The narrative essay is a pattern of writing that lends itself well to writing a college essay. Many colleges require that a student write an essay to determine admission. Even those colleges that do not require an essay for general admission may require one for admission to a special school or program. The essay that you are going to write can also be used as the basis for some of the scholarships for which you may want to apply. The purpose of the college essay is to get you into the college of your choice. For that reason, while you will have some freedom, you will also have some constraints. Obviously, when you write your real college essay and send it in, you can send in whatever you want. However, for the purposes of your grade on this paper, use the guidelines listed on this sheet.
This essay is personal, but it is not private. Do not use this essay to discuss the very private elements of your life. For this reason, the following topics are off limits:
drug abuse/alcohol abuse
radical political organizations or social organizations to which you may belong
Basically, you will be the one telling the story. This story is about a part of your life, but not your whole life story. Avoid the temptation to begin this essay with the words, “I was born…” Think of this as a snapshot of the “real you.”
The introduction or “hook” should capture the reader’s attention. It should nudge the reader into continuing. You can accomplish this with a variety of techniques---an anecdote, a couple of lines of dialogue, or a provocative first sentence.
Your paper needs to be developed. Elaboration, however, does not mean “wordiness.” Eliminate clutter. Remember that someone who does not know you will be reading this essay. Excess words make for a boring essay. The length of this paper should be five hundred words.
This essay should reflect your individual style and personality. The reader should feel as if he is getting to know you by reading this essay. Use lively, accurate words. Avoid using a thesaurus. If you cannot use an impressive work comfortably, do not use it al all. For this essay you may use more informal tone than the tone you are normally expected to use in a formal college essay that you turn in to me; however, keep in mind that very often English teachers are recruited to read these essays, so do not use fragments, no matter how artistic you think they are, in your essay. Vary your sentence patterns; delete contractions. It goes without saying that you would not use any offensive language. Avoid rhetorical questions.
The ending of the essay should speak to the beginning, but it should not insult the reader by repeating the beginning exactly. The ending should show finality and you at your most positive. The final impression is a lasting one.
Use action verbs that are expressive. Sometimes you must use a linking or “to be” verb, but you should use these words sparingly. Use good transition words that will make your paper flow from paragraph to paragraph.
This paper must be typed and double-spaced. Never use an ornate font; use Times Roman. For typing your paper, use MLA format. This means that the paper will use one inch margins. See the MLA heading.
ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE. When you turn in your essay to your college, your audience will be a stranger whose only impression of you will be what you write in this paper. What do you want him to be thinking when he finishes reading your paper?
Here are two separate lists of topics that you may use. One list is taken from the Apply Texas Common Application Form. This is the list with Topics A-D. The other list is one that has been compiled from topics colleges have used from the past.
What person outside your family has had the most influence or impact on your life? Explain. Tell how this person helped you to develop into the person you are today.
If your house were on fire and you know that your family, pets, and pictures were all safe, what one object would you take with you from the burning house? Explain why this object is so important to you. Trace the history of the object. Use the object to reveal something about you. For example, a ring you inherited from your grandmother might illustrate your closeness to her; similarly, getting a autographed baseball might be the impetus for your interest in coaching a professional baseball team.
If you won twenty million tax free dollars, would you still go to college? Why or why not? If you decided to go to college, would you change your planned major to something else? Would you go to the same college? What do you expect college to do for you? Explain.
Write at least five adjectives that you think define you best. This is one list that many colleges will ask for your teachers to write.
Trace the path you expect to follow to establish yourself in your chosen profession, considering possible obstacles you may face and your plan to deal with these obstacles. Include a thesis statement that conveys the importance of your goals.
Write a personal narrative looking back from some point in the far future on your own life as you hope others will see it. Use third person if you like, and write your own obituary. On the other hand, you my chose to write in first person, assessing your life in a letter to your great-grandchildren.
Write a historical narrative tracing the roots of your family or your hometown or community. Include specific detail, dialogue, and descriptions of people and places. Explain this community helped shape you into the person you are now.
Write an account of one of these “firsts”: your first date; your first serious argument with your parents; your first experience with physical violence or danger; your first extended stay away from home; your first encounter with someone whose culture was very different from your own; or your first experience with the serious illness or death of a close friend or relative. Make sure your essay includes a thesis statement your narrative can support.
Sometimes our lives are affected by a single act that we failed to perform. Describe a time when action was called for, but you failed to act. Explain how that had an adverse effect on your life and how you learned from this.
Write about a time when you were an outsider, isolated because of social, intellectual, or ethnic differences between you and others. Did you resolve the problems your isolation created? Explain.
Select books that you have read that most influenced you at important stages of your life. Write your “literary autobiography,” tracing your personal development through these books.
Texas Common Application Topic
Topic A: Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.
Topic B: Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write and essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.
Topic C: There may be personal information that you want considered as part of your admissions application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.
Topic D: This topic is for people who intend to study Architecture, art history, design, studio art, or visual art studies/art education. Personal interaction with objects, images, and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For one of these intended areas of study, describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image, or space changed your way of thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?