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Essay Tip #1: Answer the question!

As you begin the process of writing your college essay you may find yourself sitting and staring at the question in front of you. The questions colleges ask sometimes sound similar, some may be creative, and some even thought provoking. Sometimes, the college may ask a question that you have no idea how to answer.

Questions About EssayOne of the mistakes that students often make when writing their essay is that they simply restate the question, give a general answer, or avoid the actual question and write about what they think the admission counselor wants to hear.

Let’s take a look at a specific example: The University of Colorado Boulder asks in their essay: “The University of Colorado Boulder’s Flagship 2030 strategic plan promotes exceptional teaching, research, scholarship, creative works, and service distinguishing us as a premier university. We strive to foster a diverse and inclusive community for all that engages each member in opportunities for academic excellence, leadership, and a deeper understanding of the world in which we live. Given the statement above, how do you think you could enrich our diverse and inclusive community and what are your hopes for your college experience?”

When working in admissions at Boulder I read thousands of essays on this particular topic. This is a great question to ask of incoming students but one common mistake I saw was that students didn’t seem to read the question carefully. For example, some students seemed to key in on the 2030 strategic plan. They would clearly do lots of research on the subject matter and then simply spout key points of the plan back in their essay. While the question relates to the value of the strategic plan, the question is about developing an inclusive community on campus and how you, as a student, can enrich and contribute to that campus community. When answering the question you may think about what makes you unique as a student and what specific contributions you can make to CU-Boulder’s campus. Or, you might look at the second part of the question and discuss your hopes for your college experience. Perhaps you have certain goals for yourself in college and things you want to accomplish. Writing about your specific goals and then connecting them in a way demonstrate how you might make the University of Colorado Boulder a better place would be one way to answer this question.

No matter the essay question, take the time to read it through a few times to really determine what is being asked. Read it in sections, as a whole, and take the time to figure out what is truly being asked of you.

 

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