Because the college essay is not the same kind of essay that you write for your high school English teacher, it does not have to have the typical essay introduction which would usually provide a thesis statement. Most students are unaware of this fact. Just as you want to prepare the best answers to your college interview, here are seven tips for writing an engaging essay that will stand out from the rest!
1. Your first paragraph should grab the reader
The college essay has to grab the attention of an admission’s reader. It is imperative, then, that the introduction to the college essay capture the reader’s attention and make the reader want to read more.
There are different ways to grab the reader.
- Try starting with a question.
- Begin with a bold statement.
- Use an interesting quote.
- Put the reader in medias res, that is, in the middle of things. Place the reader in the middle of something happening or in the middle of a conversation.
- Challenge the reader by speaking directly to him/her.
- Tell the reader what you do NOT want to do in your writing.
- Sometimes even a single word that stands as a paragraph can make the reader wonder and read on.
2. Be a real person, not an anonymous author
Do not be just another of thousands of applicants that do not make an impression. If you are reading a newspaper article, the writer fades behind the facts and you know nothing about the writer except that s/he can collect, organize, and present the facts that you need to now. You want the admissions reader to say, “Ah, this is a real person writing to me.
That means you should write with voice, that is, you need to write with your own personality. Honesty, humor, talking the way you talk, showing the way you think, all help to create voice.
3. Don’t be boring
Trying to be proper or trying to impress or trying to be intellectual can be a drag. What you should be are doing is getting noticed as unique. It’s like you are on a date with the admissions reader and you want to be asked out again.
If you are on a date, you would naturally want to be smart, funny, nice, caring, unique, not boring. You also want to have an opinion, not step back like an unthinking geek. Write your essay as though you would be a great second date.
4. Make your essay correct and beautiful
Dates should look good, too. You can make your essay beautiful by giving thought to a few things. Use a font that is readable. Consider whether or not a bold typeface could make your essay easier to read. Don’t crowd your essay near the top of the page, but balance it on the page and attend to soothing margins. Provide the essay prompt at the opening. Separate paragraphs in a consistent way, either by indenting each paragraph or by using block style, keeping all the words to the left margin but spacing extra between paragraphs.
If there are a lot of mistakes in your essay, it can not be pretty. Make sure you have spelled everything correctly. Make sure your basic punctuation is correct.
Did you separate dialogue correctly from the rest of your text? Did you use capitalization correctly? Check out our article on the most common mistakes in college essays for more tips to ensure your essay reads well.
5. Approach the essay from a different angle
If you look at things a little differently from others you stand out. In answering an essay prompt, you need not always do it the most normal way.
- What if you were to take the negative approach to answer the prompt? What are your hopes? Maybe you can tell what your hopes are by writing what you do not hope for.
- Perhaps you can create a little mystery by not answering the prompt immediately. What do you want to study? Maybe you could reveal that in the last sentence of your prompt after telling about all the little things that have some relevance to your area of study. For example, you might describe much natural flora, observe fauna, then list feelings you have about nature to lead up to writing that you want to study biology.
- You might even bury your answer to a prompt in a story or in a moral tale or even in a description.
6. Be clear and logical
As much as you wish to shine, the shine will be lost if your sentences and thoughts do not string together logically. You must make sense to the reader.
Reread your essay as though you have no idea what the writer is talking about. Does it make sense? Are there transitions between different sections of the essay? Is the essay organized? Have you started at the beginning? Have you provided an ending? Have you given enough background information?
It is a good idea to make sure different audiences understand what you have tried to write. Test your essay with a friend, a teacher, a parent, even a younger reader. Ask them not to judge but simply read to see if they know what you are saying. “Tell me,” say to them, “exactly what you got from this.” If there is confusion, fix it.
7. Leave your reader with a lasting impression
People remember the last things first or, at least, best. As Alan Alda said in a commencement address he delivered to his daughter’s graduating college class, the most important things are said on the way out the door. His last words in that speech were, “I love you.”
In the same way, you should end your college essay with something that not only summarizes the most important aspects of you but that is also memorable. Memorable endings are poignant, making the reader feel an emotion. Or, they capture a several-line conclusion in one pithy, well-worded phrase or sentence. Or, maybe they end with a simple, clean truth written from the heart.
Final Tips! If you are having trouble getting started on your essay, you might want to check out Academichelp.net where they provide sample essays and free writing guides or check out The Essay Guy for more great essay writing tips. Lastly, if English is not your first language, you might want to look for some tips on how to improve your English writing skills to make sure you can be clear and concise with your writing. Good Luck!