Writers often ask for help with essays of application for undergraduate or graduate programs as well as other programs. Though you will need to consider the usual aspects of an essay— organization, tone, and grammar—you need to keep a number of other specific points in mind.
- Does the writer establish the point of the essay early on? Is the relevance of the information clearly established? Avoid the mistake made by one applicant, who wrote a lengthy essay describing her harrowing escape from her homeland. Though her point was that if she could withstand those rigors, she could manage medical school, she waited until the end to tell readers her reason for relating her story.
- Does the introduction engage the reader? How will this essay fare against the many others that are being read? A note of caution: Readers want to see how an applicant differs from other applicants, but they can quickly spot outrageous or excessive statements. The writer needs to consider the readers of the application—who they are and what they might be looking for.
- Does the essay sound sincere and honest, or has the writer exaggerated? (For example, becoming a teacher to “change the world” is clearly beyond one person’s capabilities.)
- Has the writer completely answered the question being posed? Some applications simply ask why one has chosen a particular career or program. Others ask applicants to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, ethics, work experience, accomplishments, or extracurricular activities.
- Has the writer included sufficient evidence—often anecdotal—with details that show rather than tell? (For example, rather than saying “I am a caring person,” the applicant should describe deeds that he or she has done that demonstrate caring.)
- Has the writer appropriately eliminated extraneous details that do not contribute anything to the essay? (For example, Aunt Mary’s illness may have led the writer to consider becoming a doctor. Unless there is good reason, however, readers do not need to know what she prefers for breakfast or the kind of car that she drives.)
- Is the essay error-free? Misspellings, grammatical errors, and other mechanical problems may cause readers to question an applicant’s attention to detail.