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Essay #1: Introductions

You will use what you brainstormed in the bullet activity to write an application letter. You will choose only one of the following, based on whether or not you have graduated from high school.


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High School Graduates

Already a high school graduate with some work experience? Use the ideas you brainstormed in your bullet points assignment compose a college application letter or a scholarship application letter or a job application cover letter.

Format your letter in correct block business letter format (Links to an external site.).

Resources about writing college or scholarship application essays and letters:

The purpose of your college application essay or program application letter is to show the committee who you are as a person, what you value, what you hope to do with your life. Equally important, the application letter or essay serves as a sample that the committee can use to assess not just your grasp of grammar and vocabulary but also your ability to think critically and construct an argument (the argument that you, more than the thousands of other applicants, deserve to be selected.

Think hard about your reader’s expectations. Sometimes it helps to imagine your reader as a teacher in your school-one who doesn’t know you or your work. That reader will expect a good essay, on topic, free from errors. Also bear in mind that your reader is probably reading a lot of other essays in addition to yours; do your very best to make his experi­ence pleasant and rewarding.

Brainstorm extensively for these essays, both before you start your draft and during revision. Make sure your content is the best it can possi­bly be. Because this is a formal essay, you can be sure that your reader will be looking at how you’ve organized it. Is your structure logical? Take some time to outline your essay, and don’t be afraid to reorganize it once you’ve drafted it; essays often evolve as you write them and may need to be reoutlined and adjusted during the revision phase.

Expect to go through several drafts before you finalize your essay. Give yourself plenty of time to write, revise, and rewrite. Don’t feel you’ve failed if you don’t write a perfect draft the first time through: editing and rewriting are part of the writing process. Proofreading is a critical part of the revision process. For obvious reasons, your spelling, punctuation, and grammar must be perfect.


DOs and DON’Ts of College Admissions Letter or Essay Writing

Write it yourself. It’s a good idea to have trusted friends, family, or advisers read your drafts and make suggestions. However, the essay must be completely your own work from start to finish. Admissions committees are very adept at detect­ing when someone else has written an essay for you.

Don’t let anyone else write any part of it for you. Your essay must be your work, and your work alone. The admissions committee will definitely know if your mom wrote even a little: nothing is more obvious to an experienced reader than changes in tone, vocabulary, and attitude. When you get feedback from friends or family, don’t let them rewrite those sections for you. Absorb what they’ve said to you, and put it in your own words.

Answer the question (or “prompt”} exactly as it’s posed. Some schools use the Common Application (often known as the Common App), which allows students to complete a single application packet for submission to multiple schools. However, not all schools use the Common App, and some might even require additional essays. If you’re applying to multiple schools, it can be a hassle to customize your essays to meet their requirements, but doing so is absolutely critical to your success.

Don’t rehash quantitative information that appears elsewhere in your application. The admissions committee will look at your application as a whole including data such as test scores and grades. Don’t waste the precious opportunity the essay affords by restating this information, no matter how impressive it may be.

Answer the whole question. Many questions have multiple parts. One typical question is to ask you to identify an important issue or person in your life and then to explain why. Don’t neglect the “why” part of the question. That section is your opportunity to reflect, analyze, and show what’s important to you as a potential member of the col­lege community. Read the question carefully and be sure to answer it fully.

Don’t use fancy words where ordinary ones will do. If you mean “praise,” don’t use “laud.” If you mean “think,” don’t use “cogitate.” If you mean “walk,” don’t use “perambulate.” You don’t get extra points for extra syllables. Write in your own, natural, intelligent voice.

Observe the conventions of a formal essay. Your essay should have a clear structure, with a consistent point of view, and it should be written with an eye to keeping the reader’s interest.

Don’t indulge in excessive praise of the school you’re applying to. Good schools already know how good they are. It’s wise to show that you know something about the school you’re applying to, but it’s best to show this knowledge when you explain that you’re an ideal fit for the culture and values of the school.

Your essay is not an e-mail to a friend, or a friendly conversation, or a list of accomplish­ments. It’s a formal piece of writing with an introduction and conclusion-a clear beginning, middle, and end. Ideally, your essay should be interesting for anyone to read, not just the admissions committee.

Don’t overemphasize what the university can do for you. You should show that you’re aware of their offerings and emphasis, but you should put more emphasis on what you can do for the univer­sity community.

Be yourself. The committee wants to know who you are, so your essay should employ your natural voice, albeit in the context of a formal essay. Don’t try to impress by using big words, convoluted sentences, or pretentious ideas. Show the very best of who you really are.

Don’t submit an essay with typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors. This essay is your writing sample, and it also demonstrates how much you care about your application. If you allow sloppy mistakes in your application essay, the admissions committee has every right to decide that you won’t care about the work you do in college. Get several people you trust to proofread your essay before you submit it.

Use humor sparingly: don’t go overboard. Many students think that a jokey tone will convey their personality better or set them apart from other applicants. Be wary of self-deprecating humor, especially if it’s used to provide reasons for a less-than-stellar aca­demic record. This kind of approach almost always fails. If you have concerns about your test scores or grades, address them in a straightforward, serious way.

Proofread, proofread, proofread. Do not rely on spell-check or grammar-check programs; they sometimes make mistakes. Proofread the essay carefully yourself; then give it to at least two other competent people (not your best friend who got a C in English) to proof it. It’s even well worth the investment to pay a professional to proofread your final draft before you submit