With the number of people applying for university higher than ever, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish oneself from the crowd. This is where the Admission Essay serves as a critical asset.
You need to consider that the admission essay is your strongest opportunity to prove to the university that you, as opposed to thousands of other applicants, are the best candidate for the course. This means that the admissions essay can, quite literally, mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Seeing as admissions essays tend to be around 500 words or so in length, you shall have to choose your content very carefully and with consideration. What does this mean? Well, it means first of all being crystal-clear about what it is precisely the particular university in question wants from you, then making sure that this is what you deliver. Above all, be sure to read the instructions (twice at least) and follow them to the letter. This may seem like an obvious point but, as it happens, for whatever reason, this is where many students slip up.
Consider that, like with a job application, you are essentially being asked to answer a series of questions which prove that you are capable of the tasks which the role requires.
When reading the application guidelines, look to identify what these questions might be. Remember, they may not be phrased as questions overtly. For instance, the application guidelines may allude to the university's values, objectives, ethos, et cetera. As in the phrase: “we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of technological innovation” (or some similar statement). Where such assertions are made, it is a clear sign that the university deems such considerations as germane to the application. In other words, the statement is in fact an indirect question. It is asking you: how and why do your values align with our own? As you read through the admission instructions, try to identify other implied (or overt) questions. Note them down; order them in a logical fashion. With this series of questions, you now have a skeleton for your essay.
Now equipped with an essay plan and thus the rudiments of structure, you want to work on content. Arguably the most important formal element of your essay will be the opening passage. This is where first impressions and thus initial impact will be made. Again, you are trying to distinguish your essay from stacks of others. Do so by demonstrating intelligence, wit, ingenuity, flair (ideally, all of the above) - whatever it takes to stand out. Prove to the evaluator that you are not just another voice in the crowd. Impress them. There are many ways to do this but let's start with a fairly straightforward example. You could go and conduct some extra research into the particular institution you are applying for, uncovering information other applicants most likely will not possess. This could be to do with scholarly discoveries made at that university, distinguished alumni, particular faculty achievements, awards, recognition, and so forth; in effect, whatever is notable about that institution. By alluding to such items in the opening of your essay, you are showing that you go the extra mile, are inquisitive and willing to work hard. These attributes will not fail to impress.
You now have a strong opener. This is the essay's hook. You have grabbed the reader's attention now you must sustain it. A good way of achieving this is with compelling prose. This need not be especially complex or ornate; instead, it should be authentic and expressive of your personality. Authenticity is far more compelling than showy displays of intelligence (which the admissions officer will be well accustomed to). You want to emphasise your knowledge and passion for the chosen subject, and to do so in a way that chimes with the university's values. Also, you should try and explain why you wish to pursue this academic path; how it fits in with your future career goals. Your admission essay should resonate with enthusiasm and energy. Consider what traits you find appealing in other people and try and infuse such characteristics into your own writing.
A large part of university study relates to critical thinking and analytical writing. While the admission essay is not a piece of analysis per se, there is no harm in employing critical faculties in its composition. Critical thinking is much to do with constructing an argument, that is to say, a piece of persuasion. You are trying to persuade the admissions officer to accept your application. Accordingly, everything you say should add to the weight of evidence in support of your application. The particular skills required will depend upon the course in question. You want to think about this carefully: what are the core skills in my chosen subject? How can I demonstrate these skills in my admission essay? Read the course guidelines and look for the implicit questions it contains. Answer them.
It is always a good idea to enlist the help of someone you trust. Ask a friend, parent or colleague to read through your work and give feedback. Use them to gauge whether your prose is clear and consistent. When you are happy with the content, get them to proof read the work, ensuring it is free of error.
Make sure you follow the provided guidelines without deviation. Do not exceed the word count. Include everything that is requested of you; omit anything which is not strictly relevant. This will prove you are capable of following specific instructions in an academic context, an important skill for any undergraduate. Were you to fail in exhibiting this trait in the admission essay, the admissions officer is likely to assume you will not be able to follow (the far more detailed) instructions in a university course.
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