Category Archives: College

How to Write an Evaluation Essay

write-evaluation-essayDo you ever read restaurant critiques or movie reviews? Of course, you do.

These reviews are examples of evaluation essays.

You might think that an evaluation essay does nothing more than express your opinion, but actually a good one is unbiased and rational.

There are three key elements of a good evaluation essay:

1. Criteria. Think about what makes a great movie. Great acting? A compelling story? Define the qualities of a great movie, a great restaurant, a great TV show. Defining this ahead of time makes your evaluation seem more objective and less opinionated.
2. Judgment. State how your subject measured up to your evaluation of the criteria. Be descriptive in your writing to engage the readers’ interest.
3. Evidence. Use facts and information to prove that the subject met your criteria, or didn’t.

Now that you know what the three elements of well-written evaluation essay are, here are the steps to writing it.

Come Up with a Topic

Begin with a list of general topics, like restaurants or beauty products. Then get more specific with names of specific products or businesses. Ideally, choose a topic that you already know about.

Write Your Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement will summarize your evaluation and briefly give your reasons for it. For example, you might say that Johnson’s Restaurant is great for families because of their good service, casual atmosphere, and kid-friendly menu.

Identify Your Audience and Subject

Describe the genre of service and the audience targeted by this product or service. For example, you might say that a certain kind of car is ideal for commuters who have to drive a lot because of its good gas mileage.

Outline Your Criteria

Detail the specific criteria by which you are evaluating your subject. For example, if you’re critiquing a band, you might mention melody, lyrics, and dynamics as your criteria.

Establish Whether Your Subject Met That Criteria

Support your evaluation with strong and specific reasons. You can do this through a chronological description of the subject or you can quote others who are talking about it. You may also describe your own personal experience, or draw a comparison to another subject in the same genre.

Depending on what your subject is, there are several different ways that you can structure your essay.

1. Compare/Contrast: Take an example of something that’s universally recognized as the best within that area, and begin your essay by comparing your subject to that.
2. Unfulfilled Expectations: Begin with what you expected to experience, and then explain that the subject exceeded this expectation, or failed to live up to it.
3. Description as Framework: Begin and end with a description of your experience of the subject. Break off midway through your description to give your evaluation. This structure keeps the reader in suspense.
4. Evaluate based on Criteria: After giving your introduction and evaluation, discuss how your subject performed in each of your criteria.
5. Cause and Effect Analysis: What effect does this subject have on your audience?

There is more than one way to write an evaluative essay, so try to have fun with this opportunity to articulate your opinion about something that matters to you.

10 Christmas Gifts Any College Student Would Want

10-christmas-gifts-any-college-student-would-wantOne of the greatest things about college is making new friends. Now you have plenty of fun people to hang out with all the time! But you also have a very lengthy Christmas shopping list, and you are feeling low on funds and ideas. How can you get your friends the awesome gifts they deserve? What might they even want?

No need to worry. We have a list of gifts that every college student will love!

1. Personalized pillow. Is your friend perhaps missing a favorite pet? Get him an adorable pet pillow featuring a photo of his furry friend. You can also get a pillow that displays a collage of photos of some of the fun you’ve had together.

2. Hangover kit. Whether your parents like it or not, college drinking is a rite of passage. Assemble a kit containing Pepto Bismol, electrolyte drink mix, ginger ale, aspirin, and other items to make the morning after just a little less punishing. Or get them a fun hangover cookbook with comforting recipes and graphic quizzes to track her recovery.

3. A laundry bag or hamper. A fun, quirky laundry bag can help your friend keep his laundry organized. A graphic hamper will add a unique touch to the dorm decor. A personalized L.L. Bean laundry tote will make it clear whose things go where.

4. French press. A French press allows you to easily brew a cup of coffee with only water and coffee grounds. Until recently, they were impractical for college students because they shatter too easily and don’t keep the coffee warm. A stoneware version from Le Creuset can withstand early-morning or late-night rough handling. Your friend might also enjoy a clever coffee mug that doubles as a French press.

5. Personal humidifier. This takes up very little space, is easy to use, and will safeguard against the dry air of winter. Helpfully, it shuts off automatically when the water level gets low.

6. Bike accessories. Bikes are a popular way for college students to get around. If your friend owns a bike, get her some cool accessories: a lock, a helmet, or a rechargeable bike light.

7. Organizational tools and filing system. College students could always use a little help in organizing their possessions, files, and papers. Give them some colorful envelopes to file their papers conveniently, without taking up much space. A classic all-wood storage box can help them store jewelry or art supplies.

8. A DIY emoji marquee. Does your friend just love emojis? You can create a fun emoji marquee to jazz up his dorm room. You just need a round wood top, a drill, some globe lights, and an emoji template and you’re good to go.

9. Tapestry. Your friend can add a soothing and outdoorsy touch to her dorm room decor with a nature-themed tapestry.

10. iPhone projector. Give your friend the ability to easily turn his room into a home theater with a DIY phone projector. You need a shoebox, a magnifying glass, an Exacto knife, and some duct tape.

With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can give your friend a meaningful and useful Christmas gift without breaking the bank.

The Ultimate Checklist for Research Proposal Writing

the-ultimate-checklist-for-research-proposal-writingHow to convince the committee that you have a distinguished project and an exceptional plan to prepare it? To write an outstanding research proposal!

There is no single format for all research proposals because different disciplines and academic institutions have different formats and requirements. However, there are some components that should be included in every proposal.

We’ve prepared this ultimate list for research proposal writing to get you through the process as smoothly as possible.

Cover Page

Make sure that a cover page includes all necessary information to identify your topic, institution and degree:

  • concise and eye-catching title
  • your name and qualifications
  • department and university
  • your supervisor’s name

Your cover page provides the first impression of your proposal, so check one more time whether the title introduces the key ideas of your project and presents the right direction of your investigation.

Table of Contents

Make certain the table of contents:

  • presents the parts of a research proposal in a hierarchical way, with the help of titles and subtitles
  • indicates exact page references for every part

Introduction

The main aim of the introduction is to provide background for your research problem. Think about it as a narrative written to answer these 4 important questions:

1. What is the core research problem?
2. Which topic of study is related to it?
3. What methods should be used to analyze the problem?
4. Why is this research important?
After reading your introduction, the reader will have an understanding of what you want to do. Your introduction may include a theoretical starting point, a personal motivation or historical/cultural/ social/political information about the research question.

Purpose and Aims of the Study

This section describes the objectives and desired outcomes of your work to find the answers for the researched problem. Make sure:

  • the purpose is expressed in terms of the broader context of the study
  • there are not too many research questions, so the focus is manageable
  • the aims are related to the stated purpose

Literature review

The literature review demonstrates that you are aware of the diversity of material that is related to your research proposal. You need to show understanding of the relative theories, studies and models. Successful literature review:

  • keeps focus on the literature essential to your investigated problem
  • combines various theories, findings and arguments on the topic
  • gives the reader enough ties to the literature that you have found and read during the research
  • shows that you can take a critical approach to your area of research

Research Design

The research design is aimed at describing your plans and methods and should:

  • indicate the research operations you will use and the way you will interpret the results of these operations
  • specify why these methods are the best way to investigate the problem
  • anticipate any potential challenges you may face while finding information or analyzing data
  • provide a timetable and action plan to explain how each of the tasks will be carried out

Expected Outcomes

Surely, you don’t have the results when you start writing your proposal, but you should have some suggestions about the possible outcomes. Therefore, this section should provide:

  • the expected results
  • a series of paragraphs foreseeing the importance of the research

Glossary of Terms

Make sure you have a list of:

  • specialised terms
  • words
  • concepts
  • acronyms

and their meanings.

References

Be sure to reference texts and sources that play a significant role in your analysis, in addition to your planned readings. These include:

  • all textbooks
  • journal articles
  • relevant books
  • Internet sources

These references will help you avoid plagiarism, so make sure to cite them properly.

A high-quality proposal not just promises success to your project, but also impresses your committee about your potential as a researcher. Therefore, make sure your writing is coherent and compelling, and your research idea is clearly stated and persuasive.

Before submitting the completed work, check it carefully to make certain that your research proposal has all essential sections and follows all specified instructions. Our ultimate checklist will help you with that!

The Best Quotes to Beat Procrastination

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Procrastination is a particularly cunning beast. It lures you into feeling of false comfort and then disappears, leaving you face to face with panic and work overload monsters. And be sure: it will never be your ally in this battle.

Luckily, you don’t have to be the first person to fight the traitor. Lots of great people have conquered it and developed their own successful tactics and strategies. We’re not going to instruct you on the ways to do so. The ultimate goal is to inspire you to find the one that works particularly for you.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

The saying belongs to Pablo Picasso. We tend to think artists and the creatives in general are usually in conflict with schedules, deadlines and all kind of organizational pressure. However, Picasso’s example vividly demonstrates that even the most unconventional thinkers realize: getting things done is a precondition of success.

“It is awfully hard work doing nothing.”

A brilliantly witty playwright Oscar Wilde, obviously knew a thing or two about life in general and procrastination in particular. Postponing a task till the very last minute is actually exhausting, since the looming perspective of the need to face it never leaves your mind, bringing you to the state of constant anxiety. Eventually, you get tired of procrastinating, not of the actual dealing with a problem. Add the feeling of guilt and you’ll get the bitter cocktail no one really wants.

“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt couldn’t get it wrong. Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons of delaying work on a task. The trick is that it automatically leads to failure. Mistakes often lead to fascinating experiences. They make you ask for help, get to know more people and generally go down the path of self-development. Procrastination is a way to nowhere. In fact, it’s not even a way.

“If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.”

This precious piece of wisdom says it all. You don’t get to see the results of your work unless you actually do something.

Of course, the most complicated thing here is to make the first step towards change. However, you may use a couple of simple tricks to make the transition far more manageable.

  • Divide the task into small chunks. Let’s say you’ve got a research paper to write. Most of the time you’ll be reluctant to even think about it, taken all the weight of responsibility into consideration.
    Why not try a different way? First, you may google the topic to find proper sources to quote in your work. Then you get to the point of formulating a thesis statement. After that, you craft a detailed outline. And then fill in the gaps!
  • Push through the hard times. Perseverance is often the key element that brings you to the successful completion of the task. This will definitely require significant effort. Nevertheless, once you conquer the first obstacle, the following ones get a little easier.
  • Praise yourself! Positive reinforcement does miracles to one’s productivity. Having finished a small task, reward yourself with a little prize. A piece of fruit, time to surf social media, a short nap – something that makes you feel awesome emotionally and physically.

Any struggle gets easier when you’re no alone. When it comes to fighting procrastination – you definitely have a great crowd to accompany you. So get inspired and get down to work!

How to Do Research for an Essay Without Wasting Time

essay-research

So, it sounded like a good idea to take six classes this semester, but now that you have four or five essays all due by midterm, you’re rethinking that decision. Relax, you’ve got this. Doing the research for your essay is arguably the most challenging part of the whole process, so knowing how to do it quickly and efficiently puts you a little closer to finishing your essays on time and with good results. Let’s look at how to expedite essay research when you’ve got a goal to achieve and deadlines looming near.

Create an Outline

The outlining step to writing an essay can’t be skipped, no matter how short on time you are. Determine how you want to open the essay and what you want to say in the body and the conclusion. Determine if any research is required for information you plan to include. List the facts you want to substantiate as you make your outline, since this streamlines what you’re looking for when you dig into research.

Review Requirements

Essay requirements are like Forest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates; you really never know what your professors are going to ask of you when it comes to writing assignments. One professor may require that you use peer-reviewed sources only, while some others may even accept Wikipedia as a source. Refer to the specific requirements of the essay before you start researching, and get up to speed on what is expected of you (instead of finding out later that a source is not acceptable).

Reserve Materials

Plan well in advance for your essay by reserving any materials that you need from the library. You don’t want to be the 12th student waiting on a particular book when you have to tackle the nitty-gritty and get your paper written. If your school doesn’t have an item that you need in its campus library, turn to your public library instead. Many librarians will even order books and other media that patrons need if the facility does not own the item already; all you have to do is ask.

Take Advantage of Your School’s Library Database

Now you probably prefer searching the materials online, but at one time, students just like you had to actually go to a library and page through peer-reviewed journals themselves to find scholarly articles and studies. Today, even the smallest community colleges usually provide students digital access to databases of material such as EBSCO, Medline/Pub Med, Health Reference Center Academic, Oxford University Press, and more. With just a few search terms entered into your library’s collective databases, you can find oodles of information in seconds and sort it by resource type. Some databases even include a works cited entry for journal articles and other publications, making it easy to construct your works cited page as you choose your resources (be sure to determine if your professor prefers MLA or APA style first).

Take Notes

Note what you want to use from each source as you evaluate and research, keeping the notes organized in the order in which you plan to use the material in the essay. Making a single page for each resource can make it easier to cite things as you go along and keep you on track and moving toward the finish line. You can also make use of research management tools, sometimes available in library databases, such as EndNote or Zotero, to help you organize your material, annotate your work, and generate the reference list for you.

Finally, pace yourself and avoid getting side-tracked. Staying on-task is important to efficient research, within reason. Be sure to allow yourself a break to stretch or even grab some fresh air to keep you alert and in tune to the job at hand. Before you know it, you’ll be finished and ready to move on to the next essay in your pile.

Best Music to Write Essays to: Focus, Think, Write

essay-writing-music

If you’re like most students, writing can be frustrating, especially if you’re tense, stressed, or facing a looming due date for an important essay. The answer to staying focused and tapping into your creative juices may be as nearby as your earbuds: music. A whole body of research suggests that listening to music while you write boost’s your brain’s capacity for spatial-temporal reasoning, which is responsible for creative thinking (and thus, writing). So what type of music improves your concentration and focus the most?

Choosing a Genre

Various studies have been undertaken over the years on music and focus, particularly when it comes to writing (and also, studying), and researchers have found that music sans lyrics is the most effective at keeping you on task and churning out meaningful words. Music with words can be distracting to some writers, causing them to pay more attention to the lyrics than they are to the creative process.

That’s not to say you can’t throw on an epic soundtrack if you’re dealing with a bugger of an essay, a little Kanye, if you’re feeling like a superstar at a particular moment in time, or even some Adele to soothe your soul while you bring your ideas to life. However, electronic music, with its ambient notes and repetitive beats, and Baroque-period classical music, with its harmonic chords, are thought by researchers to be the best at releasing the inner Stephen King or G.R.R. Martin. “Brandenburg Concerto #3” by Johann Sebastian Bach gets numerous nods from researchers when it comes to heightening concentration and productivity.

Although choosing music from these genres can be as personalized as your own specific tastes, there are lots of recommendations floating around the interwebs when it comes to the “right” songs for writing. But don’t worry, we have a writer-approved playlist to help you focus and unleash your creativity.

  • First Breath After Coma” by Explosions in the Sky. If you’ve watched “Friday Night Lights,” then you’ll recognize this tune as the theme song for the show. This instrumental has limited vocals and is interesting enough without being really intense, so you can focus on the job at hand – writing.
  • You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax. This electronic instrumental has an R&B twang and provides tranquil background noise to get your neurons pumping and the words flowing.
  • So What” by Miles Davis. This 60’s instrumental from one of jazz’s greatest will help you maintain focus without distracting you from what you’re writing about.
  • The Bridge of Khazad Dum” by Howard Shore on “The Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. You don’t have to live in the Shire to appreciate this soothing instrumental.
  • Metamorphosis II” by Philip Glass. This piano solo provides mood-lifting background noise for your late-night writing enjoyment.
  • Time” by Hans Zimmer from the “Inception” soundtrack. This peaceful instrumental will keep you focused and relaxed.
  • Shempi” by Ratatat. This vocal-free instrumental has a high-energy feel, helping you stay alert and keep your focus on pushing through the last few hundred words of your research paper.

White Noise

White noise is also worth a mention for breaking the boredom of silence that weighs down some writers. Picture it: crickets chirp, birds sing, and thunder rolls in the background while you pound out 1,000 words on the French Revolution. Words flow like milk and honey from your fingertips, and you finish up your piece with enough time left over to binge watch a few eppys of your favorite show before heading off to bed. That’s the power of white noise. Although not exactly music per se, white noise can put an end to the monotony of quietness, which can, ironically be a big distraction.

Create your own white noise mix with Noisli, a free app (also available on laptops and PCs) with an on-board mixer that lets you add nature sounds, storm sounds, coffee shop sounds, and water sounds, among others, to find the right level of background noise for your tastes.

Music is a great source of inspiration. Find the perfect tune and have fun working on your next assignment.

Skills You Need for College

skills-for-college

You have finally made it to high school graduation and college is looming large in the near future. But are you ready? You know your way around a scientific calculator, and you can write a killer research paper, but do you have the soft skills to be a successful college student? Being academically prepared and being prepared in other areas of your life are two different things altogether.

College readiness goes beyond the courses you’ve taken and the SAT and ACT exams you’ve sat for. Some of the skills that you need to be a successful college student are often not found in a classroom setting. Let’s take a look at some skills you need to ensure your successful passage from graduating senior to lowly freshman undergrad, ready to “adult.”

Time Management

Time: we only get so much of it, and what you do with it really matters. For this reason, one of the most valuable skills you need to hone prior to heading off to college is time management. (Consequently, mastering time management is a good idea, since you will need this skill in nearly every area of your life in adulthood). Learn now how to prepare a schedule that factors in time spent in class and time spent studying and preparing – really studying and preparing – for each class. Now balance that with everything else that you’ll want and need to do once you’re “out on your own”. Maybe you need to factor in time for working, and you’ll naturally want to make time for attending student activities and hanging with your friends. Creating a schedule that works for you is a skill that must be learned, even if on the fly, by all successful college students.

Study Skills

Even if you have some mad study skills in high school, college-level work is another animal altogether. What was “good effort” in high school may not equally translate in college. Learn how to take notes effectively, use the library for research, and hone your study skills now – you’ll need them when you’re taking advanced classes in college.

Managing Stress

Stress management is essential for college students. Whereas before, you were in a more sheltered high school and home environment, living on campus means doing many of the things that adults have to do, all on your own. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to keep stress to a minimum. Find coping mechanisms, whether it’s prayer or yoga, to help you de-stress.

Managing Money

While some high school graduates have the money management thing down pat, the truth is most kids fresh out of school have no idea how to budget and handle money. Learn all you can now about making and sticking to a budget, balancing your checkbook, and living within your means. Most college students live on a shoestring budget, so learning how to get the most for your money and avoiding indulgent purchases is important.

Self-Care

You’ve so far had your parents to monitor your health for the most part. Now you’re in charge. You have to learn how to care for your physical health. Practicing good hygiene and self-care, making time for proper nutrition, and seeking medical attention when a problem arises is all on your shoulders now.

Personal Responsibility

Learning personal responsibility is key to mastering all of the above skills. Personal responsibility means being honest and having integrity, but it also means respecting the rules and following them. It is also your responsibility to avoid risky behaviors that are often enticing to young students and making smart choices now instead of making decisions that might negatively impact your otherwise bright future. In essence, you are the master of your ship, and it’s in your hands how you steer your course.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

narrative-essay

The word “essay” elicits two very different kinds of reaction from college students. Some are thrilled by the prospect of getting to create a unique piece of writing. Others become apprehensive about failing to tell an engaging story and getting their grammar wrong. Writing any form of essay requires a certain amount of skill, but it is the determination that gets you across the line. When it comes to crafting a narrative essay, students are required to be descriptive and have an open mind full of appealing ideas.

As the name clearly suggests, the narrative essay is one where you have to tell a story instead of convincing the readers to agree with a point of view. Your task is to present your perspective on a personal experience and allow the readers to emotionally invest themselves in a story. Even though you are not required to create an argument, you still have to give your essay a purpose or a position. This means that the writing must have a clear thesis and a string of well organized ideas that form a meaningful narrative.


Create an Outline

The first step to writing a narrative essay is to build an outline that will enable you to organize your thoughts and funnel them into a concise story. You will have limited time and words in which to describe your tale, hence it is best to know in advance where you are going with your story.

When outlining your essay, be sure to come up with the main idea before focusing on any of the details. Build your story around this central idea by creating paragraphs that support your thesis in different ways. The purpose of each paragraph is to lead the reader back to the main theme of your story. For example, if you are writing a narrative essay on “An Embarrassing Experience”, you should use the first paragraph to introduce the event that caused you embarrassment and then describe the various reasons why the experience was embarrassing in the paragraphs that follow.

At the very end of your essay, you should write a concluding paragraph where you sum up your narrative and leave the reader with your final thoughts. It is very important for the conclusion to give the readers a sense of closure or resolution.

Be Selective with Your Vocabulary

To make your narrative essay stand out, you need to make your description as vivid as possible. In order to do this effectively, you must use the right words, terms and phrases. Keep the principles of organization (spatial order, chronological order and climactic order) in mind when describing individual events. The use of descriptive words and appropriate synonyms is absolutely essential to make your work attractive and impressive. Instead of giving the readers a bland and detailed account of a particular event, you should present a gripping narrative that grabs and retains the attention of the readers.

Leave out details that do not add to the excitement of the story. Avoid the use of words that sound too formal or academic. Using pretentious words that confuse the readers defeats the purpose of a narrative essay.

Revise and Improve Your Narrative

In writing, there is always room for improvement. Do not just proofread your essay. Look for ways in which you can sharpen the details, use stronger verbs and rearrange the phrases. Furthermore, do not change your story when revising because it creates plot holes and makes your writing look choppy.

Once you are done writing, read out loud to make sure that your sentence construction is smooth and fluid. You can ask a friend or a tutor to read your narrative and offer suggestions. Do not hand over the essay to your professor unless you are confident that it is your best effort.

What Professors Expect from Your Writing: Prepare for the Requirements

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You may not think of yourself as a writer, and you might be convinced you’re never the best writer in the class. News flash: you don’t have to be. The job description for “student writer” is pretty basic, once you distill it down to some key goals—and once you’re focused on just what a professor wants out of your writing.

Here are the basic tricks of the trade for successfully getting through the written work that most every academic degree requires.

Compliance

Let’s be clear: professors devise assignments around certain protocols and they do so for specific reasons. That makes it your job to follow the assignment instructions to the last, minute detail. Who knows why your professor restricts you to 1,007 words, or requires a bigger font than you normally type with. He or she demands green ink on lavender paper? Do it. Whatever is requested of you as a student writer, do it.

Read carefully – and understand thoroughly—what the assignment parameters are. Then, make sure your submission matches exactly what the professor asked for in terms of content, word count, formatting, and deadlines.

Knowing Your Reader

This is an easy one, since it’s usually singular situation: the only eyes likely to grace your essay are those of the professor, or maybe a peer or two along the way of the writing and revising process. In most cases, then, you’re faced with the “initiated audience,” where you share your writing with people who know the subject at hand. No need to start from ground zero or explain away too many basic points. Assume your reader is up to speed and write accordingly. That will result in a more streamlined approach, where your prose can get to the point and really dig into the meat of the chosen matter. Your professor will appreciate your awareness of his or her expertise, and revel in an advanced discussion.

Clarity

Think clearly, write clearly. The end result? You guessed it: clarity. I guarantee that this tops the list of what your professor wants in an essay or research paper.

A professor shouldn’t have to work too hard to understand a writer’s basic idea or argument, then to follow the series of ideas that explain or support it. The best way to really nail down your most coherent position or argument is to start with an idea and then throw questions at it: start with the ever-important “Why?” and work your way down to “So what?” Once you yourself have dealt with this vital interrogation, then it’s likely the prose will stand up to closer scrutiny from the prof. Remember, too, that it’s the writer’s job to work out a logical sequence of ideas ahead of putting pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard), then to constantly circle back to that main theme, keeping the entire essay anchored in the central, formative points.

Consistency

Everyone’s writing style is different, because a person’s writing method and the outcomes are aligned at least somewhat with his or her outlook on life, social conditioning, and personality quirks.

That said, an academic essay is not necessarily the place to revel in deeply personal insights. Tone down colloquialisms and biased rhetoric that can take a reader off course. And know that in your capacity as a student writer, you must strive to develop a consistency of style that speaks to who you are as well as to how you respond to and adapt to various assignments. A professor will enjoy editing and grading your written submissions when he or she senses your voice and your perspectives in play in the prose.

4 Steps to a Winning Admission Essay

A college admissions essay is perhaps one of the most important documents a person will ever write. Believe it. Admissions committees (typically made up of the very professors with whom you want to work) will absolutely read your submission—and then happily use your words for or against you in the selection process.

Any university professor will tell you that a search committee relies on the admissions essay for the insights it provides in helping to measure the “fit” of an applicant to a particular program. A smart search committee member evaluates the attributes of both candidate and school to estimate whether or not an applicant will succeed at the institution.

So with that in mind, how do you develop just the right tone and message for the essay? Consider what follows as a guide toward putting your best essay forward. Your academic success might depend on it.

Do Your Homework

Feed into the ego of the admissions committee members by noting their accomplishments, which obviously shape the reasons you want/need to study at that particular place. Make it clear that “thanks to Dr. Y’s recent published study on X,” there is no better place on the planet for you to come do your work and subsequently make your own brilliant contributions to the field—all filtered through their genius, of course. Are you getting me here? Don’t pander, and don’t wallow. But by all means, speak directly to and about the target school, acknowledging that behind every desirable academic program are instructors, researchers, and administrators making it shine.

Get Personal

Think of the admissions essay as a portrait of you (minus the fake smile and perfect hair) that reveals something about your personal truth. Heavy, I know, but a candidate must relate particulars about just why they want to attend a designated school—and you can do so by setting up some amount of a personal history. Are you the first of your family to go to college or pursue a graduate degree? Maybe your childhood was fraught with varying levels of pain related to financial realities, health problems, or other “issues” you’ve managed to overcome? Say so. Build your case—but don’t go crazy on this front. No need to pull the sympathy card, but if there lurks in your past a legitimate “shadow” which somehow fueled your desire to get into this school, then tell that story.

Build Up Your Story

Now, don’t simply accumulate a list of bullet points; instead, write prose that sequences from one idea to the next via logical transitions and vivid, descriptive wording. Try to offer the admissions committee readers a narrative flow, so that they come away with a sense of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you plan to go. In other words, structure the essay on a sort of past-present-future platform, and always anchor your “plot” in how this school—how this program—is the only logical jumping-off point for your next phase.

Pay Attention to Details

Have two or three people (who have a grasp of the language) read your essay before you submit! It’s imperative to get feedback on content, readability, and even “mechanics” (errors in punctuation are more distracting than you might think). It’s critical that you pad the writing-editing-revising-submitting sequence with the time necessary to do all of the above.

As you craft the essay, always remember that a school cares about who it accepts; after all, a student’s academic trajectory should result in his or her entry into the professional arena, where that now former student will make a distinguished mark in the field. That mark will soon enough reflect positively back onto the school, the program, and yes—on the professors themselves, which bring us full circle: know your audience.

There it is. The road to a truly outstanding admission essay is not that long. The truth is, it does require diligence, creativity and perseverance. However, destination is worth it.