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Essay技巧:The Right Way to Use Sample Essays  

2017-02-20 03:45:14|  分类: PS/Essay/简历/推 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Essay技巧:The Right Way to Use Sample Essays

 

 

By Judy Gruen

 

Identifying the Ingredients of a Winning Essay

As you gear up to write your application essays, you may have looked at some sample essays only to ask yourself afterward, “Sure, these are great, but what do these essays have to do with me?” This guide will help you go from example to exemplary, showing you how to identify what makes these essays work. Then, you can apply the winning ingredients to your own writing. You will learn how to develop a theme, include the essential elements for the MBA career goals essay, and offer tips on revising and editing for the final polish.

 

We will start by looking at two sample essays on Accepted to see what makes them so effective. The first essay, The Public Health Student, opens with a question:

 

“What if people lived healthier lives, practiced preventive medicine, and took precautions against illness and disease?”

 

The “what if?” opening immediately engages the reader and at the same time tells us that the writer’s career aspiration is in the health care sector. We do not have to wait to discover the theme of the essay; it’s right there in the first sentence.

 

In terms of structure, notice how every sentence in that first paragraph builds on the sentence that precedes it. In the second sentence, the writer begins to present his background in the health care field, making his opening question understandable. In the third sentence, additional background about his professional experience gives context for his choice of career path. By the end of the first paragraph, the reader understands the applicant’s motivations for moving from work as a physical therapist to the broader sphere of public health management.

 

As the essay develops, notice how this applicant continues to build his case for admission by linking his prior work and education to their relevance to the public health field.

 

Specifically, he writes about coursework he has taken in public health, followed immediately by a succinct discussion of his field work experience. When writing about his internship experiences, he doesn’t simply list what he did; he talks about what he learned and how these experiences have solidified his commitment to getting the MPH degree. His conclusion is also very effective because he returns to his opening “what if?” theme. He asks, What if an aspirin a day could prevent heart attacks?emphasizing that everything he has learned and done so far keeps him riveted by the challenge of finding answers to significant questions in public health.

 

While the writing is not especially colorful in this essay, the prose is clear and active. Every sentence offers new or additional information; there is no fluff. This clarity and momentum keeps the essay interesting and the pace moving, effectively building the writer’s profile as a promising and serious MPH applicant.

 

Now let’s take a brief look at the Returning to School essay from Accepted’s law school section. This essay opens with a colorful, compelling scene that immediately places the reader in the story:

 

“Fourteen grumpy doctors stare across an enormous oak conference table at me. It is seven o’clock in the morning, and most of the group are still wearing wrinkled green scrubs indicating they worked through the night. None of the doctors looks ready to digest the extremely technical information contained in the eight studies stacked neatly in front of them. My job is to present each study, review all relevant economic data, and answer any questions in such a way that the audience will conclude the new drug I am selling is better than the one they have been prescribing. One of the physicians gruffly informs me, through a mouthful of Danish, that he is leaving in ten minutes so I had better start my pitch.”

 

Don’t you already feel for this writer and her formidable challenge? I don’t know about you, but she had me hooked right away, and I was rooting for her to win over this very tough audience.

 

This essay, about half of the length of the MPH essay, still contains the same winning elements: specific highlights of career achievements and clear and convincing reasons for a career change. The last sentence refers once again to the “grumpy physicians” we met at the beginning. Both writers brought their essays full circle.

 

Having reviewed these essays, you will have a better idea of the types of experiences you can pull from your life that can help build a case for your candidacy for grad school. Start thinking about experiences you have had that will create a compelling anecdote that can grab your readers’ attention from the first sentence and not let it go until they have reached the final, satisfying conclusion.

 

Summary Tips:

 

l  Open with a colorful anecdote or a question to engage the reader’s interest right from the beginning.

l  Hold the reader’s interest by building on your story, sentence by sentence, adding new information and avoiding repetition.

l  Refer back to your opening when you conclude your essay, bringing your story full circle.

 

 

 

A Theme for Your Statement of Purpose

 

All effective essays have a distinctive voice and theme. Referring back to the essays we looked at above, we might say that our MPH candidate’s theme was his passion for finding answers to significant public health issues. Our law school applicant’s theme was her yearning for greater intellectual challenge while remaining in the health care field.

 

It takes time and introspection to find your voice and your theme. The questions below are designed to stimulate your thought process and help you define your essay’s main message. Your answers will also help you express your goals, values as they relate to your career choice, motivations for pursuing a graduate degree, and your professional dreams. While introspection isn’t as popular an activity as, say, tennis or watching a favorite TV show, it’s an important part of this process. Give it some time; your essay will be much better for it.

 

l  Why are you passionate about -- or at least committed to -- your career choice?

l  What experiences in your life (personal, educational, professional) have influenced your career goals and passions the most?

l  Has any individual played a major role in helping you discover these goals or values?

l  What do you hope to achieve in your career?

l  What would career success look like in ten years?

l  What strengths do you bring to this career?

l  What experiences can you write about that will highlight these strengths?

 

After the admissions committee has read your essays, what three words would you hope they would use to describe you? Would you like them to consider you “driven,” “intelligent,” and “creative?” How about “dedicated,” “a leader,” and “focused?” No matter what image you want to create, think about experiences that will illustrate those qualities.

 

Some answers may spring to mind immediately, while others may require more thought. Some of these experiences might have enough drama or color to make a compelling essay introduction.

 

Remember that if you are writing multiple essays, such as for MBA programs, each one must have its own theme. The admissions committee members want to see you as a multi-faceted individual. Do not hammer home the same theme repeatedly when you have the opportunity to display different aspects of yourself, your values, and your personality.

 

Summary Tips:

 

l  Carve out some time for introspection about your career goals, values, and motivation.

l  Develop distinct themes for each essay required for an MBA program, or for any program requiring more than one essay.

 

 

 

Writing the MBA Goals Essay

 

The MBA career goals essay, a close cousin to the graduate school statement of purpose, demands a laser-like focus. Unlike personal statements, which may discuss career goals but also allow for more flexibility in content, the MBA career goals essay has a specific and packed agenda. In fact, most MBA career goals essay questions contain several questions in one, so make sure to address each of them. (For example, some ask “Why is now the right time for you to earn an MBA?” or “What do you hope to gain from the XYZ program?”) Your essay must have a theme, of course, but should also do the following:

 

1. Highlight specific career achievements. Choose among the experiences you have had, either at work or through a community or extracurricular activity, that will showcase your leadership, creative thinking, and collaborative abilities.

 

2. Explain why your career goal makes sense in light of your experiences and influences so far.

 

3. Demonstrate why you are suited to a particular field as a result of your education, experience, abilities, and enthusiasm. Ideally, the material you choose to include will also allow you to demonstrate your knowledge about industry trends, and point to how your particular abilities can help make a contribution to that field.

 

That is a very tall order.

 

Let’s see how this was achieved in the sample Goals Essay from Accepted’s MBA section. Based on our first two lessons, you’ll easily recognize why the opening is attention-getting for all the right reasons. The writer introduces herself as the supremely busy executive she envisions herself becoming in the future: She trades large amounts of stock, then dashes to a teleconference, rushes down stairs, hails a taxi, then catches a plane. With all those busy verbs, we can practically feel her heart pumping as she rushes towards her flight.

 

She establishes her theme in this opening, and then gives the context for her MBA goal. Notice that in writing about her work as an accountant for a major firm, she provides relevant details, including how many years she has been in this field, her bilingual abilities, and specialty area as an auditor. This is the springboard from which she explains why she is pursuing the MBA: Her role as an accountant is too limited for her to achieve her career goals as a money manager.

 

Outstanding career goals essays don’t simply list what the applicants have done and what they want to do; they also convey real enthusiasm for the applicant’s career choice. This writer achieved this in the first paragraph and returned to it at the end, where she painted her idealized (if frantically busy) future. She also proved her seriousness by registering for CFA examinations.

 

Some career goals essays also ask why you have chosen that particular school. If you are faced with such a question, make sure to leave enough room to write knowledgably and enthusiastically about that specific program. This will be easier if you have made campus visits, attended student recruitment meetings, participated in chats, read school blogs, communicated with current students or recent alumni, and otherwise familiarized yourself with the program and the courses and specializations it offers that are relevant to your goals.

 

Summary Tips:

 

l  Focus on answering each and every question asked in an MBA career goals essay; usually there is more than one.

l  Be specific when writing about your experiences so that your achievements and motivations are clear and compelling.

l  Do your homework about why the school is a good fit for you so you can write about it with genuine enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Let’s Get Drafted!

 

Now that you have a clear sense of what makes an essay effective, and have reflected on the questions that have helped you develop your theme, it’s time to start writing.

 

Before you begin, write an outline, even if it’s only a very informal list of the main points you want to cover. Using the answers to the questions posed in section 2, you should have a list of experiences, anecdotes, and ideas that you want to include in your essay.

 

Now let’s break the job down further to keep the task manageable. First, how long is your essay? Grad school application essays can range from as short as 300 words to more than 1,000. Ironically, it’s much harder to write a very short, very good essay than it is to write a very good, longer one. Writing a super-short essay is like being six feet tall and stuck in a coach airline seat -- you’re going to feel cramped even when writing as economically as possible. Assuming you have more leg room, so to speak, and have 750 words, you still have to estimate how much space you will have, approximately, for your introduction, the main body, and conclusion. Dividing your essay into parts like this will help you gauge how much you can afford to write in each section. I encourage my clients to write up to 25 percent above their essay’s word limit in their early drafts, since I know I will be able to trim the fat, creating more space for the meat and potatoes of their story. You can follow this rule as well, assuming you have an editor ready to help you streamline.

 

In sections 1 and 3 we saw examples of strong, yet different, introductions. Don’t get hung up on crafting the perfect introduction before moving on to the rest of the essay. If you aren’t confident about your introduction, experiment with different ones, but don’t stay stuck at the beginning. Often, the perfect introduction will come to you when you are well into writing the rest of the essay. Finally, keep in mind the picture you want to paint of yourself to the admissions committee. As you read your draft, are you getting a sense of that amazing, talented, focused person? Stay focused on how best to paint that picture through your own lively, meaningful examples. Do not just claim to be something without backing it up with evidence.

 

 

Summary Tips:

 

l  Make an outline, even if it’s informal.

l  Estimate how much space you have for each section of your essay to avoid overwriting.

l  Keep working on the body of the essay even if you haven’t perfected the introduction. The introduction does not have to come first!

 

 

 

Revise and Polish Your Essays

 

You’ve got your first draft ready -- this is a great milestone! Now it’s time to revise and edit; outstanding essays are not sprung into the world on the first draft. Here’s how to edit and polish until your essay shines:

 

First, let your essay sit for a day or two, particularly after an intensive writing session. You’ll return to your document with fresh eyes, and undoubtedly find ways to strengthen it immediately. One of the most common problems plaguing these types of essays is bland, forgettable writing. When you return to your essay, if you spot any writing as generic as in the next sentence, you have work to do:

 

Although I have been responsible for a lot of exciting projects, I want to move into management, which may not happen on my current path.

 

What kind of projects? What made them exciting? Why wouldn’t a management path be open to the writer? Let’s resuscitate this prose by adding appropriate details.

 

My role as a product manager for a mid-sized giftware business has allowed me to develop my creativity as well as communication and market research skills. As exciting as it has been to have been involved in the planning and release of our innovative kitchen giftware, whose designs are based on famous Impressionist paintings, I want to move more into management, which seems unlikely at this family-owned and managed company.

 

Adding details takes more room, but it makes your essay come alive. It’s also better to write about fewer examples and flesh each out in greater detail than to write a laundry list of either accomplishments or character traits you feel you possess. “Show, don’t tell,” remains a cardinal rule in writing.

 

You can also enliven your writing and tighten it at the same time by rooting out passive voice.

 

Negotiations over the extent of the website design were carried out by a team of managers and myself, representing the technical team.

 

This passive construction is five words longer and drags a bit. Move the “doer” of the action to the head of the sentence for a resulting sentence that makes you sound like a leader:

 

I represented the technical team in negations with management over the extent of the website design.

 

After you have replaced passive with active voice, and booted your colorless and generic writing out the door, read your essay aloud. Reading your work silently to yourself is quite different than hearing it. When you listen to your essay, you’ll likely catch small mistakes that you inadvertently missed during the editing process, and hear phrasing that you can strengthen.

 

Next, ask yourself: does this essay achieve the job I set out for it? Do I sound like the irresistibly focused, thoughtful, and energetic individual I want to sound like? Make sure that the voice you created on the page resonates positively.

 

These are among the many tools I show my own clients that together we use for maximum impact in their essays. I’m confident they will work for you, too!

 

Summary Tips:

l  Wait a day after writing a draft, so you can return to it with a fresh perspective.

l  Look for instances of bland writing or passive voice, then replace with writing that is specific and active.

l  Read your essay aloud so you can hear the voice you have created. Does it meet your goals? If not, keep revising and enlist an experienced editor to help get you to the finish line.

 

 

 

About the Author

Judy is an award-winning author and editor with more than 20 years of experience. She joined Accepted in 1996 as one of the company's first consultants. She is a passionate writer with a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley and a Master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

 

Judy is the author of MBA Letters of Recommendation that Rock, Law School Letters of Recommendation that Rock, and co-author of MBA Admission for Smarties.

 

 

 

以上内容摘自:

From Example to Exemplary_ How to Use Sample Essays to Make Your Essay Outstanding 

 

 

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