May 07, 2009

Academic essays do's & dont's

The key to success lies in focusing in each academic essay on a few illustrative incidents as opposed to giving a superficial overview. Remember that detail, specificity, and concrete examples will make your academic essay distinctive and interesting. Generalities and platitudes that could apply to every other business school applicant will bore. If you use the latter, you will just blend into the crowd.

Following Ten Do's and Don'ts for your academic essay will help you write compelling, focused academic essays that will transform you from a collection of numbers and classes into an interesting human being.

The do's of academic essays

  • Unite your essay and give it direction with a theme or thesis. The thesis is the main point you want to communicate. Make sure in answers the question.
  • Before you begin writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it.
  • Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  • Write about what interests you, excites you. That's what the admissions staff wants to read.
  • Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead: an anecdote, quote, surprising statement, question, or engaging description of a scene.
  • End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.
  • Revise your essay at least three times.
  • In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your personal statement for you.
  • Proofread your essays by reading them out loud or reading it into a tape recorder and playing back the tape.
  • Write clearly, succinctly.

The don'ts of academic essays

  • Don't include information that doesn't support your thesis.
  • Don't start your academic essay with "I was born in...," or "My parents came from..."
  • Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or resume in prose.
  • Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humor is OK).
  • Don't be afraid to start over if the essay just isn't working or doesn't answer the essay question.
  • Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary.
  • Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
  • Don't provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes.
  • Don't give mealy-mouthed, weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.
  • Don't make things up.