This is your opportunity to show colleges what sets you apart from the other applicants. Your responses to essay questions help admissions officers understand your motivations, creativity, and personality. That's why it is important to start writing your essays as early as possible.
Make your essays personal, but stay within the guidelines and carefully answer the questions.
Expect unusual questions
Schools are jazzing up essay questions to exercise the minds of candidates. As a result, it's almost impossible to predict the questions you might see on a school's application.
Find out what questions the school asked before
Learning about essay questions from previous years will give you an idea of the tone of the admissions office. Check with acquaintances who applied to your schools. They might still have copies of their essays. But do not plagiarize — it's amazing what some admissions officers remember.
To stimulate your creative juices, respond to these practice (some are real) essay questions:
- What is your favorite word and why?
- Write a television pilot proposal that incorporates a geisha in training, an Afghan politician, and a lacrosse-playing AIDS activist set in an award-winning kite factory. Keep your proposal to 2–3 pages and give the first episode a beginning, middle and end.
- You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
- Can a toad hear? Prove it.
Read the list of questions thoroughly
Do you have any choice in the questions you answer? If so, think about each question and decide early which one you want to tackle. If the school asks off-the-wall questions, there may be some mundane alternatives.
Don't be intimidated by essay questions
Sometimes the best answers are those that you can write quickly because you feel strongly about the question. If you labor for too long, you may be answering the wrong question for you and you risk sounding stiff.
Strike a balance on time: Don't take a month to write an essay, but don't throw something together without getting it some thought.
To strengthen your essay:
- Make an outline to organize your thoughts.
- Pay attention to creating a strong introduction, supporting arguments, and an appropriate conclusion. Every story should have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Revise as necessary.
- Ask others for their feedback (but don't ask them to write it).
- Proofread the final version before sending it.