Writing is a skill that everyone uses in one form or another, and it’s also a skill that can always be improved upon. When it comes to college admissions, the application essay carries a lot of weight, especially for a student that is borderline entrance material. A good essay will make him stand out from the pack, but a poor essay will essentially disqualify him from consideration. For many scholarships, the essay is the defining characteristic for the scholarship award. If writing is so important, why do so few people practice it?
Homeschoolers are notoriously good writers. Probably because we have the freedom to write on topics that we enjoy, and not just on those which have been assigned us. One of the best articles I’ve read on the art of the college application essay was written several years ago by Parke Muth, assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia. Entitled “How to avoid the Big Mac syndrome,” it was originally published in U.S. News and World Reports. Here’s just a short snippet of his knowledge and experience:
“A good essay is not good because of the topic, though that can help, but because of the student’s voice as a writer. A good writer can make almost any topic interesting. A poor writer can make even the most dramatic topic boring. A good essay always shows; a poor essay virtually always tells. By showing, a writer appeals to all of the senses, not just the visual. To show means to provide an assortment for the eyes, ears, and, depending on the essay, the mouth, nose, or skin.”
You can read the entire article here.
Since I’m in the process of writing an all inclusive guide for homeschool students on college preparation from an admissions office perspective, I’ve been fine tuning my own writing. That’s part of the reason for starting this blog. Also a good reason you and your students should write a blog, it will help get your ideas out there and provide a forum to practice your writing skills.
So, a few quick tips for essay writing for college admissions applications and scholarships.
- Be original, show who you really are. If you’re a naturally humorous person, then let it show, but don’t try to force it.
- Make the story you tell interesting. Avoid generic topics; write about what you know.
- Write from the heart and let your personality show through. Create an emotional bond with your readers.
- Take risks and be creative. It will entertain, and everyone loves to be entertained.
If you want more tips on improving your student’s essay writing skills, check out Just Colleges for free tips and sample essays. For a more expensive option, Cambridge Essay Service has some great resources.