Below is a list of writing suggestions to ensure your essays have an enthralling style and voice that win over admissions boards.

  • Take a risk
    • They will likely remember you, and that will make all the difference. As one writer has said, “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
    • Sample Essay
  • Write your first draft with your heart, your second with your head
    • Get the raw thoughts out first. You’ll get a better sense of what you want to say. Then you can focus on how you want to say it.
  • Show, don’t tell
    • Evoke sensation in the reader. Don’t tell us you hated being caught in the rain, but rather show us how you were weighed down in a cold, waterlogged sweater.
  • Use specific details
    • General: My uncle Mike has been a huge influence in my life.
    • Specific: My uncle Mike was the man who told me my brother had broken both his legs skiing in the Alps. Mike was the man who took me to the father-son picnic when my dad was ill. And when I found myself in need of help that late Friday night that would forever change my life, it was Mike’s number I dialed.
  • Color your language with sensory writing (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
  • Use power verbs
    • But don’t overdo it.
  • Employ rhetorical devices (allusion, alliteration, foreshadowing, hyperbole, looping, metaphor/simile, repetition, satire, symbolism)
    • Don’t overdo this either.
  • Have a compelling style that fits your topic
    • Note how a slightly altered wording can change the entire effect of a line. President Kennedy once said: “The New Frontier is not what I promise I am going to do for you, the New Frontier is what I am going to ask you to do for your country.” Months later he said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Make sure every sentence matters and makes one want to read on
  • Begin with an attention-grabbing introduction
  • Finish with a spectacular conclusion
  • Give your essay a great title
    • This is by no means necessary, but a forceful title can make all the difference.
  • Seek out others for feedback
  • Proofread for clarity, content, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word count
    • Take a break from your essays before editing for final changes. You will gain new perspective and clarity so you can be more judicious in your criticism. Focus first on substance and style, then pay attention to the technical details. And, of course, make sure the right name of the college is on the right essay.
  • If you break a rule of language (such as using sentence fragments), make sure it serves a key purpose and stands out against a backdrop of otherwise perfect prose. All these rules are meant to be broken if there is a good reason behind it.

Next: Writing Don’ts

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