ORGANIZE YOUR ESSAY...

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

​ What follows is a suggested structure for the Common App essay and other longer (500 + words) essays with broadly defined topics such as "Discuss an important personal goal and how you accomplished it."   This structure generally results in an easy that overworked admissions officers can grasp  quickly.   

THE FIRST 'GRAPH...

IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF ANY ESSAY. WHY?  IF YOUR FIRST GRAPH HOOKS YOUR READER, THEY'RE APT TO KEEP READING.  IF YOU CANNOT HOLD THEIR ATTENTION FROM THE GET-GO, YOUR ESSAY WILL ACT AS A COUNTERWEIGHT TO THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF YOUR APPLICATION.  IT HAS 3 PARTS: THE GRABBER, CONTEXT AND TIP-OFF.

The Grabber:

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

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."

The Tip-off

The tip-off. This sentence sums up what your essay is about and why the topic is important to you. The tip-off allows  admissions officers to get a handle on your essay and conveys the sense that you're organized and in control of the material.  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 HOW THIS STORY SHAPES WHO YOU ARE TODAY.  NOTICE HOW NATE COMBINES THE STORY ABOUT BUILDING A COMPUTER WITH THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF THE EXPERIENCE. 

"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 SHOULD ANSWER TWO QUESTIONS:  1. HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE CHANGED YOU ?2. HOW MIGHT THE EXPERIENCE INFLUENCE YOUR OUTLOOK GOING FORWARD?  HERE'S SOLANA'S LAST LINE.

LAST 'GRAPH: WRAP IT UP AND FINISH BIG. 

"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."

Please get in touch and let's get started now.

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

Web design & photo credit: Anna-Elyse Schwabacher