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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY TORI LAWHORN | Newsome High
To seniors in the midst of college application deadlines, it seems like doomsday, right? More than likely, many of you have already finished your applications, but here’s a message of encouragement to those who haven’t, or who haven’t even started (we know you’re out there!): Have no fear. It’s not as tough as your procrastinating, stressed-out self has led you to believe. Follow these tips, and you can have a college-worthy essay in no time. (Underclassmen, take note, too.)
1. Make sure you understand the prompt
Once you’ve read it the first time, read it two more times. Five minutes later, come back and read it a fourth time. If you decide to work on it later, make sure the first thing you do when you come back is to read the prompt once more. In case I haven’t emphasized enough, this is the most important thing you can do when writing an essay for college: Make sure you know what the admissions people want you to write about. Also, make sure your content is appropriate and your approach is really engaging. If the prompt asks for a meaningful or life-changing experience, chances are great you won’t be able to pull off a winning essay on the first time you saw Twilight or when you decided to be adventurous by making a Nutella and banana sandwich for lunch. These topics need to be thought-provoking, interesting and mature.
2. Just be yourself.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not; don’t use prodigious (big!) words if you don’t understand them, don’t write in an overly formal tone, and especially don’t make up your life story because you think it’ll be more interesting to the admissions officers. Don’t set the unrealistic goal of being the one essay in a thousand that will stand out from the rest; there’s a 99 percent chance that won’t happen. Instead, try to aim for being in the top 25 percent. The admissions officers only want to do one thing: learn about you — and they can’t do that unless you be yourself. You are the most interesting topic. They don’t want to learn important life lessons, they just want to get to know you. All you have to do is talk about yourself; it’s as simple as that.
3. Details, details, details
The bread and butter of any good piece of writing is always the details: anecdotes, thoughts, observations, specifics. When you give details, don’t use cliches or other overused/redundant phrases, either. “Sea of faces,” “ancient ruins,” “labor of love,” “bolt from the blue” — all of these should be kept in the DO NOT USE file. To make your essays even more approachable, use dialogue. Direct quotes are best, and don’t misquote anyone. If you’re recounting your own words, reconstruct the best you can.
4. Tell a story
How will you know if your essay is good? Let someone else read it and ask these questions: Does it paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head? Will the reader easily comprehend what you’re trying to say? Is the language strong enough to have an impact on the reader? Your essay must flow like a well-written story, not like a choppy sea. If you mention details about a past experience, make sure to back them up with evidence. For example, if your mother freaked out when she saw a 75 percent off sale at her favorite department store, show, don’t tell; in other words explain how she freaked out. You might say she climbed over people to get into the door, or that she tried to use her cart as a battering ram to get people to move out of her way. From these examples, the reader will understand that yes, your mother did freak out.
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There are many other keys to creating effective essays; check out collegeboard.com and other online sites offering help. There are also plenty of books, such as 100 Successful College Essays, a popular volume compiled and edited by members of the staff of the Harvard Independent.
Most important is to remember this: Essays aren’t anything to freak out over, unlike the mom at the 75-percent off sale in tip No. 4. After all, you’ve been writing them since middle school.