Thanks to Anna Paez, University of Pennsylvania, '19, for working at my picnic table.

Web design & photo credit: Anna-Elyse Schwabacher

ORGANIZE YOUR ESSAY...

SO THAT IT'S EASY FOR ADMISSIONS TO LOVE YOU.

​ What follows is a suggested structure for essays of 500+ words. This outline delivers the key messages  -- that you're a great candidate and can express your unique qualities --  in a way that's easy for overworked admissions officers to grasp  quickly.   Of course, you may come up with  a different  way to  organize your essay, and you absolutely should follow that inspiration, as long as your key messages are clearly stated.  

THE FIRST 'GRAPH...

IS THE MOST VALUABLE REAL ESTATE IN ESSAY LAND. IT HAS 3 PARTS: THE GRABBER, CONTEXT AND TIP-OFF.

First part:

Your first  2 dozen words MUST grab the attention of exhausted and cynical admissions officers who have read 47 applications before they got to yours.  If they're not intrigued by that handful of words, they may not bother to read the rest of the essay.   Here are two ways to grab your reader :  

START WITH A
STARTLING QUOTE

​"Ryan, this is not your year. We are keeping thirteen players on the team, and unfortunately you are number fourteen."

- RYAN

START WITH A
VIVID SCENE

​"Our rabbi urged us to ignore the picketers, but we couldn’t help glancing at them across the street as we hurried into our synagogue."​

- MADELEINE

Second part:

Provide context.  What's the setting?  What's going on?  Here's Madeleine's context:


The Westboro Baptist Church, an infamous hate group, wielded signs proclaiming: “God Hates Israel,” “Rabbis Rape Kids,” and “God Hates Fags.”  On this April night, more than 500 people of different faiths united for this special Shabbat service to counter hate with love."

Third part:

The tip-off. This sentence is the handle by which admissions officers can quickly grasp what your essay is about and why the subject is important to you.  Here's Ryan's tip-off. 

"I now see that not making the team delivered great benefits; but before figuring this out, I had to shoot a lot of baskets."

THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS TELL YOUR STORY... ​

AND CONVEY YOUR 2 MESSAGES.  NOTICE HOW NATE INTERWEAVES HIS STORY AND MESSAGES.

"I’ve worked on many different projects with friends before, but none have given the satisfaction of building a computer for Dylan.  I still feel it,  five months after he discovered it in Sam’s basement.  Now he’s earning money with his photography, and that's all powered through his new computer.  I get something out of seeing my best friend so successful."

THE CONCLUSION MUST ACCOMPLISH 2 TASKS: FINISH THE STORY AND ANSWERS  A FEW QUESTIONS:

LAST 'GRAPH: WRAP IT UP AND FINISH BIG. 

First, what lessons/s have you learned? Second, how has the experience changed you? Third, how might the experience influence your outlook going forward?  Here's Solana's last line: 

"It took time for me to understand that one of the most important aspects of activism is diversity, both in methods and perspectives. This is a lesson  I will carry with me throughout my college years and the rest of my life."