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College & Scholarship Essay Writing Tips

Tips for Writing College Admission & Scholarship Essays

Students registered in the John Baylor Test Prep (JBTP) program can view a 7-minute video from John on how to write college admission and scholarship essays. Mrs. Rossman. can register them if they do not already have at home JBTP access. Just ask for help. It will be well worth 7 minutes of your time!

In the meantime, here’s a summary of John’s four tips:

  1. JB states that you have to find a topic that you are passionate about & spills right out of you.
  2. Be SPECIFIC! You must give details, examples and avoid clichés. Also avoid generalities. Rather, zero in on a specific example and bring it to life for the reader.
  3. Less is more. Be economical with your words (fewer words is always better) but also have a narrow focus. Being too broad sets you up for failure. The scope of the essay should be very specific. John’s example was writing your essay about your dining room table and sharing the momentous events that happened there. Focus on a moment in time or a single object (your doorknob) and then ‘reveal yourself’ through that narrow scope.
  4. Show don’t tell! John says this is probably the toughest of them all but VERY important! Take the reader to the moment and put them in your shoes when you discovered something about yourself. Bring it alive through your words and take us to that event in your life.

Mrs. K’s Essay tips:

  1. Answer the prompt! Your essay can be AWESOME but if you did not take the time to write an essay for that particular prompt, they will notice and may even throw out your entire application.
  2. Put in the time necessary. If you are not going to write and rewrite, then consider not even applying. You only have so much time and it is better to complete fewer applications and write fewer essays REALLY well rather than rushing through many of them.
    1. You only have so much time. Application for admission essays are critical and your acceptance to a selective college likely depends upon them so put in the time. When it comes to scholarships, pick your scholarships wisely and put in the time to do each one as well as you can. Remember, the harder the application, the fewer students will try so having an essay requirement could play into your favor if you put in the time.
  3. Don’t Do not use contractions in formal writing! While essay rules have loosened with time, you’re you are likely going to have some ‘old school’ evaluators so play it safe. Just remember that you can’t cannot use contractions in formal writing!
    1. The same theory holds true for what you end a sentence with. with what you end a sentence. Do not end sentences with a preposition. We talk and write informally but an ‘old school’ evaluator had this rule drilled into his or her head so avoid ending sentences with words like: over, under, with, through, etc.
  4. Pick your words carefully! Make your word choice really matter. This fits with John’s less is more. Fewer, more impactful words will create a stronger impression. That said, make sure your essay sounds like you. If you are simply looking for ‘power words’ in a thesaurus that you would never use or that do not fit the context of your sentence or essay, this will detract from the total effect.
  5. Use your introduction to draw me in. Make me want to read more. You want your reader to get so engrossed in your tale that they will be sorry to have your essay end. After spending hours reading ho hum essays, have yours be the one that gets them excited again!
    1. Do NOT start your essay off by stating the prompt. They know the prompt. They have been reading essays based around it all day and perhaps even days. Rather, create an introduction that makes the prompt very obvious without you having to state it.
  6. The same is true of the conclusion. You do want to wrap your entire essay neatly up in the conclusion but you must finish strong. This is the final impression you have to leave with your reader(s).
  7. The introduction and conclusion are critical but do not sacrifice the body of the essay! If your reader(s) is left feeling as if s/he knows you and perhaps even wants to know you better, that is a great sign. An essay that draws the reader in, holds his/her attention and perhaps even gets the reader lost in the story that you are weaving, that is an AWESOME essay!

Below is text from pg. 17 of CHS’s Future Planning Guide 2016-17. You can find this resource on the school website!

How Do I Make the Most of My Application Essay?

First of all, not all colleges will have admission application essays but most scholarships will so make the most of these opportunities if you get them! This is exactly why Mrs. Koester has posted information on how to write college essays! The time invested in these essays can help insure your admission or increase the amount of scholarship you receive.

Think about the purposes the essay serves. Obviously, one purpose is to provide a sample of the quality of your writing. Since colleges place a premium on strong writing skills, they will look for a mastery of mechanics as well as fluency and originality. If these are your strengths, take this opportunity to shine! If they aren’t your strongest suits, be sure to get advice from others throughout the process. A two- or three-page essay gives a college selection committee a taste of the maturity of your thinking and writing and of your readiness for a competitive liberal arts program.

A second reason for the essay is for you to share something of yourself that may not be reflected in the rest of your application--something that has shaped your perspective or challenged your beliefs. Or it may show how you see yourself and your place in a community. These qualities are important for admission committees to know when they are deciding on applicants. The essay allows the committee to look beyond the numbers and statistics and gives them a glimpse of your creativity and substance.

There is no formula for a ‘perfect’ essay, but it’s one of the most carefully considered, influential and revealing pieces of your application.  Choose your topic thoughtfully. Try out a few topics and see which one feels the most natural to you, and closest to your own ‘voice.’ Don’t pick a topic that is too broad and impersonal. Structure your material well and be concise; make a point to get to the point. Write and rewrite!

Make sure that you have others look over the essay for constructive criticism and revisions. The essay is the one piece of the application that you have full control over--use it to your advantage!