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  • Writer's picturesharon fernandes

how to approach different types of essays

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

writing the college application essay is your chance to advocate for yourself. while your academic grades, test scores & teacher recommendation letters have already set the context, an admissions officer is most eager to read what you have to say in your college application essay.

figuring out what to write can be challenging, & so your first task is to read through the essay prompt carefully and recognize the type of response that is expected from you.

  • program or university specific essay some essay prompts are straightforward. you will be able to pick out exactly what you need to say in your essay. for instance, a school or program-specific essay topic, wants you to discuss your reasons and motivation for choosing a specific university or program. two most common pitfalls we have students make – one, replicating the essay response across multiple universities and second, writing the name of the wrong university in your essay response. the essay prompt evaluates whether you have taken the time to understand the unique features of the university and the program you are applying to, so do your homework and read up before you get down to writing. to give your essay an edge think about how you can relate a comparable experience you have had at school or how your co-curricular activities have equipped you with insights that have enabled you to make this decision or choice. the reader will appreciate the time and effort you have taken to enable them to see you as a candidate that would not only do well academically but also make the best use of the resources available to you as a student on their campus.

  • statement of purpose essay then you have the statement of purpose kind of essay prompts which are again clear about the direction of your writing. these essay prompts want you to discuss your academic goals and future plans. some universities also use the essay as an opportunity not only to consider you for admission but also to award you a place in their honors program or offer you a scholarship. if you are creative and spontaneous you will enjoy the quirky college essay. writing about a superpower you have or about a person you hope to meet (past, present or future) allows you to offer a non-traditional response. if this sounds like the kind of essay you would love to write, the university of chicago has perhaps the most creative essay prompts, suggested by its own students, and you would enjoy checking those out!

  • common application essay and then you have the common application essay prompts which allows you the flexibility and choice to present your story from a perspective that best suits you. you get to choose from six different kinds of questions – and respond to the prompt, expressing your story. most students often wonder whether one question has greater weight than the other. no, so you truly can make the choice to write on a topic that resonates with you. while you can choose to write any story from your life, remember colleges are looking to know you and would like to hear about an experience or event that is more recent – something from the past few months or year in your life and not a story from your early childhood. most students also confuse this as an opportunity to talk about someone else’s story – a grandfather who fought the war, your father’s entrepreneurial success, your sisters amazing art. No matter how interesting their lives and stories are, the colleges truly want you to use this opportunity to focus on your personal journey and experience.

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