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Creating the College Admission Essay

  1. Do not try to figure out what the admission officers want to read. Write what you know about and care about. Write about something which is important to you and about which you will enjoy writing.

  2. Be careful in choosing people to critique your essays. Your parents will have a difficult time being objective and may want you to tell your reader how wonderful you are. Have someone read your essays who is a good writer, knows something about the college admission process and is willing to tell you what they really think.

  3. Try to write in your own voice. Write about something that is uniquely you.

  4. Avoid vagueness, blandness, and banality. Be specific, colorful, and descriptive. Be clear, give details, make your verbs active and interesting. Never use words such as "get" or " a lot." It is all right to express your emotion.

  5. Your essays should have an informal and familiar tone. These essays are personal statements, not formal writing exercises.

  6. Remember your readers are hard working, hard pressed college administrators. Don't be afraid to entertain them.

  7. Be as concise as you can. Polish your writing but don't lose the informal touch.

  8. Prepare a rough draft of your essay and let the draft "cool off" for a few days. Then go back and re-read your work to see if it really says what you want your essay to say.

  9. Proofread and prepare your essays as carefully as you can. Don't rely on "spellchecker" to catch all the errors. It may be the wrong word spelled correctly. Read your essays backwards, word by word to correct for spelling then read them beginning to end to make sure grammar and punctuation are correct.

  10. Use anecdotes and stories to vitalize your essays. Actual incidents, conversations, colorful characters, and dialogue add zest to your writing and hold the interest of your readers.

  11. Make your opening and closing paragraphs the strongest part of your essays.

  12. Give your essays titles when appropriate and make sure the essays speak to the title and answer any questions you might have posed in your title.

Contributed By:

R. Fred Zuker, Ph.D.
University of Dallas
Dean of Undergraduate Admission,
Financial Aid and Student Life

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