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How to Write A Captivating Application Essay!

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Dec 9, 2014 6:48:00 PM

Your college applications are due in 22 days (or less), so I’ll get right to it! Here’s how to write admission and scholarship essays that will keep your readers (aka admissions officers) engaged from the first sentence to the very last word.

1) Begin with a Magnet

A magnet, like a magnet in real life, is the first sentence of your essay, which draws readers into your world and invites them to share your story.

Needs improvement:  Sometimes, it’s the lives of others that bring out the best in you.

Good to go:  I sat down at the base of the tree, whistling her favorite tune and listening to the birds echoing me with their chirping.

Think about the opening scenes to some of your favorite movies. I’m not inside your head, so I don’t know what they are, but I bet they start with some kind of action! A winning application essay is no different! Use your magnet to put the reader in the action and prompt them to ask “what happens next?” 

2) Have a clear Pivot

A pivot is a turn in your essay where you risk something, learn something, grow, change, or take action.

Needs improvement:  It was then I realized that even the simplest of actions could change the world, even if it’s just the world of one person.

Good to go:  I looked back at the girl. She was walking away with her head bowed. I looked ahead at the woods in front of me, and took a deep breath. “Hey!” I called back to her, and held out my hand, “Quick, come with me!”

A pivot is how you keep your reader’s attention. Your English teacher might call this a climax. But, a successful pivot goes beyond the definition of climax-- the most intense point of a plot. How, you may ask? Good question! A successful pivot reveals a turning point in your story at which you had to make a choice. And from that point, it shows a clear before and after in your actions.

3) End with a Glow

A glow is the last sentence of your essay, which leaves a lasting impression for the reader to remember you and your story.

Needs improvement: I could not agree more with Hubert H. Humphrey, who wrote
“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”

Good to go: I threw my hand up in the air, holding up three fingers as a tribute in remembrance of my fallen friend, and found within me a new resolution to make it through.

Don’t end your essay with anything that takes the focus off you! A successful glow keeps the reader in the action, which lets them draw their own conclusions as they experience the moment with you. Don’t fall into the trap of ending with an inspirational quote or an oversimplified “lesson learned” conclusion. Channel your inner Shonda Rhimes (her epic episode endings keep viewers wanting more week after week), and end your essay with a sentence that closes the scene, but leaves your readers wanting to know more about you. By leaving the conversation open, admissions officers will want to meet you. And they will be more willing to fight for you during committee.

Using this structure as a guide, you’ll keep admissions officers engaged from the beginning to the end of your essay. With nearly every application essay requiring a word count limit, there’s no room for filler words or sentences.  So make every word count!



Topics:college admission