The 3 Keys to an Effective College Application Essay

Purpose, Structure, Revision — Why You’re Writing, How to Write It, Ways to Refine It 
Tips from Professor of English Teri Fuller 

Purpose: Why You’re Writing
First, it is important to understand the purpose of a college application essay: it is to show how you are a good fit for a specific institution.

To that end, you must know a bit about the institution, a lot about yourself and be able to communicate why the two fit together! For example, what draws you to that particular school — is it the culture, the alumni success stories, the location, a specific professor or research opportunity in your intended major? Whatever it is, find a way to weave it into the essay. Be sure to articulate not only what the school has to offer you, but also what you have to offer the school.

In essence, you’re writing an admissions essay to prove that you are capable of succeeding and even excelling at a specific college or university. Every sentence you write should reflect that purpose.

Structure: How to Write It 
Because this is a formal essay, you’ll want to use the traditional essay structure with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion that has minimal to no grammatical errors.

In order to do this, you’ll want to:

  1. Directly answer the given prompt.
    In other words, understand what question(s) you need to answer in your essay and only respond to that question(s). Try not to get off topic.
     
  2. Begin with an introduction that draws in the reader and presents a clear thesis.
    You can use multiple strategies to get the reader’s attention such as integrating a quote, telling a story, using humor, citing relevant facts/statistics, providing a definition, asking questions, etc. As for the thesis, it should directly answer the admissions essay question(s).
     
  3. Provide body paragraphs that thoughtfully prove the thesis.
    Each body paragraph should serve to prove your thesis. It should also begin with a clear topic sentence that tells the reader what the entire paragraph will be about, and then support, explore the topic with your details, which might consist of real-world examples. As you write your body, be sure to use transitions, as well, to glue together your details.
     
  4. End with a memorable conclusion that provides closure yet leaves the reader with a lasting, promising impression.
    Be sure to reflect on your thesis without restating it word for word, and avoid beginning your conclusion with “In conclusion.” Why? Because you are a unique individual and you want to stand out from all of the others who are applying to that institution as well. You might consider using one of the introductory strategies listed above to do just that, and remember: because you are saying goodbye in the conclusion, you don’t want to introduce new information that would belong, for example, in the body.

Revision: Ways to Refine It
In order to make your essay the best it can be, you should always revise, revise, revise! Follow these helpful revision steps:

  1. Read your essay aloud to get a sense of readability and usage;
  2. Go to your school’s Tutoring Center, enlist the help of a trusted faculty member, and/or consult the Purdue OWL, or Online Writing Lab, for additional help;
  3. Have your friends and classmates read it and give their feedback;
  4. Write multiple drafts before arriving at the final draft. 

The bottom line is this: your job is to write an essay that highlights all of your best qualities and accomplishments and proves that you are worthy of attending a specific institution. Hopefully, these tips will help. Best of luck!

Note: Waubonsee's application, the New Student Information Form, does not require an essay. However, the Waubonsee Foundation Scholarship Application does, and it's due Feb. 4 for a fall 2019 start. 

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