction describing the general feel of the.room. The 'second describes '!'the room's workspace, my desk and computer." The 'third turns to the "relaxation area, commonlyreferred to as a bed." The last paragraph completes the tour bystePpiQg out (literally) with," After exiting: my room, r would hope my visitor learned a few important thingsabout.me," and offeringa.brief conclusion of what the roomsays about him.

Compare and Contrast

'SOme questions make using this structure a natural choice, such as the per" sonal growth and development question, which asks you to compare yourself now to the way you once were. Essay 28 uses this structure by-comparing the author's two 'favorite book characters to the person he would like to becomeand to the person his grandfather Was. Essay 4oi:s another example of this type of structure .. It introduces a-comparison in the 'third paragraph, 'With one hand on t:hetiller and the other holding the; main sheet, I see tha.t my hands are in the same position when 1 play my bass guitar. Comparisons betweenthe two mesh together in my

CHAPTER 5: At Last, Write!

mind as I realize the similarities between bass guitar and sailing." Aftercornparing the two activities point for pointhe sums up with, "Bass guitar and sailing do not seem to relate to one another, hut I discover the similarities."

like this example: you carr structure a cause and effect essay point for point by comparing one aspect of the object or situation at a time. You can also choose to employ the.bloek method. Thoroughly cover all the.points of'the first object or situation in the first half of the essay and then compare it with all the points ofthe other in the last bali.

Calise and Effect

Cause' and effect essays usually depict a before-and-after experience andare often used in responseto questions about influence, Using this structure can highlight that you understand and appreciate the effect that other people and situations have on your growth, developmentand maturity.

The writer of Essay 2' on page 34, for example, wrote about the effect.that playing football had on him. Beforefootball, he writes, he was "shy, had 10w~If.:eS" teem and turned away-from Seemingly impossiblechallenges," However.his suecessat the game and the "months oftough practices" taughthim "what it takes tosucceed," and gave him a work ethic and self-confidence;

If you decide to usethisstructure, be.sure.you do not write yourself out of the equation. Try to make the point that you were the catalyst between the cause and the effect That way you demonstrate that you know how to take action and ereate change.

Narrative

Structuring youressayas 'a' narrative (by telling a story) is, acommonand ef~ fective method for keeping the reader's interest Your essay will take-this structure if you have decided to focus on a single event.in, your life. A narrative essay can itself be structured in rnany ways. The example-of the chronological essay about time-management isa type of'narrative. However, in its purestform, the natrative essay does nothing but-tell the story; It begins and ends with, the action.

The following are all examples of pure narrative:

Essay 26: It tells the story of'a martial arts competition. It begins with the writer's getting some sleep the night before. The essay follows him through breakfast-and is with him as he-drives to the.cornpetitien. Itclimaxes with the.actual competition as he "drove a: solitary fist to its: mark" Vetyaction

oriented, it spans one day, .

Essay 2: This essay is about attending the National High School Orchestra, It starts With the Writer boarding the plane for Cincinnatiand is with her as she picksup her room key and makes her first mends. It tells about practicing, auditioning, having dinner in the cafeteria, and finding the results-of the audition. The essay continues 'on the.second day with.rehearsals and climax-

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ES"SA'{S THAT Will GET ydIL.LlIN,._T,_,O""-.' -,-C...J..OLLI.J..lkE,>.l' _c_ _

es with the playing ofthe orchestra. "My ernotion.soared.wafted by the beautyand artfulness ofthermrsic, bringing goose-bumps to my skin and a joyful feeling to my soul." This essay spans several days,

Essay 4: It tells of a hospital visit to seegrandmother, The essay begins With the writer and grandmother smiling at each other. Itrnovesteconversation between. mother and grandmother and the writer's thoughts about each. The climax of action is the, writer'S hand moving to touch the.grandmother'sforehead, followed by the doctor's announcement that her tests turned out.negative, It spans minutes,

Notice the variety of circumstances this type-of essay 'can be applied to when comparing these essays. A narrative can, span a lifetime or a moment. Itcan be filled with action or with subtle looks and movements. It does not have to be filled with Hollywood-style action to hold interestThe briefest and simplest of events can take on meaning when told effectively. What makes all Of these essays effective is their use of detail, description, and direction. If you are, going totake the narrativeapproach, learnfrom these.examples, Keep events-moving forward. Describe events.people, and places in specificterms, for-example. she flew to Cincinnati, he drove for two hours; hands knitted bright tricolored scarves. Finally, do not add reflective. conclusions or introductions describing what you learned. Start and end withthe action, andhave everything-take place' within tile context of the story.

Narrative can be combined with other-structures for an approach that is less risky but-still interesting. Beginning an essay With a brief story is the most COmmon -and effective method of doing this. Essayi~t,32 does so-when she begins with the story of overhearing .two Swisswomen talking, about American-culture;

A twist on the narrative essay is one that describes a single place, person, or action ingreat detail. It appeals to the senses of the audience without necessarily drawing on the action of a story. This type of essay has no standardstructnre-> each is differently organized, but all rely purely on crisp imagery and sensory detail. It does not tella story- or build to a climax. When done well, it leaves the reader with a single, vivid image.Single.images are: easier to rememberthan a list of points, qualities.fraits, or qualifications no matter how impressive any ODe or all of them are.

This is a risk): approach. It is best employed when you have to providemultiple essays for one school, .leaving you With a chance to structure your other essays more traditionally.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs are the pillars of the essay;..__they uphold and support the structure.

Each one that you writeshould express.a single thought and contain a beginning, a middle, and an end. Again, this holds true whether you are writing, a traditional or a creative- essay.

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CHAPTER s:At Last;Writ'¢!

Lookat Ess,ay 1 for an example of what we mean by writing solid paragraphs.

His essay consists of six paragraphs. Notice that each one contains a single thought, phrase, or Image introduced.by a topic sentence and supported by concrete evidence or imagery.

P(lTagraph I:'

Introd~ttiQ". It begins with, ~ A creek is no place for shoes," It introduces the essayby describing the: creek,

PQragmph2:

First point; It begins with, "The creek often 'taught me, thingsjit was my mentor," It of'; fen; supporting evidence oflearningaboutmetamorphosis from the tadpoles-he collected there.

Parqraph ·3:

Becondpoint: It begins with,"By the tr~k,rriy mindwas free to wander." He describes hlmselfdaydreamingbythe side ofthe creek

Paragraph 4:

Third pqint. It begins with,"I was. always up fora challenge;" It proeides evidence of balanceandagility games. with his sister.

Paragraph 5:

Friil.rlJt ·pqint.' It begins with, "The creek was a frontier. ~ He describes pushing the boundaries as he got older by taking-expeditions,

Paragraph 6:

Conclusion. It-transitions With, "Years later', I happened to be walking-to a mend's house by wayof the creek It.occurred tome that what wasoncean exp¢ditipti was now merely a shortcut ~ He summarizes and connects back-to all main points with, ~Although I had left this place behind, I found others: new questions and freedoms, new challenges and places to explore." Rends with a closing sentence, "But.thiscreek would remain foremost iii my memory, ;,vhatever stream, river; or ocean I might wade."

'Ii'ansitions

The firstsentence of every paragraph after the first plays the Important role of transitionlng. Art essay without good transitions is like a series ofisolated islands; the reader will struggle to get.from one point to the rrext, Use transitions like bridges between your ideas;

As you move from one paragraph to the next, youshould not have. to explain your story in addition to telling it Ifthe transitions between paragraphs require explanation.your essay is either too iatge in scope or does 110t flow logically. A good transition statement will straddle the line between the two paragraphs.

The transition into the final paragraph is especially critical. If the reader does not dearly see how you arrived at this final idea, you have either shoehorned a conclusion into the outline or your outline tacks focus, YQu should not have to think too much about consciously constructing transition sentences. lithe concepts in your outline follow and build on one another naturally, 'transitions will

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ESSAYS THAT WII I GET y011 INJO CO'I I FGE

practically write-themselves, To-make sure that you are 11,0t forcing your transitions.fry 1:0 refrain from using words like however, nevertheless, a:ndful'thermore.

If you are having trouble transitioning between paragraphs or are trying to force a transition on to a paragraph you have already written, you may have a problem with your essay's structure, If you suspect this to be the case; go backto your original outline. Make sure that you have assigned only one point to each paragraph and that each point naturally follows the.preceding one, leading to a logical conclusion. This may result ina kind of back to the drawing board restructuring; but try notto getfrustrated.Thishappensto even the most seasoned Writers and is a normal part of the writing process.

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Word Choice

Welhtructure!;l outlines, paragraphs, and transitions-are.all an important part of a creatingasolid essay. However,structure is not everything. An essay can be very well organized with balanced paragraphs and smooth transitions and still come across as dull and uninspired, You knowfrom Chapter 1 that details are in" tegral to interesting essays, While adding detail.is.certainly a good. start, you need to know more about.the kind of writing that holds a reader's attention. First, word choice is very important,

Rule #1; PutYQur thesaurus away

Using a thesaurus Will not make you looksmarter, It.will only make you look like you are-trying to looksmarter,

Rule #2: Focus: on verbs

Keep adje~tive~ to a minimum. Pumping your sentences.full ofadjectivesand adverbs is not the same thing as adding detail or color. Adjectives, and adverbs add description, but verbs.add action, Action is always more interesting than description.

One of the admissionsofficers on our paneladvises using' the following testto gauge the strength of your word choice.

The Verb Test

Choose a paragraph from your essay, and make a Jist of every verb you have used. Compare your Jist toone of the following:

COLUMN 'I COLUMN 2
said has met _.
cqntorted can say
complain know
learned are usually CHAPTER 5: At Last, Write!

spreading may have heard
sprang' are
strained is
gripped strive
had been living, may not be involved
had attended try to perform These are lists of the first ten verbs found in two of the essays in this book. .One was taken from one of the highest-ranked essays in our group.fheother from One of the lowest Can you guess which Is. which? The essays were not being graded on verb use, obviously. Yerthe correlation between strong verbs and high scores isundeniable. Think of it this. way: If you had to choose an essay based solely on the verb list, which one wouldyou.rather read?

sentence Length and structure

Another way to analyze the strength of your writing is to examine the pacing of your-sentences, This isa good-time toread your essay outloud, Asyou read, listen to the rhythm ofthe sentences. Are they all the same length? If each of your sentences twists and turns for an entire paragraph, try breaking them up.for va·nety. Remember that short sentences have great impact

One way to determine whether you are using a variety of different sentence lengths is to put S; Mar L (for short, medium! and long) above each Sentence in a paragraph. A dullparagraph can looksomething like this:

MMMLMSSSML

On the other hand,an interesting ~graph may look more like this:

SLMMLS

Beginnings and Endings

Beginning-s and endings-can be the most challenging part ofcrafling any piece of writing=-and also>, in many ways, the most important. Part of the: reason that they ate so difficult is' that Writers tend to worry about them too much. -So much hypesurrounds the.necessity of thoroughly introducing the subject and ending with sharply drawn conclusions thatanxious.essayists-compensate by going overboard. They feel that in order to appear mature and worldly, theiressays must contain profound insights and sweeping observations,

Do not.fall into this, trap! One of the biggest complaints that our admissions of~ ficers voiced were essayists who tried to say too much in their introductions. "Just 'tell the' story!" wrote. one officer repeatedly in response to numerous essays.

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ESSAYS THAT WI!! GET YOII INTO COlLEGE

Our hook containsmany examples Qig()od essays cnppledby bad beginnings. wok, for example, at SOIp.e of these introductions and what admissionsofficers "had to say about them:

Introduction '1

Olthe many fronies which e.xistin life~ on~ stands,out in my mind: the. same in/orinalton whit;hyou tyquldlike to attainfrom othersifoften thi sameknowledge they would least like to divulge. As l;qmpetition conti",uesto grow in all areas, many Who strive for iln adilantagemus,tact tact/ully,anti follow PololIius's advice in Hamlet. that states, '"By .indirIJctions /ind directions out" (II, i, L 65). Ap~rfoct example comes to mind. (Essay 53)

Admissions' Comments:

An.entertainingstory, but the beginning is very awkward, even pretentious, This is a simple story that needs a Simple style of writing. The author is tryirig too hard te impress.

This essay begins 'With an, awkwardly written pseudo-profundity; "What the heck is he talking about?" is my immediate reaction.

I tan do without the gratuitous quote from Hamlet, Please! The question was not, "How many iritellectual push-ups tan you do?" It would have been much better to begin with his brothers pleading. Like this: "Where is it?\! my brother yelled, But.Jwouldn'tanswer, 'Where is, it?" he screamed. I made a dashfer the door, but he cut me off, threw me to the floor and landed on top ofme, Placing a question at the begi~ of an essay {sa,great-hook for catching the reader's attention.

Machiavelli aside, the student takes too Iongto get to the story.

Introduction 2

1 am lflaming) both tHroughobsefiJationS and jirst.Ju:md ~erienees,. that there are m,anymishapsin life whiCh seem 'to be unexplainable' and unfair, anti yet have.devas(ating consequences. Disease fits. into this category. Its atrocity does notstemlrom the/actthai it is a rare or uncommon occurrence, since iI/ness and diseasepeTVClde our Jives. as 'we hear numerous stim'es olSickpeople and come into contact with them eacht{ay. RO¥J(!ver, there is a marked difference betWeen reading in the newsMPer !hat a fama.us ro.ck star or sports icon has tested H.I. V. positive i:in'd discovenng that your Qwn-mother has been diag- 1I0sed with caneet,

Admissions' Comme'nts:

I wish this kid had started the essay with his mom sitting him down in the rocking chair. That would have beenapowerful beginning. In general, using the introduction ofthe essay to paint a.sceneor mood canbe very effective,

\C HAPT ER 5, At Last,Write!

Interestingly enough, both these essays wouldhave been greatly improved had the writers simply eliminated their lntroductiens altogether. This is true in a surprisingnumber of cases.

'What? No Introduction?

Do yourself a favor and forget about beginnings and endings during the first :stagesof writing; Instead of crafting.your introductory paragraph first, just write down ill your own words, for yourself only, themain.point orpoints that _yotiarego'ing to try to convey in yoVr essay. They.should not be grand or-worldly Simple and specific is better. It may be as simple as; "prove that I haveteamworkskills because of'thetirne I'took the blame at soccer practice" or "explain that.I am different now from four years ago because I learned to rely on others during my Outward Bound trip."'Then dive.straightIntothe body of the essaystarting 'With your first point,

This technique works because when you have.finlshed writing the rest of your rough draft,youmay discover that.you donotneed an introduction at all. Isn't that risky? Maybe. Believeitor not, though, more essays have been ruined by forced and unnecessary introductions than by the lack of one, This largely occurs because many de not know what an introduction is supposed toaccomplish.

This is especiallytrueif you ate Writing your essay asa narrative. It might fed risky OJ' uncomfortablejust lettingthe story stand on its own. Youmight be afraid that your reader will pU$S the-point, However, you should make the point in the story=through telling it~not before or after it. If you really cannot resist, then do what Essayist 34, doesand offer your 0 bservations an_d explanations in the COll7 elusion instead of the introduction. This leaves you free tq begin your essay with 'the action.

Ie Title or Not to Title

Some ofthe essayists in this book decided to add a title to their essay, although most did not Essay 45 begins: 'The Key To Medical Advancement, " and Essay 4 begins, "One Memorable Sailing Practice," QUr favorite is the tongue-in-cheek title introducing the humorous essay, "On the Eighth Day, god Created No-Trump?" Admissions committees definitely do not require titles. Ifyou are wondering whether or not to add one to yours, remember the, old adage, when in doubt, leave it.out,

Leading the Way

The most important part of any beginning is, of course, the lead. Leads-play the dual role of setting- the theme of your essay and engaging the reader. The introduction shouldnot be overly formal, You do: not want an admissions officerto start reading your essay and think, "Here-we.go <jgain.!'Although admissions officers

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ESSAYS THAT Will GET YOII INTO CO! lEGE

will try to give the entire €S$ay a fair reading, they are orily human. If you losethem after-the first sentence, the rest .of yOUT essay Will not'get the attention it deserves;

Just as you should not worry about your introduction until you have gotten-an initial.draft on paper, you should not begin the writing process by writing the lead. Often, you wiII spot the lead floating around in the middle of your first draft of the essay. A couple of the essayists in this book missed great lead opporttmities by burying the most Interesting. sentences in the middle of their essays. A good example of this can be found in Essay 48. He begins with the sweeping and impersonal statement, "Throughout the twentieth century, virtually every aspect of modern medicine has reaped the rewards' of technological advancements." He made a big mistake! We ~ow that.admissions officers want to learn about you in the e~say-they are not interested in modern -medicine and technological advancements. The writer .should have begun with a sentence thathe.buriedin the middle of his-third paragraph/'Five years ago, a brain tumor.destroyed my'brother's pituitary gland."

A gopd lead does-not have to be this shocking to. be effective, You can write many.different kinds-of effective leads. The.following lists examples of some of them.

Standard Lead

Standardleadsare the most common leads used. A typical .standard lead an.swers one or more of the six basic questions: who, what, when, where. why, and hoW; They give the reader an idea of what toexpect, A summary lead is a standard lead that answers most of these questions in one sentence. Perhaps the most standard-efallstandard leads.isfhe-one that simply rephrasesthe question asked. The problem with this kind of lead is that, although itis a logical beginning, it cap be dull The' advantage is that Itsets your reader up for a focused and well- structoted essay, Ifyou live UP to that expectation, the impact of your points is heightened, Standard leads are also useful for short essays when you need to get to the Wint quickly.

OIaU the characters that i've"met" through books and motJies"tw() stand. out as people thdt I most w,ont to emulate. (Essay 28)

I am most interested: ina. careerinpsyckoneurot'mm1J-nplogy. (Essp,y 4)

I ha:veleanied a ptat ~anythiHgS from participating in varsity football. (Essay 2)

Creative Lead

This lead attempts to add interest by being' obtuse or funny. It can. leave you wondering what the essay will be about OT make. you smile.

CHAPTER 5: At Last, Write!.

If'jOit like sto1'J'ft$ that dearii pat.h ofthattge and atcsthaMridge comnu~nitation gaps, slidedOw'Lmy hzlnbow into the whirlwind a/my life, (Es:say40)

It. isueird being a, highschool, bHdgepfayet in Lincoln, Nebraska. '(ESsay

U) ,.' , ,. -

ActIon Lead

This lead takes the reader into the.middle of a piece of ad ion. It lsperfectfor short.essayswhere space needs to be 'conserved or for narrative essays that-begin-with astorv

Stmck with sudden panic, 1 hq,S,iily flipped through themany-papers,;n my

trapelfpfder until! spotted the ticket. ' (Essay 39)' . '. .- .

Reluctantly smeanngsunbldcko,vet every etposed inth (jrmy fifty-thtee pound body, [prepared mentallyforthe iJtdu(justask that lay ,ah ead of me. (Essay 34)

Aja(nttwinge o!exciienre:nijfpatedthrough my body that-night. (EssaY 38)

Persor'lalor Re:vealhi'~ lead

This lead reveals-something-about 'the writer. Ins always in the first.person.and tlsoaIlytak,esan informal, conversational tone,

Fot50mereason,my-parentsfeltJhe necessitytoinundate me alii ynung age with extiaC1irriculatactiVities.(J.tssQ_Y 3)

Ever sin_c_~ I was Utile, I'~l/-h~d this (),ve.rwhelming desire. to travel the wor/d. (Essay3?)

It's not thqt I'm a weak,guy, ius,t tha.t I had been somewhat 'sel/-(;(l~cious

about my strengihearlyqn in my'J,ighsch()ol ceree« (E~say~9)' .

Quotation Lead

This type of lead' can be a direct quotation or a paraphrase. It is most effective when die quote you chooseis unusual.funny, or obscure and it should. notbe too long. Choose a quotewith a meaning you plan to reveal to the reader as the essay progresses. Someadmissions officers.caution against.using thiskind of lead because it can seem like you are tryjng to Impressthem or sound-smart, Do not use' a proverb orcliche, anddo not interpret the.quote in your essay, The adinissions committee. is more intere.~ted in how you respond to itand what that response says-about. you,

Within hispoetn,"Sailing to. Bytantium~; William Butler Yeats'speaks of escaPing_fromJhe naluralw(jrld to a land ofparadise: (ESsay 5)-

A Gr_e?k philasopher 01,l'ce. s,oid, "Itr arg~1Jlent, tru~h is. b,orn, ;, '(Essay, 6)

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ESSAYS THAT WlllGElyOI! INTO 'CO) lEGE

DialQ9Ue Lead

This lead takes the reader into a conversation. It can take the form of an actu-

al dialogue between twopeople or cansimply be asnippet of personal thought

What are your intellectuai interests?

Well, gee. I diin't really know. (Essays)

"Je deteste desAmericains," saidthe>old Swi$s woman sitting across from me.

Closing Your Case

: i

r

The final sentence or two of your essay is also critical. Itrnust finish your thought or assertion.and it is an irnportant-part of creating a positive and memorable image; Endings are the last experience an admissions officer has with your essay, 'so you need to make those words and thoughts cOUAt Astandard dose merely summarizes the main points, you have made, However, you should not feel obligated to tie everything up into a neat bow. 10e essay can conclude with some ambiguity, if appropriate, as long as itoffers insights.

U you have introduced 'a clever or unusual thought in the first paragraph, try referring back to it in yourconelusion. You want the admissions officer to leave your essay thinking, "That was a satisfying read," and "I wish the, applicant had written more."

Essay 35, for example, closes with:

Perhaps, one day, many years from now, a weary:young seeker will ventul't: thro~h a thick tangle ofvegetatian to be welcomed by theroar of a Shimmering cataract Withinthe,shadows formed by lheplay·of sunlight on a cascade 01 water, will he an old man, bent with age, sitting with feet crossed; the light in his eyes undimmed with the passage of time. And the qlll man will speak ofhis

oWn voyage to Byzanti'llm. . .

The reference to Byzantium in the last sentence tiesback to the first

Wt'thin his poem, "Sailing to Byzantiu1J1", William EU.tler Yea.ts speaks of es-

taping from: the 'natural world to a latl.d of Paradise, .

This stylistic touch wraps up the essay nicely. It shows that the writer spent time planning and structuring.

Some last.sentences aim to get-a laugh, and others present a single; strong image. Some ofthe admissions officers' favorites from the essays in this book follow:

I had everything I'd ever need. I was -no longerdoub#ng mYSelf among str(lngers; I taas making music with !fiends. (Essay 39)

Und/?rsfanding'myqueerness has become a process, a prQcess of deciding thai my difference will no longerispiate, relegate, or alienate me. Instead, it will

ae

CHAPTER 5: At Last, Writ~!

build me a space from which I can expose the pe1JJersfty in calling someone per·

vtrs'e, (Essay 31) "

Only now; some o/my t/r(tpm:rare jinal/ystartfng to come true as I liv,e vicari(jri,sly through the i"k. tJ/my/rireignjriends; (Essay 47)

Plri,sI learned'two thi~. One: I can pride myself on the smalle,5t triviality.

Two: ['mglad wedon'tmeasurestrengih in ourgy",. classes with the bench press. (Essay 49)

Take a Break!

You have made it through the-first draftandyou deserve a reward for the hard work-etake a break! Let your draft.sit for a couple of days. You need to distance yourself from the piece so you can gain obJectiVity. Wrltihg'tan be an emotional and exhausting procesaparticularly when you write .about yourself and your experiences, After youfinish ycur first draft, you may think, a bit-too highly of your efforts=or you may be too harsh, Both extremes are probably inaccurate. Once you lltive let.your work sit for a while, you willbe better able to take the next (and fiQa1!) step presented in Chapter 6: "Make It Perfect ..

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CHAPTER 6

Make It Perfect

Writing is not. a .. oh~tim.e,.a.cL\Vn. '~g i.S'RProce.ss; Memorable. wn.·M.g comes more from rewriting-than it does from the first draft By rewnt-

ing, you 'WiiI improve-your essay-guaranteed. No perfect amount of drafts will insure a great essay. However, you will eventually reach; a point When the thoughts of others reinforce your confidence in the strength of your writing. If you skimp on the rewriting process, you significantly reduce the chances that .your essay will be as good-as 'it could be; Do not take that chance. The following steps show you how to take youressay from rough to remarkable.

Revise

Once you have taken a breakaway from your essay, come back and read it through once with afresh perspective. Analyzeit as obJe~tivelyas possiblebased on the following three-components; substance, structure.and interest Do 119t worry yet about surface errors and spelling- mistakes; focus instead on the larger issues. Be prepared tofirrdsome.significentproblems with your essays.. Be willing to address them even though it might mean significantly more-work. Also, if you find yourself unable to iron out the bugs- that turn up, you should he wifun:g to consider starting. one or two of-your essays from scratch, potentially with a new topic, Use the following checklists to critique the-various parts ofyour essays.

Substance,

Substance refers to the content of your essay and the message you send out. It can bevery hard to gauge in your own Writing . One good Way to make sure that you are saying what you think you ate saying is.towritedown, briefly and in your own Words, the general idea of your message. Then.remove the introduction-and conclusion.from your-essay and have anobjectivereader review what isleft. Ask that person what he thinks is the general idea of your message. Compare. the two statements to see how similar they are. This can be especially helpful if you wrote

CHAPTER. 6: MakeltPerfett

a narrative. It will help to make, sure that you are communicating your points in the story.

Here are-some more questions to ask regarding content

.. Have youanswered tlre. question asked?

• Do you back up each point that you make with an example? " Have you used concrete and personal examples?

• Have you been specific? Go on a generalities hunt Turn the generalities into specifics .

• Is the essay about you? (The answer should be Yes!)

• Whatdoes··it sayabout you? Try making a: listof.all the words you have used to describe yourself (dir~ctly or indirectly), Doesthe list accurately represent you?

" Does the writing-sound like you? Is it personal and informal rather than uptightorstifi?

• Read your Introduotien. Is it personal and written in your own voice? If it is general or makes any broad claims, then have Someone proofread your essay once without it Did they notice that it was-missing? If the essay can stand on its own without the introduction.fhen consider removing itpermanently

Structure

To check the 'overall structure of your essay, do a first-sentence check. Write down the. first sentence of every paragraph in order. Read through them one .after another, and ask thefollowing:

• Would someone who was reading only these sentence'S still understand exactly what you 'are trying tosay?

• Do the first sentences express all of your mainpoints?

'. Do the thoughts flow naturally..or do they seem to skip around or come out of left field?

Now go hack to your essay as a whole and ask these:

• Does each paragraph stick to the thought that was introduced in the first sentence?

.' Does a. piece of evidence, support. each point? How well does theevidence support the poipt?

• Is each paragraph of roughly the-same length? When you step back and squint at your essay, do they look.balanced on the page? If one is signifi-

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ESS'AYS THAT Will GET yOI' INTO call EGE

cantly longer than the rest, you are probably trying to squeeze more than one thought into it:,

• Does your conclusion draw naturally from the previous p'aragraphs? - Have you variedthe lenzth and structure of your sentences?

In,terest

Many people, think tmly of.mechanics when they revise-and rewrite their compositions, As we know, though, the interest factor is crucial in keeping the admissions officers reading and remembering your essay. look at your essay With the interest equation in mind; personal + specific .. interesting. Answer the following:

- Is the opening paragraphpersonalr Do you start With action or an image?

• At what point does your essay really begin? Try to delete all the sentences before tlrat point

• Does the 'essay 'show rather than tell? Use details whenever possible to create images.

- Did you use any words that you would not usein a.conversation? Did you take any words from a thesaurus? (If either answer is yes, 'g.et rid of them')

- Have you used an active vo.ce?

• Did you do the verb check (see Chapter 5)? Did you use active and in-

terestin.g verbs?

- Have YQU overused adjectives and adverbs?

• Have you eliminated trite expressions and cliches?

-Does the essay sound interesting to you? Hit-bores you ,It will bore others.

• Will the ending give the reader a sense of completeness? Does the hist sentence 'sound like the last sentence?

The H.unt for Red Flags

How can yoil Know ifyou ate Writing in passive or active. voice? Certain words and phrases ate red flags for the passive voice. Relying on them teo heavily will considerably weaken .an otherwise good essay. To find out if your es~y suffers from passivity, hunt for all of the following, high)Whting each one as you find it

really there is

rather itisimportant to note that

CH A PTE R 6, M-a ke It Perfect

it is essential that nonetheless/ nevertheless in conclusion

yet

although I feel I hope maybe usually

have had

however in addition for instance very

in fact

[ believe can he perhaps .may/rnay not somewhat

When you are done, how much of your essay have you highlighted? You do not need to eliminate these phrases completely, but ask yourself jf you need each one . .Tryreplacing the phrase-with a stronger one.

'When you are satisfied with the structure and content of your essay, it is time to check for grammar, spelling, typos, and the like. You can fix.obvious things right away, a misspelled or misused word, a seemingly endless sentence, or improper punctuation. Keep rewriting unjil your words say what you want them to say, Ask yourself these questions:

• Did I punctuate correctly?

• Did I eliminate exclamation points (except in dialogue)'?

• Did I use capitalization clearly and consistently? .. Do the subjects agree in number with the verbs?

• Did I place the periods. and commas.inside the quotation marks?

• Dig. I keep contractions to a minimum? Do apostrophes appearin the right places?

• Did I replace the name of the proper school for each new application?

Read It Out Loud

To help YOll' polish the essay even further, read it out loud. You will be amazed at the faulty grammar and awkward language that your ears can detect, This win also give you a good sense of the flow of the piece and will alert you to anything thai sounds too abrupt or out of place. Good writing, like good music, has a certain rhythm. How does your essay sound? Is it interesting.andvaried or' drawn out and monotonous? This is also a good way to catch errors that your eyes might otherwise skim over whilereading silently

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ESSAYS' THAT WI! I GET yO!! INTO Call EOE

Get Feedback

We have mentioned this point many times throughout this text bot can never emphasize it enough: get feedback! Not 'only Will it help you see.your essay obJectively, as others-will see, it, butit is-alsoa good way to get reinspired when YQU feelyourself burning out,

You should have already 'found someone to proof for general style, structure, and content as Chapter 1 advised. H you have to write multiple essays for one school, have that person evaluate the set as a whole. As a final step before submitting your application, findsomeone new to proof for the: surface errors that only:fresh eyes will see. Give the proofreader thisbookand have thatperson check offthe questions as he or sheproofs,

As said earlier; ifyou are having trouble finding someone willing (and able) to dedicate the-time and thought that needs to be put.in to make this step effective, you may want to consider getting a professional evaluation. ill addition to our Website, (www.lvyessays.corn), a number ofqualified servicescan be.found on the Web as-follows:

Cambridge Essay Service http://www.world.std.c/)m/-edit myEssa:y;comhttp://www.myEssay.cQm/ Campus B9Qnd

http://wl,IJw. inteilog. com/;"v(icomm/campus.htinl The Essay Wizard

http://ulww.northfork.toin/ essaywiz/

Sad But True: Real Essay Gaffes,

YO!1 would be amazed at the things that getwritten inadmissions essays-seven at the top schools. The.followingis a list of someof the funniestmlstakesfound b~ the admissions officers on our team.Remember that behind the hilarity, of these errors.lurks a serious messagealways.proofread your essays! Otherwise, you win get the same reaction that these other applicants did; "It makes you wonder if thesekids care about their essays at all," said one' of our staff. "1 never know whether to call it apathy or ignorance;" said another "but either way, the impression is not good." Then.again.at least they got.a laugh!

•. Mt Elgon National Park is well known for its rich deposits of herds of elephants .

•. I enjoyed my bondage with the family and especially with their mule, Jake,

CHART ER 6: ,Make It. Perfect

• The book was' very entertaining.even though it wasabout a dull subject, World War II.

-r wouldlove to attend. a college where the foundation was built upon women,

• Theworst experience that I have probably-ever had to go through ernetionally waswhenotherrnembers of-PETA (People-for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals) and I went to Pennsylvania fot their annual 'pigeon shooting.

• He was a modest man with an unbelievable ego .

• 'Scuba One' members are volunteers, but that never stops them from tryipg to savesomeone's life .

• Hemingway includes no modern terminology in A FareweU:to Arms.

This" of course is due to that fact that itwasnot Written 'recently.

'. I aJ11 proud-to-he abletosay that J have-sustained 'from the use.of drugs, alcoholand tobacoo products;

"I've been a strong advocate of the, abomination ofdrunk driving,

• If Horner's primary view of mortal Iife could be-expressed In a word it. would be this: life-is fleeting.

• Such-things as divorces, separations, and annulments greatly-reduce the need for adultery to be committed.

• Itis-rewarding to hewwh~n some of these prisoners I have fought for are released, yet triumphant when others ate executed.

• Playing, the saxophone lets.medevelop technique and skill which will help me in the'future.rsinee.I would.liketobeceme a doctor,

• However-many-students would not be able to emerge from the samesituation unscrewed.

• I'look at.each stage as a challenge, and an adventure.cand as 'another experience on mystep ladder of life.

• "Bare.yeurcross.rsomething I have heard -all my life,

• There-was one m3Q in particularwho.eaught my attention. He was 'a tiny manwith ridiculouslyfeatures- all cfwhich.withthe exception of hisnose, seemed to drown in the mass of the delicate transparetitplrikish flesh that cascaded from his forehead-and flowed ever the collar of his tuxedo-andthe edge. of his bow tie,

• Take-Wordsworth, for example; everyone ofhis words is werthahundred words.

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