This article will help you tackle an issue that many of you are facing: writing an English-language essay for a university application. While most students have practiced writing in English in school, many of them have not learned how to write English in an academic style. In this article, I would like to share some tips with you to help you ace the essay!

Your “style” means how you choose and organize words. Writing styles are different around the world, so you may need to organize your thoughts differently when writing for the university admissions committee. They will expect your style to be clear, direct, organized and to the point. In other words you have to have an option and stick to it. This is quite different from traditional writing styles in Asia, where very often you are expected to explore all perspectives and avoid confrontation, sometimes delaying your thesis (or main idea) until the very end. In addition, Asians may even criticize their own opinion. This approach will likely to be confusing to the native English speaker.

In most case, you will be given a specific topic to write about and a target length. Follow these and any other instruction carefully. Plan your essay by creating an outline: a list of the main ideas for each paragraph. The easiest formula to follow has five paragraphs, each with one focused idea and several examples clarifying the main point:

1. Introduction: tell the reader what you are going to write about in general, including mention of each of the main ideas for the next 3 paragraphs.

2. Body paragraph 1: give your first main idea with supporting examples.

3. Body paragraph 2: preset a second idea that you can also buck up with details.

4. Body paragraph 3: give your third and final idea with even more information.

5. Conclusion: mention all three main ideas again concluding the general idea you talk about in the Introduction.

Try to balance the length of each of these paragraphs, using a similar number of sentences, but with different lengths for variety. You must absolutely pay attention to your grammar, spelling and punctuation. Every period and comma matters!

Thousand of people apply to universities each year, so you can imagine how many essays have to be read. The committee wants students who are not only prepared to study at this level, but also those who will fit into the environment and make a successful contribution. You should have an opinion and a very clear individual voice of your own. In other words, you won’t offend anyone by contradicting an accepted idea or being unique and creative; in fact, you will be listened to and remembered. And that is the key: impressing the university committee with your original ideas so they think of you when deciding who gets in that year.


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