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Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University
Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.
Writing a college essay can be a daunting task. When writing a college essay, there are several tips and tricks to follow. These include being personal and genuine, focusing, being aware of controversial subjects, proofreading and considering it a first date.
Let's talk about the infamous college essay. Now I know it's a challenging fete, how are you going to boil yourself down to 500 words on a piece of paper and try to get somebody to accept you to their college? But I want to talk about some pointers I have that hopefully will make that task a little bit easier. And the first one is to focus. If you only have 500 words that's not a lot of space. So focus in on a particular event. Don't try to cover "My freshman year in high school", focus maybe on one particular thing that happened or one class that you took.
The other is show, don't tell. That means don't tell me you're smart. Show me some of the things that you did; use dialogue, describe some of the actions and let those actions speak for yourself rather than you just describing. Be personal and be genuine. So I know that sometimes it gets beaten into our heads in high school that we are never supposed to use "I" or "me" or "we" in an essay. In this case, it's a personal essay so you want to explain some things about yourself. Make sure you're personal, make sure you're genuine. Use words that you would use, not words that you think the college wants to hear.
Think small; again, think about those things that really add big impact on your life. Those usually are what impact us to be who we are today, so really focus in on those things. Beware of controversial subjects; you probably don't want to do a diatribe on why you think the president isn't doing his job. What if the person reading your essay doesn't necessarily agree with you and you've really just kind of created this controversy? So I would avoid some of those controversial issues. Use your voice; so that means, your vocabulary, the way you talk, use dialogue, make sure it sounds like you coming off the page.
Proofread; and I can't say how important this is. You are turning in a single sheet of paper and that is communicating all of who you are. If you've got spelling errors and grammatical errors all over the place, even if you're not an inattentive person, that's what that says about you. So proofread, proofread, proofread. And then finally, I think this is a really interesting way of looking at it, consider your college essay a first date. So on a first date, what do you want the other person to think about you? Do you want to come across as bitter? Then maybe you shouldn't answer it sarcastically. Do you want to come across as conceited? Then make a list of all the great things about you. None of those things are right to how you want to come across. So really think about what are those attributes that you want to come out in your writing.
Alright, tricks; use personal details, so don't be afraid to tell a story. This is what they want to hear about you. Be creative. True story, one of the best college essays that I've ever read by a student, the first line was "I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom." It was a really creative essay and it really stuck out so don't be afraid to be creative. Do your homework and I don't mean your homework in class which is of course a nice thing, but if a college essay asks you to explain why you would fit in well at their college, make sure you've done your homework about their college so that you can give specific examples. And then finally, draft, draft, draft. Make sure you keep going and keep reinventing and keep creating until you are 100 percent happy with your paper.
And then finally I know if you applied to some of the colleges that I applied to, the ones that had specific prompts, I was okay answering, because I had a direction but there were quite a few out there that just said "Please submit a personal statement." And I wasn't quite sure what direction to go, so I kind of pulled out four or five of my favorite prompts that I've seen across the earth, thinking that if you're someone who doesn't have a specific prompt maybe this will stick out to you. So I love "Imagine you're writing your autobiography. Please share chapter seven." It allows you to get creative and think what you would want to communicate about yourself and where chapter seven in your life would be. "What do you believe?" I think this is a really good one and one that requires a lot of narrowing, but I think it can really reveal some important things. Try to approach that one creatively. "Describe the social atmosphere of your high school and how you fit into it." And that will reveal a lot about what you observe about other people and how you perceive yourself. And then finally, "What space will you miss the most if you leave home for college and why?" So what are those things that you are attached to? So hopefully all these pointers helps you be able to approach the college essay with a little bit more ease.
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