Effective writing college Application Essays 2008 effective writing

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  • A well-written piece can be described as incorporating elements of writing in such a way that a reader can experience the writer's intended meaning, understand the writer's premise, and accept or reject the writer's point of view. 


  • is focused on the topic and does not contain extraneous or loosely related information;
  • has an organizational pattern that enables the reader to follow the flow of ideas because it contains a beginning, middle, and end and uses transitional devices;
  • contains supporting ideas that are developed through the use of details, examples, vivid language, and mature word choice; and
  • follows the conventions of standard written English (i.e., punctuation, capitalization, and spelling) and has variation in sentence structure.

“Good writing does not just happen. The best writers spend a great deal of time thinking, planning, rewriting, and editing." Elizabeth West

Obviously, not all students of the same age or grade level write in the same way; students pass through several developmental writing stages:

Stage 1

  • Novice Writer (unskilled, unaware, teacher-dependent writer) - has little, if any, individual style - has little awareness of writing process - has undeveloped skills and techniques - seeks approval from teacher - is reluctant to revise any writing - believes good writing comes easily

Stage 2

  • Transitional Writer  (transitional, self-involved, self-delineating writer) - needs support and coaching in order to develop - learns from modeled behaviors - is developing a degree of comfort with the craft - is anxious to stand alone, yet is uncomfortable with peer collaboration - is developing an awareness of personal needs, interests, and preoccupations

Stage 3

  • Willing Writer  (peer-involved, willing writer) - is able to collaborate well with others - requires external feedback to shape progress - is able to profit from criticism - is developing objectivity concerning work - enjoys practicing craft - is developing a sensitivity to audience

Stage 4

  • Independent Writer (independent, autonomous writer) - makes highly objective self-assessments - has developed a sophisticated personal style - has developed a writer's voice - takes risks and experiments - is self-motivating and self-aware as a writer - is a craftsperson


Pre-writing: A Place to Start

  • There are several pre-writing strategies regarding essay writing we will focus on the following:
  • Brainstorming
  • Engaging in peer or teacher-student discussions and conferences
  • Examining writing models
  • Outlining

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that you have taken and its impact on you.

Accomplishment Questions

  • show the admissions committee what you value, what makes you proud and what you are capable of accomplishing.
  • A common mistake is repeating information that can be found elsewhere in the application.
  • If you write about an accomplishment that the committee can read about somewhere else on your application, bring that experience alive by demonstrating what it took to get there and how it affected you personally.
  • Do not be afraid to show them that you feel proud.

Do not think about what they want to hear-think about what has really made you proud.

Accomplishment Question

  • For the second part of the question, they are asking you to open up about who you really are.
  • show that you have matured, do not overplay what a terrible person you once were just to make the point of what a great person you are now. No one changes that much.
  • focus on your current personality rather than on the “old you” or on every last detail of the event.
  • Finally, describe real scenarios to prove that your growth resulted from the decisions you made and actions you took.


  • Please look at your brainstorming worksheet.

After Completing the Worksheet...

  • You should now have between 25 and 75 potential essay topics.
  • The next step is to narrow this list down to the topics that are most suited to an admissions essay.
  • Some of your ideas may reveal themselves as dull, while you will find plenty to discuss for others.

For each of the personal characteristics or skills you have listed, ask:

  • Does it distinguish me from others I know?
  • How did I develop this attribute?

For each of the activities you have listed, ask:

  • What made me join this activity?
  • What made me continue to contribute to it?

For each event in your life you have listed, ask:

  • Why do I remember this particular event?
  • Did it change me as a person?
  • How did I react?
  • Was the event a moment of epiphany, as if my eyes saw something to which they had previously been blind?

For each person you have listed, ask:

  • Why have I named this person?
  • Do I aspire to become like this person?
  • Which of this person’s traits do I admire?
  • Do I aspire to become like this person?
  • Which of this person’s traits do I admire?
  • Is there something that this person has said that I will always remember?
  • Did he or she challenge my views?

For each of your favorites and least favorites, ask:

For each failure, ask:

  • What if anything did I learn from this failure?
  • What if anything good came out of this failure?
  • In answering these questions, you will probably find that you have a great deal to talk about, at least for five to seven topics. You must now find the one topic that will allow you to synthesize your important personal characteristics and experiences into a coherent whole while simultaneously addressing your desire to attend a specific institution. You must also be sure to answer the questions that were asked of you. Leaving a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day will not be easy, but we have compiled some guidelines to help you get started.

GETTING STARTED Before beginning your paper, ask yourself several questions:

  • 1. Who is my audience?
  • 2. How much do my readers know about my topic?
  • 3. How do my readers feel about my topic?
  • 4. How do my readers expect me to treat my topic? Next, brainstorm about your topic.

Rhetorical Modes in Essay Writing:

Rhetorical Modes in Essay Writing:

  • Definition:.Rhetorical modes are based on the ways human brains process information.  Choosing the one mode that matches your topic helps you organize your writing and helps the reader process the information you want to discuss.  Using key words that emphasize the chosen mode helps reinforce your essay's coherence. http://www.la.unm.edu/~straight/E101-4-6/comp_6.htm

Rhetorical modes of discourse:

  •        Narrative               Descriptive
  •        Expository
  • Persuasive/Argumentative


  • A Narrative Essay tells a story. It has character, setting, and action. The characters, the setting, and the problem of the narrative are usually introduced in the beginning. The problem reaches its high point in the middle. The ending resolves the problem.


  • The purpose of this type of writing is to recount a personal or fictional experience or to tell a story based on a real or imagined event. In well-written narration, a writer uses insight, creativity, drama, suspense, humor, or fantasy to create a central theme or impression. The details all work together to develop an identifiable story line that is easy to follow and paraphrase.

Example of a Narrative Prompt

  • In the following prompt , the topic is an unforgettable experience. The second component of the prompt suggests that the student think about various experiences and then write about one that was unforgettable.

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