Presentation on theme: "The Bad College Essay. The Lead… From the time I was able to realize what a university was, all I heard from my mother's side of the family was about."— Presentation transcript:
The Lead… From the time I was able to realize what a university was, all I heard from my mother's side of the family was about the University of Michigan and the great heritage it has. Many a Saturday afternoon my grandfather would devote to me, by sitting me down in front of the television and reminiscing about the University of Michigan while halftime occurred during a Michigan Wolverines football game. Later, as I grew older and universities took on greater meaning, my mother and uncle, both alumni of the University of Michigan, took me to see their old stamping grounds. From first sight, the university looked frightening because of its size, but with such a large school comes diversity of people and of academic and non-academic events.
There are already problems… Lack of Focus Where is the writer going with this? What is this paragraph about? What is this essay about? Writer needs to tighten the phrasing.
The Clubs… In Springfield High School, non-academic clubs such as the Future Physicians and the Pylon, both of which I have belonged to for two years, give me an opportunity to see both the business world and the medical world. These two clubs have given me a greater sense of what these careers may be like. In Future Physicians, I participated in field trips to children's hospitals and also participated in two bloodbanks.
Lack of specifics… Abrupt transition: from Michigan Diversity to writer’s Club? General Statements with little evidence: how does any of this show us about career paths? Lack of specifics: What does participated mean? Define how many hours, days, etc…
Their job… Currently I hold a job at Maas Brothers. This lets me interact with people outside my own immediate environment. I meet different kinds of people, in different moods, with different attitudes, and with different values. This job teaches me to be patient with people, to have responsibility, and to appreciate people for what they are.
More problems… What does the writer do at their job? Lack of detail. Misspellings show lack of proofreading.
Community and Soccer… In the community I am active in my church Youth Group. As a high school sophomore, I was our church's representative to the Diocesan Youth Fellowship. I helped organize youth group events, the largest being "The Bishop's Ball," a state-wide event for 300 young people. I also played high school junior varsity soccer for two years. As a senior I will be playing varsity soccer, but in the off-season. As a junior I coached a girls' soccer team for the town. This gave me a great deal of responsibility because the care of twenty-four girls was put into my custody. It felt very satisfying to pass on the knowledge of soccer to another generation. The girls played teams from other parts of Florida. Though their record was 3-8, the girls enjoyed their season. This is what I taught them was the greatest joy of soccer.
What the writer should have done… This paragraph, along with the previous one, contain information within the application. UNNEEDED! Does the reader need to know that the girls played other teams from Florida? UNNEEDED! The writer should focus on the coaching element for the essay: what they learned from it, how they helped others learn and how they felt rewarded from that process.
The Conclusion… The past three years of my life have given me greater visions of my future. I see the University of Michigan as holding a large book with many unread chapters and myself as an eager child who has just learned to read. I intend to read and probe into all the chapters. The University of Michigan offers me more than the great reputation of this fine school, but a large student body with diverse likes and dislikes, and many activities, both academic and non-academic, to participate in. With the help of the University of Michigan, I will be successful after college and be able to make a name and place for myself in our society.
More Problems… The Conclusion returns to the intro, but the ideas mentioned here were never developed. Instead of throwing love out to the university, give concrete reasons (classes, majors, clubs) for wanting to go there. Although organized well, this essay lacks FOCUS and PROOF of self.
The Lead… My most important experience sought me out. It happened to me; I didn't cause it. This intro is brief and memorable and the reader is drawn into it.
The Focus… My preferred companions are books or music or pen and paper. I have only a small circle of close friends, few of whom get along together. They could easily be counted "misfits." To be plain, I found it quite easy to doubt my ability to have any sort of "close relationship." There is a clear focus: author’s anxiety about relationships.
The Specific Event in DETAIL… After the closing festivities of Andover Summer School this past summer, on the night before we were scheduled to leave, a girl I had met during the program's course approached me. She came to my room and sat down on my bed and announced that she was debating with herself whether she wanted me to become her boyfriend. She wanted my reaction, my opinion.
The Personal reaction in DETAIL… I was startled, to say the least, and frightened. I instantly said, "No." I told her I on no account wanted this and that I would reject any gestures she made towards starting a relationship. I would ignore her entirely, if need be. I explained that I was a coward. I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with a relationship. I talked a lot and very fast.
Why is the example so good, so far? This example is simple and direct and uses short and simple sentences to provide an example.
Taking the reader to the moment… To my surprise, she did not leave instantly. Instead, she hugged her knees and rocked back and forth on my bed. I watched her from across the room. She rocked, and I watched. Doubts crept up on me. Opportunity had knocked and the door was still locked. It might soon depart."I lied," I said. "I was afraid of what might happen if we became involved. But it's better to take the chance than to be afraid."She told me she knew I had lied. I had made her realize, though, how much she actually wanted me to be her boyfriend. We decided to keep up a relationship after Andover.
The Lesson Learned… Even then, I was not sure which had been the lie. Now I think that everything I said may have been true when I said it. But I'm still not sure. I learned, that night, that I could be close to someone. I also realize, now, that it doesn't matter whether or not that person is a misfit; the only important thing is the feeling, the closeness, the connection. As long as there is something between two people -- friendship, love, shared interests, whatever else -- it is a sign that there can be some reconciliation with fear, some "fit" for misfits. And it shows that fear need not always win, that we can grow and change, and even have second chances. I am still seeing her.
Why is this Essay Strong? Boyfriends and girlfriends are risky subjects, but the author focuses on the lesson, not the relationship. The ending is short and simple and memorable, just as the intro. The material in the essay is not info recycled from the application. It supports that info.
The topic you choose will tell someone about you and your strengths. Choosing a Personal Essay Topic
1. Your Preferences Your topic shows what your prefer… Are you an arts person? Are you a scientific person? Do you enjoy history? Do you love the outdoors? Are you athletic by nature? Do you thrive through competition?
2. Your Values Your choice should show the reader what you value most in life… Is your family the most important thing to you? Do you value education and what it can allow your to do? Do you have a strong religious background? Have you learned many valuable lessons?
3. Your Thought Process Your topic shows the audience how you think… Are you a free flowing, impulse person? Are you scientific in your choices? Do you relate personal experiences to public matters? Do you think of the outcome before you act?
You, in 500 Words or Less Three Steps to a Great Personal Essay
Prewriting Brainstorm Ask friends, teachers, relatives what they feel your strengths are Focus on Strengths of Personality (Ethos) responsible Do not focus on things you have done Eagle Scout
Prewriting Create a self-outline Next to each trait list five (or so) pieces of evidence that support that trait. Activities Experiences Awards Groups/ Clubs Training/ Jobs
Drafting: The Intro The introduction gives your reader an idea of your essay's content. It can shrink when you need to be concise. One vivid sentence might do: "The favorite science project was a complete failure."
Drafting: The Body The body presents the evidence that supports your main idea. Use narration and incident to show rather than tell.
Drafting: The Conclusion The conclusion can be brief as well, a few sentences to nail down the meaning of the events and incidents you've described.
Drafting: The Standard Essay Take two or three points from your self-outline, give a paragraph to each, and make sure you provide plenty of evidence. Choose things not apparent from the rest of your application or light up some of the activities and experiences listed there.
Drafting: Less-Is-More Essay In this format, you focus on a single interesting point about yourself. It works well for brief essays of a paragraph or half a page.
Drafting: Narrative Essay A narrative essay tells a short and vivid story. Omit the introduction, write one or two narrative paragraphs that grab and engage the reader's attention, then explain what this little tale reveals about you.
Editing: Let it Cool Take a break from your work and come back to it in a few days. Does your main idea come across clearly? Do you prove your points with specific details? Is your essay easy to read aloud?
Editing: Feedback Time Have someone you like and trust (but someone likely to tell you the truth) read your essay. Ask them to tell you what they think you're trying to convey. Did they get it right?
Editing: Edit Down Your language should be simple, direct, and clear. This is a personal essay, not a term paper. Make every word count (e.g., if you wrote "in society today," consider changing that to "now").
Editing: Proofread Multiple Times! Careless spelling or grammatical errors, awkward language, or fuzzy logic will make your essay memorable—in a bad way. Read it out loud, have it read to you and look at each sentence on its own.
Write an Effective Application Essay College Essay Writing Tips
Dos: Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal Your essay must prove a single point or thesis. The reader must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end.
Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal Prove It Vivid Facts – Events - Quotes Examples – Reasons Be Specific Avoid clichéd, generic, predictable Use vivid and specific details. Don't Tell Them What You Think They Want Don't Write a Resume
Dos: Prove It Vivid Facts – Events - Quotes Examples - Reasons Okay: "I like to be surrounded by people with a variety of backgrounds and interests” Better: "During that night, I sang the theme song from Casablanca with a baseball coach who thinks he's Bogie, discussed Marxism with a little old lady, and heard more than I ever wanted to know about some woman's gall bladder operation."
Dos: Be Specific Avoid clichéd, generic, predictable Use vivid and specific details. Okay: "I want to help people. I have gotten so much out of life through the love and guidance of my family, I feel that many individuals have not been as fortunate; therefore, I would like to expand the lives of others." Better: "My Mom and Dad stood on plenty of sidelines 'til their shoes filled with water or their fingers turned white, or somebody's golden retriever signed his name on their coats in mud. I think that kind of commitment is what I'd like to bring to working with fourth- graders."
Don'ts: Don't Tell Them What You Think They Want Most admissions officers read plenty of essays about the charms of their university, the evils of terrorism, and the personal commitment involved in being a doctor. Bring something new to the table, not just what you think they want to hear.
Don’ts: Don't Write a Resume Don't include information that is found elsewhere in the application. Your essay will end up sounding like an autobiography, travelogue, or laundry list. "During my junior year, I played first singles on the tennis team, served on the student council, maintained a B+ average, traveled to France, and worked at a cheese factory."
Don't Use 50 Words When Five Will Do Okay: "Over the years it has been pointed out to me by my parents, friends, and teachers— and I have even noticed this about myself, as well—that I am not the neatest person in the world." Better: "I'm a slob."
Don't Forget to Proofread Typos and spelling or grammatical errors can be interpreted as carelessness or just bad writing. Don't rely on your computer's spell check. "After I graduate form high school, I plan to work for a nonprofit organization during the summer.” "From that day on, Daniel was my best fried."
Sample College Essay Questions What Do Colleges Want to Know?
The "You" Question Many colleges ask for an essay that boils down to, "Tell us about yourself." The school just wants to know you better and see how you'll introduce yourself. For example: "Please complete a one-page personal statement and submit it with your application." (James Madison University) "How would you describe yourself as a human being? What quality do you like best in yourself and what do you like least? What quality would you most like to see flourish and which would you like to see wither?" (Bates College)
Your Approach This direct question offers a chance to reveal your personality, insight, and commitment. The danger is that it's open-ended, so you need to focus. Find just one or two things that will reveal your best qualities, and avoid the urge to spill everything.
The "Why Us" Question Some schools ask for an essay about your choice of a school or career. They're looking for information about your goals, and about how serious your commitment is to this particular school. For example: "Why is UVM a good college choice for you?" (University of Vermont) "Please tell us about your career goals and any plans you may have for graduate study." (Westfield State College)
Your Approach The focus is provided: Why did you choose this school or path? This should be pretty clear to you, since you probably went through some kind of selection process. Make sure you know your subject well. For example, if you say you want to attend Carleton College to major in agriculture, the school will be able to tell how carefully you've chosen (Carleton doesn't have an agriculture major).
The "Creative" Question Some colleges evaluate you through your choice of some tangential item: a national issue, a famous person, what you would put in a time capsule, a photograph. Here the school is looking at your creativity and the breadth of your knowledge and education. For example: "Do you believe there's a generation gap? Describe the differences between your generation and others." (Denison University) "Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence." (Common Application)
Your approach Again, you have something to react to, a way to show yourself and write about your real views. Just don't forget the importance of writing an informed essay. For example, don't write about a fantasy lunch with a famous writer and get the titles of her novels wrong. Also, when thinking about how creative to get, use common sense. Being creative to the point of wacky is a risk you may not want to take.
How to Kick-Start Your College Essay GET OUT A PIECE OF PAPER!!! Recipe for a Draft: Your Ethos Piece
Step 1: Think about yourself What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your best qualities? An intellectual? A creative type? Curious? Passionate? Determined?
Able achiever active adaptable alert ambitious analytical assertive attentive broad minded capable challenge- oriented competent conscientious constructive cooperative courageous creative curious dedicated dependable determined diplomatic disciplined dynamic economical effective efficient endurance energetic enterprising enthusiastic far-sighted fast learner firmly imaginative independent logical motivated optimistic organized original perceptive personable pleasant poised positive practical pressure problem solver productive proficient progressive punctual realistic reliable resourceful responsible risk-taker self-reliant self-starter sincere skilled sophisticated successful systematic tactful talented team member trustworthy willing worker work well under work well with others
Step 1: Think about yourself A. Choose 3 traits that describe you. B. Below each trait create a list of support that shows that trait: Activities Clubs Sports Awards Experiences
Step 2: Choose ONE positive quality you'd like to convey Don't pick an event or something you've done. President of the Nuclear Awareness Club is not a personal quality. Focus on a quality of your mind or of your character. Complete this sentence: "I am a very _________ person.”
Step 3: Tell a story You have 20 minutes. Respond: "Tell a story about an experience or time when you showed you were a very _________ person." Use the characteristic you identified in Step 2. Write or type non-stop for 20 minutes; force yourself to keep telling the story and what it reveals until the instructor stops you.