• Tips for Writing Essays

    Purpose of the Essay
    Most students dread writing their college essay-but that doesn't have to be the case. Think of the essay less as a dull list of your activities and more as a chance to share your thoughts, insights, and opinions. Highlight accomplishments and convey your maturity and personal outlook on life. Try to provide a glimpse into your personality or character. The essay enables the college admissions committee to evaluate your communication skills as well as learn more about you as a person, beyond what grades and SAT scores can convey. A well-written essay can speak volumes about your attitudes, feelings, and personal qualities.

    Choosing a Topic
    Read the essay question carefully and think about what the question is really asking. If stymied for topics, consider a saying you've heard that's impressed you, an obstacle or shortcoming you've surmounted, a personality trait, or an individual you admire. If you can't decide among topics, try writing about several different topics, then determine which is best. Narrow your topic: be as specific and illustrative as possible. Since the purpose of the essay is self-revelation, use little incidents and facts about yourself to reveal your character. Don't just tell, show: e.g., I am compassionate (ok); I volunteer at a homeless shelter (better).

    Preparing to Write
    Don't be afraid to write something that is a little different. A unique topic can be refreshing. Organize your thoughts and develop a framework for your essay so it will progress logically. Consider purpose, content, and tone. Be true to your own style; falseness always shows.

    Writing the Essay
    Write a first draft, concentrating on content. Set it aside for a week. Re-read it with a fresh perspective and make some changes. At this point consider matters of organization, style, grammar, spelling, and tone. After completing this initial revision, try it out on someone else. While the final product and "voice" should be yours, another person may be able to offer helpful suggestions for improvement.

    Do...

    • Think "small" and write about something that you know.
    • Reveal yourself in your writing.
    • Show rather than tell.
    • Use anecdotes and examples.
    • Write in your own "voice" and style.
    • Come alive in your essay!

    Don't...

    • Write on general topics such as world peace.
    • Exaggerate or write to impress.
    • Include a laundry list of activities or a travel brochure.
    • Use a flowery, inflated, or pretentious style.
    • Neglect grammar, spelling, or sentence structure.
    • Ramble. Say what you have to say and conclude.


    A Typical Essay Question
    From University of Texas 2002 application. "Describe and evaluate one experience that significantly influenced your academic interests. The experience might be a high school course, a job, a relationship, or an extracurricular activity. Be sure to explain how this experience led to your setting the goals you now have for yourself, and why you think the academic program for which you are applying will help you to reach those goals."

    Additional Hints:
    The summer before your senior year you could get a head start on your essay writing while you have the extra time. Look on the college's web site or come by the College/Career Resource Center and get a copy of the last year's application. The essay may change year to year, but the essence of the question is usually the same. Get someone to read your essays, and critique them. Your English teacher can be very good editor, but be sure you've done the best you could have done first.

    THE ACADEMIC RESUME

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    See An Example Athletic Resum�

    A resume is a concise summary of your education, accomplishments, experience, and skills. It serves as a personal advertisement, enabling a prospective employer or college admissions counselor quickly to get a sense about you - your goals, your interests, and your abilities.

    WHY MAKE A RESUME?

    1. Your resume will be a useful supplement to a college or scholarship application. Of course, the resume should never be sent in place of the comparable sections of the application form, unless the application instructions specifically give you that option.Texas Common Application allows a resume, as long as it follows a required format..
    2. A resume can be used to help in filling out applications for admission, for scholarships and any other forms asking for the same information.
    3. When you visit a school or communicate with anyone who plays a part in your admissions, it is always impressive to hand them a short resume.
    4. Give a copy of the resume to your counselor and teachers to aid in recommendations for admissions, scholarships or employment.

    GETTING STARTED

    Before you begin writing your resume, you will need to gather and organize all pertinent facts about yourself.Organize them into the following categories, gather required information.

    WHAT THE RESUME SHOULD CONTAIN

    Academic Information, your senior schedule, extra-curricular activities, community service, employment, internships or special summer activities, special skills, and optionally, a brief statement about anything that is special in your life that affects who you are.For example if you lived in a foreign country, or had a special experience, or have a special handicap.

    NOTES


    Just remember that the overall purpose is the same - to generate interest in you by highlighting your achievements and strengths. The following tips apply to all resumes.

    • Be brief. Limit your resume to one to two pages.
    • Be neat and accurate. Proofread carefully. Remember that this resume is a reflection of you.
    • Emphasize your most significant achievements. Put your "best stuff" first.
    • Be specific, offering examples when appropriate.
    • Be honest.