Ways to start off a college essay


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While few applicants are genuinely altruistic, most colleges are turned off by students who appear more focused on what the school can do for them, rather than how they can benefit from the education and at the same time be a contributing member of the campus community. If you are applying to a business program, the average starting salary of recent graduates should not be your stated motivation for seeking admission! A good way to catch mistakes is to read your essay very slowly and out loud. Some of the best and most memorable essays are based on a simple conversation between people.

The impressions and takeaways from such a conversation can be extremely engaging and provide a valuable window into the personality and values of the writer. Skip the Volunteer Trip. Dedicated community service over a period of time can be a strong topic for an application essay. Volunteer day at the local park, or two weeks of school building in Africa, will probably not impress the admissions committee. They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.

The admissions committee relies on essays to learn additional things about you such as your initiative, curiosity about the world, personal growth, willingness to take risks, ability to be self directed, motivation and ability to make the most of a situation. They are interested in your personal qualities such as leadership, confidence, ability to work in a team, strength of character, resilience, sense of humor, ability to get along with others and what you might add to the campus community.

In short, use your essays to showcase a side of you not visible from other parts of the application. Peruse the Entire Application. Many applications, especially for some of the more competitive schools, are complex and require multiple essays and short answers. For example, if you have five key areas you wish to cover, and there are five essays, try to strategically focus on one area in each essay. Resist the temptation to be a sesquipedalian or come across as a pedantic fop! Use caution when showing off your extensive vocabulary. You risk using language improperly and may appear insecure or overly eager to impress.

Check Your Ego at the Door. While self doubt is generally undesirable, a bit of humility can be well received, especially in an essay about overcoming adversity. Accentuate the Positive.

19 Common Application Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Few students have a perfect resume, which is apparent in the application. Drawing attention to weakness in an essay is generally not a good idea, unless you were able to overcome a weakness, and make it a strong suit. Proofread Carefully. Errors can doom your otherwise excellent application. Make sure you schedule sufficient time for a thorough review. When possible, have at least one other person proofread your essay. They may catch something important that you missed. Again, read your essay out loud. Organize Your Essay. An impressive essay generally contains a strong opening, well organized content, and a powerful closing.

Start with an outline and design your essay paragraph by paragraph.

Make sure you include enough background information about whatever topic you are writing about so that the reader can put it into context. For example, one student wrote an excellent essay about a horrible first day of school, but forgot to include that he had just moved to town, from halfway around the world, and was struggling with English.

Resist the temptation to run off and start writing. Experts will tell you that up-front planning of your essays is well worth the time invested. Research the College Before Writing the Essay. Almost every school has its own identity and mission. Some universities even have a slogan.

Others have niche areas of study that they like to promote. When attempting to climb the mountain of comedic success, I didn't just fall and then continue on my journey, but I fell so many times that I befriended the ground and realized that the middle of the metaphorical mountain made for a better campsite. Not because I had let my failures get the best of me, but because I had learned to make the best of my failures. Rachel Schwartzbaum '19 for Connecticut College.

This pivot similarly focuses on a "that moment" of illuminated clarity.

Telling Your Story to Colleges

In this case, it broadens Rachel's experience of stage fright before her standup comedy sets to the way she has more generally not allowed failures to stop her progress—and has instead been able to use them as learning experiences. Not only does she describe her humor as "self-deprecating," but she also demonstrates what she means with that great "befriended the ground" line. It was on this first educational assignment that I realized how much could be accomplished through an animal education program—more, in some cases, than the aggregate efforts of all of the rehabilitators.

I found that I had been naive in my assumption that most people knew as much about wildlife as I did, and that they shared my respect for animals. Maloney '07 for Hamilton College. This is another classically constructed pivot, as J. The widening of scope happens at once as we go from a highly specific "first educational assignment" to the more general realization that "much" could be accomplished through these kinds of programs. In this pivot, you draw a parallel between the life event that you've been describing in your very short story and other events that were similar in some significant way.

This state of discovery is something I strive for on a daily basis. My goal is to make all the ideas in my mind fit together like the gears of a Swiss watch. Whether it's learning a new concept in linear algebra, talking to someone about a programming problem, or simply zoning out while I read, there is always some part of my day that pushes me towards this place of cohesion: an idea that binds together some set of the unsolved mysteries in my mind. Aubrey Anderson '19 for Tufts University.

After cataloging and detailing the many interesting thoughts that flow through her brain in a specific hour, Aubrey uses the pivot to explain that this is what every waking hour is like for her "on a daily basis. And her pivot lets us know that her example is a demonstration of how her mind works generally.

Our return brought so much back for me. I was scared that my love for the place would be tainted by his death, diminished without him there as my guide. That fear was part of what kept my mother and me away for so long. Once there, though, I was relieved to realize that Albuquerque still brings me closer to my father. In this pivot, one very painful experience of visiting a place filled with sorrowful memories is used as a way to think about "all the other times" the author had been to New Mexico.

The previously described trip after the father's death pivots into a sense of the continuity of memory.

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College Essay | Sample Application Essay 1

Even though he is no longer there to "guide," the author's love for the place itself remains. In this type of pivot, you use the experience you've described to demonstrate its importance in developing or zooming in on one key attribute.

Here are some ways to think about making this transition: "I could not have done it without characteristic y , which has helped me through many other difficult moments," or "this is how I came to appreciate the importance of value z, both in myself and in those around me. My true reward of having Stanley is that he opened the door to the world of botany.

Discover Ways to Start a Good Essay: Most Common Mistakes to Avoid!

I would never have invested so much time learning about the molecular structure or chemical balance of plants if not for taking care of him. Michaela '19 for Johns Hopkins University. In this tongue-in-cheek essay in which Michaela writes about Stanley, a beloved cactus, as if "he" has human qualities and is her child, the pivot explains what makes this plant so meaningful to its owner.

Without having to "take care of him," Michaela "would never have invested so much time learning" about plant biology. She has a deep affinity for the natural sciences and attributes her interest at least partly to her cactus. By leaving me free to make mistakes and chase wild dreams, my father was always able to help ground me back in reality.

Olivia Rabbitt '16 for Connecticut College.


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In Olivia's essay about her father's role in her life, the pivot discusses his importance by explaining his deep impact on her values. Olivia has spent the story part of her essay describing her father's background and their relationship. Now, she is free to show how without his influence, she would not be so strongly committed to "personal responsibilities, priorities and commitments. We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies.

We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

ways to start off a college essay Ways to start off a college essay
ways to start off a college essay Ways to start off a college essay
ways to start off a college essay Ways to start off a college essay
ways to start off a college essay Ways to start off a college essay
ways to start off a college essay Ways to start off a college essay

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