50 Admission Essays

Eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“I’m a people person”, “Doctors save lives”, or “Mr.Calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application.(Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style.) You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language.

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With this in mind: Imagine the worst-case scenario (which may never come true—we’re talking hypothetically): the person who reads your essay has been in the field for decades.

She is on the application committee because she has to be, and she’s read 48 essays so far that morning.

You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping.

What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them.

Now that you’ve generated some ideas, get a little bit pickier.

It’s time to remember one of the most significant aspects of the application essay: your audience.

This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.

I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees.

A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one.

If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.

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