Presentation on theme: "Writing an Application and/or Scholarship Essay Source cited: Blau, Susan, and Kathryn Burak. Writing in the Works. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print."— Presentation transcript:
Writing an Application and/or Scholarship Essay Source cited: Blau, Susan, and Kathryn Burak. Writing in the Works. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
Writing a Application/Scholarship Essay Writing a personal essay can be confusing – you must write in a formal voice as well as express your individuality. To write a stand-out personal essay, you need to understand what your audience might be looking for and define your connection to the audience. Your ultimate goal is to have your essay be memorable. It is your job to persuade readers to choose you.
Thinking About Your Readers and Your Purpose Make no mistake: writing an application essay is entering a competition with a lot at stake. You will be judged by your writing. Although it’s harsh, the people who read your application essay have no personal interest in your success.
Using Research to Appeal to Your Audience Research your audience’s goals and missions. If, for example, a scholarship is named after a prestigious alumnus, you should learn about that person. Find out what qualities the person embodied, who endowed the scholarship, and what prompted that person or group to endow it. You might begin your essay with an acknowledgement of the person’s contribution or importance, showing that you did your homework.
Using Research to Appeal to Your Audience As alluded to previously, any group or organization that funds a scholarship wants to know that your values are harmonious with their values, goals, and/or mission. All this advice boils down to one point: know your audience. Making an effort to research your audience will help you write a focused and successful essay in a confident voice.
Read the Question/Prompt Carefully Pay attention to the rules or parameters of the application. The language of the prompt suggests ways to focus your essay. Most prompts fall into one of the following categories: ◦ Past experiences and achievements ◦ Future plans ◦ Values or personal philosophy ◦ Ability to analyze ideas
Prompt: Past Experiences and Achievements Prompts about past experiences and achievements ask questions like: “describe an experience that has helped change your perspective” or “describe a challenge you have successfully met.” Not only will you describe the event, providing concrete details, but you will then interpret it. Explain to your reader why the event was significant to you.
Prompt: Future Plans This type of prompt wants to know whether your goals match that of the employer, college, or program; or in other words, whether they should invest in your future by awarding you the job, scholarship, internship, etc. Your focus should be on convincing them that you are the right fit.
Prompt: Values or Personal Philosophy A question about your values or personal philosophy may look like this: if your education had no limits, you could stay as long as you wanted, and money were no object, what would you hope to get out of your time at college? By asking you to strip away practical limitations, the question is asking you to focus on your core philosophy about education. In your response, you should be honest as well as insightful about what you want from school.
Prompt: Ability to Analyze Ideas An example analysis prompt would be: Pearl S. Buck once said, “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” Tell us about an experience in which you felt that you did the right thing in spite of your feelings. There is not a correct or incorrect answer. What will be challenging here is to stay on topic, to focus on having done the right thing when you did not feel like doing it. The important word in this prompt is right. You will want to take into consideration the moral issues suggested by the word as you form your answer.
The Thesis of an Application Essay Limit you thesis to a single conclusion, belief, philosophy, or judgment. Reveal something personal about you or your background. State your thesis either at the beginning or the end of the essay. Use your thesis as the general focus; all the details add up to your thesis.
Choosing a Development Strategy Depending on the prompt and your topic, you can choose from a variety of approaches to develop your essay. Three basic approaches are narration, analysis, and argumentation.
Development Strategy: Narration Stories allow you to be personal as you engage the reader’s attention. “Show” your story with vivid description, well-selected detail, and maybe even some dialogue or a scene to make it more engaging and memorable.
Narration Example “ ‘Je deteste des Americans’ [I detest Americans], said the old Swiss woman sitting across from me. Her face contorted into a grimace of disgust as she and her friend continued to complain that Americans had no culture, that they never learned another language, and that their inferior customs were spreading throughout Europe like an infectious disease. Each hair on the back of my neck sprang to attention as I strained to hear the woman’s inflammatory remarks. I gripped my bag of McDonald’s harder with each insulting phrase.”
Narration Example The opening dialogue creates immediate tension. The reader wants to know who this Swiss woman is and how the writer responded. The writer offers vivid descriptions: the woman’s “grimace of disgust,” the hair on the back of the writer’s neck, and finally the ironic detail of the “bag of McDonald’s” gripped in the writer’s hand. The introduction has characters, setting, and conflict, all the ingredients of a good story.
Development Strategy: Analysis Even if you have chosen to tell a story, it is important to analyze the events – that is, to break them down into their part in order to explain or interpret them. You want to show that you have understood the experience and its impact on your life and that you can articulate its meaning.
Analysis Example One applicant wrote about a summer job “detasseling” corn – “removing the tassel from a corn stalk so that pollinization of the plant can occur and hybrid seed corn can grow.” The writer’s experiences with coworkers who were “different kinds of achievers” from the people she had previously known led her to analyze her own experience of working under difficult circumstances, sometimes from sunrise to sunset.
Analysis Example “While discovering the strengths of so many different kinds of people, I also discovered some of my own strengths…I realized that I am able to depend on my own inner resources. This discovery of my own physical strength and my ability to endure came as a revelation to me.”
Development Strategy: Argumentation Some essay prompts require you to make an argument to support an opinion. You claim a distinct position on an issue and present evidence that defends your position. For example, a prompt used by Cornell University was “Tell us about an opinion you have had to defend. How has this affected your belief system?” For this essay, you would need to state your position as well as your reason for holding that view in the same way that writers of editorial or opinion essays do.
Argumentation Example “The federal government should fund stem- cell research because the government can make funds equally available to all scientists. If the government does not take the responsibility for research on stem cells, some private research group certainly will, limiting the amount of information available to scientists. Also, more researchers working on developing cures could speed remedies for chronic and deadly illnesses like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”
Argumentation Example The student takes a clear stand on a controversial scientific topic. She supports her arguments with two main points: the federal government can make funds equally available to all researchers, and more scientists working on a problem can solve the problem more quickly. Another student might argue that stem-cell research is immoral or that there should be less government regulation of research. Whatever your opinion, make sure you state it clearly and support it with specific reasons that reveal your logic.
Making Your Essay Stand Out You want your reader to have a strong impression of your distinct personality – as someone who is interesting, confident, capable, and professional. Your essay should be written in a style and tone that fits the formality of the situation.
The Opening Remember that your goal is to have your writing leap off the page and into the mind of a tired reader who has a stack of essays to read. That first sentence should create interest. “By my junior year in high school I had been thrown over saloon tables, stabbed to death in a knife fight, strangled in my own bed. I was not the scared, shy, slightly overweight fourteen-year-old who entered that theater three years earlier. I had fallen in love with stage combat, had discovered a part of myself that was indeed a fighter. I was altogether different.”
The Closing The conclusion in an application essay not only sums up your essay; it also provides a last glimpse of your personality. You want to convince your reader that you are the best candidate. Your last sentence is your last moment with your reader. Do not fade out. Being memorable means using each and every word you have to create a distinct impression.
Personal voice Aim to sound as if you are talking to just one person – but in a formal setting, such as an interview.
Tips for Giving Your Application Essay the Personal Edge Use first person (I, me, my); this is required, not optional. Be specific and concrete. Write in the active voice. ◦ Passive: “A scholarship was awarded to me.” ◦ Active: “I received a scholarship.” Use your own vocabulary.
Tips for Giving Your Application Essay the Personal Edge Use understatement rather than overstatement. ◦ Overstated: I have a proven record as someone who succeeds in anything he tries to do. ◦ More measured: My friends sometimes make fun of my determination. Truthfully, since I am the only one in my family who has had the opportunity to go to college, I am determined to work hard and succeed. If possible, use few or no contractions (I’ve, there’s, haven’t). Use humor carefully. ◦ Sarcasm, for example, is always risky because sarcasm can be easily misread and brings a negative tone to your writing. Avoid clichés.
To Sum Up In a sense, everything you write in an application essay is an argument in favor of your worth as a candidate. Your essay is a demonstration of your personality, your ideas and experience, that you are a good fit. What you choose to write about and how you express yourself – your voice and style as well as grammar and vocabulary – together persuade your reader that you are an interesting and intelligent person who stands out among your peers.