Application Essay Tips from an Actor

The application essay is a 500-word monologue. It's a mini-mini-drama. That's why for today's application essay tips, we're turning to actor Gabriel Davis's guide for monologue writing.

Monologue Writing 101 and 5 Application Essay Tips

What application essay tips can we learn from Davis's monologue pointers? Here are five to consider:

Application Essay Tips | Tip #1: Show a strong desire.

Desire sets up conflict, and conflict sets up a good story. This suggestion is like Stanton's advice to find your spine.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #2: Show what's at stake.

You probably won't care if I tell you I'm going to the store to buy orange juice. But if I tell you I have to buy orange juice within the next ten minutes to avoid going into diabetic shock, then you'll care. I hope. Never assume your reader cares about you; one of your tasks is to make her care by showing what's at stake.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #3: Hook the reader.

In an application essay, you have two sentences to win the the reader's attention. Your opening lines determine whether the reader continues out of enthusiasm or obligation. Your opening line might be what Davis calls a headline hook - a short summary of your story - or what he calls an argument hook - something you believe or want the reader to believe. Or your hook could be a quotation that introduces a dramatic moment (not a quotation from a famous person!) or a mysterious statement that pricks the reader's curiosity.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #4: Engage the senses.

I love this point. Too many application essays I read appeal to exactly zero of the five senses. Sometimes, an essay will have an image (like an artichoke) that appeals to the sense of sight. But rarely will an essay appeal to other senses. Appealing to one or two of the senses (let's not go overboard!) is a great way to differentiate your essay.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #5: Overcome conflict.

Conflict is the struggle between opposing forces. Conflict can be internal (you v. yourself) or external (you v. someone else). Why does overcoming conflict make for a good essay? When write about overcoming conflict, you demonstrate the ability to engage in a new experience, reflect on its significance, and learn from it. That's the type of active, thoughtful student colleges want.

Remember, your application essay is a dramatic story, not an academic paper. That's why we can learn from Davis's monologue pointers. If you liked today's application essay tips, please recommend them to your friends. Thank you!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.