I was a pretty awful writer during the dark days of middle and early high school. For a long time, I thought the heavier and flashier the vocabularies, the better the essay- so for a brief period of time, I replaced the word "support" with "buttress" in all aspects of my life. "A prime example that buttresses the argument is," I would write in all my essays in my 8th grade English class, before Mr. Campbell finally pulled me aside and asked me if I'm using that word constantly because it has the word butt in it.
It turned out that the thesaurus wasn't the key to Mr. Campbell's heart or the path to an A. Luckily, I figured out how to write better essays as high school went on and I continued to improve on how to write a killer college admission essay as I finished my studies at Harvard and helped other high school students with their applications. And no, I have not used the word buttress in a writing piece since middle school...until this newsletter.
Think of the last great movie you watched, or the last fantastic book you read, or the last 12 seasons long TV show you binge watched- what made them so great? A good story.
We are captivated by interesting anecdotes and we are fascinated by intriguing tales- that's the key to writing a great essay. We are naturally drawn to stories; as such, your essays should contain as many interesting stories as possible. Imagine you are the admission officer and you have to read two essays in response to the prompt "What was your most meaningful extracurricular activity, and what did you learn from it?". One of the essays lists the date and time, number of people attending, all the traits the applicant gained from the camp, and how that made him want to pursue soccer in high school; the other essay tells a story on how the applicant and teammates were stranded on a boat during a camping trip and worked together to survive through the night. Which one would you rather read?
But choosing what kind of story may be difficult, as all of our moments are essentially stories that we can write about. So how does one decide what kind of story to tell? EmpiricEdge's rule of thumb is PMU: Personal, Meaningful, Unique. The personal component brings you closer to the admission officers on an emotional level; the unique component helps you stand out among the other applicants; the meaningful component bridges your story to whatever prompt or question they are asking you. Go through your past activities, go through the most memorable moments in your life, go through some of the saddest and happiest snapshots of your life, and think about which of those would be relevant and can be tied to which essay. Not only will the essay feel easier to write for you, it will also be much more enjoyable to digest for the reader.
Think of the number of essays that an admission officer or scholarship judge read through on a daily basis- make yourself stand out by including a PMU story in your essay.
As the scholarships and Regular Admissions deadlines are fast approaching, I would like to once again extend our services to you- we help you polish your Common App essays, scholarship essays, supplemental essays, and resume. We also offer a comprehensive package that will walk you through every step of the process if you are still underprepared and overwhelmed. Contact us for a free consultation!
Our affordable and flexible tutors are also available to help you get that dream SAT/ACT score. Our published book is a great resource for any of you stressing about what to write for the Common App & Supplemental essays.