How to write an effective admission essay

    IvyTies
    By IvyTies
    How to write an effective admission essay
    Almost all western colleges require an admission essay. If you want to study a subject such as Computer Science, you might wonder, “Why am I being judged based on my English writing skills?” There is actually an answer to that question. Experiments at universities have found that people who can explain their thoughts in “plain English” actually turn out to be better in programming. What is even more interesting is that students who have a strong vocabulary, i.e. have a good command of a large number of words, are actually better at listening. And being a good listener is a requirement for being a good student. Even more important, many colleges want students with some unique skills, ideas, and experiences. They want you to describe your unique aspects in your admission essay. Try to write an essay such that after reading it, the admission officer would think, “This applicant seems very interesting I want to meet them in person.”
     
    Next, the question arises, how you write a good essay such that the admission department looks at you favorably. One of the foremost differences between a native English speaker (such as a student from the US or the UK) and a non-native English speaker (such a student from India, China, or Nigeria) is the frequency of first person pronouns (such as “I” “me” “mine”). Analysis of essays have shown that Americans tend to use first person pronouns such as “I” to show that they take full responsibility of the essay. This makes it seem that the applicant is primarily responsible for all their achievement. Asians, on the other hand, tend to be shy to use “I” and “me” which makes it seem that the applicant is not confident enough to take credit for their achievements. So if you are from a country where English is not the first language, you should be aware of this.
     
    TESOL is an organization that certifies teachers to teach English. TESOL discovered that when native English speakers write essays, they use a wide variety of tricks to engage the reader’s attention. A trick could be a joke, a short story, a surprise ending, or more details about an incident. Foreign language students tend to write essays that do not engage the reader. They use overly general language, too much abstract claims without any concrete details. Remember a key requirement of effective story telling when writing essays—describe scenes, not summaries.
     
    Non-native English speakers who are writing an English essay usually tend to ignore any emotions that might be generated with the reader or any counterarguments that the reader might have. For example, if you write, “We were seven siblings and I was the only son in the family, we were poor, and I was the only one who went to school”. While the applicant might be trying to narrate the struggle, the reader might have a question, why didn’t any of your sisters go to school? Who decided that only the son should go to school? Such counter questions are often ignored by a non-native English speaker. A comprehensive compilation of about 50 years of research provides an extremely long TODO/AVOID kind of suggestions for someone who is really serious about writing a strong essay.
     
    Finally, what really matters are your arguments in the essay. Survey done at universities show that most students make an error thinking that putting more content and ideas in their essay is better. The graders think the other way around, they prefer fewer ideas that are well connected with each other leading to a logical final argument why you should be given an admission. You don’t need to describe everything about yourself in the college essay—just describe two or three really outstanding qualities about you.
     
    Stay tuned on IvyTies (www.ivyties.com) – a social network for college admission, to get more advice and help on how to prepare for your college application.