College Application Essay Workshop Westford Academy 05/01/2012
Purpose of the Essay Personalize the application –Show who you are as a person vs. numbers –The closest you will come to introducing yourself to the admissions committee –Sets the tone for the rest of the application –Can demonstrate fit Writing sample –No matter your intended major/career, ability to communicate effectively in writing is critical
Scoring Your Application Academic Performance Academic Rigor Writing –Quality of writing within your college essay –Quality of writing on other parts of your college application Extracurricular Involvement & Personal Qualities Community
Reading & Scoring Real College Application Essays What score (1-5) would you give these essays? More importantly, what makes them good or bad?
Writing 5 A personal essay that is exceptional presents an engaging and vivid story or stories linked by an insightful idea. The story acts as a metaphor or analogy for a larger issue or the author uses the story to reflect on an important question about human nature. The introduction and title grab the reader’s attention, the vivid details maintain the reader’s attention and the conclusion contains a surprising or novel analysis that makes the reader rethink his or her assumptions. The overall organization, paragraphs, sentences, word choice and mechanics enhance the meaning. 4 A personal essay that is commendable presents an engaging story or stories linked by a distinctive idea. The author uses the story to reflect on an important question about human nature. The introduction and/or title pull in the reader’s attention, the details maintain the reader’s attention and the conclusion makes the reader reflect on his or her own experiences. The overall organization, paragraphs, sentences, word choice and mechanics are coherent with few errors. 3 A personal essay that is average presents an intelligible story or stories that may be missing some information. The stories lack a clear linking idea, but comes close to having a cohesive theme. The author attempts to or does not use the story to reflect on an important question about his or her own life. The introduction or title establish the focus, but some of the the supporting details are undeveloped or are numerous but not always pertinent, and the conclusion attempts to wrap up what is learned by the writer. While errors are few, some errors in the overall organization, paragraphs, sentences, word choice and mechanics distract somewhat from the meaning.
2 A personal essay that is below average presents an unintelligible story or stories that is missing some information. The stories lack a clear linking idea. The author attempts to or does not use the story to reflect on an important question about his or her own life. The introduction or title fail to establish the focus, the supporting details are undeveloped or are numerous but not always pertinent and the conclusion attempts to wrap up what is learned by the writer. Many errors in the overall organization, paragraphs, sentences, word choice and mechanics distract from the meaning. 1 A weak personal essay presents no coherent story or stories. It lacks an idea to hold the pieces together. The introduction or title does not tell the reader the focus, supporting details are missing or unclear and the conclusion is confusing. Errors in the overall organization, paragraphs, sentences, word choice and mechanics interfere with the meaning. A poor personal essay is unclear, undeveloped, disorganized, confusing, lacks detail and riddled with errors.
Overview of Process: Four Steps to a Winning Essay Brainstorm topics –Start small –Think about what makes you you –Pick a positive quality you would like to convey to the admissions committee –Tell a story Accomplishments, attributes, favorite book or music, difficult times you’ve struggled through, an epiphany
Topics - Start small For example… Red hairCloset ShoesBookshelf CinnamonBag Lady Pancakes Play Golf courseMuseum
2.Narrow the list of possible topics Is this something many applicants might write about? If so, do you have a unique approach? Does your idea have good supporting examples or stories? You’ll need one or two concrete details to make it memorable. Can you express your idea within the word limit? Will this topic show the real you? Is it about something that really matters to you?
3.Time to Razzle and Dazzle! Answer the Question Uniquely… Some ideas that sound good don’t translate well to paper You won’t know if something works until you start to write!
4.Write for Perfection Rewrite Edit Rewrite Edit Again Use your resources
Stuck?? Tips for Getting Unstuck Ask for help from parents and friends Consider your childhood Who are your role models? Read sample essays Think about your goals Let it simmer…
Timeline Workshop today to start the process Follow the four steps to write your draft over the summer Draft due with summer reading assignment to Senior English class No draft essay = No parking pass!!! Finalize with help of teachers, parents and counselors Complete by October 15 for November 1 deadlines.
Take-aways: Tips Be YOU – This is your college essay, so make sure it’s a representation of your best work and who you are. Your essay can turn the tide. Remember your audience. PROOFREAD! Be really comfortable with your essay – imagine that your essay is the only thing that an admission office is going to use to evaluate your candidacy, and write for that scenario.
Take-aways: Things to Avoid Topics that seems “safe” or “easy” (unless you put your own unique twist on that topic) They don’t want to read their 400 th essay that year about the cross-country team or your job as a camp counselor. They also don’t want to read about your love life… Negative essays – essays that bash an organization, group, school, or person. Also, no complaining! Inappropriate topics – If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read it, it’s off limits. This includes drugs, alcohol, anything having to do with breaking the law. Lack of resolution – It’s great to recall a challenging time in your life, but without resolution it is probably not the best essay. Your reader is not a therapist! An essay not about you – unless the college application calls for it. Overly casual – Remember, you are writing in an attempt to impress your reader – so avoid slang and other things that make your essay too casual.
Take-aways: Pitfalls Naming another college in your essay Humor doesn’t always translate well in writing. Not proofreading your essay. Plagiarism