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  Application Essay  


Getting started.

Selecting your essay focus and voice.

Writing a logical and compelling essay.

Improving your essay.

Quick "Do's and Don'ts" for writing application essays.


  • Outlines: Organize your thoughts. Plan your writing.

  • Brainstorming: Write for 10 minutes without stopping. JUST START WRITING.

  • Self -evaluation or self-analysis: who am I and what do I have to say?

  • Quick survey: How do others see me? Who do they think I am? Ask family and friends.

  • Lists: What do I think? Make lists of your ideas or thoughts about the question asked.


The content of your essay is comprised of the material you select to best represent who you are and why you should be considered for admission. Obviously, the content should pertain to the kind of question being asked and the challenge is finding events or experiences that best address those questions. Here are some ideas to help bring alive your content and to energize your style of writing.

  • Refer to familiar events or occasions that are important to you or tell about you and your life.

  • Use your voice--the personal voice--to relate your story. Don't resort to the 3rd person voice and drone on with factual reporting.

  • Ask questions to arouse the audience's curiosity. Pose the questions in your introduction and then use the body of the essay to fill in the answers.

  • Try using a narrative or story-telling approach. This method of presenting content allows your voice to be heard and to lead the reader directly into the subject matter.

  • Provide plenty of facts and details to help fill in the reader about your thoughts and feelings. Be selective and choose only those details that will grab the reader's attention. (Be careful-- too many details can result in boredom and confusion for your audience.

  • Consider using quotations from your favorite literary works. Quotes can be an excellent way to illustrate your points or to lead the reader toward the main point of your essay. Be extra careful to use only quotes that are truly representative of the main points you want to make. Overuse of quotes will result in confusion for your audience.


  • Introduction: Hook your reader. Use a compelling thesis statement.

  • Body of essay: Present your supporting material for the thesis statement. Use well thought out details.

  • Topic sentences for each paragraph: Make sure you set out the main idea for each paragraph.

  • Logical transitions: Move smoothly from one thought or idea to another.

  • Conclusion: Tie everything up. (Without rehashing what you've already written about). Your concluding statement should refer back to your thesis statement at the beginning of your essay. A good conclusion should tie together your essay and provide your audience with a sense of completion or closure. The conclusion is your last chance to ensure that Admissions Officers won't forget you.


  • Take the time to proofread your essay to ensure it is mistake free. Check all of your sentences for spelling, punctuation, grammar and correct usage of words and phrases. Admissions Officers assume that if you don't bother to check for basic mistakes in your work you can't be very interested in their college.

  • Read your essay aloud. Does it make sense? Listen to your voice: do you sound humorous, passionate or reflective? Does your essay have the tone you wanted or is it trite and boring?

  • Have others read your essay. Give your essay to a friend, counselor, teacher or administrator whose judgment you trust. Ask them to check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. In addition, ask them to comment on whether the essay reveals the "real you".

  • Tighten up your essay. Do a 1st draft and a 2nd draft (and more if needed).



  • Do start your essays early. Consider writing drafts in the summer before your senior year.

  • Do show what you mean rather than telling it. Give examples and illustrate your topic to bring your essay to life!

  • Do write in your own voice or style. Don't imitate other authors and their styles. Your essay should reflect your own "personal" approach to the topic at hand.

  • Do write about something you know about and feel comfortable with.

  • Do have someone else proofread your essay for you.

  • Do write more than one draft of your essay.

  • Do put down your essay for 24 hours and then read it again! Look for triteness, dullness, logic, etc.

  • Do read your essay out loud to yourself. You may hear something wrong.

  • Do reveal the "essence of you" in your writing. Show who you are and how you think.


  • Don't use unfamiliar words or phrases you wouldn't normally use.

  • Don't exaggerate or write to impress your audience.

  • Don't shortchange the technical part of the essay. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.

  • Don't go into too much detail. Avoid rambling on. Just say what you have to say and conclude.

  • Don't have others write your essay for you. It is dishonest and unfair to other applicants.

  • Don't be predictable and trite.