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American University Essay Sample

In recent years, there has been debate about how the commitment to diversity on university campuses intersects with the issues of free speech, safe spaces, and trigger warnings. One way to answer this prompt is to tackle those issues head-on. Some useful context and a few perspectives on these issues can be found here.


If you take this approach to the prompt, you should avoid making generalized statements about whether or not you think “safe spaces” are good or bad. A better approach would be to write a response to a specific quote from someone else. For example, in the series of radio interviews I’ve linked to above, Cameron Okeke discusses the role that safe spaces played in his education. In a piece that he wrote for Vox, he says:


If you want the perspective of someone with PTSD, then you better be prepared to do the work to make them comfortable enough to speak up in class, and that means giving them a heads up when discussing potentially triggering topics.


Do you agree or disagree? What kinds of institutional support beyond trigger warnings might be needed to make people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) comfortable enough to speak up? When you pick out a specific claim and respond to it, you are not only giving your essay a clear focus but also demonstrating that you can participate in a thoughtful discussion of texts — something that you will be doing no matter what university you end up at or what you decide to major in.


Another way to respond to this prompt is to begin with a story from your own personal experience and then discuss how that experience shaped your ideas about what an “inclusive environment” looks like. For example, maybe you went to the county courthouse with your mother and saw a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the courthouse door. How did seeing that statue make you feel? Can an inclusive environment “include” such monuments? Creating a welcoming space might be more than just a matter of welcoming people from a variety of different backgrounds into that space; it might also have something to do with the plaques, memorials, and architecture of the space itself.


A third way of approaching this topic might be to talk about an environment that you felt did a particularly good job of welcoming diverse perspectives and ideas. Maybe you had a high school English teacher who always seemed like she was able to get a good, respectful discussion going. How did she accomplish that? Maybe instead of just tossing out an “open-ended” question and letting the loudest students in the classroom talk, the teacher asked everyone to write down a response first and then had you form smaller discussion groups — giving those who might be more shy an avenue to start speaking.


On its face, this teaching technique might not seem directly related to welcoming people from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives. But on closer examination, the link might be clear.


If a classroom only has one student from India, and the text for discussion on that particular day happens to be Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, it is very easy for that student to feel the pressure of somehow serving as the “example” of all of Indian culture to the class as a whole. Some students might welcome that role, but for many that can be an uncomfortable position.


Perhaps the small group discussion technique lets students address each other as individuals and sustain a more dynamic conversation that does not put one particular student “on the spot.” If you are interested, USC’s Rossier School of Education has assembled an online library of resources for building an inclusive classroom that you can investigate.


Whatever approach you take, I would encourage you to focus in on something specific: a specific quote from someone, a specific personal experience, or a specific form of institutional support that you encountered. This prompt runs the risk of inviting vague pontificating, but a thoughtful discussion usually begins with an analysis of a specific text or situation from which more general conclusions are later developed.


For information on the application essays for other schools, check out CollegeVine’s database of essay guides.


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How to write an application essay for US universities
: As the admission cycle in the US closes in, students across the globe eying a prestigious seat at one its top universities also start zealously putting final touches to their application package, especially application essays. What makes applying to an American university so unique, and no less challenging, is that candidates aren’t merely judged on how they have fared in a specific qualifying exam or for that matter what exams they have taken. And no, it is also no simple data crunching game, whereby a computer is fed some random numbers only to churn out names bereft of personality traits. Instead, universities in the US insist that students also furnish essays, which are used as devices to identify the person buried under those grades and figures. If your personality traits match with the goals and aspirations of a university, only then can you expect good news. This is what makes mastering how to write an application essay for US universities so critical.

This is not to say that your academic achievements mean anything less, but just that universities like Caltech, MIT and Harvard want some additional qualities in their students, which unfortunately can’t be measured just through SAT, GMAT or GRE scores.


Essays are inescapable, so why not learn how to write an application essay for US universities

At the outset, students planning to study in US need to do is align to the fact that application essays aren’t just any piece of information jotted down in the form of an essay, but they are expected to be coherent blocks of information that throw light on your personality and tell a memorable tale to draw the attention of  admission counselors. To give you an example, you might score less than some X in IELTS or even in the overall academic score, but if through the essay you can elucidate how despite coming from a very backyard region, with none to mentor you, you have not only achieved great success, but your success spreads across fields like music, sports and culture, you still have a good chance. In fact, being a maverick can also pay off! After all, universities are always open to a contrast of ideas and opinions, and there are no better examples than universities in the USA, which believe that only through debate and discussions can we arrive at a higher truth. So, now that we have laid down the importance of applications essays, let us go through the process of writing one.


Thumb rules to follow when you write an application essay for US universities


Say goodbye to modesty, but in style: Remember the great Muhammad Ali, who went to town proclaiming that he is the greatest boxer on the planet! While some initially may have been offended by Ali’s brazen self-promotion, the gamble did pay off and today he is universally called the greatest. If you also don’t mind talking yourself up, application essays give you your best chance; the only criteria is your claims shouldn’t come across as phony and arrogant. So, pick up the pen and write an application essay for US universities garnishing, without of course overdoing the part, your conquests, be it in the field of music, dance, or a subject that is close to your heart. An effective trick is to make a claim and prop it up with vivid descriptions and facts.


Don’t make up stories: In a bid to appear unique and showcase your achievements outside of academics, don’t dream up some events that are nothing sort of flimsy. Even if you are eager to study in US, it is not morally justifiable to adopt such unfair means and begin your journey with a lie. Also, admission counselors are excellent gatekeepers and can catch a lie from a distance; so you may end up jeopardizing your genuine chances of studying in US trying to be extra smart.


Mind the word limit: Universities like Caltech require you to submit multiple essays of different word limits, typically one 500-word essay and two to three 200-word essays. To be on the safer side it is better not to overstretch the word limit, because as you can imagine admissions officers have to go through piles of such essays every day and unnecessarily verbose prose isn’t going to put a smile on their face, and could thus backfire! So, you have to learn to play with words, and cut down on fluff. Even in cases where no word-limit is given, the general consensus is anything beyond 700 words is too wordy and needs immediate curtailing.


Don’t go off on a tangent: When writing an application essay for US universities, stick to a single theme, especially, if the essay is short; if it is long you may afford two or max three themes. This will allow you to thread the prose in a coherent manner and you will not lose track of what you are saying; coherency will also make it easier for you to focus on your personality traits that you want to shine through. Otherwise, without a coherent theme you will end up writing jumbled details about yourself, that counselors would have a hard time deciphering.


One anecdote too many: While examples make a prose livelier, more believable and memorable, you must guard against cramming the essay with too many of these real-life anecdotes, because it will limit your ability to create impact with them. Also, while giving an anecdote, double-check whether it is helping build a compelling case for your selection in any way. If it doesn’t elevate your profile and doesn’t connect coherently with the bigger story you are telling, junk it and find a more convincing one.


Also, when writing an anecdote, be specific and include characters that might make the story believable and stick. Like instead of simply saying, I like to play football, better show your love for the sport: I used to walk up at 4 in the morning and train hours at a stretch in the gym with my best pal, Mickey! It will have more effect.


Be deft when using humor or creativity: While we all need comic relief every now and then, when you write an application essay for US universities, it is better not to include words with double meanings and borderline phrases. It is because people in the US, a very vast land with many different sub-sets of people, may not share the same sensibilities. So, your harmless humor may inflame the admissions counselor, which is not something you would want when applying to study in US. As for creativity, you do have a free hand but again make sure that the counselor doesn’t blow up every few minutes trying to keep up with a twisted story.


Write correct and polished language: Silly mistakes like spelling errors, incorrect punctuation can punch holes in your application essay. So, once you are done with writing an application essay for US universities, proofread the essay. Also check the flow of the essay; how does it sound, too formal or too casual. Are the words coming out naturally and in a conversational manner, which it is supposed to? Typically, essays don’t require you to be uptight and you can be really yourself, expressing all your positive shades; the fine line is in doing so, it mustn’t in any way appear that you are disrespecting the reader and challenging his judgment. Further, do a fact check. Ensure that all the places and names that you have included in the essay are foolproof; if you write an application essay for US universities that put facts incorrectly, it won’t take them long to find out.


Show eagerness to embrace diversity: Most of the top universities in the US are getting a cultural makeover, with multiculturalism being the dominant theme; consequently students who can effortlessly mingle and blur the cultural lines are in great demand. If you go to a Stanford or a Harvard, you will get dorms and community centers, where you will have to eat, pray and study with other students who may have very different cultural upbringing and religious views. So, when you write an application essay for US universities, highlight how you fit into this growing narrative.


Is the essay full of substance, or it is fat dripping all over? While without a fair bit of garnishing the essay would look dull, you must use it judiciously. This means facts should take center stage, and the creative part should be there only to amplify the point without distracting the reader. Again sometimes many extraneous sentences creep into the essay which add nothing but extra baggage; get rid of them and see if you can find anything meaningful in their place.


Prove you can be an asset to the university: Universities through essays screen guys who they believe will share their values and can contribute to their growth and help achieve their goals. So, it is important that you are familiar with these facets of the university before you write an application essay for US universities. For example, if you are applying to an MBA program at Harvard, learn about the teaching community at the university, the class profile and other tidbits that will allow you to put yourself in their shoes and grasp the reality and react to it, in an honest and logical manner.


Additionally, one quality admired in students is their ability to enhance the education experience of others around them. So, a point or two in your application essay for US universities detailing how you have encouraged your peers in your previous college to achieve higher goals could be a clincher!


Writing essays is like embarking on a journey of self-discovery!!

Going through our tips on how to write an application essay for US universities and putting them to practice will bring to the fore character traits you never thought existed inside you; qualities like sense of humor, humanity, resoluteness, quirkiness…that you can harness for greater goals. Even in case of negative traits, you can also work on and rectify them!


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