Some simple suggestions to round out my series on your admissions essay:
Write multiple drafts, get help with reviewing your document, and proofread. Allow TIME for revisions and reflection.
Be especially careful of how your document cuts and pastes into online applications – with many you may have a perfect essay transformed into (in technical terms) gobbleygook.
Keep the length UNDER the listed maximum. There are no points in this game for volume.
Use all the classic techniques of good writing: well organized, strong opening statement, strong conclusion.
Slip in any “isms” (racisms, agism, etc).
“List” – I get a slew of essays each year that try to include everything the applicant has ever done. Boring, and you have other places to list your involvement, etc. Use the essay to tell the reader more than a list.
“Blame” – I know that it’s different for YOU, that it really is (insert sibling/teacher/cab driver that wronged you name here) that done you wrong, but this is not the time or the place for venting.
Also bear in mind the great debate of college essays. Many many many of my esteemed colleagues will tell you to “be distinctive,” “don’t write what everyone else does,” “Skip writing about your trip overseas – everybody does that.” Two big problems – it’s REALLY hard to be distinctive when we read THOUSANDS of essays – are you just supposed to MAKE UP some kind of great adventure? More importantly, what you find distinctive may not be all that great for that particular reader. Maybe that reader LOVES travel – maybe he/she loves the places to which YOU traveled! Maybe they truly hate people that excel at yodeling while on a unicycle – however unique that may be.
Finally, don’t OVER estimate the importance of the essay. I am SO tired of reading pieces from “experts” that claim certain things on an essay “got a student admitted.” Most of the time it’s not about the essay – it’s about the academic record, and, to a lesser extent, test scores. And if it is an essay, you’ll never KNOW if it was the essay. So when your buddy says, “Wow, I got into Mason because they loved my essay written in Haiku,” be skeptical. Be very skeptical. Be seeing you.