Much of the following information on writing the college essay has been taken from two fine books on the topic. Purchase them at your local book store or find them in your school media center!

Bauld, Harry. On Writing the College Application Essay. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1987.

Mason, Michael. How to Write a Winning College Application Essay. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing, 1994.

Here are some suggestions for bringing your college essay (or any writing) to life:

bullet Tell a Vivid Story       
bullet Use Sensory Details
bullet Create a Metaphor
bullet Use Action Verbs
bullet Use Concrete Nouns
bullet Use Adjectives -- SPARINGLY
bullet Create an Interesting Lead


TONE: The mood grows out of the subject and the writer's authentic feeling about it.

Learn to control the tone of your writing the way you control the tone of your speaking voice.

Don't boast.

Don't whine.

Don't plead.

Compare these three possible lines:

A. I can't stand calculus.

B. Calculus is a stupid form of mathematics.

C. Calculus is a mystery to me.


Diction is word choice. You can improve your diction by consulting a dictionary and a thesaurus; however, you must make certain that the word you chose is appropriate for your intended meaning.

In addition, do not "inflate" your language

--but DO learn more words. Use specific vocabulary --





Use transitions to glue your ideas together


and clue your reader as to what is coming next!



The words who, which, that, and what often swell a sentence with "blubber." Use them only when necessary.

Fat: Uncle Bill is someone who cares only about fly fishing.

Trim: Uncle Bill cares only about fly fishing.

The words there and it are often unnecessary.

Fat: There were geese swimming on the pond.

Trim: Geese swam on the pond.

Fat: It is the love of fly fishing that keeps Uncle Bill going.

Trim: Love of fly fishing keeps Uncle Bill going.

Be alert for fatty uses of the word thing.

Fat: The thing I'm interested in is gymnastics.

Trim: I'm interested in gymnastics.

Linking Verbs

Avoid lazy use of is, am, were, was, are, and the others forms of the verb to be. These can cause "ugly sentence spread."

Fat: In a telephone survey it was shown that there is little support for secret operations.

Trim: A telephone survey revealed little support for secret operations.

Vague Verbs

Become, get, do, make, and have are weak verbs. They do not generate motion or action.

Weak: The keys become stiff or sticky.

Strong: The keys stiffen and stick.

Passive Verbs

Be sure to use the active voice.

Passive: This bread was baked by Mrs. Norman.

Active: Mrs. Norman baked this bread.

"Second Helpings"

When you are trying to get your prose in shape, needless restatements oversuff a sentence.

Fat: My brother is an honest person. That's a quality I respect in him.

Trim: I respect my brother's honesty.


Proofread for Mechanics!

bullet Spelling
bullet Capitalization
bullet Punctuation
bullet Neatness

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