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::: --{White Papers }--:::

 

::: ---{Writing College Essays}--- :::

 

::- Sample Essays -::-1 Overview -::-2 The Structure -::-3 The Process

-::-4 Elements of a Good Essay -::-5 Tips & Hints -::-6 Final Things to consider

::- Particular Types of Prompts -::- Mistakes -::-

 

::: --{OVERVIEW}-- :::

Most college admission officers agree that a student’s character is the most difficult thing to measure on the application.
College essays are the place for students to reveal their personal stories in an authentic, engaging and sincere way.

There is no one correct way to write a personal statement or to answer a particular essay question, but in general those who will read your essay are looking for a few important things:

1- In any essay questions, there seldom is "an answer."
For Example the question: "Good citizenship comes from good scholarship"   aims at seeing how a student thinks, how he/she is able to put together a logical response, and his/her ability to write.  As you think of possible answers and the answers become quite complex, that is a sign that the answer undoubtedly will be an excellent one.

2- Can you convey your ideas and experiences in a coherent and organized manner.

3- Does your essay provides evidence of your achievements that isn't reflected in other parts of your application?

4- HOW and WHY the events that you describe have shaped your attitude, focus, and, most of all, your intellectual vitality.

5- Of course they’ll be evaluating your knowledge of basic writing skills such as grammar and spelling.

6- They will view the college essay as an introduction and insight into your unique personality and character.

Focus - Turn off cell phones and web applications
Know the Essay Question/Assignment - Make sure you understand what you are to write about.
Brainstorm - Gather any and all ideas
Create an Outline
Rough Draft
Revising and editing
GOLDEN RULE: If any sentence is confusing, rewrite it!

 

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::: ---{ STRUCTURING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT}--- :::

A typical two-page personal statement will consist of the following:

1) An introductory paragraph that provides your essay's controlling theme

2) 2-4 Body paragraphs that develop your theme through examples and detailed experiences and build upon each other. the final body paragraph will contain your most poignant information

3) A conclusion that widens the lens and wraps up your essay without summarizing or repeating what has already been written

 

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::: ---{ THE WRITING PROCESS }--- :::

Writing a good college essay requires a significant investment of personal reflection, thought and time. There are no right or wrong answers--you are who you are, after all. The best way to get in touch with who you are through writing is to undertake a process of self-exploration and writing that will culminate in an essay that will reveal how unique and interesting you are.

Using all the stages of the writing process will help you to:

•UNDERSTAND YOUR ESSAY'S THEME--ITS CONTROLLING IDEA

•ANALYZE AND REFLECT UPON YOUR EXPERIENCES AS THEY RELATE TO YOUR THEME

•CRAFT A POLISHED ESSAY

:: -- BRAINSTORMING -- ::

The most important part of your essay is the subject matter.

You should expect to devote about 1-2 weeks simply to brainstorming ideas for your essay. To begin brainstorming a subject idea, consider the following points. From this brainstorming session, you may find a subject you had not considered at first.

Finally, remember that the goal of brainstorming is the development of ideas -- so don't rule anything out at this stage. See if any of these questions help you with developing several ideas for your college essay.

* What are your major accomplishments, and why do you consider them accomplishments? Do not limit yourself to accomplishments you have been formally recognized for since the most interesting essays often are based on accomplishments that may have been trite at the time but become crucial when placed in the context of your life.
* Does any attribute, quality, or skill distinguish you from everyone else? How did you develop this attribute?
* Consider your favorite books, movies, works of art, etc. Have these influenced your life in a meaningful way? Why are they your favorites?
* What was the most difficult time in your life, and why? How did your perspective on life change as a result of the difficulty?
* Have you ever struggled mightily for something and succeeded? What made you successful?
* Have you ever struggled mightily for something and failed? How did you respond?
* Of everything in the world, what would you most like to be doing right now? Where would you most like to be? Who, of everyone living and dead, would you most like to be with? These questions should help you realize what you love most.
* Have you experienced a moment of epiphany, as if your eyes were opened to something you were previously blind to?
* What is your strongest, most unwavering personality trait? Do you maintain strong beliefs or adhere to a philosophy? How would your friends characterize you? What would they write about if they were writing your admissions essay for you?
* What have you done outside of the classroom that demonstrates qualities sought after by universities? Of these, which means the most to you?
* What are your most important extracurricular or community activities? What made you join these activities? What made you continue to contribute to them?
* What are your dreams of the future? When you look back on your life in thirty years, what would it take for you to consider your life successful? What people, things, and accomplishments do you need? How does this particular university fit into your plans for the future?

 

 

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::: ---{ THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD ESSAY...A Good Essay...}--- :::

- IS THOUGHTFUL AND HONEST
A strong personal statement is reflective; that is, it demonstrates that you have thought about and gained a clear perspective on your experiences and what you want in your future. It does not simply tell a reader what you think he/she wants to know. Instead, it gives the reader a vivid and compelling picture of you--in essence, telling the reader what he or she should know about you. Remember that the focus of the essay is YOU--your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your values.

- STRIVES FOR DEPTH, NOT BREADTH
A good essay is not a list of your accomplishments. Remember when your mom told you that it's quality, not quantity, that counts? Well, the same adage applies for your college essay. A reader will be much more interested in how your experience demonstrates the theme of your essay, not the number of accomplishments you can list. What is NOT interesting: an essay that devotes one paragraph each to a variety of different topics. This type of approach denies you the ability to give depth to your essay.

- FOLLOWS THE CONVENTIONS OF GOOD WRITING
A good essay uses appropriate grammar and syntax, uses precise and vivid language, and does not contain any spelling errors.

- CONFORMS TO GUIDELINES
If the essay instructions tell you that the essay should be two pages long, on white 8.5x11 inch paper, then the essay should be two pages long, on white 8.5x11 inch paper. Less is not more, and more is not better, either.

- ANSWERS THE QUESTION!
A good essay is the result of a writer who has examined the essay question and written an essay that explicitly addresses that question. For example, if you are asked to describe your greatest accomplishment or any unusual circumstances or challenges you have faced, then your reader will expect you to use vivid language that will enable the reader to visualize your accomplishment and share your sense of success.

- BENEFITS FROM SEVERAL DRAFTS AND FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS
Revision allows an essay to grow. Revising is not editing; revising is the act of "re-seeing" and of looking for those parts of the essay that would benefit from more explication, more (or less) vivid language, or even deleting parts that simply don't work to move your primary theme forward. Similarly, feedback from others can help you identify those parts of the essay that work well--and those that don't.

- CONTAINS A CATCHY INTRODUCTION THAT WILL KEEP THE READER INTERESTED
It is important to recognize that essay readers will read hundreds, maybe even thousands, of essays during the application review period. That means that an essay with a catchy introduction, one that gets right to the point and uses precise language and vivid imagery, is going to stand our more than an essay that is predictable and conventional in its opener.

- TRANSFORMS BLEMISHES INTO POSITIVES
It's okay to have flaws! The essay is your chance to show how you have transformed blemishes. For example, if your essay theme is "overcoming obstacles" and you earned a poor grade in a class, but went to a community college at night to repeat the course, it is important for your reader to know this because it is an example of your perseverance. The reader does not want to hear complaints about poor grades or circumstances, but rather wants to know how you have overcome them.

- DEMONSTRATES YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE MAJOR/COLLEGE
No one expects you to know everything about the college or university to which you are applying. However, readers will want to know that you have done your homework. For example, if you write an essay that states your interest in becoming an engineer, but the college does not have an engineering program, then you haven't done your homework.

- EXUDES CONFIDENCE--YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL NO MATTER WHAT
A good essay doesn't beg or brag. Colleges and universities want to admit the best students, and the best students are those who can demonstrate their ability to pursue their goals regardless of where they are admitted. Think of this as quiet confidence--the kind that reveals itself through your description of lifelong interests, sustained commitment, and/or perseverance in the face of adversity.

 

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::: ---{ TIPS AND HINTS }--- :::

- ANSWER THE QUESTION!
You can follow the next 12 steps, but if you miss the question, you will not be admitted to any institution.

- 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.

- WRITE ABOUT YOURSELF
An essay can be very well written, but it doesn’t tell me anything about the writer. Regardless of the topic, make sure you shine through your essay.

- USE YOUR OWN VOICE
The purpose of the essay is to show the admissions committee the real you, why you think and act the way you do, and what motivates you. So don’t write as if you are someone else, use stilted language, or gloss over how you really feel. Be authentic, not superficial. Use a relaxed, conversational style.

- FOCUS ON ONE ASPECT OF YOURSELF
If you try to cover too many topics in your essay, you’ll end up with a resume of activities and attributes that doesn’t tell me as much about you as an in-depth look at one project or passion.
- small is good, generalities are boring, tell about something that makes you you.

- USE SHORT SENTENCES AND SIMPLE WORDS
According to a recent study at Stanford University, individuals who use complicated language are viewed as less intelligent than individuals who use simpler, more concise language. You want your readers to understand your essay. If you use obscure terms needlessly, they won’t be impressed.

- BE GENUINE
Don’t try to impress.
Just tell them what is important to you.
As you’re writing and revising, continually ask yourself if you would be interested in reading your essay.

- DON’T TRY TO SOUND TOO “INTELLECTUAL"
That means stuffing the essay with high-brow vocabulary that you would never use in an ordinary conversation. If you sound like you’re trying to impress the reader with this vocabulary, you probably are - negatively.

- CONSIDER A SEEMINGLY MUNDANE TOPIC
Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make the best essays. Some of my favorites have included essays that reflect on the daily subway ride to school, or what the family goldfish observed from the fishbowl perched on the family kitchen table. It doesn’t have to be a life-changing event to be interesting and informative.

- SHOW GENUINE ENTHUSIASM
Nothing draws a reader more than writing that’s invigorating. When choosing your topics, pick what genuinely excites you. Your enthusiasm will show through.

- FOCUS
Rather than describing everything you’ve done with your life, give a full description of one or two items or events. The magic is in the details.

- ADDRESS DIVERSITY
Diversity is the biggest buzzword of our times. Every college, professional school, or graduate school wants to increase diversity. For this reason, so many applicants are tempted to declare what makes them diverse. However, simply saying you are a black, lesbian female will not impress admissions officers in the least. While an essay incorporating this information would probably be your best topic

- DON’T RELY ON “HOW TO” BOOKS
Use them to get your creative juices flowing, but don’t adhere too rigidly to their formulas, and definitely don’t use their example topics. While there are always exceptions, the “what my room says about me” essay is way overdone.
Share your opinions, but avoid anything too risky or controversial. Your essay will be read by a diverse group of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, so try to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

- TELL A GOOD STORY
Show me why you are compassionate; don’t tell me you are. Show me that you have overcome great difficulty; don’t start your essay with “I have overcome great difficulties.”

- CREATE SOME MYSTERY
Begin with an introduction that surprises your readers and makes them want to read past the first paragraph. For example, if you’re an avid volunteer for the Appalachian Trail Club and you’ve chosen to talk about your latest trip, you could start with a description of the sights and sounds as you move about the forest clearing trails.

- DON’T REPEAT WHAT IS ALREADY IN YOUR APPLICATION
If you go to a performing arts school and all of your extracurricular activities and awards relate to dance, don’t write about how much you love dancing. Tell me something I couldn’t know just from reading the other parts of your application.

- USE ACTIVE VERBS
Action verbs makes your essay much more lively than passive voice, which comes across as cold and detached. For example, “My Botany teacher recommended me for a semester of study at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania” is much better than “I was recommended for
a semester of study at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, by my Botany teacher.”

- DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SUPPLEMENTS
The supplement questions are very important – you should plan to spend as much time on them as you do on your essay. A well-written essay won’t help if your supplement answers are sloppy and uninformative.

- THE ONLY THINGS THAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT TO THE VERY TOP SCHOOLS ARE YOUR EXTRAS, SPORTS AND ESSAYS
And today, every kid has extras and sports. So it’s the essay that sets you apart. Write about something in your life - something funny. You are up against kids with the same grades as you so you need to show them that you’re not just an ‘egghead’ or someone who has no personality. A humorous essay, one that makes admissions smile, will be very memorable and will help you get in.

- IF YOU WERE SWEATING AND STEWING WITH YOUR ESSAY, TRY ANOTHER DRAFT VERSION IN A “DEVIL MAY CARE” FRAME OF MIND
That is, just write it quickly with whatever comes into your head (on the topic) without caring if the essay is good and bad. Then let a trusted person compare the versions. Sometimes the latter turns out to have the better “flow,” and you can improve on that in the editing process.

- VARY SENTENCE STRUCTURE
Don’t start every sentence with “The.” Intermingle long sentences with shorter sentences to keep the reader from getting bored.

- DON’T BRAG
No one wants to hear an endless description of how great you are. Let your actions speak for themselves.

- AVOID ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
Although our language is incorporating more and more acronyms and abbreviations, they have no place in your essay. For example, use “and others” instead of “et al.,” “Pennsylvania” instead of “PA.”

- AVOID EXCLAMATION POINTS AND PARENTHESES
Using exclamation points—especially more than one in a sentence—is a big turnoff.

- AVOID ASKING QUESTIONS OR SETTING OFF WORDS AND PHRASES WITH QUOTATION MARKS
These are generally considered inappropriate.

- BE SPECIFIC
You need to include concrete details about your experiences. Elaborate on one or two of your activities or achievements, showing the reader why you made a particular decision or reacted a certain way. Remember, you’re including a list of your accomplishments elsewhere in your application package; for the essay, use specific dates, locations, feelings, etc., to describe your experiences in accomplishing those achievements.

- DON’T TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR
Colleges read plenty of essays about how wonderful their school is, the evils of war, and the drive and determination needed to become a lawyer. Tell them something new that they may not have heard before.

- AVOID GIMMICKS
Don’t use puns, definitions, famous quotations, flowery descriptions, or overdone wordplay to get your point across.

- AVOID CONTROVERSY
Strong opinions about what’s wrong with the world, what kind of government we should have, or why your religion is the best are a no-no.

- BE WITTY ONLY IF YOU CAN PULL IT OFF
Don’t go overboard with humor. Although admissions officers love essays that make them laugh, using humor for humor’s sake or being silly or immature will get your essay thrown in the slush pile. It’s more important to tell an interesting story and let any humor be inherent.

- AVOID OFFENSIVE TONE OR LANGUAGE
Don’t ever cuss or be confrontational when you write.

- DON’T TRY TO SOUND LIKE A SAGE
Never begin or end an essay with a quotation, proverb, or other wise saying. Also don’t try to be sophisticated by writing about the world’s greatest mysteries. Many students try to philosophize or use clichés to prove their point. This is a surefire path to disaster. No one wants to read about your position on the validity of totalitarianism or read sayings that are all too familiar.

- AVOID JARGON
Avoid computer-related words like “input,” “interface,” parameter,” and “feedback.” Also avoid “actually,” “basically,” “arguably,” and “virtually,” and words commonly spoken by juveniles, such as “awesome” or “cool.”

- AVOID SEXIST LANGUAGE
Substitute asexual words for sexist words. For example, use “chairperson” instead of “chairman” and “pioneers” instead of “founding fathers.”

- WRITE TIGHT
Choose nouns and verbs that are specific as possible. “I raced to the door” is much better than “I ran to the door quickly.” Similarly, “The Chihuahua” is much better than “the little, brown dog.”

Don’t use 20 words where a few will do. For example, instead of writing…"Throughout my years of growth from childhood to adulthood, family members, teachers, and others have always commented on the fact that I am a very diligent worker. And I think I would have to agree with them."

Use…
"I’m a workhorse."

- DON’T INSULT YOUR READER
Let the reader read between the lines to draw conclusions. Just tell the story. Let the reader figure out the moral.

- REVISE UNTIL IT’S PERFECT
You’ll need to rewrite and edit your essay several times before you consider it final. Keep in mind that the essay must be more than interesting—it must be captivating. Let your enthusiasm show through.

- ADHERE TO THE WORD LIMIT
If the school instructs you to write 500 words or less, don’t write 600. And, if your essay runs a little short, don’t feel obligated to fill the extra space.

- PROOFREAD YOUR WORK
Make sure you don’t have any typographical errors. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell check. Although some software programs make grammatical changes for you, chances are you’ll need to read your essay word for word to make sure you haven’t goofed, for example, by using “there” instead of “their” or “form” instead of “from.” Also make sure your intended meaning is coming across.

- SHOW THE ESSAY TO SOMEONE WHO CAN BE OBJECTIVE
To produce the best possible essay, you have to find good editors. Don’t give your essay to your husband, parents, or best friend for comments. Get someone who not only knows English well but can also give you constructive feedback on how your message is coming across. Remember: The college doesn’t know you.

- 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.
* Redefine 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 widespread appeal.
* 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.

*KEEP IT SIMPLE, BE HONEST, USE MORE VERBS THAN NOUNS AND AVOID ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. TELL HOW AN EXPERIENCE YOU HAD MADE YOU FEEL AND WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM IT.

*DESCRIBE WHAT SETS YOUR HEART ON FIRE.

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::: ---{ FINAL THINGS TO CONSIDER }--- :::

- 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 whereverpossible?
* Is my sentence structure varied or do Iuse 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 ____________."

 

AN ESSAY WILL NOT GET YOU INTO A COLLEGE BUT IT CAN KEEP YOU OUT, especially the supplemental essays. The colleges use these to see if you are really interested in their college or just any college like theirs.

THE COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE GAME is a crap shoot. You as an applicant are at the mercy of the “needs” of the institution to which you apply.

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::: ---{ SAMPLE ESSAYS }--- :::

SAMPLE ESSAY #1

ACCEPTED BY STANFORD

When I look at this picture of myself, I realize how much I've grown and changed, not only physically, but also mentally as a person in the last couple of years. Less than one month after this photograph was taken, I arrived at the [school's name] 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 who was 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: studying different types of cars and planes, following every move made by Tiger Woods, and seeing the latest blockbuster movies like "The Dark Knight" or "Spider Man 3." On my t-shirt is the rest of my life -- golf. Midway through my senior year at the special [school's name] school, the focuses in my life have changed dramatically.

If there is one common occurrence which takes place for every single 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 classroom has become 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 [school's name] teachers genuinely believe that learning is the most importance objective and deeply encourage us to collaborate with each other and make use of all 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 require-ments in this preparation -- we had to maximize our sources, gleaning from everything and everyone in the school, but we were 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 as this which ensure that we will learn more. Indeed, this matter of "thinking" has been one of the most important aspects of my experience. Whether in Physics or English, I'm required to approach every problem and idea independently and creatively rather than just regurgitate the teacher's words. In discussion with fellow students both inside and outside of class, the complex thoughts flowing through everyone's brain is evident.

However, I believe that the most important concepts that 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' attention from being based on the school. Every single issue of global concern is brought forth by one group or another whether it be a faculty member, publication, ethnic society, or individual student. Along with being aware of issues of importance, after attending [school's name] my personality has evolved. First, my mannerisms have grown: the school stresses giving respect to everyone and everything. Our 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 goal of the school's community is to convert every single timid lower-classman 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 college experience 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 between this photograph and me now is my smile.

ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE COMMENTS:
This essay is fairly well written. The essayist makes boarding school his focus, using it to explain and describe how and why he has changed over the years. A lot of students write about what wonderful people they have become, but they fail to do a good job of understanding and explaining the forces that prevailed to make them 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, "Encouraging us to collaborate with each other and make use of all resources that we may find," and "Giving respect to everyone and everything." Because the writer does 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 that this would reflect well on his ability to adapt to and be a positive force at their school.

 

SAMPLE ESSAY #2

ACCEPTED BY HARVARD

Of all the characters that I've "met" through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want to emulate. They are Attacus Finch from To Kill 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 on those around them. I, too, plan to live in a small town after graduating from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.

Both Mr. Finch and 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 things. The base has been formed for me to live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout, I represent those things that Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I' ll be entering the adult world, a world in which I' m not yet prepared to lead.

I' m quite sure that as teenagers Attacus Finch and Moonlight Graham often wondered what they could do to help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year president of our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, and giving. 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 grandfather made the loan from his own pocket. He is a real-life Moonlight Graham, a man who has shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Finch do much much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in my family I feel I have acquired the values and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enough. I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want to in the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guide me toward the life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.

ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE COMMENTS:
This essay is a great example of how to answer this question well. This applicant chose characters who demonstrated specific traits that reflect on his own personality. We believe that he is sincere about 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 while maintaining a strong focus throughout.


Sample Essay #3

Accepted by Wellesley

It took me eighteen years to realize what an extraordinary influence my mother has been on my life. She's the kind of person who has thoughtful discussions about which artist she would most want to have her portrait painted by (Sargent), the kind of mother who always has time for her four children, and the kind of community leader who has a seat on the board of every major project to assist Washington's 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 for 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 of life, love, and spirit.

My mother's enthusiasm for learning is most apparent in travel. I was nine years old when my family visited Greece. Every night for three weeks before the trip, my older brother Peter and I sat with my mother on her bed reading Greek myths and taking notes on the Greek Gods. Despite the fact that we were traveling with fourteen-month-old twins, we managed to be at each ruin when the site opened at sunrise. I vividly remember standing in an empty ampitheatre pretending to be an ancient tragedian, picking out my favorite sculpture in the Acropolis museum, and inserting our family into modified tales of the battle at Troy. Eight years and half a dozen passport stamps later I have come to value what I have learned on these journeys about global 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 miles from my house. As a ten year old, I often accompanied my mother to (name deleted), a local soup kitchen and 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. At the end of the summer, I decided to continue my work at (name deleted) as Jane’s tutor. Although the position is often difficult, the personal rewards are beyond articulation. 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 been overshadowed by the thought behind it. While the raw experiences I have had at home and abroad have been spectacular, 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 new home miles away. However, my mother will always be by my side.

ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE 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, volunteer and community experience, and commitment to learning without ever sounding boastful or full of herself. The essay is also very well organized.

 

SAMPLE ESSAY #4

ACCEPTED BY CORNELL

Question: Tell us about an opinion have you had to defend. How has this affected your belief system?

I chuckle to myself every time I think about this topic. I am perceived as a mild-mannered, intelligent individual until I mention that I am involved in riflery. It is interesting to watch someone's expression change. It is as if I instantaneously grew a pair of horns and a sharp set of claws. Believe me this gets worst; I am a member of the NRA. I try to tell these folks that I belong to the NRA to fire my rifle. "Oh my God! You fire real guns? with real bullets?!?" they remark with a perplexed look on their face. Besides having horns and claws, I now possess a tail and leathery wings.

This is how it began five years ago. I had played on a soccer team for several years. As I grew older I began having difficulty playing soccer because of shortness of breath. I was diagnosed as having mild asthma which ended my soccer career and eliminated my participation in most physical sports.

Shortly afterward, during a Boy Scout summer camp, I participated in riflery at their shooting range. This was the first time I had ever touched a firearm. To my amazement, I won the camp's first place award for marksmanship. I was more than eager when a friend of mine asked me if I would like to join a shooting club.

My parents were wary when I asked to join the rifle club. My mother feared guns, but my father felt there was no problem with trying this sport. Gratefully, he gave me the opportunity to try rifle marksmanship, despite secretly hoping that I would quit. Both of my parents were afraid of what people would think about their son's involvement with guns.

Like my parents a majority of people believe that all firearms are dangerous to our society. All they remember are the hysterical news releases of street violence and injured children. I am often asked how many deer I've shot. Frankly, I could never bring myself to injure another living creature and neither would most of the competitors I have met. Yet, I keep finding myself defending the sport from all of the misconceptions that surround it. Most people have developed a negative impression of the sport and I have found that these prejudices are difficult, if not impossible, to rectify.

Because of this conflict, I have become an open minded individual. I express my opinions without reservation, and I have learned to accept opinions and viewpoints contrary to my own. I do not intend to alter what I enjoy because of the ignorance of friends and acquaintances. If people have a negative view of me simply because of the sport I am active in, then they must be so superficial that they cannot see the person who I really am. I am no longer apprehensive of being perceived as a gun toting, trigger happy fanatic, even though I still endeavor to educate my friends and relatives on the beauty of this sport.

 

SAMPLE ESSAY #5

ACCEPTED BY PRINCETON

Hiking to Understanding

Surrounded by thousands of stars, complete silence, and spectacular mountains, I stood atop New Hampshire's Presidential Range awestruck by nature's beauty. Immediately, I realized that I must dedicate my life to understanding the causes of the universe's beauty. In addition, the hike taught me several valuable lessons that will allow me to increase my understanding through scientific research.

Although the first few miles of the hike up Mt. Madison did not offer fantastic views, the vistas became spectacular once I climbed above tree line. Immediately, I sensed that understanding the natural world parallels climbing a mountain. To reach my goal of total comprehension of natural phenomena, I realized that I must begin with knowledge that may be uninteresting by itself. However, this knowledge will form the foundation of an accurate view of the universe. Much like every step while hiking leads the hiker nearer the mountain peak, all knowledge leads the scientist nearer total understanding.

Above tree line, the barrenness and silence of the hike taught me that individuals must have their own direction. All hikers know that they must carry complete maps to reach their destinations; they do not allow others to hold their maps for them. Similarly, surrounded only by mountaintops, sky, and silence, I recognized the need to remain individually focused on my life's goal of understanding the physical universe.

At the summit, the view of the surrounding mountain range is spectacular. The panorama offers a view of hills and smaller mountains. Some people during their lives climb many small hills. However, to have the most accurate view of the world, I must be dedicated to climbing the biggest mountains I can find. Too often people simply hike across a flat valley without ascending because they content themselves with the scenery. The mountain showed me that I cannot content myself with the scenery.

When night fell upon the summit, I stared at the slowly appearing stars until they completely filled the night sky. Despite the windy conditions and below freezing temperatures, I could not tear myself away from the awe-inspiring beauty of the cosmos. Similarly, despite the frustration and difficulties inherent in scientific study, I cannot retreat from my goal of universal understanding.

When observing Saturn's rising, the Milky Way Cloud, and the Perseid meteor shower, I simultaneously felt a great sense of insignificance and purpose. Obviously, earthly concerns are insignificant to the rest of the universe. However, I experienced the overriding need to understand the origins and causes of these phenomena. The hike also strengthened my resolve to climb the mountain of knowledge while still taking time to gaze at the wondrous scenery. Only then can the beauty of the universe and the study of science be purposefully united. Attaining this union is my lifelong goal.


::: ---{ Types of Prompts and How to Address Them }--- :::

1- Prompt: Why I want to go to Your College Essay

This prompt is asking two questions.

1- What do you like and really know about the college

2- Why is this college good for you

Tips:
- Write more than a few sentances, 25 to 300 words typically.
- You do not need a thesis statement, introduction or conclusion.
- To answer this type of essay question you must know yourself and know the college you are applying to.
- List at least five things you want in a college
- Research the college

Writing the Essay: Group 4 or 5 things you like about the college that you can describe and match them up with things you want in a college

::: ---{ Mistakes }--- :::

1. Vague Language - Don't be generic & don't lack detail
2. Length -
Don't make it too long
3. Lack of Focus --
Be sure to answer the question and give specifics
4. Faulty Tone --
Don't sound like a privileged snob
5. Faulty Tone --
Don't sound too materialistic or money hungry

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

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