Standup comedians either “kill” (win over audiences) or flop (get no laughs, or get booed). While the reaction of the admissions officer may not be so dramatic, their reaction will fall somewhere on the spectrum between “kill” and “flop.”
1) Clear Context. Have you ever picked up a book and turned to page 53 out of 200? No one usually does – why? Because you the reader won’t understand what happened before or what will happen after without some kind of introduction. This introduction orients a reader to what’s going on. Similarly, you need to make sure your essay is understood by an outside reader without asking a lot of questions about how and why this story came to be.
2) Persuasive voice. Many students fall into the trap of finding the “smartest” sounding words in the dictionary without an understanding of what they mean (Microsoft Word thesaurus can let you down). Sometimes the shorter and more simple version of your words is the more powerful way to tell your story.
3) Evidence of self-understanding. Admissions officers want to understand how you think about, feel, and experience the world. The essay allows an outside reader to do so from your point of view. If you don’t understand your own perspective, you won’t be able to accomplish this effectively.
My colleagues at AdmitSee gather essays from thousands of students who go to top schools each year. Some of my favorite profiles and essays can be viewed by clicking here.
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