These exhausted folks, hopped up from eating too many cookies and brownies, have been sitting in committee meetings for days after spending a couple of months reading applications, most of which look pretty similar: baseball = life, or debate = life, or “I went to a developing country and discovered poor people can be happy.”They wade through long lists of candidates, state by state, region by region. But occasionally one will make an admissions officer tear down the hallway to find a colleague to whom she can say, “You have to read what this Math Olympiad girl said about ‘Hamlet.’ ” Your goal is to write an essay that makes someone fall in love with you.
The best applications and the weakest don’t come to committee. Once you commit the time and emotional energy to get your butt in the chair to write, you face a daunting task — figuring out what to write about. With so much freedom, this is a challenge for most students.
Some beginning writers think the present tense makes for more exciting reading.
You’ll see this is a fallacy if you pay attention to how many suspenseful novels are written in past tense..
Replace “was” in “The essay was written by a student; it was amazing and delightful” and you’ll get: “The student’s essay amazed and delighted me.” We’ve moved from a static description to a sprightlier one and cut the word count almost in half. Ending on a preposition is the sort of English up with which teachers will not put.
WORD PACKAGES Some phrases — free gift, personal beliefs, final outcome, very unique — come in a package we don’t bother to unpack. RULES TO IGNORE In English class, you may have to follow a list of rules your teacher says are necessary for good grammar: Don’t use contractions. And don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but” or “because.” Pick up a good book.Picture this before you plop yourself down in front of your computer to compose your college application essay: A winter-lit room is crammed with admissions professionals and harried faculty members who sit around a big table covered with files.The admissions people, often young and underpaid, buzz with enthusiasm; the professors frequently pause to take off their glasses and rub their eyes.You’ll see that the best authors ignore these fussy, fusty rules.Rachel Toor is a creative writing professor at Eastern Washington University in Spokane.We’re just humans who’re still learning what to do with the mysteries and wonders of the world we live in.We’re still learning how to handle storms and hurricanes.The bitter truth is, I couldn’t write about you because all I want to say is, FUCK YOU.Those two words are enough, enough to make me feel better.Bigger than me.”LEAVE WEBSTER’S OUT OF IT Unless you’re using a word like “prink” (primp) or “demotic” (popular) or “couloir” (deep gorge), you can assume your reader knows the definition of the words you’ve written. .”THE EPIGRAPH Many essays start with a quote from another writer.You’re better off not starting your essay with “According to Webster’s Dictionary . When you have a limited amount of space, you don’t want to give precious real estate to someone else’s words. When writing about past events, the present tense doesn’t allow for reflection. This happens, then this happens, then this happens.