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It’s the gigantic stack in the middle that warrants discussion. Here’s a tip: Choose a topic you really want to write about. It might be your favorite book or the Pythagorean theorem. We share clothes and watch ‘The Real Housewives’ of three different cities together” does not make for a good essay.If the subject doesn’t matter to you, it won’t matter to the reader. It might be why you don’t believe in evolution or how you think kale must have hired a PR firm to get people to eat it. In school, you were probably encouraged to write papers that took a side. “I love my mom even though she makes me clean my room, hates my guinea pig and is crazy about disgusting food like kale” could lead somewhere While the personal essay has to be personal, a reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it.
Replace “was” in “The essay was written by a student; it was amazing and delightful” and you’ll get: “The student’s essay amazed and delighted me.” We’ve moved from a static description to a sprightlier one and cut the word count almost in half. Ending on a preposition is the sort of English up with which teachers will not put.
WORD PACKAGES Some phrases — free gift, personal beliefs, final outcome, very unique — come in a package we don’t bother to unpack. RULES TO IGNORE In English class, you may have to follow a list of rules your teacher says are necessary for good grammar: Don’t use contractions. And don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but” or “because.” Pick up a good book.
But increasingly a new industry (completely unregulated) has grown.
Students -- many of whom are also paying for private counselors, sometimes at hefty rates -- are also paying thousands in fees for help on their essays.
Counselors (those who work for high schools and those hired by families) have long provided various forms of help on application essays.
So have parents, English teachers, family friends and others.Sometimes, as in the example at the beginning of this article, they don't tell the others who are advising them about the practice.In interviews, those who provide these services insist that they don't actually write essays.Picture this before you plop yourself down in front of your computer to compose your college application essay: A winter-lit room is crammed with admissions professionals and harried faculty members who sit around a big table covered with files.The admissions people, often young and underpaid, buzz with enthusiasm; the professors frequently pause to take off their glasses and rub their eyes.That’s fine in academic work when you’re being asked to argue in support of a position, but in a personal essay, you want to express more nuanced thinking and explore your own clashing emotions. One of my favorites from when I worked in admissions at Duke University started out, “My car and I are a lot alike.” The writer then described a car that smelled like wet dog and went from 0 to 60 in, well, it never quite got to 60.Another guy wrote about making kimchi with his mom.A car, kimchi, Mom’s upsizing — the writers used these objects as vehicles to get at what they had come to say. REPEATING THE PROMPT Admissions officers know what’s on their applications.They allowed the writer to explore the real subject: This is who I am. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Don’t begin, “A time that I failed was when I tried to beat up my little brother and I realized he was bigger than me.” You can start right in: “As I pulled my arm back to throw a punch, it struck me: My brother had gotten big.But once you start adding exclamation points, you’re wading into troubled waters. ACTIVE BODY PARTS One way to make your reader giggle is to give body parts their own agency.When you write a line like “His hands threw up,” the reader might get a visual image of hands barfing. CLICHÉS THINK YOUR THOUGHTS FOR YOU Here’s one: There is nothing new under the sun. George Orwell’s advice: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”TO BE OR NOT TO BE Get rid of “to be” verbs.