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Perfecting the Essay
College Essays 101
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College Admission 101
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Curriculum
GPA and/or Rank
Standardized Test Scores
Writing Sample/Essay
Letters of Recommendation
Involvement/Leadership
Unique Experiences/Hooks
Interviews
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Common Application Types
 The College Admission Essay
 The Short Answer Essay
 Supplemental Essays
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Previous Topics
 A time when you overcame adversity
 Your proudest moment
 People whom you admire
 New experiences you would like to have
 Why you are passionate about certain subjects and
activities
 What you value
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Risky Topics!
Topics that have been overused:
 What I learned in sports.
 Recovering from sports injuries.
 My study abroad experience.
 The President of the United States.
 Current, political or religious issues.
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Avoid!
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Redundancy.
Cryptic comparisons.
Forcing it.
Trying to be funny, when you’re not.
Quoting overused sources, poets and authors.
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First Steps
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Start early!
Read any and follow all directions carefully.
Answer the question.
Consider the institution (i.e. liberal, conservative, religious,
etc.?).
List several possible topics.
Develop outlines for three of them.
Choose one to develop.
Prepare a rough draft and then let it sit for a couple of
days.
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Remember!
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Write the essay as if you had to read it.
Write about something you know and enjoy.
Stay positive.
Be original.
Make sure it flows well.
Try to demonstrate at least one personal characteristic (e.g.
determination, intellectual curiosity, warmth, etc.), if possible.
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Remember!
 Rewrite your draft, if necessary.
 Make sure that it doesn't exceed the recommended size;
the average essay is typically 1 ½ to 2 pages in length or
250-500 words.
 Proofread it several times.
 Have a friend, your English teacher and/or your college
counselor review it.
 Revise and type your final copy.
 Make several copies.
 Put your name and social security number on each page.
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Remember!
 Readers usually take about 15 minutes per application.
 Open with a power statement, a sentence that immediately
attracts the reader’s attention.
 Continuity is important. Avoid being too cryptic. The essay
should flow smoothly throughout. If the reader has to stop
to question anything, you have lost your opportunity.
 Attempt to elicit some type of emotion from the reader.
 Close with a power statement, a sentence that reflects
personal insight.
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Opening Power Statements
 Green Eggs, Ham and Social Responsibility.
 If I could be any roll in society, I would be a croissant.
 The morning is cool and damp, and the darkness is
just lifting with the chill.
 The teachers at my high school are known for their
eccentricity on the one hand and their long tenure on
the other.
 "Ball!” shouted the umpire.
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Boykin Curry and Brian Kasbar, Essays That Worked (New Haven, Mustang Publishing Co., 1986).
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Opening Power Statements
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Within the past seven years, I have moved 364 times.
5:59 on my bedroom digital.
Last April I received the shock of my life.
At 4’8” and just under 70 pounds, I am as big as I will ever
be.
 I remember screaming, "I WON, I WON, I WON!" as I ran
down the street half-naked in my pajamas.
 "Awe shut up!" I screamed while slamming the car door.
 I love to write.
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Boykin Curry and Brian Kasbar, Essays That Worked (New Haven, Mustang Publishing Co., 1986).
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Closing Power Statements
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Damn, it was cold.
Or so I am told.
I would have gotten in anyway--as a cadaver.
And never shall the demon haunt me.
One black one still believed.
Although left-handed, I must be in my right mind.
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Boykin Curry and Brian Kasbar, Essays That Worked (New Haven, Mustang Publishing Co., 1986).
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Barry Kaye
Question: What is the best piece of advice you've ever
received?
"Move your ass!” yelled a man as a car was bearing down on a five year old
boy who was about to cross the street. That boy was me, and needless to
say, I took his advice and moved. As far as I am concerned, that was the
best piece of advice I've ever been given, for had I not received it, I would
not be here to say so.
The second best piece of advice I ever received was from my uncle, who
said, "Barry, go to Medical School."
If I am not accepted to the University of Pennsylvania solely on the basis of
this truthful answer, so be it. If I had not taken the man's advice, I would
have gotten into Medical School anyway, as a cadaver.
1 Boykin Curry and Brian Kasbar, Essays That Worked (New Haven, Mustang Publishing Co., 1986), p. 88.
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Barry Kaye
Question: What is the best piece of advice you've ever
received?
"Move your ass!" (Opening power statement!) yelled a man as a car was bearing down on a five
year old boy who was about to cross the street. That boy was me, and needless to say, I took his
advice and moved. As far as I am concerned, that was the best piece of advice I've ever been given,
for had I not received it, I would not be here to say so.
The second best piece of advice I ever received was from my uncle, who said, "Barry, go to Medical
School."
If I am not accepted to the University of Pennsylvania solely on the basis of this truthful answer, so
be it. If I had not taken the man's advice, I would have gotten to Medical School anyway, as a
cadaver. (Closing power statement!)1
Outstanding essay, but way to short; the standard college admission essay is 1 & 1/2 to 2 pages or 250500 words long. Notice the opening and closing power statements. It flows, makes me laugh and
reveals the writer’s sense of humor--the perfect essay.
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Boykin Curry and Brian Kasbar, Essays That Worked (New Haven, Mustang Publishing Co., 1986), p. 88.
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Resources
Connecticut College
http://www.conncoll.edu/essays.htm
University of Chicago
https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/apply/essays/
past.shtml
Tufts University http://admissions.tufts.edu/apply/essayquestions/past-essays/
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Contact Information
Rusty Haynes
719-576-9487
[email protected]
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