Three: Structure and Outline
schools require you to write a series of short essays rather
than submit a single personal statement. If this is the
case for you, then you should consider the impact that your
essay set will have as a whole. You need to balance the
structure and content of the set as much as you do within
each essay individually. Yet, with these challenges come
several advantages. More essays means more opportunity to
sell yourself. Multiple essays give you ample space to do
justice to all the different areas of your life, avoiding
the pitfall of cramming too many points into one essay.
And, you can take more risks being creative in one essay,
while providing other traditional essays, thus appealing
to readers with different tastes.
you are required to answer multiple questions, there is
often a strict word limit for each answer. But even though
each essay is short, each one requires as much attention
as long essays. The best way to approach a short essay is
to write a regular, full-length essay and then cut it down.
Let yourself write as long as you feel inspired, without
time limits or length constraints. After you have the ideas
on paper, go back and look for the pieces of gold buried
under all of the words. Begin by reducing the introduction
and the conclusion from one paragraph to one sentence each.
Choose only the clearest, most direct parts.
short-answer questions ask for lists of activities, jobs,
or honors. There are two approaches to answering such a
question: the list and the paragraph. For each, provide
complete information about the items you are listing, following
the same format for each list. Include the activity, your
involvement, and the time commitment. Make it clear that
your activities have involved responsibility and effort.
And don't worry about the number of activities you list
-- when it comes to quality, less is often more.
have stressed in numerous places throughout this course
the importance of proofing your essays and getting feedback.
While most applicants are stringent about taking this step
after writing individual essays, some forget to apply the
same advice to their essay set as a whole. Before you send
in your application, assess the impression that your essays
will make when taken together.
my main points evident?
there redundancies or apparent contradictions between
a coherent image presented throughout the essays and
does each essay contribute to the same image?
a consistent voice and style used throughout the essays?
Does it sound as though they were written by the same
the essay set support the impression that is made in
the rest of the application?
examples of short essays, click
Essays included from Georgetown, Duke, Dartmouth, and Harvard.