Monday, November 4, 2013

Application and Scholarship Essay 101

By Priyanka Joseph

It's college application season again and whether you're transferring or seeking a secondary degree, it's always important to make a solid first impression. Application essays convey your goals, personality and work ethic on a page, so it's important to make that word count, count!

Take-away #1: Don't wait for the last minute!
Application Essays and Personal Statements are devious creatures by nature: one wrong word can change the admission committee's opinion of you. When they're getting through a slush pile of applicants, your careful use of language is what can win them over right away. You get two 45 minute appointments every week at the Writing Center, so make an appointment and give yourself at least two weeks before the deadline!

Take-away #2: Tell them the truth!
Everyone wants to be perceived as organized, driven, goal-oriented, and original. What makes a great essay is when you are able to recount real lessons learned from mistakes made-- don't use anecdotes for the sake of sensationalism, but capture a real learning moment that put you directly or indirectly on your current path. Maybe a mistake you made on your last internship, or the time you got lost hiking, or taking more than a few years on the wrong major.

Take-away #3: When in doubt, go... home.
Always aim for an authentic tone in an application essay or personal statement. Turn to your family and/or childhood for what inspired you to follow your dream and apply to this college or scholarship program. Nothing gratuitous, please! Perfection is not as interesting as conflict in terms of lessons learned: do not be afraid of sharing, as long as you tell us how the experience positively molded you into who you are today.

Take-away #4: Do your research!
Find out more about the program or scholarship-- is there information about past winners, board members, program areas, teams, faculty specializations, or the number of active study abroad programs that connects in some way to your application or goals? How competitive is the application process? How hard is it to get in? Is there a strong emphasis on leadership? To figure this out, do some online detective work-- google, talk to related campus clubs, professors who referred you to the program or those who might know something about it. The more you know about the program, the more specific you can be in your essay. This makes a committee or reader's job so much easier, as it demonstrates your motivation and why you're a good fit for this program.

When writing a college application essay or scholarship statement, stay honest, but take time to tell your story well. Come into the Writing Center located in Battelle and we'll be happy to help!

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