Over the past several weeks, a common theme has emerged among many of the essays we have received. On the most fundamental level, most essays do not ‘tell a story.’
Candidates are frequently consumed by strategy and a desire to demonstrate immaculate ‘fit’ with the institution to which they are applying. The nature of admissions essay questions causes many writers to feel constricted and limited—as if their experience can never ‘live up’ to the demanding, reflective challenge of an admissions essay. The truth is: how many recent high school or college graduates have thrilling personal or professional stories to share?
Each applicant’s experience will vary widely, but thinking about the traditional arc of a story will help you to really make the most of your answers and identify the best stories you have to share. We define the most basic elements of a successful ‘story’ as follows:
Exposition – How do you set the stage? Is your story familiar from the onset—or is it fresh?
Rising Action – Do you sufficiently convey a sense of ‘the stakes’ and what you might have risked?
Turning Point – Will your reader still be invested?
Denouement/Resolution – Do you introduce a new revelation or state the obvious? Do you show adequate perspective and sufficient high-level analysis?
Realize that the content for every one of your essays may not be completely revelatory—but positioning and story-building are key. Finding an inconsistency in a quarterly report or starting a school club may not be Shakespeare, but, if you preserve the framework of a successful story, you can optimize your content and win over your reader with almost any experience.
Ivy Eyes Editing
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