Twelfth Grade

Unit 1 CFA Task 2: CFA Writing Focus-

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Unit 1 CFA Task 2: CFA Writing Focus- Narrative Writing

  • Write a narrative essay for either a college application or cover letter designed to accompany a résumé.

Focus Standard(s):

  • Write narratives to develop experiences using effective plot techniques, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (Writing Standard 3a-e)

Option 1- College application essay: “Write about something that is important to you. It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life. Don’t just recount—reflect! Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the time they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.”

*Resources: College Application Essay

Option 2- Cover Letter:

“The cover letter is one of the most challenging documents you may ever write: you must write about yourself without sounding selfish and self-centered. The solution to this is to explain how your values and goals align with the prospective organization's and to discuss how your experience will fulfill the job requirements. Write a cover letter which includes an Introduction, Argument, and a Closing.

Your argument or body of your letter is an important part of your cover letter because it allows you to persuade your reader why you are a good fit for the company and the job.


College Application Essay
Tips for choosing a prompt
Have you selected a topic that describes something of personal importance in your life, with which you can use vivid personal experiences as supporting details?

  • Is your topic a gimmick? That is, do you plan to write your essay in iambic pentameter or make it funny? You should be very, very careful if you are planning to do this. We recommend strongly that you do not do this. Almost always, this is done poorly and is not appreciated by the admissions committee. Nothing is worse than not laughing or not being amused at something that was written to be funny or amusing.

Will your topic only repeat information listed elsewhere on your application? If so, pick a new topic. Don’t mention GPAs or standardized test scores in your essay unless you feel your "stats" will be impressive and relevant to the essay.

  • Can you offer vivid supporting paragraphs to your essay topic? If you cannot easily think of supporting paragraphs with concrete examples, you should probably choose a different essay topic.

  • Can you fully answer the question asked of you? Can you address and elaborate on all points within the specified word limit, or will you end up writing a poor summary of something that might be interesting as a report or research paper? If you plan on writing something technical for college admissions, make sure you truly can back up your interest in a topic and are not merely throwing around big scientific words. Unless you convince the reader that you actually have the life experiences to back up your interest in neurobiology, the reader will assume you are trying to impress him/her with shallow tactics. Also, be sure you can write to admissions officers and that you are not writing over their heads.

  • Can you keep the reader's interest from the first word? The entire essay must be interesting, considering admissions officers will probably only spend a few minutes reading each essay.

  • Is your topic overdone? To ascertain this, peruse through old essays. However, most topics are overdone, and this is not a bad thing. A unique or convincing answer to a classic topic can pay off big.

    Will your topic turnoff a large number of people? If you write on how everyone should worship your God, how wrong or right abortion is, or how you think the Republican or Democratic Party is evil, you will not get into the college of your choice. The only thing worse than not writing a memorable essay is writing an essay that will be remembered negatively. Stay away from specific religions, political doctrines, or controversial opinions. You can still write an essay about Nietzsche's influence on your life, but express understanding that not all intelligent people will agree with Nietzsche's claims. Emphasize instead Nietzsche's influence on your life, and not why you think he was wrong or right in his claims.

  • In this vein, if you are presenting a topic that is controversial, you must acknowledge counter arguments without sounding arrogant.

  • Will an admissions officer remember your topic after a day of reading hundreds of essays? What will the officer remember about your topic? What will the officer remember about you? What will your lasting impression be?

College Application Essay Topics
1. What are your major accomplishments and why do you consider them accomplishments? Do not limit yourself to accomplishments that were of a formal nature, the most interesting accomplishments are those that just occur and then become crucial and important to you in that specific time of your life.
2. What attribute quality or skill do you possess that makes you unique? How did you develop and perfect this skill.
3. Consider your favorite book, movies, music, and art; how have they influenced your life in a positive and meaningful life?
4. What was the most difficult time of your life and why? How did your perspective on life change as a result of this challenge?
5. Have you ever struggled mightily and succeeded? What made you successful?
6. Of everything in the world what would you most like to be doing right now? Where would you most like to be? Who of everyone living or dead would you most like to be with at this time in your life? These questions should help you to realize what you love most – what have you discovered?
7. Have you experienced a moment of epiphany (an AH HA moment), as if your eyes were opened to something that you were previously “blind” to?
8. What is your strongest, most unwavering personality trait? Do you maintain strong beliefs or adhere to a philosophy? How would your friends characterize you? What your friends write about you if they were writing your admissions essay for you?
9. What have you done outside the classroom that demonstrates qualities sought after my universities? Of these which means most to you?
10. What are your most important extracurricular or community activities? What made you join these activities? What made you continue to contribute and participate in these activities?
11. What are your dreams of the future? When you look back on your life in thirty years, what would it take for you to consider your life successful? What people, things, and accomplishments do you need? How does the university you are applying for fit into your plans for the future.
College Application Essay
Writing Tips
1. If you are planning on writing an essay on how you survived poverty in Russia, your mother's suicide, your father's kidnapping, or your immigration to America, you should be careful that your main goal is to address your own personal qualities. Just because something sad or horrible has happened to you does not mean that you will be a good college or graduate school student. You don't want to be remembered as the pathetic applicant. You want to be remembered as the applicant who showed impressive qualities under difficult circumstances. It is for this reason that essays relating to this topic are considered among the best. Unless you only use the horrible experience as a lens with which to magnify your own personal characteristics, you will not write a good essay. Graduate and professional school applicants should generally steer clear of this topic altogether unless you can argue that your experience will make you a better business person, doctor, lawyer, or scholar.

2. Essays should fit in well with the rest of a candidate's application, explaining the unexplained and steering clear of that which is already obvious. For example, if you have a 4.0 GPA and a 1500 SAT, no one doubts your ability to do the academic work and addressing this topic would be ridiculous. However, if you have an 850 SAT and a 3.9 GPA or a 1450 SAT and a 2.5 GPA, you would be wise to incorporate in your essay an explanation for the apparent contradiction. For example, perhaps you were hospitalized or family concerns prevented your dedication to academics; you would want to mention this in your essay. However, do not make your essay one giant excuse. Simply give a quick, convincing explanation within the framework of your larger essay.

3. "Diversity" is the biggest buzzword of the 1990's. Every college, professional school, or graduate school wants to increase diversity. For this reason, so many applicants are tempted to declare what makes them diverse. However, simply saying you are an American Indian Buddhist female will not impress admissions officers in the least. While an essay incorporating this information would probably be your best topic idea, you must finesse the issue by addressing your own personal qualities and how you overcame stigma, dealt with social ostracism, etc. If you are a rich student from Beverly Hills whose father is an engineer and whose mother is a lawyer, but you happen to be a minority, an essay about how you dealt with adversity would be unwise. You must demonstrate vividly your personal qualities, interests, motivations, etc. Address specifically how your diversity will contribute to the realm of campus opinion, the academic environment, and social life.

4. Don't mention weaknesses unless you absolutely need to explain them away. You want to make a positive first impression, and telling an admissions officer anything about drinking, drugs, partying, etc. undermines your goal. College admissions read more essays on ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) than could ever be imagined. Why admit to weakness when you can instead showcase your strengths?

5. Be honest; your best, most passionate writing will be about events that actually occurred.

  • Be Original. Even seemingly boring essay topics can sound interesting if creatively approached. If writing about a gymnastics competition you trained for, do not start your essay: "I worked long hours for many weeks to train for XXX competition." Consider an opening like, "Every morning I awoke at 5:00 to sweat, tears, and blood as I trained on the uneven bars hoping to bring the state gymnastics trophy to my hometown."

  • Be Yourself. Admissions officers want to learn about you and your writing ability. Write about something meaningful and describe your feelings, not necessarily your actions. If you do this, your essay will be unique. Many people travel to foreign countries or win competitions, but your feelings during these events are unique to you. Unless a philosophy or societal problem has interested you intensely for years, stay away from grand themes that you have little personal experience with.

  • Don't "Thesaurize" your Composition. For some reason, students continue to think big words make good essays. Big words are fine, but only if they are used in the appropriate contexts with complex styles. Think Hemingway.

  • Use Imagery and Clear, Vivid Prose. If you are not adept with imagery, you can write an excellent essay without it, but it's not easy. The application essay lends itself to imagery since the entire essay requires your experiences as supporting details. Appeal to the five senses of the admissions officers.

  • Spend the Most Time on your Introduction. Expect admissions officers to spend 1-2 minutes reading your essay. You must use your introduction to grab their interest from the beginning. You might even consider completely changing your introduction after writing your body paragraphs.

    • Don't Summarize in your Introduction. Ask yourself why a reader would want to read your entire essay after reading your introduction. If you summarize, the admissions officer need not read the rest of your essay.

    • Create Mystery or Intrigue in your Introduction. It is not necessary or recommended that your first sentence give away the subject matter. Raise questions in the minds of the admissions officers to force them to read on. Appeal to their emotions to make them relate to your subject matter.

  • Body Paragraphs Must Relate to Introduction. Your introduction can be original, but cannot be silly. The paragraphs that follow must relate to your introduction.

  • Use Transition. Applicants continue to ignore transition to their own detriment. You must use transition within paragraphs and especially between paragraphs to preserve the logical flow of your essay. Transition is not limited to phrases like "as a result, in addition, while . . . , since . . . , etc." but includes repeating key words and progressing the idea. Transition provides the intellectual architecture to argument building.

  • Conclusions are Crucial. The conclusion is your last chance to persuade the reader or impress upon them your qualifications. In the conclusion, avoid summary since the essay is rather short to begin with; the reader should not need to be reminded of what you wrote 300 words before. Also do not use stock phrases like "in conclusion, in summary, to conclude, etc." You should consider the following conclusions:

  • Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion.

  • Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.

  • Redefine a term used previously in your body paragraphs.

  • End with a famous quote that is relevant to your argument. Do not try to do this, as this approach is overdone. This should come naturally.

  • Frame your discussion within a larger context or show that your topic has widespread appeal.

  • Remember, your essay need not be so tidy that you can answer why your little sister died or why people starve in Africa; you are not writing a "sit-com," but should forge some attempt at closure.

  • Do Something Else. Spend a week or so away from your draft to decide if you still consider your topic and approach worthwhile.

  • Give your Draft to Others. Ask editors to read with these questions in mind:

    • What is the essay about?

    • Have I used active voice verbs wherever possible?

    • Is my sentence structure varied or do I use all long or all short sentences?

    • Do you detect any clichés?

    • Do I use transition appropriately?

    • Do I use imagery often and does this make the essay clearer and more vivid?

    • What's the best part of the essay?

    • What about the essay is memorable?

    • What's the worst part of the essay?

    • What parts of the essay need elaboration or are unclear?

    • What parts of the essay do not support your main argument or are immaterial to your case?

    • Is every single sentence crucial to the essay? This MUST be the case.

    • What does the essay reveal about your personality?

    • Could anyone else have written this essay?

    • How would you fill in the following blank based on the essay: "I want to accept you to this college because our college needs more."

  • Revise, Revise, Revise. You only are allowed so many words; use them wisely. If H.D. Thoreau couldn't write a good essay without revision, neither will you. Delete anything in the essay that does not relate to your main argument. Do you use transition? Are your introduction and conclusions more than summaries? Did you find every single grammatical error?

    • Allow for the evolution of your main topic. Do not assume your subject must remain fixed and that you can only tweak sentences.

    • Editing takes time. Consider reordering your supporting details, delete irrelevant sections, and make clear the broader implications of your experiences. Allow your more important arguments to come to the foreground. Take points that might only be implicit and make them explicit.

College Application Essay
Sample 1

Hello. I’m John Anonymous from a once rural, now sprawling suburbia named Draper, Utah, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains.

As you peruse these applications piled before you, you’ll encounter candidates who will claim athletic prowess along with impressive academic records; others will favor the arts: musicians, artists, writers; still others will shine through extensive community service and impressive leadership.

You’ll no doubt scan application after application of dedicated, accomplished students vying for the envied laurels of national merit—but…

How many applications offer a young person forged from the fires of all these elements? A 17-year-old who places in a national wrestling tournament and boasts over 100 wins, but who also can sit serenely at a Steinway and play a Chopin?
A teenager, who conquered three AP tests so far with perfect scores, nailed the ACT with a 33 composite and maintains a humble 4.0 GPA, but who can also slice Utah powder and plow waves on a wakeboard with a zeal and respect for nature that only an Eagle Scout and Silver Palm recipient can have?
A young man who knows himself to be a deeply religious soul, with an allegiance to his Heavenly Father and an appreciation for the beauty and life around him, but who also yearns to face the fearsome ravages of disease, pain, and death as a medical doctor someday.

Over the next several years, I long to make the absolute most of myself through all channels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—to be a modern “Renaissance Man.” Then it will be my privilege to give back…to my wife and children, my friends and neighbors, my community and my world.

College Application Essay
Sample 2

Sometimes, the most significant accomplishments stem from a seemingly minor life event. My parents bought my first bicycle (a pink Disney princess model) the summer of my 5th year. I rarely even tried it. The following two summers I tried, but failed. I remember teetering along the sidewalk leaning heavily on my left training wheel watching the other kids my age zoom past on their sleek two-wheelers. It was classic childhood humiliation.

Then, miraculously, one June morning before my 8th birthday, I simply got on my bike (the same one I received three years back) and pedaled. Sure, I skidded into the holly bush and face-planted a time or two. But I was off! Zooming, speeding, with that wind-in-your-hair and nothing-can-stop-me sensation that happens far too little in life. My parents tell me that the same deal happened when I potty-trained. After months of parental cajoling, bribing, stickers on calendars, M&Ms, and Parent Choice Award DVDs and books, I just decided one day to do it.

And I never looked back.

So what does all this mean? What have I learned? What really are my accomplishments? Well, let’s gently put aside for now my good grades (Honor Roll and National Honor Society; GPA 3.86), my extra-curricular activities (Madrigals, School Musical, Key Club), and my job experience (two years at Chili’s-bussing, waiting tables, and now manager trainee), and look at what I have learned about myself. I’m a bit of a late bloomer…but, when I bloom, it’s 110%. I am social and outgoing, but I have to push myself to take risks and go out of my comfort zone. I study hard, but I know that I could study even harder by taking the most challenging classes and by improving my time management skills. So, yes, I have a shelf of “accomplishments,” but the most significant accomplishments occurred along the path to the goal, the insights I gained about myself, and the desires to make the most of my opportunities—and make the most opportunities I possibly could. To trust myself.

Accomplishments are always awards, trophies, and certificates, but rather frames of mind, an understanding of one’s weaknesses and either compensating for them or completely overcoming them. Accomplishment is more of a journey of self-discovery, adaptation, and acquisition of knowledge through experiences both small and great.

College Application Essay

Sample 3

A mighty struggle, you say? Ah, where to begin. I suppose Dickens is a good place…”it was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...”

First, the best of times. I was a motivated and enthusiastic student taking challenging classes and participating on the school newspaper staff my junior year. I was vivacious, clever, optimistic, funny, and dare I say a bit impish and immature. A typical fun-loving boyish lad who absolutely enjoyed life and people and noise and movement. I recall one day wrapping myself in aluminum foil, jousting upon desks with an imaginary light sword. My passions were two-fold: writing and Photoshop special effects. I created the most bizarre and entertaining edited photographs for the paper, and my writing was light-hearted. I’m sure my teachers don’t remember me without a smile on my face.

In the fall of my senior year, the worst of times arrived.


I was summarily withdrawn from school, which included my AP Literature class, and placed on Home and Hospital leave. I had no idea what to expect. In the following months, I was at my most vulnerable and my most victorious. The treatments were brutal, and I wasted away. My body was shrinking, my skin translucent. Certain colors and smells nauseated me, my strength left. My hair shed. I started out with stacks of makeup work and my English teacher, who volunteered to work with me on my Home and Hospital program…I was buried under silly chapters in a Health book about eating nutritious foods and exercising and dating do’s and don’ts, short essays on government, and endless explications of poetry.

It was soon obvious that I did not have the strength to keep up with the incessant string of assignments typical in a high school curriculum. While my English teacher liaison agonized and debated and worked deals with teachers, I quietly wrote a letter to them explaining precisely my condition and asked that they provide meaningful and substantive assignments for me rather than piles of busy work.

A new me was emerging. A young man, who with dignity and maturity, communicated his predicament and his needs, who wanted to learn but realized the limitations he shouldered. And so, a new journey began. We forgot about study guides and chapter outlines and started talking about life, and literature, and faith, and pain, and endurance, and fear, and survival. We drew connections between the real and the surreal, the past and the future, the child and the adult.

I transformed from a carefree kid to an empathetic adult who walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” and discovered that elusive “meaning of life.” I come to you with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, a deep reservoir of compassion, an acute understanding of life’s ironic humor and deep despair, and a bright, quick mind.

Unit 1 Resource for CFA Task #2- Cover Letter

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