This article contains three parts:
- Step One: Brainstorming
- Step Two: Selecting a Topic
- Step Three: Writing the
The most important part of your
essay is the subject matter. You should expect to devote about 1-2 weeks simply
to brainstorming ideas. To begin brainstorming a subject idea consider the
following points. From brainstorming, you may find a subject you had not
considered at first.
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
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?
If these questions cannot cure your
writer’s block, consider the following exercises:
If you cannot characterize yourself and your personality traits do not
automatically leap to mind, ask your friends to write a list of your five most
salient personality traits. Ask your friends why they chose the ones they did.
If an image of your personality begins to emerge, consider life experiences that
could illustrate the particular traits.
While admissions officers are not interested in reading about your childhood and
are more interested in the last 2-4 years of your life, you might consider
events of your childhood that inspired the interests you have today. Interests
that began in childhood may be the most defining parts of your life, even if you
recently lost interest. For instance, if you were interested in math since an
early age and now want to study medicine, you might incorporate this into your
medical school admissions essay. Analyze the reasons for your interests and how
they were shaped from your upbringing.
Many applicants do not have role models and were never greatly influenced by
just one or two people. However, for those of you who have role models and
actually aspire to become like certain people, you may want to incorporate a
discussion of that person and the traits you admired into your application
Before you sat down to write a poem, you would certainly read past poets. Before
writing a book of philosophy, you would consider past philosophers. In the same
way, we recommend reading sample admissions essays to understand what topics
other applicants chose. EssayEdge maintains an archive of over 100 free sample
admissions essays. Click
here to view sample essays that worked.
Life is short. Why do you want spend 2-6 years of your life at a particular
college, graduate school, or professional school? How is the degree necessary to
the fulfillment of your goals? When considering goals, think broadly. Few people
would be satisfied with just a career. How else will your education fit your
needs and lead you to a fulfilling life?
If after reading this entire page
you do not have an idea for your essay, do not be surprised. Coming up with an
idea is difficult and requires time. Actually consider the questions and
exercises above. Without a topic you feel passionate about, without one that
brings out the defining aspects of you personality, you risk falling into the
trap of sounding like the 90 percent of applicants who will write boring
admissions essays. The only way to write a unique essay is to have experiences
that support whatever topic you come up with. Whatever you do, don’t let the
essay stress you out. Have fun with the brainstorming process. You might
discover something about yourself you never consciously realized.
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Two – Selecting an Essay Topic
Our Editing Makes the Difference
Having completed step one, you
should now have a rough idea of the elements you wish to include in your essay,
including your goals, important life experiences, research experience,
diversifying features, spectacular nonacademic accomplishments, etc. You should
also now have an idea of what impression you want to make on the admissions
We should remark that at this
stage, undergraduate applicants have a large advantage over graduate school
applicants. Whereas nobody questions a high school student’s motivation to
attend college, graduate and professional school applicants must directly
address in their essays their desire to study their selected field.
You must now confront the
underlying problem of the admissions essay. You must now consider topics that
will allow you to synthesize your important personal characteristics and
experiences into a coherent whole while simultaneously addressing your desire to
attend a specific institution. While most admissions essays allow great latitude
in topic selection, you must also be sure to answer the questions that were
asked of you. Leaving a lasting impression on someone who reads 50-100 essays a
day will not be easy, but we have compiled some guidelines to help you get
started. With any luck, one or two topics, with small changes, will allow you to
answer application questions for 5-7 different colleges, although admissions
officers do appreciate essays that provide convincing evidence of how an
applicant will fit into a particular academic environment. You should at least
have read the college’s webpage, admissions catalog, and have an understanding
of the institution’s strengths.
Consider the following questions
Have you selected a topic
that describes something of personal importance in your life, with which
you can use vivid personal experiences as supporting details?
Is your topic a gimmick?
That is, do you plan to write your essay in iambic pentameter or make it
funny. You should be very, very careful if you are planning to do this. We
recommend strongly that you do not do this. Almost always, this is done
poorly and is not appreciated by the admissions committee. Nothing is
worse than not laughing or not being amused at something that was written
to be funny or amusing.
Will your topic only repeat
information listed elsewhere on your application? If so, pick a new topic.
Don’t mention GPAs or standardized test scores in your essay.
Can you offer vivid
supporting paragraphs to your essay topic? If you cannot easily think of
supporting paragraphs with concrete examples, you should probably choose a
different essay topic.
Can you fully answer the
question asked of you? Can you address and elaborate on all points within
the specified word limit, or will you end up writing a poor summary of
something that might be interesting as a report or research paper? If you
plan on writing something technical for college admissions, make sure you
truly can back up your interest in a topic and are not merely throwing
around big scientific words. Unless you convince the reader that you
actually have the life experiences to back up your interest in
neurobiology, the reader will assume you are trying to impress him/her
with shallow tactics. Also, be sure you can write to admissions officers
and that you are not writing over their heads.
Can you keep the reader’s
interest from the first word. The entire essay must be interesting,
considering admissions officers will probably only spend a few minutes
reading each essay.
Is your topic overdone? To
ascertain this, peruse through old essays. EssayEdge’s 100 free essays can
help you do this. However, most topics are overdone, and this is not a bad
thing. A unique or convincing answer to a classic topic can pay off big.
Will your topic turnoff a
large number of people? If you write on how everyone should worship your
God, how wrong or right abortion is, or how you think the Republican or
Democratic Party is evil, you will not get into the college of your
choice. The only thing worse than not writing a memorable essay is writing
an essay that will be remembered negatively. Stay away from specific
religions, political doctrines, or controversial opinions. You can still
write an essay about Nietzsche’s influence on your life, but express
understanding that not all intelligent people will agree with Nietzsche’s
claims. Emphasize instead Nietzsche’s influence on your life, and
not why you think he was wrong or right in his claims.
In this vein, if you are
presenting a topic that is controversial, you must acknowledge counter
arguments without sounding arrogant.
Will an admissions officer
remember your topic after a day of reading hundreds of essays? What will
the officer remember about your topic? What will the officer remember
about you? What will your lasting impression be?
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Three: Writing the Essay, Tips for Success
Our Editing Makes the Difference
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.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire step-by-step method to writing a good essay.
EssayEdge editors at http://www.EssayEdge.com/
will remake your essay into an awesome, memorable masterpiece, but every topic
requires a different treatment since no two essays are alike. However, we have
compiled the following list of tips that you should find useful while writing
your admissions essay.
You can follow the next 11 steps, but if you miss the question, you will not be
admitted to any institution.
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.”
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
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.
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 officers.
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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
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
Your introduction can be original, but cannot be silly. The paragraphs that
follow must relate to your introduction.
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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
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.
Spend a week or so away from your draft to decide if you still consider your
topic and approach worthwhile.
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
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 ________.”
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