Application Essay Tips from This I Believe

Yesterday, one of my sisters suggested I look at the This I Believe essay series for application essay tips. Today's application essay tips come from Amelia Baxter-Stoltzfus's essay entitled "Returning to What's Natural." She wrote it while in high school, and you can write a great essay, too!

Application Essay Tips Courtesy of Amelia Baxter-Stoltzfus

What application essay tips can we learn from Ms. Baxter-Stoltzfus's essay? Here are five to consider:

Application Essay Tips | Tip #1: Use repetition.

Repetition gives an essay (or a speech) rhythm. To see how, look at repetition of the phrases "I believe..." and "The kind..." in the first paragraph, or "Maybe..." in the third paragraph. And if you're not convinced that repetition makes the essay sound more natural, listen to the repetition when the author reads it aloud.


Application Essay Tips | Tip #2: Use an image.

Sure, the writer could have discussed the tension between change and permanence without using an image. But does using the image of semi-permanent hair dye make her discussion more vivid? Without question, and for two reasons.

First, the image is authentic; it clearly relates to her actual experience dying her hair in shades that fade after 20 to 26 washes. Second, it's symbolic; her feelings about semi-permanent hair-dye reflect her acknowledgment of the conflict between dependence and independence. A good image comes from your experience and lets you make a point about life.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #3: Use personal idioms.

We often have personal idioms, unusual turns of phrase that hold significant meanings for us. These are the phrases we use to talk to ourselves. One person I met confided that she referred to anyone in her life who wasn't a family member or friend as an "extra." Revealing, though perhaps not advantageous for an admission essay. My favorite family idiom is "slapping on windshields," which, by the way, is something you do not want to be caught doing. When I tried to tell my dad my job was loading the dishwasher, not cleaning the counters, he set me straight. I needed to be someone who cared about the end result, like getting the kitchen clean or building a quality automobile, not someone who cared only about his small part of the process, like loading the dishwasher or "slapping on windshields" on the assembly line. Message received! Anyhow, in her essay, Ms. Baxter-Stoltzfus introduces the personal idiom "Big Bads," meaning all the big bad things out in the world.

Using a personal idiom - and setting it apart with capitalization or quotation marks - is a simple, effective technique for describing a common topic in a unique way. And that's much better than describing a unique topic (if such a topic even exists) in a common way. If you can identify a personal idiom, you'll have a ready-made way of distinguishing your essay.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #4: Use alliteration.

For those who dozed off in English class, alliteration is the repetition of sounds. Alliteration won't single-handedly transform your essay, but it will make your style more sophisticated. Sophistication matters because your application essay is a writing sample. Ms. Baxter-Stoltzfus uses alliteration when she writes, "...complex, complete..." and, "We can't be toddlers or teenagers forever..." Alliteration with two or three words is within anyone's ability. More than that and you start to sound ridiculous.


Application Essay Tips | Tip #5: Write a conclusion that "goes beyond."

Too often, conclusions settle for repeating the introduction's main point instead of extending it. Ms. Baxter-Stoltzfus's conclusion avoids this mistake. Her essay starts with a statement of belief in semi-permanent hair dye, but it ends with a clarification of her openness to permanent change: "So I do believe in permanent change, just not for my hair." When you reserve a new insight for the conclusion, you can impress the reader. Don't accept a lazy conclusion that repeats what you've already said!

Ms. Baxter-Stoltzfus's essay suggests several application essay tips you can easily put to work in your application essay. If you liked today's application essay tips, please recommend them to your friends. Thank you!


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