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how do you write a good admissions essay?

what are good topics/topics to avoid

Thank you comment icon Write something that is you. This might sound a bit odd, but admissions can get a feel for who you are and how you write from your essay, so you have to make it you. I wrote my essay on the most difficult thing that I had to go through, and lucky/unlucky for me that day is and always will be burned into my brain, so I was able to write it and tell it well. My voice shone through and admissions got a good look at who I truly am. As they should in your essay. A admissions essay isn't just an essay it decides whether or not you get into a good college. Sometimes their difficult, but other times they aren't. Just be sure that whatever it is, it shows who you are. Lydia-kay

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Subject: Career question for you

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Amalya’s Answer

The statement of purpose should be based on your academic achievements, career goals and the greatest aspirations in life. Try to bring enough and solid reasons why you are a good candidate for the program you are applying for. Emphasize your strengths, talents and abilities. But be careful: It all should be done in an academic manner, using the right stylistic and language means.
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Jason’s Answer

My wife worked in college admissions for 10 years in New England and she's always said that the best college essays showcase a student's personality and who they are outside of their academics. Don't use words you wouldn't use in a typical conversation with your friends or family. You're Mom and Dad should be able to pick out your essay from a pile of essays. Some of the best essays she's read were about a student's favorite hobby, their family culture or traditions and their greatest fears. Notice she didn't say the best essays were about their most impressive accolade or accomplishment in academics, work or sports. Just be yourself!
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Martha’s Answer

Sophie, you've asked a brilliant question! The exciting part is that you can use virtually any topic for your admissions essay, depending on your approach. What does that mean? The admissions essay serves two main purposes: 1) to showcase your personality, thought process, and values, and 2) to help the admissions officers envision you as part of their campus community. You can use almost any topic to achieve these goals.

Most colleges and universities accept the Common App, so it's a good place to start. Pick one or two topics that you feel you could write about effectively. Then, consider what these essays could reveal about you, such as your compassion, resilience, creativity, or any other qualities that are important to you. You'll likely find that stories from your life start to surface. If not, talking with family and friends might jog your memory and unearth relevant stories.

When you tell your stories, keep the introduction brief. The specifics are less important than your interpretation, meaning how you perceived it, what you learned, or what you valued. Make sure to allow enough time to proofread for grammatical errors, share your essay with others, and make necessary revisions.

Here are some things to steer clear of:
- Concentrating more on the event rather than your perspective on it (for instance, your family's immigration story that unfolded before your birth versus its impact on you today)
- Using SAT words that don't really fit the context - admission officers read countless essays and can easily spot when you're arbitrarily inserting words from online thesauruses
- Creative writing that doesn't serve the two aforementioned purposes. While your essay should be enjoyable to read and well-structured, remember that its primary goal is to promote you as an individual. The only exception might be if you're applying to a creative writing or theater program
- Overly complex writing in an attempt to sound more intellectual
- Glorifying qualities or events that are widely regarded as negative. This might seem like common sense, but I once had a student who wanted to write about admiring Adolf Hitler. While it might be possible to do so, why risk causing the admissions officer discomfort?

Best of luck!

Martha recommends the following next steps:

Review the Common App essay prompts and focus on one or two - https://www.commonapp.org/blog/2023-2024-common-app-essay-prompts
Write down what you want your Common App essay to say about you
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Jacob’s Answer

Writing a strong admissions essay is crucial when applying to colleges or universities. It's your opportunity to showcase your personality, experiences, and reasons for wanting to attend a particular institution. Here are some tips on how to write a good admissions essay:

**Tips for Writing a Good Admissions Essay:**

1. **Start Early:** Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, write, revise, and edit your essay. Rushed writing often results in weaker essays.

2. **Understand the Prompt:** Carefully read and understand the essay prompt or question. Make sure your essay directly addresses what the institution is asking.

3. **Tell a Story:** Use personal anecdotes and stories to illustrate your points. Engage the reader with a compelling narrative that showcases your experiences and character.

4. **Be Authentic:** Be yourself in your essay. Admissions committees value authenticity. Share your genuine thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.

5. **Show, Don't Tell:** Instead of stating qualities or achievements, demonstrate them through examples and stories. Let your experiences speak for themselves.

6. **Stay Focused:** Stick to a central theme or message throughout your essay. Avoid going off on tangents or including unrelated information.

7. **Be Concise:** Adhere to word or character limits if provided. Admissions officers appreciate clarity and concise writing.

8. **Use Vivid Language:** Paint a vivid picture with your words. Use descriptive language to engage the reader's senses.

9. **Edit and Proofread:** Carefully review your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Consider seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers.

**Topics to Consider:**

1. **Personal Growth:** Reflect on a significant personal growth experience or challenge you've faced and how it has shaped you.

2. **Passions and Interests:** Write about a hobby, passion, or interest that is important to you and how it relates to your future goals.

3. **Diversity and Inclusion:** Discuss how your background, culture, or experiences have contributed to your perspective and what you can bring to the campus community.

4. **Academic Goals:** Explain your academic interests, why you're drawn to a particular major or field of study, and how it aligns with your future aspirations.

**Topics to Avoid:**

1. **Controversial or Polarizing Issues:** Avoid controversial topics that could alienate readers or be seen as insensitive or offensive.

2. **Self-Pity:** While it's okay to discuss challenges you've overcome, avoid dwelling on personal problems or portraying yourself as a victim.

3. **Clichés:** Stay away from overused clichés and generic statements. Make your essay unique to you.

4. **Inappropriate Humor or Language:** Be mindful of humor or language that may be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate.

5. **Extreme Negativity:** Avoid excessive negativity or criticism of others, as this can reflect poorly on you.

6. **Overemphasis on Achievements:** While it's important to highlight achievements, avoid coming across as arrogant or overly focused on accomplishments.

Remember that your admissions essay is your chance to connect with the admissions committee on a personal level. Be sincere, thoughtful, and reflective in your writing. Showcase your genuine passion for learning, growth, and contribution to the academic community.
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Chester’s Answer

Others have given great advice here. I'd recommend beginning by assessing what you want your essay to say about you - which can be considered from several lenses:

- What is unique about you? What is your "spike" that differentiates you from others? This can be a skill, a mindset, other strengths, overcome adversity, or anything else memorable!
- Are there any gaps or questions in the rest of your application that you would like to use the essay to fill? For example, if you are missing formal leadership positions, are there any experiences you can draw on to demonstrate your leadership?

From there, I agree with the other excellent advice on writing authentically, leaning into what makes you you, and other tips!
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