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US Applications - Brainstorm Your Personal Essay

After you have demonstrated your academic prowess, the application essay is one of the most significant parts of your application for admission. But it is also easily one of the most challenging.

Unlike some other higher education systems, the US admissions process generally requires different essays to be submitted to each university. Each university’s essay (or in some cases, a group of several) is used to show admissions officers:

1. Who you are.

What makes you ‘You’? Your mind works completely differently to every other brain on the planet. You perceive things differently from anyone else.

2. Why you want to go to this specific university.

Colleges and universities want to know how their programmes match with your personal and academic goals, so it is obviously sensible to choose universities that offer relevant courses. Additionally, a US university or college is often seen as more than just a place to receive an education. It provides a community, a collective experience, a life-long sense of identity – sort of a family. Each community member thinks that their university family is fantastic and they want new members consciously to share that enthusiasm.

3. That you can write.

Communication is seen as a critical skill, whether you ultimately wish to become a doctor, a playwright, a social researcher, or a vulcanologist – and one way to assess this is through your writing ability. The essay allows you to submit a composition of your voice in a non-academic manner.

When you initially read those essay prompts, they may seem daunting. How can you make yourself sound good enough without also coming off like a pompous fool? Brain block, apathy, or abject writing terror can set in. However, before that happens, we’ll help you extract some material from your amazing brain as a start. Use our mind map template (download on the right) or create your own structure for jotting down your notes and insights before you start actually composing your narrative.

Using the mind map.

The mind map suggests you put down certain things about different aspects of yourself.  Obviously, if you have more than 3 or 5 items in your ‘important’ lists, include them (just don’t go overboard, or you may end up with list overload, which can muddy your writing).

In each relevant group, mark which descriptors are positive and which are negative (note: positivity or negativity may not necessarily be fixed). Are some both positive and negative?

Determine how (and if) any perceived negatives can be turned positive – e.g., Was a lesson learned when you lost that science competition? Did your late train mean that you met a famous author?

Now, you are ready for a bit of a break, before setting down your most perfect, and non-pompous, self on paper.

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