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National Merit Essay

hellogoodbyehellogoodbye Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
The essay topic for the National Merit Application is pretty broad, so I was wondering if you guys could help guide me in the right direction for it.

The topic is: In your own words, describe your personal characteristics, accomplishments, plans, and goals. What sets you apart? 500words

So, should my essay encompass all those things (characteristics, accomplishments) or just focus on one thing? I'm confused because it's the first "college" essay I've really worked on. Help?
Post edited by hellogoodbye on

Replies to: National Merit Essay

  • El1jahEl1jah Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    I'm in the exact same boat. Bump.
  • trckrazie88trckrazie88 Registered User Posts: 236 Junior Member
    same here. someone please help
  • SusantmSusantm Registered User Posts: 2,188 Senior Member
    I was trying to find my son's essay from a few years back, but I can't. Personally I think I would focus on "What sets you apart?", drawing those other aspects into the essay. For example, my son's aspiration at the time was to be an engineer. So I think what he did was talk about his plans and goals and how his characteristics and accoomplishments have led toward those plans/goals.

    Although, of course, you want a good essay, this really isn't as important as college application essays. They just want to know that the PSAT score wasn't a fluke, and that you really can write. Most semifinalists go on to become finalists, so just write a decent essay and you should be fine.
  • elphaba88elphaba88 Registered User Posts: 502 Member
    I have a really well written and funny essay about an experience I had auditioning for musical theater, and how that is a huge passion of mine. BUT... that's basically the only thing it focuses on. Fine for college apps, but is it OK for this scholarship? Should I include a lot of other "personal characteristics, accomplishments, plans, and goals" that set me apart? I feel like if I do this it'll turn into a resume in the shape of an essay. Don't they see all that stuff elsewhere on your app?
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 29,502 Senior Member
    The college counselor at our school suggested not stressing about it or worrying about making it a literary masterpiece. He says just talk about what you've done in HS & some of your interests. He says they're just looking to see that you can write decently & learn a bit about you. He suggests a LOT more effort be devoted to college essays, since that is replacing interviews, for the most part.
  • sooners.briansooners.brian Registered User Posts: 293 Junior Member
    What I am doing for my essay is basically:

    Starting off with a quote that I feel defines in some way how I live my life, and telling how it demonstrates my personal characteristics. Mentioning my personal characteristics, and how those have influenced my achievements and interests. Tying my interests into my goals, and showing how my goals and plans will tie into each other.

    That way, I am hitting on all the separate points mentioned in the prompt, while still keeping them connected.
  • hellogoodbyehellogoodbye Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
    These comments have all been really helpful! I'm much more confident about my essay now, so thank you!
  • sr6622sr6622 Registered User Posts: 3,123 Senior Member
    But don't you not want to be limited to applying one quote?
  • bing121086bing121086 Registered User Posts: 1,097 Senior Member
    I would make sure to throw in some non-scholastic interests to round you out as a person in the essay. It's a lot harder to turn down a person than an application.
  • ScootronScootron Registered User Posts: 38 Junior Member
    My D wrote a straightforward essay using the prompt. She found it a very difficult essay to write. She felt like she was bragging. She progressed to finalist. One of her friends wrote a "newspaper article" about herself winning the Pulitzer Prize. The article was set in 2020 and described her accomplishments and her aspirations as if they had all come to pass. She found it easier to write about herself as if she were someone else. She had fun pretending she was a reporter and describing herself through someone else's eyes in the future. She also progressed to finalist. Both girls had excellent grades, recommendations and good (not off the charts) scores on their SAT tests. Be creative and make it fun and still give them the information they want.
  • emswimemswim Registered User Posts: 474 Member
    I'm having an awful time with this essay! It is so hard to be creative when there is so much information that needs to be crammed into such a short space. My essay seems like a collection of facts about me; not my usual high-quality writing.
  • sooners.briansooners.brian Registered User Posts: 293 Junior Member
    About cramming tons of stuff into a small space...

    I would focus on the most important/most significant aspects of your life that fit the prompt. Most Semi-Finalists could probably write 10 pages about all their dreams, goals, activities, service, etc..but NMSC is looking for a well-written essay that proves to them that the applicant is *not* the 1/16 that doesn't deserve the Finalist standing.

    I had my English teacher (a published writer, who has graded essays very similar to this many times) look over my essay, and she said that the essay graders would separate the essays into two piles; the pile of essays that addressed the prompt, showed average or above-average writing ability, and the essays that either didn't address the prompt, were horribly written, etc.

    I wouldn't worry so much...pick some accomplishments/goals/plans/activites that you are proud of/that are important to you, briefly describe them and tie them together, and *bam* you are almost guaranteed Finalist.
  • elphaba88elphaba88 Registered User Posts: 502 Member
    sooners.brian would you read my essay and tell me if it sort of does that? I'm not sure if it addresses the prompt all that well.
  • sooners.briansooners.brian Registered User Posts: 293 Junior Member
    Honestly, I don't think I should. We are both competing, basically against each other, and sharing the essay for this over the internet, as well as any information related to NM, just isn't smart...This probably sounds *HUGELY* paranoid, but really it's to protect both of us...you from getting your essay stolen, and me from getting accused of the stealing it.

    I would recommend that you ask a trusted teacher that you respect, and who would like to help you (I'm sure almost any teacher in your school would be willing to) to read it over and give you feedback.

    Hope that helps...sorry to disappoint if I did.
  • elphaba88elphaba88 Registered User Posts: 502 Member
    that's fine, I totally understand!
This discussion has been closed.