Application Essay Tips Selecting a Topic



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Application Essay Tips

Selecting a Topic

Having completed brainstorming, you should have a rough idea of the elements you wish to include in your essay, including your goals, important life experiences, research experience, diversifying features, spectacular nonacademic accomplishments, etc. You should also now have an idea of what impression you want to make on the admissions officers.

You must confront the underlying problem of the admissions essay. You should consider topics that will allow you to put your important personal characteristics and experiences into a coherent paper while simultaneously addressing your desire to attend a specific institution.

Leaving a lasting impression on someone who reads 50-100 essays a day will not be easy but admissions officers appreciate essays that provide convincing evidence of how an applicant will fit into a particular academic environment. You should at least have read the college's webpage or admissions catalog and have an understanding of the institution's strengths.



Consider the following questions before proceeding:

  • Have you selected a topic that describes something of personal importance in your life, with which you can use vivid personal experiences as supporting details?

  • Is your topic a gimmick? That is, do you plan to write your essay to make it funny? You should be careful if you are planning to do this. Almost always, this is done poorly and is not appreciated by the admissions committee. Nothing is worse than not laughing or not being amused at something that was written to be funny or amusing.

  • Will your topic only repeat information listed elsewhere on your application? If so, pick a new topic. Don’t mention GPAs or standardized test scores in your essay.

  • Can you offer vivid supporting paragraphs to your essay topic? If you cannot easily think of supporting paragraphs with concrete examples, you should probably choose a different essay topic.

  • Can you fully answer the question asked of you? Can you address and elaborate on all points within the specified word limit, or will you end up writing a poor summary of something that might be interesting as a report or research paper? If you plan on writing something technical for college admissions, make sure you truly can back up your interest in a topic and are not merely throwing around big scientific words. Unless you convince the reader that you actually have the life experiences to back up your interest in neurobiology, the reader will assume you are trying to impress him/her with shallow tactics. Also, be sure you can write to admissions officers and that you are not writing over their heads.

  • Can you keep the reader's interest from the first word. The entire essay must be interesting, considering admissions officers will probably only spend a few minutes reading each essay.



  • Will an admissions officer remember your topic after a day of reading hundreds of essays? What will the officer remember about your topic? What will the officer remember about you? What will your lasting impression be?

Consider the following guidelines:

1. Essays should fit in well with the rest of a candidate's application, explaining the unexplained and steering clear of that which is already obvious. For example, if you have a 4.0 GPA and a 30 ACT, no one doubts your ability to do the academic work and addressing this topic would be

2. Don't mention weaknesses unless you absolutely need to explain them away. You want to make a positive first impression.
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