Monday, 16 April 2012

The Personal Essay - The Most Common Mistakes

1. Why in most cases the essay is the most important part of the college application?

For a majority of schools your grade point average and test scores are the most important for being admitted and for earning scholarships. More prestigious schools, because of the huge number of highly successful applicants, take essays, recommendations, awards, volunteer work and different kinds of extra-curricular activities into account. Dedicated volunteer work over a long period of time can be a strong topic. A day or a week experience is just about experience not about you.

2. What are the common mistakes you can make?
Inconsistency  Your essay is not the story of your life; it’s a strategic marketing message that should add value to your application. Cover all the themes that will help the admission officer get the whole picture of you. The personal essay must fit with the overall message, not resume the aspects described in your CV.
Too many themes  Don’t jam too many topics; you don’t have all the qualities in the world. Demonstrate your potential by emphasizing the personal qualities the college admission committees are looking for.
Being broad  Using clich├ęs and generic examples will not help you create a clear, impactful, realistic picture of yourself. Describe real situations at school or at work, give enough details so that you can explicitly communicate in written what kind of person you really are. Instead of vague generalitites, give names of people, organizations and locations, projects you’ve been involved in etc. The college admission committees want to find out about your initiatives, how competitive you are, if you can work efficiently in a team, if you can get along with the others, if you have a sense of humour, confidence, strength of character, motivated and genuinely interested in your personal development.
Flowery language Don’t be overcreative: avoid using fancy words, don’t brag about your successes. Write about them in an indirect way so that you do not appear to be boastful.
Careless errors Proofread your essay or ask a friend to do that for you; minor mistakes might make you look careless and disorganized.
Wordy, long-winded sentences Keep them short, direct and to the point. Don’t exceed the word upper limit.
Lack of structure Create an outline and follow it. Your essay needs a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. Avoid repetition and most importantly, use transitional sentences to link the paragraphs.
Inappropriate words and structures You are writing an academic essay; choose the vocabulary from the right layer of the English language (formal or neutral words).
Overuse of passives Up to a point, passive structures are recommended, but too many such sentences make understanding difficult as they are longer and harder to read. Experts say that the best balance is 20% passive voice if you want to emphasize the result. This will make the essay sound objective and the story more personal.
Grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes Don’t entirely rely on on -line dictionaries, spelling and grammar checkers! (To be continued )

Next topics:
3. What does a common statement consist of?
4. Do's and Don'ts

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