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Some beginning writers think the present tense makes for more exciting reading.You’ll see this is a fallacy if you pay attention to how many suspenseful novels are written in past tense..Replace “was” in “The essay was written by a student; it was amazing and delightful” and you’ll get: “The student’s essay amazed and delighted me.” We’ve moved from a static description to a sprightlier one and cut the word count almost in half. Ending on a preposition is the sort of English up with which teachers will not put.
(Scroll down to read the essays, unedited and in full.)You'll need the help: Competition at these schools is fiercer than ever.
For every kid who’s hung prayer flags on a mountain summit in Tibet, there are a dozen others who’ve studied a Bantu language in Rwanda, worked with Guatemalan orphans, cooked with a celebrity chef, or been on reality TV.
They would go into the garage and talk, really talk: “Once my mom said to me in a thick Korean accent, ‘Every time you have sex, I want you to make sure and use a condo.’ I instantly burst into laughter and said, ‘Mom, that could get kind of expensive! And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter.
’ ” A girl wrote about her feminist mother’s decision to get breast implants. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.
(A few more: Don't write about mom and dad's divorce, and no general philosophizing—you're 17, get over yourself.) Admissions season is under way, and with early applications deadlines starting November 1, you've only got a few more days to polish your make-or-break essay.
Straight As and stellar SAT scores won't be enough.
That’s fine in academic work when you’re being asked to argue in support of a position, but in a personal essay, you want to express more nuanced thinking and explore your own clashing emotions. One of my favorites from when I worked in admissions at Duke University started out, “My car and I are a lot alike.” The writer then described a car that smelled like wet dog and went from 0 to 60 in, well, it never quite got to 60.
Another guy wrote about making kimchi with his mom.
It’s the gigantic stack in the middle that warrants discussion. Here’s a tip: Choose a topic you really want to write about. It might be your favorite book or the Pythagorean theorem. We share clothes and watch ‘The Real Housewives’ of three different cities together” does not make for a good essay.
If the subject doesn’t matter to you, it won’t matter to the reader. It might be why you don’t believe in evolution or how you think kale must have hired a PR firm to get people to eat it. In school, you were probably encouraged to write papers that took a side. “I love my mom even though she makes me clean my room, hates my guinea pig and is crazy about disgusting food like kale” could lead somewhere While the personal essay has to be personal, a reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it.