Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

What's the Secret to a Winning College Admissions Essay?

College Admissions Video Tip #5

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Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay

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Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay.

If you're like, well, just about everybody, you're probably going to wonder:

Is my college application essay any good?

Great news! You'll know whether or not you're on track if you ask (and answer) these three questions:

1. Is your application essay really about you?

I know. That sounds almost ridiculous it’s so straightforward. But trust me. I’ve worked with a lot of students whose essays really weren’t about them. They were about a person who’d meant a lot to them. They were about an amazing summer trip. And yes, the essays were so focused on the characteristics of that influential person, or that magical summer trip, that the writer of the essay—the person the admissions officers want to get to know—got completely lost.

So read your essay over and ask yourself the question: What is this essay telling an admissions officer about me? What does it show them about my character? What does it tell them about my accomplishments? If you can’t point to at least one thing in each paragraph that helps bring YOU, college applicant, into three dimensions, you’ll want to revise.

2. What’s the emotional, philosophical, or moral lesson at the heart of your essay?

college admissions application essay madness

Holiday Turkeys? Check out our pick of the strangest college application essay topics we've seen.

That’s right: It’s not enough to write about your big science fair win, or about your 100-mile walk for charity. The experience at the heart of your essay is merely the vehicle for the emotional, philosophical, moral, or even spiritual lesson you learned—and what the essay is really all about.

So read your essay over and ask yourself the question: Does this essay convey a lesson or transformation? If so, what is it? If not…well, you’ve got some rewriting to do.

3. Does your college application essay have a thesis statement?

Oh my gosh, the number of college admissions essays I’ve seen that haven’t had thesis statements is truly horrifying. And yes, to answer your question, EVERY essay, even if it’s not for your English teacher, needs a thesis statement—in other words, every essay needs you to state your main point up front. Essays that don’t are guaranteed to fishtail and lose their way.

So read your essay over and ask yourself the question: What’s my main point? And then ask yourself: And do I state that main point up front in a clear and direct way? If you don’t, you’ll want to massage your introduction with a thesis statement in mind, and then make sure the rest of your essay backs that thesis statement up with interesting, well-chosen examples.

How -to Write a College Application Essay Jenny Sawyer Your College Coach


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