Want to Write a Good Application Essay?

26 Feb

We’ve all been there.  Sitting at the computer, looking at the prompt given to us by the internship or university you’re applying to.  First thoughts are ‘how can I write this essay that will make me stand out in a pool of thousands of other applicants?’  Well, have no fear because I give to you the Do’s and Don’ts of application essay writing.

DO: Keep the essay focused and personal

Far too often applicants try telling their story through these essays.  They tell of their activities and accomplishments and previous work experiences.  The only problem lies in the fact that your resumé shares all of that information already.  What needs to be done is for you to show the reader who you are, and the rest will come easily.

DO: Prove it with specifics

By keeping the focus of the essay narrow and personal, you have established your main idea.  Now, it’s time to support these ideas with clear and vivid facts, information, quotes and anything else that will add to the support of the main idea.  It’s important to avoid the cliché answers in this section, though.  The clichés come with vague and general statements, which is why specifics are the key.  By bringing in specific information that you can recall, you are immediately pulling the reader in so they can relate to you and your story.

DON’T: Write to their interests; write to your own

You are applying to this organization because you feel like you can add your own flare and contribute to the community.  It’s impossible to convey that message when the bulk of the essay is spent discussing how great the organization is and how hard it is to be involved in so many different activities.  Believe me, they know how amazing they are and they know from the thousands of other essays that it takes hard work to be a doctor.  What they want to know is ‘what can you bring to the table’, and unless that gets answered they’ll never know.

DON’T: Ramble, and most importantly DON’T Forget to PROOFREAD

How often have we read 50 word mini paragraphs explaining a certain trait or characteristic, when a simple 4 word sentence would have sufficed.  Application readers don’t have the time or the patience to read excess information, which includes your personal activities.  You have a resumé attached, don’t summarize it again in the essay.  Use the space in the essay to tell the reader something else about you, something they wouldn’t ordinarily know.  Finally, once you’ve that final period on the essay, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD and PROOFREAD.  A single typo or grammatical error can be the difference between getting accepted or rejected.  Read your work out loud, have friends and parents read your work.  The more eyes the better, and when you’ve got the perfect essay in front of you, good luck!

by Cody Levine


2 Responses to “Want to Write a Good Application Essay?”

  1. Jacob Trunsky February 27, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Cody – Great blog post! I agree with all of your points, especially the proofreading part. I think when writing an application or cover letter that one must find the right balance between personal and professional. The essay reader wants to get to know who you are, but everything also should relate back to the job/application and how the company will benefit from your personal experiences and skills.

  2. Silke Sen February 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    As someone who has read quite a few application essays over the years, I can corroborate all of Cody’s excellent points. Ignoring the essay prompt, opting to write the rambling ‘more about me’ essay instead, is he fastest way into the ‘do not consider’ pile. Readers can usually tell how much time and effort you’ve put into your application essay: please plan ahead and carve out enough time to write it. What sounds brilliant at 3 AM the day it’s due usually doesn’t hold up in the light of day…

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