The Do’s & Do Not’s of Essay Writing

February 1st always sneaks up on me.  From the holidays to the shorter winter days, it’s suddenly time to read more applications.  After ten years, I can honestly say that I still get excited to read every word that you submit.  This is one of the biggest decisions you may have made thus far and I am honored to be a part of your decision!

The application as a whole is vital – there is no one part that is more important than the next.  Each piece weaves the story of YOU.  I still have a favorite part and it is the piece that you have 110% control over: the essay.

You may dread the essay.  I hear the horror stories of staying up all night only to find out you submitted the one with the wrong school’s name, or after spending three months perfecting your writing it was suddenly “gone” into the abyss of the information highway.

But I want you to know that there is no secret to the essay; it’s rather simple, actually.  Be yourself in your writing and have it edited by someone other than yourself!  Yes, really it is that easy.

That may sound vague; so let me give you some other Due’s & Donut’s (aka: the Do’s and Do not’s).

1)      Spell Check.  Go ahead and use the one that your computer gave you!

2)      Read your essay OUT LOUD to yourself.  You’ll catch the form vs. from; their, there and they’re; two, too and to.

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Ellen, Maggie, Maureen, Bryn & Sam at PACAC, an admissions professional development conference

3)      Have your essay edited by someone else – but only one or two others!  We want to hear your voice come through the essay and the more it is edited the more you risk losing that.  Stick to your gut on what you want it to say!

4)     Avoid ending with “…and that is why I want to attend XYZ University.”  First, this almost guarantees you’ll send it to the wrong school – I know it did for me!  Second, a lot of essays end this way – but you have something bigger to tell me, and I am selfish enough to think that my school is your first choice, the rest are just your backups… right?!

5)      Be creative but only as it fits you.  I’ve seen a lot of essays.  I’ve seen an essay in poem format, and essay read aloud on video, a student singing a song about why they want to attend and a video of someone’s high school talent show.  But that’s not the point.  These students were being true to who they are.  Here at SJU, we only accept a written essay, but you still have freedom!  I had a student who was fascinated by zombies, so she told me about her plan to survive a zombie attack.  She allowed me to see how WELL she could write by talking about something she was excited about.

6)      Write your own essay.  Did you just think to yourself, “Wait, what?!”  You read that right. How do we know you didn’t write it? We always know.

7)      Be concise.  Say what you mean.  The end.

8)      Know your audience and keep it appropriate!

I hope this has been a little bit helpful!  Remember that Admissions folks are not mean people who want to deny you.  We want you to find the right fit school where you will thrive.  You can call/email/Facebook us at any time and we’re glad to talk you through the process!

 

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Bryn Campbell is an Associate Director of Admission at Saint Joseph’s University and works with students from Delaware and Florida.  She has worked in admissions for ten years, starting her career at Immaculata University then spending some time at the University of Delaware before joining the SJU team in May 2011.  Bryn is also a member of the Pennsylvania and National Associations of College Admission Counseling.  Her favorite part about her job is getting to walk families through the financial aid side of the decision process – there is no question too small!

One Response to “The Do’s & Do Not’s of Essay Writing”

  1. Robbie

    Great advice, Bryn! I wish I had this when I applied to SJU. Good luck to everyone still finishing up their applications!

    Reply

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