a question about college essays..?
What is the formula for writing a good essay?
Is it better to throw in big words?
Is it ok to tell a story using non-fancy wording?
What are admissions people looking for?
There is no formula for writing a good essay. In fact, the people who try to use a formula are the ones that write terrible essays. So forget that.
Should you use big words? Well, I would say you should sound intelligent. Does that mean you use big words? In a way it does, since intelligent people know how to use words and know many words. But just using big words to try to sound intelligent is a bad idea. You need to use words that fit. Many people will throw in a big word when they think they can, but really they shouldn’t have. In fact, many people go through their essay with a thesaurus and increase the size of their words, which results in an essay with big words that don’t really fit the sentence or the meaning. So use words you know how to use and use the words you know how to use well.
Telling a story is good. Telling it with non-fancy words is not bad. Telling me that I can ‘see Spot’ and I can ‘see Spot run’ is bad. Don’t sound like a six year old in your essay.
What are admissions people looking for? What a great question. They are looking for someone who is smart enough to craft a well written essay. A well written essay is one that doesn’t have errors. It must be clear. It must be interesting. It must be engaging. It must show that you understand what is interesting and that you know how to engage the reader. It should show that you can take a thought, and put it down on piece of paper in such a way that someone else will care what your thought was.
Just come up with something that is memorable. Remember that there is a person on the other end of your essay that has to read it. And that person is sick of reading essays because they have been reading 40 essays a day for the last week. On the night they get to yours, they will have read 20 essays before it and they will have 20 more essays to read after it, before they can finally go to bed. They are sick of essays. They have seen the ‘typical’ essay so many times they can tell if yours is that essay by reading the first sentence. And if your essay is the typical essay, they may not get much past that first line before they glaze over and start skimming. You need to get to them, you need to engage them, and you need to make them remember your essay more than anyone else’s that night. So write to that person and try to make them care about whatever you have to say. The topic of your essay is much less important than the quality of the work!