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Your College Application Essay: Is It All About You?

by John Doe
January 11th, 2008

college.jpg The personal college essay is often difficult. What can you say about yourself that will take up 500 or 1,000 words? Does the idea of such writing make you anxious? Fear not, the personal essay process may not be as arduous as you think!

An admissions advisor or committee will pay careful attention to your personal essay. This will give them a good idea of you as a person. It will indicate what your personality is like, what your goals are, and any interests you currently have.

You should check on the essay requirements even before you plan to write. Some schools may require 500 words while others may want a different length. Some facilities may want a double-spaced essay with 1-inch margins while others may not be as concerned with detail.

When you’ve found what is required, it’s time to start writing. Don’t feel pressured as most essays, like all other forms of writing, will be completed in drafts. This allows you the optimum flexibility and opportunity to change any detail or sentence you don’t like.

The best method of authoring your essay will be on a computer. This invention has done more to help with writing, general or professional, than any other. Be sure your computer has some form of Word Processing software. This may be Microsoft’s Word or Works; it might be the Sun publishing suite, or any other.

The personal essay doesn’t differ from other high school writing in that there are still three steps for the easiest result. First, pre-write. This is where you get your words flowing. You are free to skip, jump paragraphs, and just write whatever you want. You shouldn’t be concerned with anything during this phase of the essay process.

The first stage is all about brainstorming and experimenting. This is the best place to really discover yourself and your life. What have been your greatest achievements? Have you experienced disappointments or hardships that made you a stronger person?

Have you traveled extensively? Are you actively participating in community outreach or fundraising organizations and efforts? By keeping focus on events rather than characteristics, you are giving the admissions personnel key insights into you, as a person. You can always interview others for ideas on what your strengths are. It’s also good during this phase to outline these strengths and offer some accomplishments.

When you’ve finished the pre-write, you can start organizing your material. Do you notice any patterns or connecting subjects through the piece?

The second stage is drafting. This is where you hone and refine your work. You take all the “pieces,” from your prewriting and reformat your essay. It works just like a puzzle. You move your sentences and paragraphs around to find more suitable and logical placement.

After the process of drafting, you will have written the essay. It should be solid, straightforward, and should have a sense of “flow.” Your paragraphs should be organized and shouldn’t “jump,” to other sections of the essay without reason.

Lastly, you will edit your essay. This is where you will need to watch your grammar and structure. Every sentence is a support for the paragraph. Every paragraph should support your overall essay.

Avoid the general mistakes in grammar such as run-on sentences and attempting to combine passive and active voice in a single sentence. Spelling is an imperative area to watch. Many “spell check” functions will catch the wrong spelling, but not the wrong word. For example, “eye like two dense,” is spelled correctly according to a word processor, even though you might be attempting to say, “I like to dance.”

If you prepare yourself for the process and don’t push, you can have the greatest essay possible. All you need to do is to realize the commitment involved, be ready for it, and give full attention to all details. You can complete your personal college essay without anxiety.

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