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WRITING THE COLLEGE
ESSAY:
DO’s & DON’Ts

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE %
OF TIME AN ADMISSION
OFFICER SPENDS ON THE
ESSAY PORTION OF YOUR
COLLEGE APPLICATION?
33%

“SOMETIMES WE LET STUDENTS
WRITE THEMSELVES IN
.”

DEAN OF ADMISSION, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE
“THE ESSAY GIVES US
SOMETHING THE
NUMBERS
DON’T REVEAL
.”

DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION, GORDON COLLEGE
“THE ESSAY CAN BE A
POWERFUL ‘TIPPER’
IN CLOSE CASES.”

DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION, BATES COLLEGE

COLLEGE ESSAY:
DO’s

GIVE THE ADMISSION OFFICER
A REASON TO KEEP READING

Put a lot of time and effort into your
introduction

One technique is to
create mystery
or
intrigue
in the first paragraph

Do
not
give away the whole story right at
the beginning

The intro can
shrink
when you need to be
concise

One vivid sentence
might
do:

My favorite science project was a complete failure
.”

KEEP YOUR FOCUS NARROW

The essay should
prove a single point

The reader must be able to find your
main idea and follow it from the
beginning to end

Essays that try to be
too
comprehensive
end up sounding
watered

down

FOCUS ON THE MESSAGE

The key to an effective essay is to focus
on the
MESSAGE
you wish to tell the
reader

Don’t get
so
involved telling a detailed
story that the important message gets
buried

ANSWER THE QUESTION

Many students try to turn a 500

word essay
into a complete autobiography; not
surprisingly, they fail to answer the question

Make sure that every sentence in your
essay exists solely to answer the question

After you are done writing, ask yourself:
Is every single sentence
crucial to the essay?

VARY YOUR SENTENCES AND
USE TRANSITIONS

The best essays contain a variety of
sentence lengths mixed within any
given paragraph

Also, remember that transitions are not
limited to words like
nevertheless,
furthermore,
or
consequently

USE ACTIVE VOICE VERBS

Overuse of the passive voice
makes
prose seem
flat
and
uninteresting

The
active voice
is
shorter
and
more
direct

Passive:
The tray of food was
dropped by the waiter.

Active:
The waiter dropped the tray
of food.

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