College application essay writing

Report
Amy Carter, B.A., M.S.
Generation TX
June 29, 2012

For state-supported universities (Texas A&M,
UT, Texas Tech, etc.), the Apply Texas
Common Application is used.
Each school’s essay topic requirement varies.
 There are four topics with the first three being the
ones most required.


For private universities, each school has its
own essay requirements and prompts that
vary.

Topic A


Topic B


Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has
made an impact on your life and explain how and why this
person is important to you.
Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal,
school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write
an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to
yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.
Topic C

There may be personal information you want considered as part of
your admissions application. Write an essay describing that
information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges,
or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or
academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional
achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you
might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse
learning environment.


Write an essay in which you tell us about someone
who has made an impact on your life and explain
how and why this person is important to you.
What is this prompt asking of you?


Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could
be personal, school related, local, political, or
international in scope—and write an essay in which
you explain the significance of that issue to yourself,
your family, your community, or your generation.
What is this prompt asking of you? Do you
know what is going on in the world?


There may be personal information you want
considered as part of your admissions application.
Write an essay describing that information. You might
include exceptional hardships, challenges, or
opportunities that have shaped or impacted your
abilities or academic credentials, personal
responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents,
educational goals, or ways in which you might
contribute to an institution committed to creating a
diverse learning environment.
What will you write about?

Essentials of a good application essay
according to Texas A&M College Station,
Texas State, and UT Austin are as follows:
Fluency, Logic
 Grammar, Mechanics
 Unified Theme/Subject
 Clarity, Creativity
 Organization, Examples

David A. Byrd, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs,
College of Education & Human Development
Texas A&M University

Because most of the prompts for college
applications are open-ended, you are
responsible for selecting a topic on which to
write.
Good Topics
Bad Topics
Why my brother is my best
friend.
Why my brother is the only friend
I have in the world.
My weekend helping the
homeless.
My weekend throwing water
balloons at people on the street.
How the global warming crisis
affects me.
How bad global warming is for
the world.

Whatever topic you select to write on, it should
do the following:
Show much thought
 Show how it built your character
 Separate you from all of the other applicants
 Support other parts of your application
 Show critical thinking

 Explain HOW and WHY your topic impacted your life.
David A. Byrd, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs,
College of Education & Human Development
Texas A&M University


Your essay needs to separate you from the
hundreds of other applicants’ essays that
admission counselors will read.
Generic topics are those that every student can
relate to and do not leave an impression on the
readers.

Ex: My ________ has made a profound impact on
my life because…
 …she has always been there for me.
 …he always took me out to play basketball.
 …he helped me decide what to be in life.


Topic selection is the most important element
of the application essay.
“A well-written essay with no content is not as
memorable to the reader as one that is
compelling, thought-provoking and leaves the
reader feeling that he/she really knows the
applicant” (Dr. David Byrd, Texas A&M
University College Station 25 June 2012).


READ, READ, READ
-- the classics, contemporary novels, the newspaper,
news magazines, etc.
Reading improves the vocabulary, sentence
structure, etc.
 Reading stimulates the mind and
allows for personal experiences to be
remembered.



Keep a diary or journal of your personal
experiences.
This will help you:
Practice your writing
 Keep a record of you experiences
 Find your passion and
what/who you feel are
important
 Find your voice



Ask a close friend to write a personal essay
about you.
The essay should be about what is interesting
about you – what make you YOU.




What have you done in your life?
What makes you unique?
What is it about you that the person likes, admires?
This allows you to see yourself in a different
light.

Think about how you would describe yourself
to a complete stranger in 3 minutes or fewer.
What do you think a person needs to know about
you?
 What is important that can’t be seen from your
physical appearance?



Become conscious of things that you do that
you feel are important or meaningful to you.
Critically think about WHY you do these
things…HOW do they affect you?


If you only do these things because someone else
wants you to or because they will look good on your
application, don’t write about them.
Add these things into your diary/journal.

Get teacher input


Ask a teacher who you feel close to, or who you feel
knows you really well, to read your essay(s).
Get an English teacher to proofread it for you.
 Don’t procrastinate!
 Don’t ask a teacher to read over your essay and tell
him/her that you have to submit it the next day.
 Give the teacher time to read it and make corrections or
comment on what you’ve written.



Don’t read too many sample essays.
There are hundreds of samples posted on the
Internet or available in books for you to read.
You want your essay to be YOUR creation and
about YOU; reading too many samples may
hinder your ability to be creative.



Don’t plagiarize – EVER!!!
Plagiarism is equivalent to academic suicide. It
is punishable by law and NEVER acceptable.
Even “tweaking” a sample essay you find is
considered plagiarism – why take the risk?



Share your essay(s) with your parents just
before you attach it to your application.
While they may “know you best” they can also
stifle your creativity and have a tendency to
take over thus inhibiting
your voice.
Remember that YOU are going
to college, not them!

Admissions Counselors read thousands of
essays that fall into several categories.
The attempt-at-humor essay
 The cry-for-help essay
 The I-make-the-world-a-better-place essay
 The laying-it-on-too-thick essay
 The way-too-broad-of-a-topic essay
 The I’ve-overcome-so-many-obstacles essay
 The my-personal-growth-will-make-you-sick essay




Answer the question!
Many well-written essays never answer the
question or address the prompt.
If the topic is why you would be a good fit for
the college, don’t go off on a tangent about the
importance of relationships.

Every sentence, example, idea must tie to the
prompt.



The beginning of your essay must grab the
reader’s attention.
Don’t be quirky or give the reader an excuse to
put down your essay – draw him/her in.
Don’t fill the beginning with every SAT word
you know or try to be shocking.

A good first line of an essay creates a sense of
excitement, interest, or anticipation that motivates
the reader to continue on and learn about you.

What are you trying to tell your reader? Make
a list of the things you want the reader, and the
school, to know about you.
Do you want to show you can overcome challenges?
 Do you want to prove you are resilient?
 Do you want to add to the overall climate of the
school?


Your message doesn’t have to be “epic” but
honest and well-thought-out.

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Although you may be applying to several
different schools, let each one feel that it is the
only school you truly want to attend.
Colleges also want to know that you can add to
their community.


You need to tell the school how you will enrich the
school in addition to how the school will enrich you.
Make your essay an extension of yourself and
let the reader know you are an interesting
person, not just a name on a list of applicants.
What You Want to Tell the College
How to Include it in Your Essay
Even though my grades aren’t very
good, I would really be happy at your
school.
Discuss how you will rise to the
occasion and show how other
dimensions of your personality will
make you an asset to the school.
I am a little obsessed with my grades,
but I did go to the prom once.
It’s ok to be honest here but explain
why you value grades over being
social and how is an asset.
The prestige of your school matters to
me.
Do NOT write this! Harvard knows
why you are applying; elaborate
instead on how YOU will enrich the
school.
I have wanted to go to your school
since I was a small child and it would
fit my personality the best.
Be specific. Describe why the school
appeals to you and why you’ve
always wanted to go there. Explain
how these reasons tie in with who you
are.

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

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Remember this…
WHAT you say is more important than HOW
you say it.
Keep your essays short and to-the-point.
Essays should be 1 to 1 ½ pages in length.
The essays should support other parts of your
application.

Write about unique situations that make you who
you are and separate you from other applicants.

Read



Lewak, Risa. Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer: How
to Survive the College Admissions Process Without
Losing Your Mind.” Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. 2010.
Visit with College Admissions Counselors –
they can tell you specifically what their colleges
are looking for.
Visit with your HS counselors, academic deans,
etc. – they have contacts at the colleges and
updated information.
Amy Carter, Floresville HS
Email: [email protected]
Website:
http://www.fisd.us/High/teachers/english/acarter/index.htm

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