Although it contains only 500 words, it can be largely decided whether you will be admitted to the university. “Personal essay” gives you the opportunity to show the recruitment committee what you stand for and why you should choose just you. It provides all of this information that is not able to present the results of the exam, grades and additional classes. You can describe your hobby, tell a story about yourself, or even your dog – but make sure that the essay will attract the reader’s attention and show that you are unique.
First step: brainstorming
You should spend a week or two thinking only about the potential topics of the essay. Thanks to this “brainstorm” you can come up with an idea that would not come to anyone’s mind at first. Think about the following questions:
What are you like?
What is your strongest character trait? Do you have the abilities and skills that set you apart from others? And if so, how did you get them and how do you develop them?
How would your friends describe you? What would they write if they were to write this essay for you?
Think about your favorite books, movies, works of art, etc. Did they affect you in a significant way? Why did they deserve to be called favorites?
Have you ever experienced a moment of revelation in which you suddenly noticed something you did not see before?
What are your most important achievements? And why do you think they deserve to be called achievements?
Did you do something outside of school, which would demonstrate the qualities that universities are looking for? Which do you mean the most for you?
Have you ever fought, tried hard for something and succeeded? What made you succeed? And when you tried hard, you did not achieve your intended goal, what was your reaction?
What was the most difficult time in your life? And why? How has your worldview changed through these difficulties?
Where are you going to?
Of all the things in the world, what would you like to do at this moment? Where would you like to be? And with whom, of the living and the dead, would you like to be?
What are your dreams? If in thirty years you had to look at your life, what would it be like to make you think it was successful?
How is this university part of your plans for the future? Why do you want to spend on this university for two to six years?
Step two: choice of topic
As these thoughts get into the topic, think about the form. What could have sounded good at first may not be possible to write. What’s more, think about what you can do to make the subject matter original. Even seemingly uninteresting themes can be interesting if they are described in a creative way. Having already chosen the topic of the essay, think about the following questions:
Will your topic repeat the information already included in your application? If so, choose another one. Do not mention your grades and exams in this essay.
Are you able to present the argumentation of your topic? If you can not name a few arguments, you should choose a different topic.
Will the recruitment committee remember your topic by reading more than one hundred essays a day? And if so, what will be remembered from the essay and more importantly, what will remember you? What impression will you make?
Choose a story
The best essays are about the candidates themselves. “Personal essay” does not have to tell the story of your whole life, it should be its short shot with a deeper, well-illustrated message. It often helps to think about the impact of past events on you. The student essay, which was admitted at Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Stanford, told the ordinary story in an extraordinary, intriguing way. In the story of climbing to the top, he also gave his appreciation to science as well as dedication to hard work, which is the key to understanding the universe:
“Although the first few miles of climbing to the top of Madison did not promise great views, the landscape turned out to be spectacular when I climbed above the tree line. As every step approaches climbing up to the top, all knowledge brings the scientist closer to full understanding … “
The essay entitled “Climbing to Understand”, telling about a wandering man, simultaneously presents all the values of the author, as well as his interest and philosophy of life. In this way, the essay presents an ordinary topic in an extraordinary way.
Step three: Writing an essay
You must have two goals in mind. The first is to convince the recruitment committee that it is really worth taking you. The second is to show that you are an above-average, intriguing person. However, to do this, you must first attract their attention.
Most people from the recruitment committee spend at most two minutes reading your essay. With this in mind, refine your admission. One of the “attracting” techniques is to build a mysterious atmosphere or intrigue the reader; or at least not revealing many elements at the very beginning. Convince him for further reading. The essay “Climbing to Understand” begins in the following way:
“Surrounded by thousands of stars, total silence and majestic mountains, I stood on the summit of the New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, stricken by the beauty of nature.”
The first sentence introduces the reader to the atmosphere of the story, draws him into the world presented, but he does not reveal the topic or the thread of the whole essay. To find out what follows you need to read further …
The main part
Once the first paragraph has been polished, you must make sure that the main part refers to the introduction. It is a good idea to find one element or sentence that will appear throughout the text. In the essay “Climbing to Understand”, the author uses the top as a joining element:
“Some people climb their lives for many small hills. However, if I want to see the most accurate picture of the world, I have to climb the highest mountains I can find. Too often people stay in the valley, content with the scenery they have before their eyes. The mountain showed me that I can not be content with the scenery itself. “
It should be emphasized that the author uses a very simple language. Many students think that a good essay must contain difficult and sophisticated words; but usually, it is simple words that best reflect the essence of these most important ideas.
Another way to make an impression on the reader is to use characteristic examples and stimulate imaginative, original images. The essay should show images and be based on your experiences. The best essays are written according to the mantra: “show, do not describe.” Here’s one example:
“When the night fell to the top, I looked at the slowly appearing stars until they filled the whole sky. Despite the wind and bitter frost I could not get away from this view. “
This fragment perfectly shows how the description of stars and cold can both show us the landscape, as well as make us see this scenery through the eyes of the author. It is able to convey the author’s thoughts and emotions without describing them openly.
The ending is your last chance to convince the reader or impress him with your knowledge. The author of the essay “Climbing to understand” does it flawlessly, developing the description of the scene and revealing the meaning of this scene for himself:
“Observing the sunrise of Saturn, the cloud of the milky way, the meteor shower of Perseida, I learned the feeling of irrelevance and purpose. Obviously, earthly matters are irrelevant to the rest of the universe. However, I felt an irresistible need to understand the origins and consequences of this phenomenon. “
Most likely, writing an essay will take you many days. Few can write an essay of this type at a good level in a short time. Choosing the perfect structure, choosing vocabulary and relevant images – takes longer than you would expect. If you have more time, postpone an essay draft for a week. When you return to it, you will look with a fresh eye and correct mistakes or modify certain elements. Ask your family and friends for help. They will help you find some minor mistakes that you have missed when reading your essay many times. Perhaps they will help you even answer the question: “What makes this essay unforgettable?”