Writing a killer university application essay- Part 1

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BY S.M. TAHMID

We have all written essays, long and short, on topics both simple and complex. Starting with the infamous descriptive essay on the cow, we have cruised through the argumentative and even the biography, and apart from those of us who completed advanced english courses, those were mostly the only essays we had to go through.

At GradConnect, a premiere international education consultancy firm, my experiences in the essay editing and counselling team suggest that for many who already excel at the other requirements, this is the pivotal part of the application. This article was attempts to distil the main essence of all those suggestions in a concise form – the 5 things that must, always, be followed to write the essay that will open doors for you to the biggest names in the world of academics:

1. Setting the proper tone.

Be honest, and do not embellish any of your achievements (something South Asian students tend to do a lot). The person reading your essay is skilled at what he or she does and will see through it at once. Stick to the point at all times, deviating and putting in anecdotes is fine in a social gathering, even in some speeches and presentations, but not here.

2. Formatting.

An essay should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting – not something the education system of our country has taught us. If you are illustrating something, draw connections between it and the point you are making – leaving inferences is for the old authors of the past, not you. Lastly, always double check the instructions given – and check the sample essays for the proper flow structure required, and proofread your essay, by yourself and by your peers multiple times.

3.  Fixing a proper topic by finding your competitive advantage.

Focus on one aspect of yourself which best reflects who you are, and the topic has to be properly communicable from the author (you) to the reader (the person reading it).  Do not try to cover too many topics.

It is a good idea to brainstorm about possible topics for a few weeks. Topics may include your formal and informal accomplishments, unique skills, favorite books/music/art/movies and their influence on you, the difficult times you have passed, your success and failures, traits, people you follow as your idols, your future dreams and every other thing that makes you a person. It is all about you – you are showing the world why you are not like the rest – and although not every one of us are the unique rare snowflakes we think we ought to be, we are not the same either – find the thing that separates you and use it to your advantage.

4. Creating the first draft.

After all this is done. it is the time to write, or so you will feel. You have a topic, and you have some idea where you are going with it – but let us stop you, because that is how everyone else will write and end up being the 90% that are bland. The keyword here is Vivid – do you have enough of it to proceed? Is the topic genuinely intriguing? Does it center around your most vital experiences? Can you safely and conclusively connect the topic and the experiences. the goal of presenting yourself and yourself?

Many a times, the last connection is harder than you might imagine. Just because an experience is relatable to the topic and connects to you, does not mean it connects the essay to the goal – it might not be relevant to the aspects of you that the institution needs to know for them to accept you as one of their own. The best one sentence guideline here is, “ Will this make me look worthy to the person reading this?”.  All of these will be played out in your introduction, and that is where you must focus the most – the rest should fall in line quite easily.

5. Finalising the draft

Now you are at the finishing stretch. Your body paragraphs are coming along nicely; you have found your rhythm – but let us stop you once more, because there is another part to this that most ignore, and that is taking it slow. Remember the phrase, sleeping on it? That is crucial – after all, an argument that sounds perfect today will not look the same tomorrow – or even after doing something else for a while. Take a break, and come back to it with fresh eyes once in a while. Employ more pairs of eyes if possible by showing your drafts to others. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your essay should not be the first revision or the second, the third, or even the fourth revision. Only after multiple revisions for days can you find out the finished, polished product. If possible, have it professionally edited – and this is worth the effort and highly encouraged by everyone. Lastly, after all this – go through it once more to make sure its connected, concise, vivid and flawless in grammar and spelling. If it passes all the checks, you have a decent chance of getting that coveted acceptance letter!

S.M. Tahmid is a Content Specialist for GradInsights, the research service of the career consulting firm GradConnect. He is a part of the essay editing and counselling team and can be reached at tahmid@grad-connect.com.

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