Portrait of author Alan Gelb“The Three Things Your Essay Must Do” by Alan Gelb, author of the bestselling book Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps


1. 展示一个可爱的自己。“可爱”在这里不代表简单,也不一定意味着亲切、和蔼。可爱是说你是一个可以接近的人,即便你有点复杂难懂,甚至缺少自信或者有其他一些弱点。我们每个人的个性都有复杂的一面,在生活中也会表现出这些方面,但是我们仍然青睐那些有勇气把它们写出来的人。

2. 阐述一些个人发展。申请文书中应该有一部分是阐述个人如何取得进步的。如果你提出了一个事物,那么你应该给出它的进展,至少从心理上你意识到它的发展。假如你曾经经历过失望、挫折、失败或者退步,你应该适当阐述你是怎样克服这些困难的。

3. 展现你的写作能力。你是在申请留学,而所有的学校都看重写作。好的写作意味着结构扎实,语言得体,表达有力。可以借鉴一下我的书《10步教你应对大学申请文书》,或许会有所收获。


English version:

There is often confusion here in the U.S. about what the college admissions essay should accomplish, so naturally students in China will find this assignment even more difficult to figure out. The 500-word common application admissions essay is not the place for you to present all your achievements, as if you are seeking a job. It is the place to show the kind of person you are, and for those from China, where emotions are not so readily displayed, writing something of a deeply personal nature can be intimidating. I hope I can make it less so by distilling your goals in this assignment down to three:

1. Present the writer as a likable person. Likable doesn’t mean uncomplicated. Likable doesn’t necessarily mean sweet or nice. Likable means that you are a person that other people can relate to – even if you are complicated, even if you express self-doubt, even if you show vulnerability. We all have those complicated aspects to our personalities and lives and we all relate to people who have the courage to write about them.

2.   Show some development. There should be some arc in your personal development in the essay. If you start in one place, you should finish – at least psychologically – in another. If you’ve had a disappointment or a frustration or a loss or a setback, you should give some indication as to how you’ve managed to cope with that.

3.   Show that you know how to write. You are applying to college and all colleges value  good writing. That means solid structure, graceful language, powerful images. Have a look at my book, Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps, and you’ll get the idea.

If your essay has done the three things I’ve mentioned above, you’ll be fine. All the students that I’ve worked with who have gone on to Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, Dartmouth, and so on have done nothing more than the above. Trust me.