Stick to what you know.
When selecting a topic, make a decision based on what you know you can write, not just what sounds interesting or what you think admissions officers want to read. What will make an impression is a well-written essay, not a formulaic or obsequious one. If you follow this advice, you will let more of yourself show through in your writing.
The “I” doesn’t have it.
Try to use the word “I” as little as possible. Let your description of other people and events describe and speak about you without doing it yourself. You want to let readers make up their own minds, yet present yourself in such a way that they think they have no other choice but to see you as a strong candidate for admission.
Wear your smarts on your sleeve.
Avoid circumlocution, or “talking around” something. If you don’t get to the heart of the matter, a school will gather this and assume either that you are hiding something, or even worse, that you really don’t have anything worthwhile to say. Use as many specific details, ideas and facts as possible so you can prove to your reader that you know what you’re talking about and are not trying to fool them or waste their time.
Don’t pick a fight with the Admissions Officer.
Don’t try to impress your reader with abbreviations, industry-specific lingo or slang. The effect of such language usually does the opposite. If you reader is forced to use Wikipedia or Google to understand your essay, you have a problem. These readers are busy and they won’t waste their time. Use parentheses to define lingo and slang. Write out all abbreviations, including the university you are applying to!
Trim the fat.
Don’t go overboard. You want every sentence to be absolutely essential and nothing less. Getting to the heart of the topic creates a more convincing essay, as well as one that is more enjoyable to read. If a reader has to re-read your essay a few times to understand what you were trying to say, chances are you will be forgotten when the time comes to make up the list of incoming freshmen. Remember, don’t try to be to clever. While some smart humor is always appreciated, you don’t want to come across as thinking you’re smarter than the admissions officer or anyone else for that matter. There are no new ideas, so don’t pretend like you are the first person to think of using some obscure family member or an elementary school teacher as someone who has influenced your life. Just let your writing be honest, concise, clean and good.
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