Finding the Diamond in the Mud: the College Admissions Essay – Part 2

 Finding the Diamond in the Mud: the College Admissions Essay    Part 2Now that you know the purpose of the essay http://www.marileejones.com/2012/09/04/finding-the-diamond-in-the-mud-the-college-essay-part-1/(it signals important information about the writer as well as how well the writer can write and therefore think), it’s time to proceed to the actual product.   Here’s how to do the most effective essay.

Once the student’s ‘pulse’ has been identified, the essay can be constructed, using 2-3 examples of how they have reflected that characteristic in their life.

So if the student is a natural explorer by nature – willing to step out in independence and take calculated risks – remind them of specific times they showed that aspect.  Perhaps they made an effort on their own to learn woodworking or hike across Alaska.  The essay should focus on their natural expression toward exploring and contain 2-3 examples of how they have shown that.   Or if the student is a natural engineer, look for 2-3 anecdotes to describe how they know that.

The essay is most effective when it contains specific examples or stories to illustrate a point.  Admissions officers remember the stories, not all the adjectives and blahblahblah.  Stories are what make the student come alive for the reader.

I caution about one of the typical essay topics.  Students often feel safer talking about others, which is why there is usually an essay option to write about someone who has impacted the writer.  While it seems to offer some respite from self-disclosure, this topic is an opportunity lost to all but the most savvy of students.  The reader wants to know about the writer.  Period.  Not about Sartre or Grandma or Mr. Foster the American History teacher.   Students should only pick this topic if they remember this and genuinely do write about themselves.  Otherwise the opportunity is lost.

Advice to students:  Just start writing.

Don’t wait to find your opening sentence.  It will surface naturally.

If you are like me, you’ll start with what turns out to be your second sentence.  It’s funny how it works out that way.  Everyone’s writing process is different.  The whole college admissions process is designed to help you get to know your process in a deeper way, so try to see the bigger picture here.

Just start writing and remember that it will come together in the editing process, just as any creation has iterations as you shape it.  Give it time.  Whatever you do, don’t pound it out and send it off on the same day.  A good essay needs lots of thoughtful edits if you are to communicate skillfully that you are a great match for a particular college.

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