College Entrance Essay
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
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 environment.
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 impressive subject.
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.