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Develop Your Essay Writing Skills

As students we are not taught that an essay is composed of both content and style. So how do we develop this skill before applying to university?
BY Farhad Anklesaria |   07-06-2013

The manner in which we write compositions in an English exam is not comparable or analogous to the writing of a college application essay. But we know no other way of writing; we rely on the presence of a story - an introduction, a body, and a conclusion to relate the essence of what we want to say to our teachers, and to admission committees.

This is a pitfall of our education, and a genuine area in which we fall short. We are not taught that an essay is composed of both content and style. We rely on the heaviness, the weight of content to shadow out the absence of style or voice. However, there is nothing more important than the presence of a unique voice and style that can communicate the presence of an important breed of intelligence to a university admissions committee.

Yale Admissions advises student applicants to “Use your own voice. Do not worry about making a special effort to include impressive vocabulary words or overly complex sentences. If you sound like yourself and discuss something you care about, your essay will be more effective.”

As a result, students and college counselors too often try their best to 'brainstorm' their way out of the problem. They search for the 'killer' essay subject matter that they believe will blow everyone away - a story that masks the absence of any style or personality.. But, be sure - no seasoned admissions committee will be fooled by the content of a story.

In my opinion, students and college counselors are putting the cart before the horse. They believe that applicants already possess the ability to write personal, subjective essays; a skill that is very rarely developed without incentive and structure from an educational curriculum. And the majority believe that just because they can 'write' means that they can write a personal essay with ease. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is like saying that just because I can kick a football means that I can play the sport.

In the classic American writing style guide, 'Elements of Style' by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, it is made clear that writing is composed of both content and style; without either one the writing is vacant, banal. I would further argue that style and voice are the hallmarks of the kind of intelligence that are sought after by the top universities. It implies a thirst for exploration, knowledge, an idea of self. The presence or absence of these values, which represent the pillars of a desire for a genuine education can shine through, or darken out your entire application.

I recommend that you begin to develop your voice early. Read. Write. Reflect. Do things outside the classroom. Find the authors and the style of writing that inspire you and work on from there. Else, you will be working in darkness and nothing but a shadow will be cast over an otherwise perfect application.

Farhad Anklesaria graduated from Yale University in 2010 with a major in Sociology and International Studies. He recently returned to India to write a novel, and works in education. His company - essai: - inspires students to write unique application essays. Farhad also runs a 'bootcamp' for students who have gained admission to university and want to be prepared for what lies ahead.



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Abraham Lamin Melchizedek Conteh
15 August 2014

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