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Essay Writing Tips

A few tips from the “Fisk Real College Essays That Work”
(109 real admissions essays that worked, available in the CCC):
  • Stand out by being yourself

You are by far the most interesting possible topic.  If this sounds crazy, think about the most popular magazine in the United States.  It has a one-word name: People.  The magazine sells so well because people are interesting: their hopes and fears, their relationships, what they believe, how their minds work.  People are fascinating and you are a person.

  • Details, Details

You need concrete evidence to back up everything you say like anecdotes, thoughts, and observations that are unique to you.

  • Think Metaphorically

Metaphors and similes show a student’s ability to do big-picture thinking. If you’re ever at a loss for what to write, think of analogies that apply to your life.

  • What Do You Want To Show?

There are many qualities to emphasize in an essay, including that you: have a sense of humor, value diversity, embrace learning, notice the little things, are deeply committed, to an activity or idea, can overcome diversity, have initiative. 

Avoid any suggesting that you: are cynical, think you are a finished product, lack integrity, and tend to blame others.

Colleges don’t want people who are complainers, or people who withdraw from the community rather than embrace it.

Common Application Questions 

Please write an essay of 250 – 650 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below.  This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.