The College Essay

The College Essay
Formal Yet Entirely Personal
LASA English
Department Support
Conferences with students to plan essay
More than one draft – teacher feedback
In time for November 1st deadline
Students not knowing what to do =
Event described in essay doesn’t need to
be earth-shattering. Instead it should
reveal something of the student’s
personality and values.
Fundamentals of the Essay
Narrative structure with those
conventions, e.g. imagery, feeling,
thoughts, dialogue – storytelling with a
point or a parable. Should take up 1/3 to
2/3 of essay and show voice, qualities of
En media res – start in midst of an
engaging anecdote. Consider starting in
present tense.
Experienced-based essay
Fundamentals, cont.
Not a prose version of your resume
Narrative works as metaphor for larger
point: qualities of the student.
Activities becomes a metaphor for
Example: Yo-yoing. Seems like a simple
hobby but could reveal determination,
worldliness, sociability, competitiveness.
Specificity is of prime importance, cannot
be general.
Fundamentals, cont.
After narrative, last third or half of
essay needs to explicitly state how the
events of the narrative reveal student’s
qualities and have shaped student’s
goals, dreams and/or focus. Are these
qualities evidenced in other aspects of
student’s life?
Fundamentals, cont.
Essay not therapy or cliché.
Like a job interview, the best version of
yourself, especially for “hardship” prompt.
No passive voice: active verbs put
student in the driver’s seat.
Your voice: who are you? How do you
feel about the world you are describing?
Anchor in the concrete: prove that you
act upon these values.
Example Essay Questions
Key: What is the question behind the
question? Having a specific, personal
answer to a seemingly general prompt.
Common App Questions
Evaluate a significant experience,
achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical
dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
What have you been affected by? Still being
affected by. What has changed you?
Needs a happy ending or positive spin.
Discuss some issue of personal, local,
national, or international concern and its
importance to you.
What do you love? Where is your passion? Can be
a personal or family issue.
More Common App Questions
Indicate a person who has had a
significant influence on you, and describe
that influence.
Who loves what you love?
Physical description of the person.
Specific story about doing something with
the person that shows why they are
Even More Questions
A range of academic interests, personal
perspectives, and life experiences adds much
to the educational mix. Given your personal
background, describe an experience that
illustrates what you would bring to the diversity
in a college community, or an encounter that
demonstrated the importance of diversity to
What do you love to do, and how will it contribute to
our university?
Your culture is diverse, all cultures as diverse.
Another question
Describe a character in fiction, a
historical figure, or a creative work (as
in art, music, science, etc.) that has had
an influence on you, and explain that
Do you read or learn outside of school?
What is important to you?
ApplyTexas Questions
A. 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.
B. Choose an issue of importance to youthe issue could be personal, school
related, local, political or international in
scope- write an essay in which you
explain the significance of that issue to
yourself, your family, your community or
your generation.
C. There may be personal information that you
want considered as apart of your admission
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 talents, educational goals, or ways
in which you might contribute to an institution
committed to creating a diverse learning
Students have to do option C, especially for
scholarship consideration, and if they are outside of
the top 8% or quartile.
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