When applying to a college, you are traditionally required to write an essay – and it is one of the most important parts of your application and you should approach it with utmost care. Although questions you may be asked vary from university to university and from year to year, there are certain basic lines along which they usually go – and with preparation, they all can be dealt with.
1. Describe Yourself
This question with variations is the most widespread prompt. It allows to gain some additional information about you and see how well you present yourself. It may look intimidating at a glance due to its open-endedness – but it gets easier if you look at it as an opportunity to tell about yourself what couldn’t have been told in the papers you’ve submitted to the college. Tell the most important facts, your primary interests and aspirations. Don’t write a memoir, though – focus on a point or two and drive them home.
2. Why Do You Want to Attend This Particular College?
Essay questions of this kind probe your goals and aspirations. The application committee tries to find whether you are determined to attend this particular college or just send your application to every school in the country. If you can mention a specific reason to choose this college – for example, a specific department – do it, but make sure you know what you are writing about.
3. Comment on a Quote
Everything depends on what kind of quote you get. It may be something straightforward or chosen for its quirkiness. It is hard to give any particular tips here except to be open-minded and avoid repeating run-of-the-mill phrases and ideas. Try to be witty, but don’t overdo it – don’t be funny for the funniness sake.
4. Choose between Alternatives and Justify Your Choice
Usually you are given a choice where both alternatives are ambiguous and cannot be outright called right or wrong. Before you select anything, you should think carefully on what moral or logical grounds you are going to do it, and prepare a well-defined explanation.
5. Pose Your Own Question
Sometimes you are told to ask your own question and answer it as you see fit. It is done to check how well you manage responsibility and complete freedom of choice – whether you are able to write something interesting or original, or will have to fall back to clichés. Try writing about something you are really passionate about – just don’t spend too much time trying to choose an ideal topic.
6. Tell about Your Favorite Book or Other Work of Fiction
It is often said that you are what you read, and this prompt is based on this assumption. The most important thing here is to be honest – you won’t impress anybody if you write how much you are fascinated and impressed by “Lord of the Flies” if you can’t stand it, or have never read it at all.
These prompts are by no means the only ones employed by colleges – but they are going to give you a pretty good idea of what to expect and how to tackle it.