The application is a lifeless thing-a few sheets of paper and a few numbers. The essay is the best way to breathe life into it



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"The application is a lifeless thing--a few sheets of paper and a few numbers. The essay is the best way to breathe life into it."

 - Admissions Officer

Introduction

Think of the essay as the face of your application. An application without an essay is a statistic- another faceless person in a crowd. An application with a poorly written essay does not give admissions officers the chance to care about you. Use simple psychology: make them feel that they know you, and it will be harder for them to reject you. Make them know you AND LIKE YOU, and they might accept you despite your weakness in other areas. Understanding the importance of the essay is a necessary first step toward perfecting your application. If you are normally a procrastinator, you should understand that your success depends entirely on the amount of time and effort you put into the essay writing process. If all of this has you sweating, you can relax now. Taking this process seriously is the first step. This course will help you get through the other steps.

Admissions essay questions tend to be very broad and difficult to tackle. Yet, it is imperative that you actually answer the question in your essay. It should go without saying, but if your essay does not address the question, then everything you learn in the rest of this course is for naught.

While looking at your application, you are probably asking yourself: "Why in the world are these admissions people asking me this question? What do they want me to write about?" While there is no one answer to either of these questions, there is some reason behind the most popular questions posed by applications.

Lesson One: College Essay Question Help

Please select from the following common application essay question topics:

  • Significant Experience, Achievement, or Risk

  • Important Issue 

  • Influential Person 

  • Future Goals 


Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that you have taken and its impact on you.

This question is actually a combination of two common questions: Describe a significant achievement and describe a time when you grew as a person.

Accomplishment questions show the admissions committee what you value, what makes you proud and what you are capable of accomplishing. A common mistake in answering this question is repeating information that can be found elsewhere in the application. You should not try to squeeze every achievement on your resume into the essay. If you do choose to write about an accomplishment that the committee can read about somewhere else on your application, be sure to bring that experience alive by demonstrating what it took to get there and how it affected you personally. Do not be afraid to show them that you feel proud. This is not the place for modesty. However do not fall to the other extreme either-you can toot your own horn, but do it without being snotty. You will not have to worry about either extreme if you spend the bulk of your essay simply telling the story.

If you feel like you have not done anything worth focusing on, then remind yourself that the best essays are often about modest accomplishments. It does not matter what you have accomplished as long as it was personally meaningful and you can make it come alive. Unless specified, the accomplishment can be professional, personal, or academic. Did you get a compliment from a notoriously tough boss? Did you lose the race but beat your own best time? Did you work around the clock to bring your C in physics up to an A. Do not think about what they want to hear-think about what has really made you proud.

For the second part of the question, they are asking you to open up about who you really are. Although you do want to show that you have matured, do not overplay what a terrible person you once were just to make the point of what a great person you are now. No one changes that much. Besides, the "before" portrait might be the one that sticks in the admissions officer’s head. Also, focus on your current personality rather than on the "old you" or on every last detail of the event. The reader wants to know what you are like now, not what you were like a long time ago. Finally, describe real events and scenarios to prove that your growth resulted from the decisions you made and actions you took. Significant events and people can serve as inspiration. Real change, though, always results from the work, effort, and initiative you have put into yourself. Take some credit.

Discuss some issue of personal, local, national or international concern and its importance to you.



This question is among the hardest to answer. Even here you need to stay personal. If a cause is important to you or you have a strong opinion about it, relate it back to your life. What about you, your experiences, or your upbringing has made this issue resonate for you? Why do you care? Does the issue affect you personally in any way? Be sure to write about both sides of the issues to show that you can think objectively and logically. Showing that you are passionate is great; showing that you are one-sided or bull-headed is not. Finally, be sure to refrain from making sweeping generalizations about issues that would be out of your range of experience.

Lesson One: Examples of and Short Critiques for Social/Political Concern Essays


SAMPLE ESSAY 1: Carnegie-Mellon, current affairs: Middle East debate

A Greek philosopher once said, "In argument, truth is born." Even though sometimes feelings and emotions come into play that confuse the issue at hand, usually an argument results in a new insight on the subject. Even if a person holds strong views that are unshaken by anything his adversary may say, he may nevertheless gain from the debate. It forces him to organize and analyze his views, leaving him with a clearer understanding of the subject than before. Further, his opponent’s arguments help him better appreciate his views and their differences. Finally, the argument forces both to look inwards, at their character and value system.

For these reasons, I enjoy debating issues that are important to me and about which I hold strong views. One such issue receiving great national attention is the Middle East peace process. While the peace process has always been important to the American community as a whole, and more specifically to the Jewish American community, the assassination of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has focused the spotlight upon it, as well as intensified the debate around it. Since I attend a private Jewish school, I often discuss this topic with my peers, often finding myself in the minority. Most of them support the peace process, while I adhere to the views of the Likud (opposition) party, which opposes the peace process.

Complicating the issue are several emotional stigmas that are often attached to it, transforming the discussion from an objective one to one driven by passion. The foremost of these stigmas is the accusation, which is often hurled at the opponents of the peace process, of promoting war and violence. Often made by people who know little about the issue, this view fails to realize that opposition to the peace process does not imply opposition of peace. Rather, it implies disapproval of certain tactics and specifics of the peace process as it was carried out by Rabin.

Another commonly advanced accusation against American Jews who disagree with the peace process centers around the question of whether they have the right to influence Israeli policy. "You don’t have to send your children to the Army," it is said, "your children don’t die in wars. What right have you to oppose peace?!" The fallacy of this argument is that it doesn’t differentiate between belief and action. While it is true, for precisely the reasons above, that American Jews have no right to try to influence Israeli policy, that does not preclude them from having ideas of what that policy should be.

Finally, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has introduced yet another dimension into this debate. In its aftermath, opposing the peace process sometimes is identified with condoning the assassination itself. Such an identification of the man and his beliefs involves grave dangers, such as rashly implementing his ideas in a flurry of compassion and commiseration.

What all of these stigmas have in common is that they forsake logical and objective debate, opting rather for emotions, generalizations and accusations. And the dangers of that happening are the main lesson I learned from my debates. While those debates have shed new light on the issue and have forced me to reconsider what I think is moral and just, most importantly they have demonstrated the necessity of objectiveness and removal of emotions from the discussion, especially when, as in the case of the peace process, thousands of lives are at stake. When passions and hatred take over, we must stop and think of what it all is really about.

COMMENTS:

The social concerns or ethics essay is notoriously difficult to write. This essayist tackles it well with solid arguments, clear thinking, and good structure. The main suggestion for improvement came from one officer who felt that the statements made in the first paragraph were too broad and lofty for a college essay.



Very clear headed.

This student put time and energy into this essay and it shows in the writing style, the flow of discourse and the conclusions that the writer comes to in the end. It is a well thought out essay with depth and focus.

This essay is well written, and brings out an interesting point of view, one of which I had not been aware until now. This author grasps the subtleties of a difficult political position. I think he would be an interesting person to know, and would certainly make people think, both in class and in discussions outside of academics.

The argument in the essay is logical and substantiated with solid examples, making it an effective representation of the student’s thought and writing style while revealing the student’s personal opinions on the Middle East peace process.

SAMPLE ESSAY 2: Harvard, current affairs/family illness: Medicine



The Key to Medical Advancement

Throughout the twentieth century, virtually every aspect of modern medicine has reaped the rewards of technological advancements. Society will be forever indebted to those pioneers who conceived the vast array of preventions, treatments, and cures that are readily available to mankind today. Apparently, the imaginations of these pioneers know no boundaries, for every day we are informed of progress in yet another domain of study.

Until recently, relatively little ethical consideration needed to accompany our quest for improvement. Indeed, few can find moral fault with important discoveries such as a polio vaccine and insulin. However, medicine is now venturing into areas, such as genetics, which explore the very core of human existence. Consequently, I believe that if medical advancements in these fields are going to continue to benefit society, we need to consider all possible ethical effects before implementing new discoveries. We must ensure that the potential for abuse will not override the capacity for gain.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in genetics has been the use of bacteria to genetically engineer drugs such as insulin and growth hormone. Five years ago, a brain tumor destroyed my brother’s pituitary gland. He now takes genetically engineered growth hormone on a daily basis to replace that which he no longer naturally produces. This technology has helped give back to him a portion of what he lost to the tumor. An effort is currently underway to make growth hormone more readily available to the general public for treatment of ailments such as osteoporosis, severe burns, and infertility. Many people could benefit from growth hormone, but there is also a high probability that it will be abused for athletic purposes. Football great Lyle Alzado appeared on national television appealing to the public to refrain from misusing the growth hormone which he felt was responsible for his brain cancer. Therefore I feel we need to limit how available we make the drug in order to ensure that it does more good than harm.

Research in genetics is also helping us to locate genes which are linked to diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Huntington’s disease. The knowledge of these genes may lead to better treatments and maybe even a cure one day. As well, genetics is now being used in amniocentesis tests to determine, for abortion purposes, if an embryo has an abnormality such as the medical condition known as Down’s Syndrome.

Giving people the opportunity to abort an unplanned child is an issue all by itself. Giving people the opportunity to abort a planned pregnancy because the child isn’t what they wanted is absolutely ludicrous. I am a support worker for a child who has Down’ Syndrome. He’ every bit as much a human being as you and I, and therefore is entitled to all the privileges that accompany the status. Every day he makes me smile and reminds me of how lucky I am simply to be alive. He is the epitome of the innocence which is all too often absent from our fast-paced lives.

What happens when our knowledge expands, as it inevitably will, and an amniocentesis can test for hair and eye color? Will we abort a pregnancy because the child won’t develop blond hair and blue eyes? After all, the argument could be made that a poor physical appearance may cause hardship in life. More importantly, if the technology becomes available, will we custom design children to our specifications by manipulating their genes? Whatever happened to playing the cards we’re dealt? If we’re not careful we might create another Frankenstein.

Implementing these, and other technologies raises some critical ethical issues. A world war took place over 50 years ago because numerous countries intensely disagreed with Adolf Hitler on some of these same issues. Hitler wanted to create a supreme race and eliminate disabled people such as those having Down’ Syndrome. Do we agree with basic principles behind Hitler’ intentions and merely disagree with the method he employed? Hitler was one of the most despised men of modern history. Don’t look now, but it appears as though we’re simply taking a different, more accepted route to the same destination.

Technology seems to be growing at an exponential rate. Every door we open leads to more doors which conceal secrets. The majority of the population can only imagine the excitement of opening one of these doors for the first time ever. The pursuit of this excitement has understandably overwhelmed us. We’ve been blindly unlocking doors as fast as possible with little concern for what might lie beyond the door. However, if mankind is going to continue to prosper we need to start peering through the keyhole to see what lies beyond the door. Then, and only then, can we catch a glimpse of the pros and cons of opening it.

Until now, the main difficulty in unlocking a door has been finding the right key. Perhaps the true challenge actually lies in deciding which doors should be opened and which doors are better left untouched. The principle consideration in making this decision needs to be the ethics of its potential applications.



COMMENTS:

This applicant took a risky approach by tackling a tough subject-one that would be hard for most college graduates (let alone a high school senior) to write about succinctly. However, the writer made a good effort. As one officer commented, "The author obviously thinks deeply about these important issues, and an admission officer would recognize that this student would probably think deeply about other issues raised in classes." Tackling these big issues brings two inherent risks. First, the subject matter begs a serious approach, and the writer risks coming across as stiff and impersonal. Second, the writer risks getting in over his or her head and can end up making general claims without the experience or ability to back them up.



This student holds incredibly passionate beliefs about the ethics of medical research. But ethics is a slippery topic, far too subjective for the amount of generalizations he has made. The "we need tos" and "we musts" make his assertions a little too final.

The language is a bit stiff and awkward, and the essay tends to ramble.

"Five years ago, a brain tumor destroyed my brother’ pituitary gland." This would be a great opening sentence! So why is it buried? Personal experience is always a useful tool for introducing one’ own beliefs, much more so than unsupported blanket statements. Had the student begun here, he would have written a stronger essay without having to compromise his position one bit.

In paragraph seven: Be careful! The Holocaust is a loaded example. There was a lot more to it than just eradicating disabilities. Make sure you understand the implications of the parallels you draw.

It is dangerous for a nonprofessional (especially a high school student) to attempt writing as though the essay will be presented at a professional conference. You may be writing to someone who knows much more than you and will be irritated by your hackneyed proclamations. I give my students this advice: "Write small." Keep the topic close to your own life and write only about something you know.

I admire the student for voicing his beliefs, but I’d admire him even more if he had played devil’ advocate a bit. One of my former professors always admonished, "Seek the truth in what you oppose and the error in what you espouse." What are the weaknesses in his arguments? Is a technical advancement without extensive debate on the potential ethical pitfalls ever appropriate? Addressing such questions would go a long way in communicating to the admissions committee that the author is an open minded (if steadfast) person.

Indicate a person, character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, etc.) who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.



This type of question attempts to learn more about you through the forces that have shaped you. Many students make the mistake of believing that this is an essay about a person. They go on at length, describing the influential person in detail without making a connection between it and themselves. The school doesn’t care about your uncle, or some fictional heroine. They care about you. What about that person made an impression on you and how. What action did you take to turn this impression into personal development and change?

Colleges learn a lot about your values and standards through your description of your mentors. It is like getting to know a person by the people he chooses to hang out with. If you are skeptical, consider the different impression you would have of the candidate who admires a dynamic, colorful athlete compared to someone who looks up to an accomplished but soft-spoken academic. Neither is better nor worse-just different.

There are no wrong answers here. Far more important than whom you choose, though, is how you portray that person. In other words, do not choose someone because you think it will impress the committee. Name-dropping is not only very obvious, it is very ineffective. Heed this one word of caution, though. Applicants very commonly pick one of their parents. Describing your father gives you the advantage of knowing your subject well, however, it also means doing some extra work to make your essay stand out from the crowd.

Lesson One: Examples of and Short Critiques for Influential Person Essays
SAMPLE ESSAY 1: Wellesley, Influence of mother

It took me eighteen years to realize what an extraordinary influence my mother has been on my life. She's the kind of person who has thoughtful discussions about which artist she would most want to have her portrait painted by (Sargent), the kind of mother who always has time for her four children, and the kind of community leader who has a seat on the board of every major project to assist Washington's impoverished citizens. Growing up with such a strong role model, I developed many of her enthusiasms. I not only came to love the excitement of learning simply for the sake of knowing something new, but I also came to understand the idea of giving back to the community in exchange for a new sense of life, love, and spirit.

My mother's enthusiasm for learning is most apparent in travel. I was nine years old when my family visited Greece. Every night for three weeks before the trip, my older brother Peter and I sat with my mother on her bed reading Greek myths and taking notes on the Greek Gods. Despite the fact that we were traveling with fourteen-month-old twins, we managed to be at each ruin when the site opened at sunrise. I vividly remember standing in an empty ampitheatre pretending to be an ancient tragedian, picking out my favorite sculpture in the Acropolis museum, and inserting our family into modified tales of the battle at Troy. Eight years and half a dozen passport stamps later I have come to value what I have learned on these journeys about global history, politics and culture, as well as my family and myself.

While I treasure the various worlds my mother has opened to me abroad, my life has been equally transformed by what she has shown me just two miles from my house. As a ten year old, I often accompanied my mother to (name deleted), a local soup kitchen and children's center. While she attended meetings, I helped with the Summer Program by chasing children around the building and performing magic tricks. Having finally perfected the "floating paintbrush" trick, I began work as a full time volunteer with the five and six year old children last June. It is here that I met Jane Doe, an exceptionally strong girl with a vigor that is contagious. At the end of the summer, I decided to continue my work at (name deleted) as Jane's tutor. Although the position is often difficult, the personal rewards are beyond articulation. In the seven years since I first walked through the doors of (name deleted), I have learned not only the idea of giving to others, but also of deriving from them a sense of spirit.

Everything that my mother has ever done has been overshadowed by the thought behind it. While the raw experiences I have had at home and abroad have been spectacular, I have learned to truly value them by watching my mother. She has enriched my life with her passion for learning, and changed it with her devotion to humanity. In her endless love of everything and everyone she is touched by, I have seen a hope and life that is truly exceptional. Next year, I will find a new home miles away. However, my mother will always be by my side.

COMMENTS:

The topic of this essay is the writer's mother. However, the writer definitely focuses on herself, which makes this essay so strong. She manages to impress the reader with her travel experience, volunteer and community experience, and commitment to learning without ever sounding boastful or full of herself. The essay is also very well organized.




SAMPLE ESSAY 2: Harvard, Favorite Fictional Character

Of all the characters that I'd "met" through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want to emulate. They are Attacus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird and Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams. They appeal to me because they embody what I strive to be. They are influential people in small towns who have a direct positive effect on those around them. I, too, plan to live in a small town after graduating from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.

Both Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham are strong supporting characters in wonderful stories. They symbolize good, honesty, and wisdom. When the story of my town is written I want to symbolize those things. The base has been formed for me to live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout I represent those things that Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I'd be entering the adult world, a world in which I'd not yet prepared to lead.

I'm quite sure that as teenagers Attacus Finch and Moonlight Graham often wondered what they could do to help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year president of our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, and giving. I have seen him spend his Christmas Eves taking gifts of food and joy to indigent families. Often when his bank could not justify a loan to someone in need, my grandfather made the loan from his own pocket. He is a real-life Moonlight Graham, a man who has shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Finch do much much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in my family I feel I have acquired the values and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enough. I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want to in the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guide me toward the life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.



COMMENTS:

This essay is a great example of how to answer this question well. This applicant chose characters who demonstrated specific traits that reflect on his own personality. We believe that he is sincere about his choices because his reasons are personal (being from a small town, and so forth). He managed to tell us a good deal about himself, his values, and his goals while maintaining a strong focus throughout.


SAMPLE ESSAY 3: Harvard, family illness: Mother's fight with cancer

I am learning, both through observations and first-hand experiences, that there are many mishaps in life which seem to be unexplainable and unfair, and yet have devastating consequences. Disease fits into this category. Its atrocity does not stem from the fact that it is a rare or uncommon occurrence, since illness and disease pervade our lives as we hear numerous stories of sick people and come into contact with them each day. However, there is a marked difference between reading in the newspaper that a famous rock star or sports icon has tested H.I.V. positive and discovering that your own mother has been diagnosed with cancer.

Undoubtedly, the most influential people in my life have been my mother and father. It is to them that I credit many of my accomplish-ments and successes-both inside and outside of school. Throughout my childhood, my parents have always fostered and encouraged me in all my endeavors. At all my sporting events, spelling bees, concerts, and countless other activities, they have always been front row and center. My parents, in conjunction with twelve years of Catholic training, have also instilled in me a sound belief in a loving, caring God, which I have come to firmly believe. It therefore should not come as a surprise that the news of my mother’s sickness would greatly alter my entire outlook on life. Where was my God?

My mother, in fact, had been aware of her condition in the spring of my junior year in high school. She deliberately did not inform my sister or me of her illness because she did not want to distract us from our studies. Instead, my mother waited for the completion of her radiation therapy treatments. At this time, she brought me into her room, sat me down on the same wooden rocking chair from which she used to read me bedtime stories, and began to relate her story. I did not weep, I did not flinch. In fact, I hardly even moved, but from that point onward, I vowed that I would do anything and everything to please my mother and make her proud of me.

Every subsequent award won and every honor bestowed upon me has been inspired by the recollection of my motherⳠ plight. I look to her as a driving force of motivation. In her I see the firm, enduring qualities of courage, strength, hope, and especially love. Whenever I feel discouraged or dispirited, I remember the example set by my mother and soon become reinvigorated. Instead of groveling in my sorrow, I think of all the pain and suffering that my mother had to endure and am revived with new energy after realizing the triviality of my own predicament.

For instance, last year, when I was playing in a championship soccer game, my leg became entangled with a forwards leg on the other team, and I wound up tearing my medial cruciate ligament. I was very upset for having injured myself in such a seemingly inane manner. Completely absorbed in my own anguish, I would not talk to anyone and instead lamented on the sidelines. But then I remembered something that my mother used to say to me whenever something like this happened: If this is the worst thing that ever happens to you, I⬬ be very happy, and you⬬ be very lucky. Instantly, many thoughts race through my mind. I pictured my mother as a young thirteen-year-old walking to the hospital every day after school to visit her sick father. She had always told me how extremely painful it had been to watch his body become emaciated as the cancer advanced day by day and finally took its toll. I then pictured my mother in the hospital, thirty years later, undergoing all the physically and mentally debilitating tests, and having to worry about her husband and her children at the same time. I suddenly felt incredibly ashamed at how immature I had been acting over my own affliction. I gathered my thoughts and instead of sulking or complaining, helped coach my team to victory.

I am very happy to say that my mother is now feeling much better and her periodic checkups and C.A.T. scans have indicated that she is doing very well. Nevertheless, her strength and courage will remain a constant source of inspiration to me. I feel confident to greet the future with a resolute sense of hope and optimism.



COMMENTS:

The majority of the suggestions for this essay highlight the danger inherent in relying on an overly poignant topic, in this case the writer's mother' bout with cancer. Part of why the reactions to this piece are so passionate (and why there are so many of them) is because had the applicant just taken a slightly different approach, he could have had a powerful and touching composition on his hands. It is always frustrating when a piece with so much potential misses the mark. In this case, the material and emotion are all there. Had he spent more time and written with more sincerity, this essay might have been a real winner.



I wish this kid had started the essay with his mom sitting him down in the rocking chair. That would have been a powerful beginning. In general, using the introduction of the essay to paint a scene or mood can be very effective.

He should begin with the most simple and striking sentence possible, such as "On January 5, 1995, my mother learned that she had cancer." Use real times and exact places. Let the most dramatic point go where it belongs, at the end of the sentence-also known as the stress point.

Because this topic is so personal, I yearn to know more about the student's reaction to his mom's cancer, how he and his family dealt with it over time. As written, things just seem a bit too tidy.

The author describes a valuable life lesson, but I find the writing style to be artificial and a bit maudlin. I imagine he resorted to the thesaurus more than once.

The writer tells us a sad story about his mother with cancer and how he has strived to do his best because of what his mother has been through. The topic can be a tear jerker, but this essay lacked the depth and richness that other essays with similar topics possess.

The experience obviously impacted the student very much. But what students do not realize is that they do not have to share such personal issues within the confines of a college essay.

I don't believe the "epiphany" in the conclusion as it's described. It's too easy and convenient to be believable. He begins his description with "For instance," which negates almost everything that follows. When he sees his mother in his mind, he "instantly" thinks this and "suddenly" does that, and finally "helped coach his team to victory." He "coached" the team. "Cheered" maybe. "Coached?" No way.

This essay smells of contrivance. Yes, his mother's bout with cancer affected him. Just not in the way he wants me to believe. This is the "lasting sanctifying effect" essay. Look at what the writer is actually saying (using his own words): I used to be "absorbed in my own anguish" and "lament" my bouts with adversity. But, "instantly" or "suddenly" (take your pick), I became a young man "confident to greet the future with a resolute sense of hope and optimism." Why not say, "I used to be a thoughtless, immature teenager. My mother got cancer. I'm now a thoughtful, mature adult. You should admit me to _____." His essay is no less subtle.

Why do you want to spend two to six years of your life at a particular college, graduate school, or professional school? How is the degree necessary to the fulfillment of your goals?



Knowing the schools to which you apply is an essential step in answering any essay, but questions such as these ask you to write about them directly. In answering these questions, mention specific factors that tie in with your area of interest. Doing this will help you to avoid the insincere, ingratiating tone that is a danger in this type of essay. Each point will be honest and well supported, thereby lending credibility to the essay and, in turn, to you.

Another challenge is finding a balanced yet truthful tone. Do not be cocky or self-effacing. Show a solid, well-researched knowledge of the school. Be honest and be thorough.

Lesson One: Examples of and Short Critiques for Future Goals Essays
Note: The below essays were not edited. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.

 SAMPLE ESSAY 1: Georgetown, School Target

When I think of Georgetown University, I think of Washington and world affairs. I do not know yet exactly what type of professional career I will pursue after schooling, but I do know that I wish to be inter-nationally aware and involved, and that Georgetown would provide me with a solid foundation for that goal.

I am glad I do not know specifically what I want to do later on, because it should be an adventure choosing which course I will take in life. Thus, I have time to experiment and learn from a wide variety of topics. At Georgetown, I am present with the opportunity to take any classes I want and to be taught by some of the most learned and dynamic professors in the world. I was once told that in college, I "will take classes in subjects I had never thought or heard of, " and I am very excited to do this.

If I were required to pick a major at this instant, I would choose history. If history were only studying, memorizing and regurgitating events, facts, and dates, I would be just as uninterested as most people. However, in studying history, I get a chance to contemplate ideologies and the nature of human beings. I believe that Georgetown University is the best place in the world to study history. It is a school located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the country, of outstanding academic reputation and recognition; my resources would be absolutely unlimited. Living in Washington, I would feel the pulse of our world today. The United States is the world's dominant power and every issue of great global importance is brought to the country's capital.

I have been told that although Georgetown has approximately 6,000 undergraduates, the students and faculty alike feel as if the school is a small, interwoven community. I believe that this sense of closeness is a vital aspect in an outstanding college experience. We learn most from interactions among other people, and the fact that this reputation of faculty accessibility and student involvement-both in the immediate Georgetown community and in Washington, D.C.-exists, is very attractive to me.


SAMPLE ESSAY 2: Johns Hopkins, School Target

The college admissions and selection process is a very important one, perhaps one that will have the greatest impact on one's future. The college that a person will go to often influences his personality, views, and career. Therefore, when I hear people say "it doesn't matter that much which college you go to. You can get a good education anywhere, if you are self-motivated," I tend to be rather skeptical. Perhaps, as far as actual knowledge is concerned, that statement is somewhat valid. Physics and mathematics are the same, regardless of where they are taught. Knowledge, however, is only a small piece of the puzzle that is college, and it is in the rest of that puzzle that colleges differ.

At least as important, or even more important, than knowledge, is the attitude towards that knowledge. Last year, when my engineering team was competing in the NEDC Design Challenge, held at Hopkins, after the competition I and a few friends talked to a professor of civil engineering. What struck me is the passion with which he talked about his field of study. At Hopkins, everyone-the students, the faculty, the administration-displays a certain earnestness about learning. This makes Hopkins a good match for me, as I, too, am very enthusiastic about the subjects I study. I love learning, and when those around me do too, it creates a great atmosphere from which everyone benefits.

My enthusiasm and activeness extend not just to academics, but to other aspects of life as well. I am very involved in extracurricular activities, participating in my school's engineering club and math team, and I love sports, having played on the varsity soccer and tennis teams for three years. This makes Hopkins, with its great sport traditions and a multitude of clubs and organizations, a great choice. Further, while in college I intend to explore new activities. Because of my school's small size and dual curriculum, there is a relatively narrow spectrum of activities available for me. Hopkins affords a great opportunity for me to branch out and participate in organizations to which I previously had no access.

Another aspect of Hopkins that attracts me greatly is its student body, diverse and multicultural, but at the same time uniformly strong academically. Since I myself am a refugee from Russia, where I experienced social and cultural anti-Semitism, multiculturalism and acceptance of different groups are very important to me, not to mention that it allows me to meet people of different backgrounds and learn of their varying perspectives. And this summer at the U.S.A. Mathematical Talent Search Young Scholars's program, I experienced the thrill of working in a group where everyone is on the same, or higher, intellectual level as I. I think that, given my academic and cultural background, I would fit in well with the student life at Hopkins and contribute to it.

Academically, too, I believe I would fit Hopkins well. Though Hopkins is most known for its medical program, its engineering school is also one of the best, and that is the general area of study I intend to pursue. In high school, I'd most enjoyed my mathematics and science courses, particularly physics, and I have participated in the engineering school, so attending Hopkins' engineering program would be a natural extension of my high school interests. However, my interests are not confined solely to the sciences. I enjoy courses from all areas of curriculum, particularly unorthodox and thought-provoking ones. Therefore, Hopkins, which according to the viewbook "is geared toward educating students in the fundamentals of their field of interest while illuminating wider possibilities through interdisciplinary study" is perfect for me.

Of course, none of those aspects of Hopkins, neither their great student body, their world-renowned faculty, their research centers, nor their clubs and extracurricular opportunities, are worth anything unless one takes advantage of them. That, however, is exactly what I intend to do. While many people find the transition to college overwhelming, therefore not participating in the student life fully the first year, I hope to plunge immediately into the full array of possibility and make as much use of them as possible. Though my soccer and tennis skills might prove insufficient to earn me a place on Hopkins's varsity teams (though I hope that's not the case,) I nevertheless want to play sports at least on the club level. Other than that, however, nothing is set in stone except for one thing-to take as full and broad advantage of what Hopkins has to offer as possible.



COMMENTS:

Both of these essays do a good job of showing that the writers know the schools and have some specific reasons for wanting to attend them. The first focuses more on the academic environment and surrounding city. The second combines several aspects such as academics, extracurriculars, and a diverse student body. Both applicants also use the opportunity to show that they would fit in by highlighting their own interests and activities (an interest in history in the first and math, tennis, and soccer in the second).

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