Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Point About College Essays

College admissions essays do NOT have to reveal some sordid past, some tragedy survived, or some monumental obstacle overcome. If you can show the depth of your character in an example or two from your daily life, AND show your introspective abilities in your analysis of the example(s), you will thereby show admissions folks that you have the maturity to step outside yourself and grow--something they can't teach you in college, but something that will absolutely enable your best learning in college. Even everyday experiences such as struggling in your first job, or feeling awkward in a social setting, can provide the basis for a fine essay IF you show that you learned from the experience you now share with your reader. Prove yourself a learner by showing concrete examples of meaningful (but not necessarily dramatic) life experiences, no matter how mundane they sound to you.

Writing College Essays

Show, don't tell. That's it, that's all. Same advice for every genre of writing, folks. When you show readers what you want them to perceive, and allow them to make their own conclusions or labels, based on the evidence you provide, then you give credence to your readers' intelligence and challenge them to think as they read your words. If you spoon-feed readers with "telling" sentences like "I learned to take initiative during my first job, and I earned the respect of my fellow employees," you dictate what they should believe about you, but never truly make them believe it. "Telling" words not only leave no memorable images in their minds, but also leave readers wondering whether you can even prove your assertions with vivid examples.

When you write an essay for school, you must back up assertions (topic sentences, theses) with details or evidence before adding your commentary. Without those details, you cannot prove your points. Likewise, if you write about your character traits in your college essay, but don't back up your claims, you won't leave any impression except a dubious one. And you won't get yourself admitted to college.

Memorable details are the key to college admission and to writing words that people want to read. Show, don't tell. That's it. That's all.