Begin by writing down the essay question highlighting key words and instructions.
Break the prompt down into sections looking for the specific elements required in each prompt and the required information.
Determine if the essay should be based on research or self-analysis.
Identify the purpose of the topic and what the audience (judge) is looking for.
Essay Writing 101 – Getting Started
Create a strong introduction that pulls the audience in by raising a question or creating surprise.
Here is a possible opening for a discussion of a student’s work with a Habitat for Humanity Project.
“I am a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. I did not decide to do this work because studies report that 444,000 may experience homelessness or because 39% of these people are children. My reason for becoming a Habitat for Humanity volunteer was much simpler; I was one of those children.”
Essay Writing 101
Use present tense and optimistic phrases to demonstrate community and civic involvement and highlight your personality.
Weak: I have worked with several health care agencies. Stronger: I currently enjoy interacting with patients as a volunteer Nurse’s Aide at Flower Hospital and delivering food for Meals on Wheels.
Weak: I really like medicine, so for a long time I have worked with the Red Cross and at the Toledo Hospital.
Stronger: I am passionate about medicine, so for over three years I have volunteered thirty hours a month, administering screening questionnaires at the Red Cross Blood Bank, and conducting patient orientations at the Toledo Hospital.
Re-emphasize the main point or circle back to the beginning and tie the loop. “I continued my weekly visits to the ten shut-ins for over two years. Over that time period I became very attached to the men and women on my route and looked forward to listening to their stories. Through my visits, I learned the importance of giving, but more importantly the value of the human contact.”
Make it F-U-N
Your essay should be fun to read.
Take time in between revisions.
Get a couple of people to read and edit your essay.