Evidence of achievement not reflected in other parts of the application



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Writing Successful College and Scholarship Essays presented for LMSA by Carol S. Klein, The Writing Center, Inc. adapted from http://students.berkeley.edu/apa/personalstatement ©All rights reserved.

The selection committee is looking for two different things:

  • Evidence of achievement not reflected in other parts of the application.
  • HOW and WHY the events the student describes have shaped his/her attitude, focus, and most of all, intellectual vitality.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must be thoughtful and honest:

  • Written to express, not to impress—reveal not just the what, but also the why and how of your achievements, obstacles, goals, values.
    • Don’t brag.
    • Don’t suggest your goal for attending the college is money or status.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must be thoughtful and honest:

  • Which of the following is the better opening for a College Essay:
  • There are three reasons ABC College should accept me:  My classmates voted me “Most Likely to Succeed,” I was the valedictorian of my class, and I lettered in three sports.
  • 2. Coaching at ABC Baseball Camp this summer, I helped hone 20 ten-year-old boys’ batting and pitching skills.  The boys taught me a lot about sportsmanship, courage, and the importance of having a good sense of humor.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must deliver not breadth but depth:

  • Don’t write an essay that devotes each paragraph to a different topic.
  • Deliver steak, not just sizzle—(Your statements must be supported by facts.)
    • If essay describes you as a “top student,” your grades should prove this.
    • If “interested in the environment,” your list of activities, hobbies, classes should prove this.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must follow the college’s instructions:

  • An essay is an essay—not a poem, short story, or drawing.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must “answer the mail”:

  • Answer the question(s) as posed—for example, were you asked to Describe? Summarize? Or to Evaluate? Discuss?
  • Start with a strong, catchy title and introduction that stand out and interest the reader—your hook.
  • Follow the conventions of good writing.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

SELL—Which of the following are recommended for successful essays?

  • 1. Complaining /whining to reveal that you are a real person
  • 2. Conforming to the essay guidelines/requirements
  • 3. Revealing your character and values through your examples
  • 4. Talking matter-of-factly about your time in jail or your drug use to show that you have overcome adversity and are ready to move on
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
    • May 4, 2017

SELL—the essay must reveal you as:

  • Resilient—not complaining but explaining how you overcame an obstacle.
    • Positive—a problem-solver.
  • Confident—interested and committed; able to persevere in the face of adversity.
  • Professional—no errors; evident that essay has been edited and proofread.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

How FRAME the essay? Follow this process:

  • Plan—Brainstorm and Gather Information
  • Organize—Use Time-tested Template: Introduction, Body, Conclusion
  • Write—Draft and Revise
  • Edit—Edit and Proofread for Common Essay Errors; Elicit Feedback
  • May 4, 2017
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.

FRAME—Organize the essay: For two pages, use the following three main sections:

  • An introductory paragraph that provides the essay’s controlling theme.
  • Two to four body paragraphs that develop that theme through examples and detailed experiences that build upon each other.
  • A conclusion that widens the lens and wraps up the essay without summarizing or repeating what has already been written.
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017

FRAME—Plan the essay: Gather Information. Follow three steps.

  • STEP ONE. Address ONE of the following topics:
    • An achievement that made me feel terrific
    • Something I have struggled to overcome or change about myself or my life
    • A “real drag” of an experience that I had to get past
    • Someone’s act of strength or courage that affected me
    • A lesson, class project, activity, or job that impacted my academic or career goals
    • A time I blew it, failed, made bad choices, and how I got past it
    • An event that helps to define me, in terms of my background
  • STEP TWO. Address the following three questions in your essay:
    • What were the key moments and details of the event?
    • What did I learn from this event?
    • What aspects of this event have stayed with me most?
  • © 2012 The Writing Center, Inc.
  • May 4, 2017


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