Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email email@example.com
Whether you are applying to boarding school or university the essay is the piece of the application where you, the student has the most control. This is also the piece of the application that admission offices are the most interested in seeing. Why? Because this is the “You” behind all the other stuff in the application – the grades, test scores, and what other people think of you (letters of recommendation). This is, and should be, the genuine You.
That’s not to say essays are the most important part of the application. Grades are the most critical (what you do every day in school and how well you learn), test scores provide further evidence of your learning , and recommendations round out how your teachers view your ability to learn in their class. So when it comes to the essay, it is really about how you view a piece of your life through the lens of the question you are answering.
A couple of things you need to be aware of when writing your essay.
- Answer the question! Surprisingly many students do not. Make sure that you answer all the pieces of the question since many of them are multi-part.
- Make sure you are writing an interesting introduction to pull the reader in to your essay.
- Remember the audience – admission officers who are looking to see if you “fit” the community, and culture of their school.
- Write in your voice. This is vitally important. I see students write essays with words a native English speaker never, ever, ever uses. Most of the time the word is used incorrectly. Remember the essay is just as much about what you write as sharing your personality. How you say things in your unique way, is part of your personality. So write like you would orally tell a story but without the “kinda, coulda, woulda, shouldas.” Also, avoid bad language.
- Many students tell me that their story is not unique but some how normal. I completely disagree – we all have unique perspectives on the same event. We each see things, interpret events, and engage in a process differently. We come to that event with our own unique viewpoint, which has been developed by our background, family and myriad of experiences. So, tell your side of the story.
- There is a saying “too many chefs spoil the soup.” The same is true with application essays. When too many people start sharing their opinions about the essay it loses the unique personal qualities that make it your essay. Have no more than two other people read and comment. Your English teacher should check for grammar and the other reviewer can look at content and storyline. The other day I read an essay by a student who seemed to have an army of people helping write her essay and in the end it was such a mess that the story made no sense at all. A real shame because the student was a great writer!
- Read your essay backwards to check for spelling errors and incorrect words. Reading backwards forces you to really look at each word.
- Once you have finished your essay, let it rest for a week, this allows you to come back to it with fresh eyes. Re-read the question, make sure your story is complete and compelling and then let it go. You’re done.
- Finally, make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to address each of your essays. You will have more than one, but remember sometimes one of your essays with a slight modification, can address some other schools supplement essay. Don’t create more work for yourself.
I hope that all helps. Essays are the final piece to the puzzle of your application. Make your writing shine and share who you are. Good luck!
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