Tips in the Admissions Process – “The Application Essay”

Hello ETA readers:

After 12+ hours on an airplane, I finally arrived back to the U.S. on Saturday evening.   With a “red-eye” flight back to Boston on Saturday evening as well, I have come to my destination for this week – which would be my parents’ house.  I am actually staying with them as I do some traveling in up in New England a bit for this week.  Thus, while I spend today catching up on work and battling jet lag, I thought I might provide some tips in regards to another admissions topic – The Application Essay.

  • Why do Admissions Office require an essay/ personal statement?  This is probably the most important thing to understand before you even begin writing!  The essay is important for several reasons.  The most obvious reason is that it allows the admissions office to evaluate a student’s writing.  However, the essay also allows for us to better understand who you are in your own words.  For those who we have not had the opportunity to meet, the essay allows for you to speak to us and hopefully get to know you better as an individual.
  • Be sure to understand the parameters of the essay.  Another essential element to a great essay is understanding what is being asked of you.  For example, how many essays are you required to write for the application?  Are there specific topics that need to be covered?  What is the minimum number of words required?  Is there a maximum number of  words allowed?  Be sure to know the answers to these questions before you begin your writing.
  • If a school asks a specific essay question, be sure to answer the right question for you.  Often times, students will write their answers to specific essay questions based upon what they think the Admissions Office would like to read.  My advice is to chose an answer to the question that you would like to write about.  For example, one of Elon University’s essay questions involves choosing an issue of significant importance to you and your community.  Many students have often chosen to write about the environment.  Without a doubt, this is one example of a significant issue.  However, maybe the environment is not your passion, but something else might be.  Opt to write about your passion and not what you think we want to read. 
  • Editing and corrections.  Once you have created the perfect essay and before you hit the submit button on that online application, take a moment to do some editing.  It is always helpful to do a quick spell check of your essay (for Microsoft Word users, it is the F7 key!) which I am sure many of you do.   But also consider having someone else read your essay for you.  This other person, whether it is a teacher, friend, parent, or sibling, can provide you with valuable feedback.  For example, have your proofreader review the essay and then tell you the main points of your essay.  If their insight and thoughts are similar to what you were trying to convey, you have a strong essay on your hands.
  • Avoid writing an essay that is a resume of activities.  If a university gives you more of an open-ended question or the opportunity to write about a topic of your choice, do not just create a list of all of your extracurricular activites.  One previous pages of your application, we have already asked you to list the activites that you have been a part of through your high school years.  Thus your essay should reflect something more than a resume.  If one of those activities was particulary meaningful, you are more than welcome to elaborate on that.  Go into depth and dig deep about why that activity is meaningful or what you have learned about yourself by participating in that activity.

Those are just a few tips to help you get started as you begin the thought process behind your essays.  I wish you the best of luck – happy writing!

From My Inbox…

It is that time of year again…APPLICATION SEASON!

As you can imagine, my inbox is literally filling up every day with questions from incoming prospective students – which is wonderful!

This being said, many questions are similar in nature and I thought it might be helpful to include a list of common questions & answers!

Q: “I took the SATs on October 4th and have received my scores. How do my scores get sent to Elon?”
A: If you took the SATs on October 4th, please know that we received a large number (2,000+) of student scores over the weekend and we are currently uploading them to our system. If you originally selected Elon University as one of the institutions to receive your scores, we should be uploading them to our computer system as we speak! If you have already applied to Elon University, I would encourage you to look on Elon University’s OnTrack system using your username and password. (Please note that this ONLY applies to student’s who have applied to Elon already!) There you can see if we have officially recorded your October SAT scores into our computers.

If you did not select Elon University to originally send your scores to us, I would recommend visiting visiting http://www.collegeboard.com/student/index.html?student and look for the section titled “Get and Send Scores”. There you can go through the process of submitting your SAT scores to us.

Q: “I noticed the mid-50% range of SAT scores for the freshman class on your website but not the ACTs. What is the average ACT score or mid-50% range for ACT?”
A: For the freshmen class that enrolled in fall of 2008, the average ACT score was a 27 (Composite) and the mid-50% range was between a 24-29. For the rest of the freshman class profile, please click here.

Q: “For the essay part of the application, would the admissions committee prefer us to answer one of your questions, or can we write about a topic of our own?”
A: Ah – the timeless essay question! Honestly, it is completely upto you to chose your essay topic. Many students will chose to answer one of the questions that we offer to write about while others chose to write about a topic of their choice. My best recommendation? Write about something that you are both knowledgeable and passionate about. If you have a strong answer for one of our two choices, please feel free to answer one of those questions in your essay. However, you may have another essay topic that you feel strongly about and if so, write about that and do not choose our topics.

Often a student will write about something that he or she thinks the Admissions Office wants to read about, but that the student personally does not have complete knowlege or interest for. For example, if you feel strongly about the environment then please feel free to write about it. However, if the environment is not a topic that you feel strongly about, decide on a different topic instead. The best essays are the ones where you can see the students’ passion, insight, and knowledge of the subject! And always remember that SPELL CHECK is your friend! (For Microsoft Word users, all you need to push is the “F7” key!)

I know that these are just a few of the questions that I have received, but I will continue to work on posting more questions and more answers in the future. If you have a particular question that I could answer about Elon or our application, please do not hesitate to ask – contact me on my blog or via email (cborden2@elon.edu)!