What's the purpose of this essay?
One purpose, obviously, is to give us a sample of your
writing. Liberal arts colleges place a premium on strong writing
skills. We look for a mastery of the mechanics of writing
(grammar, syntax, and organization) as well as for fluency and
originality. Your essay gives us a taste of the maturity of your
thinking and writing, and of your readiness for a competitive
liberal arts program.
A second purpose is to enable you to
share something of yourself that may not be reflected in your
academic record or in your recommendations.
Some Tips for Writing
1. Offer us some insight. This is the time to recount a
powerful experience or significant relationship (such as
tutoring a handicapped child or discovering a passion for
medieval art) that has changed your perspective or challenged
your beliefs. Instead of merely giving us a chronology of your
bicycle trip through France, you might explain how your
responses to the culture altered your perceptions of your own
country and yourself.
One applicant shared his urban upbringing by taking us with
him on a daybreak run through the city streets. Another sent a
journal she kept while she was living as an exchange student
with a Greek family. Yet another applicant wrote about how
playing a varsity sport helped him appreciate the value of
teamwork in an otherwise individually competitive high school
2. Be careful of the obvious. For
instance, "How my trip to France taught me independence" is a
bit too easy. But, if reflective, anything - travel, a
significant personal struggle, a family experience - can be an
3. Social and political topics should be tied to
previous interests or experiences. An essay that ponders the
effects of poverty as perceived while volunteering to build a
house in Appalachia could work. An essay on devotion to
environmentalism as an abstract idea carries little weight.
4. Demonstrate your intellectual interests. Consider
writing about your response to works of a particular author,
research in certain areas, or ways in which you as a student
have reached beyond your curriculum. In fact, we encourage you
to submit additional writing samples (perhaps a copy of a term
or research paper, poems, or even an in-class essay) that reveal
an ability to organize thoughts and defend ideas under the
pressure of time.
5. Write and rewrite! The essay is the closest
possible model to a principal form of college writing, the term
paper, so treat it as an example of your college readiness.
6. Keep an eye on presentation. The essay should be
neat, readable, handwritten or word processed.