By Laura Morrison, April 2014
Do you remember writing one or more essays during the college admissions process? Whether you enjoyed it, be prepared to write at least one more essay if you plan to apply to graduate school.
Of course, you want an application essay to shine and, as a result, take your qualifications as a graduate school candidate to another level. Here are several essay tips that might just help you achieve that goal.
Start with a freewrite
If writing isn't your passion, creating something you're proud to share with graduate school admissions officials could take time. That's OK. What you don't want to do is spend hours trying to dream up the perfect opening line. Instead, just get going and throw whatever thoughts you have on the page.
This is pretty much what Billie Streufert, director of the Academic Success Center at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, suggested in an article for USA Today College. To avoid writer's block, Streufert advised applicants to create an outline or just freewrite. Once you know where an essay's going, it's a lot easier to write a compelling introduction.
Follow the directions
Nothing disqualifies you faster than simply ignoring what you were instructed to do with your essay. So be sure to read your essay instructions before you do any writing. Also, make sure you keep the objectives in mind as you work. It's easy for writing to veer off topic, so stay focused.
Don't settle for clichés
There's nothing wrong with searching online for a few examples of actual graduate school application essays for inspiration. Just be careful not to emulate them too much, or you could find the occasional cliché slipping into your writing.
In the case of memorable quotes, something you view as a creative addition to your essay could make an admissions official roll his or her eyes.
"Don't quote Dr. Seuss in your essay or any other children's characters," wrote Marybeth Gasman, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. "I love Dr. Seuss but I've read at least a hundred essays with Dr. Seuss quotes - they're not new."
Create a memorable reading experience
Even the simplest essay topic can come to life and appeal to a reader's senses with the right approach. When writing, Quintessential Careers advises you to use "imagery and clear, vivid prose." This is especially crucial if you're sharing personal experiences in your essay. You lived them, but the reader did not, so do your best to make them feel what you did.
Creating a memorable essay means selecting the right words, not necessarily the biggest words. If you want to use complex words that you don't see every day, just make sure they're in the appropriate context, according to Quintessential Careers. Having a thesaurus handy is fine, but try too hard to impress admissions officials and you could end up losing them.
Get a second opinion
First, you're going to want to reread your essay more than once. Don't always trust your computer's spellchecker. Ultimately, the essay you submit needs to be flawless - not an error in sight.
In addition, share your essay with more than one person who can look it over with a critical eye. What you've written might make sense to you, but what about someone who hasn't been thinking about it for weeks? Getting a second, third or fourth opinion on your essay could help you create something really special that wows the admissions officials at your chosen.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.
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