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Writing Scholarship Essay Tips
2. Selecting an essay topic
3. Writing the essay <= you are here
Step Three: Writing the Essay, Tips for Success
You may be surprised that we do not address actually writing the essay until
step three. From that, you should understand the extreme importance of selecting
a proper subject matter. However, even seemingly boring topics can be made
into exceptional admissions essays with an innovative approach. In writing
the essay you must bear in mind your two goals: to persuade the admissions
officer that you are extremely worthy of admission and to make the admissions
officer aware that you are more than a GPA and a standardized score, that
you are a real-life, intriguing personality.
Answer the Question. You can follow the next 12 steps, but if you miss the
question, you will not be admitted to any institution.
Be Original - Even seemingly boring essay topics can sound interesting
if creatively approached. If writing about a gymnastics competition you trained
for, do not start your essay: "I worked long hours for many weeks to train
for XXX competition." Consider an opening like, "Every morning I awoke at
5:00 to sweat, tears, and blood as I trained on the uneven bars hoping to
bring the state gymnastics trophy to my hometown."
Be Yourself - Admissions officers want to learn about you and your
writing ability. Write about something meaningful and describe your feelings,
not necessarily your actions. If you do this, your essay will be unique.
Many people travel to foreign countries or win competitions, but your feelings
during these events are unique to you. Unless a philosophy or societal problem
has interested you intensely for years, stay away from grand themes that
you have little personal experience with.
Don't "Thesaurize" your Composition - For some reason, students continue
to think big words make good essays. Big words are fine, but only if they
are used in the appropriate contexts with complex styles. Think Hemingway.
Use Imagery and Clear, Vivid Prose - If you are not adept with imagery,
you can write an excellent essay without it, but it's not easy. The application
essay lends itself to imagery since the entire essay requires your experiences
as supporting details. Appeal to the five senses of the admissions
Spend the Most Time on your Introduction - Expect admissions officers
to spend 1-2 minutes reading your essay. You must use your introduction to
grab their interest from the beginning. You might even consider completely
changing your introduction after writing your body paragraphs.
Don't Summarize in your Introduction - Ask yourself why a reader would
want to read your entire essay after reading your introduction. If you summarize,
the admissions officer need not read the rest of your essay.
Create Mystery or Intrigue in your Introduction - It is not
necessary or recommended that your first sentence give away the subject matter.
Raise questions in the minds of the admissions officers to force them to
read on. Appeal to their emotions to make them relate to your subject matter.
Body Paragraphs Must Relate to Introduction - Your introduction can
be original, but cannot be silly. The paragraphs that follow must relate
to your introduction.
Use Transition - Applicants continue to ignore transition to their
own detriment. You must use transition within paragraphs and especially between
paragraphs to preserve the logical flow of your essay. Transition is not
limited to phrases like "as a result, in addition, while . . . , since .
. . , etc." but includes repeating key words and progressing the idea. Transition
provides the intellectual architecture to argument building.
Conclusions are Crucial - The conclusion is your last chance to persuade
the reader or impress upon them your qualifications. In the conclusion, avoid
summary since the essay is rather short to begin with; the reader should
not need to be reminded of what you wrote 300 words before. Also do not use
stock phrases like "in conclusion, in summary, to conclude, etc." You should
consider the following conclusions:
Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion.
Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense
of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.
Re-define a term used previously in your body paragraphs.
End with a famous quote that is relevant to your argument. Do not try
to do this, as this approach is overdone. This should come naturally.
Frame your discussion within a larger context or show that your topic has
Remember, your essay need not be so tidy that you can answer why your little
sister died or why people starve in Africa; you are not writing a "sit-com,"
but should forge some attempt at closure.
Do Something Else. Spend a week or so away from your draft to decide if you
still consider your topic and approach worthwhile.
Give your Draft to Others. Ask editors to read with these questions in mind:
What is the essay about?
Have I used active voice verbs wherever possible?
Is my sentence structure varied or do I use all long or all short sentences?
Do you detect any cliches?
Do I use transition appropriately?
Do I use imagery often and does this make the essay clearer and more vivid?
What's the best part of the essay?
What about the essay is memorable?
What's the worst part of the essay?
What parts of the essay need elaboration or are unclear?
What parts of the essay do not support your main argument or are immaterial
to your case?
Is every single sentence crucial to the essay? This MUST be the case.
What does the essay reveal about your personality?
Could anyone else have written this essay?
How would you fill in the following blank based on the essay: "I want to
accept you to this college because our college needs more ________."
Revise, Revise, Revise - You only are allowed so many words;
use them wisely. Delete anything in the essay that does not relate to your
main argument. Do you use transition? Are your introduction and conclusions
more than summaries? Did you find every single grammatical error?
Allow for the evolution of your main topic. Do not assume your subject must
remain fixed and that you can only tweak sentences.
Editing takes time. Consider re-ordering your supporting details, delete
irrelevant sections, and make clear the broader implications of your experiences.
Allow your more important arguments to come to the foreground. Take points
that might only be implicit and make them explicit.
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