What makes a "good" essay?

Stay away from starting sentences such as;

“The sea was angry that day my friend…”

Or

“As I look back on my time while incarcerated, I take away…”

Or

“There was this kid at band camp…”

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We heard an AO (from Duke I think) say once to write about something unique. Something that makes you stand out and gives them a way to remember you. And something they haven’t heard 1000 times before. His comment, “Do you know how many essays we get from athletes who overcame an injury to lead their team onto the state championship?” He said they have a tendency to refer to kids by their essay topics. My daughter has a friend who wrote her essay about her love of a specific item on the taco bell menu. I assume that made her pretty memorable to those reading her essay and if done well, something that was enjoyable to read. I just think you need to be careful to not try too hard to be “cute” or unique. I think it needs to be genuine.

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:wink: Yep!

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That happened to my D22.

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Same thing happened to our kiddo at Revisit….the AO knew kiddo by the essay….”Oh, you’re the one who wrestles alligators”

(Just kidding, different topic but equally as exciting!) :crocodile:

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@compmom Hi, I am new to this website and I have seen you offer to help with essays, can you let me know how I would go about asking for help from you? Thank you

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I will send you a private message, and then you can send it to me there.

  • An essay should have a single clear central idea. Each paragraph should have a clear main point or topic sentence.
  • Each paragraph should support or expand the central idea of the paper. The idea of each paragraph should be explained and illustrated through examples, details, and descriptions.
  • Every paragraph in an essay should be related to the main idea. Each paragraph should stick to its main point.
  • An essay or paper should be organized logically, flow smoothly, and “stick” together. In other words, everything in the writing should make sense to a reader.
  • A paper should be written in generally correct standard English, with complete sentences, and be relatively error-free.
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An essay or paper should be organized logically, flow smoothly, and “stick” together. In other words, everything in the writing should make sense to a reader. A paper should be written in generally correct standard English, with complete sentences, and be relatively error-free.
A strong contention, supported by ideas, arguments, and evidence.
The summary and analysis of other writers’ research and opinions.
A clear structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Five Elements of Good Writing. Purpose, Audience, Clarity, Unity, Coherence, Students will gain facility with the first element and be able to write purpose statements.

It needs to be interesting! Think about how many essays they read and put yourself in their shoes. They can skim hundreds quickly for grammar etc but your job is to make them want to actually read your essay. It doesn’t need to be “cute” or too clever in a way that makes you seem like you are trying too hard. It’s human nature - the admissions officers are human. They have tons to read and if you can make it interesting enough for them to read instead of skim then you’ve succeeded!

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For ideas of what not to do, have a look at this thread: Avoid the trap of the “bad” essay

I’ve read many essays put out there by people who have been accepted, and all I can say, is that it’s a matter of taste. I would have written something completely different to my D, but I much preferred her essay to the supposed successful ones, so I guess it’s a matter of being willing to write something you might think is absurd and not to your taste, just to catch the attention of AOs. My D wasn’t, but fortunately has a school to go to.

Depends on the essay, depends on the school, and depends on the reader. Well written - Interesting - Grabs the reader in the first couple of sentences….the readers must be bored. What might be great to one reader, might seem boring and “BS” to another reader.

  • Answer the question the essay is asking….follow directions.

  • We watched videos posted by students who have viewed their admissions file…interesting comments on the essays. We found it to be of help.

As for me a good essay must be well-organized, thoughtful, and insightful. It should have a clear introduction, body paragraphs that develop a central idea, and a conclusion that ties everything together. In addition, a good essay will be free of grammar and spelling errors. It will also be engaging, using language that is both precise and interesting.

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Question I like to put to the group. How directly responsive do you think essays should be to the prompt? While some prompts can be very open-ended, others can be fairly specific.

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I don’t think they need to directly respond to the prompts because one prompt is Topic of your choice.

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Depends on the prompt. If the prompt is “Why State U” then the student should definitely address specifics about State U and not just talk about how they always wanted to go to college in general.

There’s a separate thread on supplemental essays. Supplemental essay tips (plus the COVID question on the CA)

@BKSquared was talking about the personal statement I believe.

Actually all prompts, not just the CA.

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I have seen a lot of student essays in the last couple of years and one problem I see is an effort to be “creative” and “unique” in responding to every prompt, even those that are straightforward (like why College X?). I urge students to answer the prompt!

As a side note there is a trend toward using many adjectives, and I have been told teachers are encouraging students to do this in order to be more descriptive. Students use these to be creative. This overuse of adjectives often happens in responses to direct prompts as well. I always loved EB White’s advice to use words only when necessary to add meaning (paraphrasing here).

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