Make it vivid If you want your reader to connect with your essay, your opening needs to leap off the page. Try to get as many senses involved as you can: sight, sound, smell, taste, feel.
Here's an example of a magnetic opening that I helped one of my students write a couple of years ago. She's now attending NYU, her top-choice school. A pair of leggings is draped around my neck, and one of my mother's red heels hangs from my left foot while my right foot is stuffed into her striped sneaker. Jack runs in circles around the living room, tripping over the yellow silk blouse he's wrapped around his waist, and pumps his fist to the music as he yells to our invisible fans, "Sing with me!
You can see, feel and hear these kids' love for music and performance. You know from the opening that the student is going to go on to talk about how creativity and love for music was so important to her development.
In other words, you set the stage for the heart of your essay with a vivid scene. You won't have space to weave in this level of detail throughout the whole essay, but once you've set the stage like this, a few colorful details woven throughout your essay will keep your story full of spark. Offer a bit of mystery at the end One of the hardest things my students struggle with is the ending to their essays.
Remember that you don't need to have everything figured out. It's okay if you don't fully understand how to make sense of your experiences. What's important is to make it clear that you're willing to stay with this confusion until the answers become clear. One student wrote an essay about an uncomfortable experience she encountered on a trip to Laos and was struggling with how to end it.
If you recently read an intriguing neuroscience paper, you could retrace your thought process when analyzing the paper and depict your curiosity in the topic. Perhaps this was the most meaningful to you because it allowed you to explore a new facet of science that you previously had not considered. Perhaps you used this paper as motivation to pursue neuroscience research in an outside lab, influencing your current passion of studying the complex workings of the brain.
You could also discuss a passion that is outside of your primary discipline in order to show Harvard the diverse range of interests you may have. You could highlight how these two disciplines, while seemingly different, overlap and create a need for a deeper emphasis in medical ethics. By connecting your main passion with another topic, you can provide greater depth on your intellectual vitality. A mistake that students commonly make is discussing their future dreams without connecting it back to their present experiences and passions.
Make sure to draw the connection between the two and fuse the present with the future to avoid making this error. While students often have large visions for tackling major problems such as global warming or curing cancer, these are often overdone since admissions committees see too many of these essays.
Rather than focusing your essay on such a broad topic, try to narrow it down into something more specific that is equally impactful but may often be overlooked. An example of this could be a student pursuing urban studies wanting to convert more rural and suburban intersections into roundabouts.
While this may seem insignificant, such a change could save tens of thousands of lives over a time span of 20 years. Perhaps you hope to create an initiative at Harvard to ban the use of plastic straws over the next few years in an attempt to prevent the accumulation of plastics in nature.
Rather than attempting to show off every aspect of your life, dive deep into your academic or extracurricular passions, or add an element of personality to your list. One way to successfully execute this essay is to order the titles in such a way that shows your progression through a topic. For example, you could begin with Freakonomics, then an AP Economics textbook, followed by the Wealth of Nations, the General Theory of Employment, Interest in Money, and ending with a book on market monetarism.
With the previous example, the key is to show why you found each title compelling and how it further contributed to your passion for economics. Make sure to discuss the changes that occurred between each transition and how this impacted your perspective of the topic. Why were you intrigued by each of these books and why did it allow you to fall in love with the subject? The same structure goes with any other discipline. If you were involved in Science Olympiad, you could chronicle your journey through different discoveries based on the scientific novels you read.
This novel sparked my interest in the expatriates of the Lost Generation and influenced several of my other book choices on this list. A depressing take, I know. However, the student expresses humor in book 7, shows an ability to analyze in 11, and connects a book to her passions in 1. This is an extremely strong example and is a great template to follow if you choose to execute this prompt. You should therefore look for a topic that has severe consequences but is also appropriate to discuss in a college application.
An example of this could be if you were the editor in chief of your school newspaper and had to handle a plagiarism issue. However, the lines became blurred when you discovered the individual under suspicion was one of your friends, making it more difficult for you to make a concrete decision.
Perhaps, though, you realized that you must be a role model as the editor and uphold the moral standard that the role entails, ultimately causing you to terminate your friends membership on the team. Although you feared risking your friendship, your conscious proved to be the stronger force in the situation. Other examples could be challenging your friends in other ways, such as ending friendships over sexist, racist, or homophobic comments or actions.
Here, the consequences are severe in the sense that you lost a friend and risked being criticized for a lack of loyalty, but appropriate in that the law was not involved. Harvard does not want you to preach the value of honesty and integrity since this is already given.
Rather, they want to see that you recognize the implications of certain actions and how integrity plays a role into the choices you make. Due to this, it is acceptable to tell a story of a time where you acted dishonestly but suffered consequences from your action, causing you to mature from your mistakes.
The strongest essays are those involving situations where the lines between moral and immoral are blurred, making it all the more challenging to reach an appropriate conclusion. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
This essay is similar to the prompt asking how you hope to use your college education, but eliminates the need to discuss pure academic interests. The same guidelines follow for this prompt, but with more focus on the leadership aspect.
For instance, the aforementioned example about eliminating plastic straw usage can also be applicable to this prompt. Andrian's other impressive stats are included on her Admitsee profile. AdmitSee is an education startup that has 60, profiles of students who have been accepted into college with their test scores and other data points for prospective students to browse.
Andrian graciously shared her admissions essay with Business Insider, which we've reprinted verbatim below.
After each impromptu concert, he carefully guided my fingers along the smooth, worn body of the flute, clapping after I successfully played my first tentative note.
Creating the appearance of a narrow face became so all-consuming that she never went anywhere without a comb or a mirror, never played sports or drove with the windows down or went outside on windy days. Sadly, Newsweek Magazine went out of print on January 1, You should therefore look for a topic that has severe consequences but is also appropriate to discuss in a college application.