What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?
TO BEGIN WITH...
I) Remember that this is the part of the application you have total control over. (That's good.)
2) Don't write your essay at the last minute. This is an important part of the application. Leave yourself enough time to be able to think about it for a while, talk about it with others if you Wal1t, write it, leave it for a few days and come back to it.
3) Take seriously any specific instructions the admissions office includes. If they ask for a one-page essay, don't send three pages. And don't fit it onto one page by shrinking it into tiny type on your word processor. People have to be able to read it. You do not want to annoy the admissions office.
4) If you have any questions relating to any application do not be afraid to call the admissions office. They're used to getting calls like yours.
FOCUSING YOUR THOUGHTS and CHOOSING A TOPIC
1) Read all of the essay questions asked by all of the colleges you are applying to. If you can write one essay which is appropriate for a few colleges, all the better. Two schools may have open-ended topics, one may be more focused, and if you gear your essay toward the more focused topic you may be able to/want to use it for all three schools. Then...
2) Sit around and THINK for a while. What is this college's question asking? Make sure your essay answers it, but tell your own story. If the question gives you some latitude, mull over various ideas until you hit upon one that "feels" right, or about which you're more excited about than others.
4) Write about something that is important to YOU (not to your brother, mother, counselor, or any of the other people who are giving you advice.) It will be easier to write and will have a more natural voice.
5) Don't try and second-guess the admissions office. Not "what do they Want to hear?" or "what would they like?" but "what do I want to tell them?", "what do I want 'them to know about me before they make their decision?" "what shall I talk about that will give them a feeling for what make me tick?" Remember, you're in the driver's seat for this one.
I) Don't try and cover too much. All-encompassing essays will either be too long or, if shorter, superficial. Think about the things you've read and enjoyed; writing is usually interesting because of its detail, not its generalities.
2) Be personal. It's your application, your experiences, your thoughts, interests and personality. The admissions committee is trying to get to know you through your own words. Even if the topic is an intellectual one, the school is looking for a personal response.
3) Convey your feelings. If you're excited about something, convey that. If you feel strongly about something (positive or negative), express that. Dry essays devoid of feeling don't tend to be very interesting.
4) Don't try to be something you aren't. If the humor feels self-conscious, forget it. Don't force a "creative" essay. Write in a voice which feels natural to you.
5) Be reflective. Write in some depth. Use some detail or specifics,not just general (and superficial, and easy) statements. Flesh out your thoughts. Ask yourself WHY and HOW a lot as you write, not so much WHAT, WHEN or WHERE
6) What you say as well as how you say it are both important. A great idea poorly expressed will not seem so great.
Once you've sent your application in, stop worrying about it. If you did your best, that's all you can ask of yourself!