Friday, August 17, 2012

What Makes a Good Essay?

Many high school students take exotic trips to far-flung places for education, enlightenment, and sometimes to find "good" subjects for their college application essays. It's fine to do that, but it's by no means necessary. A week in Machu Picchu is not required to write a terrific essay.
What's required is an essay in the student's own voice, a genuine sense of his or her world view, an exploration of something that really mattered, whether it's a job at a summer camp, a family crisis that changed lives, or a book that opened up a new world. Last year, one of my students - who got into all but one of her first-choice colleges - wrote about losing her cell phone and then deciding not to get another. It was about the wonders of being unconnected in our hyper-connected world. Another wrote about how spending a week working in her aunt's natural food restaurant had introduced her to the world of healthy eating, and changed her family's entire perspective on food and nutrition. They went from eating frozen dinners to shopping at the farmers' market.
Colleges want to see how students understand and learn from their experiences.
If you're considering what to write for your Common Application essay, one way to start is to make a list of the events in your life that have mattered most and see which one makes your heart beat faster when you write it down. Sounds corny, but this could give you a hint about what direction to go in.
Let me know if you have questions.... ~~Liz

3 comments:

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