ESL Essay Writing: Lessening the Fear Factor
Writing a college application essay can be a nail biting task for even some of the most seasoned native applicants. The concerns about admission percentages, piles of applications, and the mathematical rigidity of factors such as SAT scores and GPA make even the most comfortable writer take extra steps to guarantee the precision of his or her work, in order that the most personal element of the application process might help him or her to stand out from the pack.
While the traditional pressures regarding college applications can be overwhelming, as an ESL student, you are well aware that the application process can be even more anxiety-inducing. However, with a few tips, you can stop panicking about the state of your paper and begin to feel more confident in your English usage and the personal qualities you will bring to the table with your essay.
Know Your Ability Level
One important thing to recognize as you begin the process of writing your application essay is where your ability level in English falls. If you are comfortable enough with the language to throw around idioms and sophisticated language, don't hold yourself back. If not, don't feel the need to impress admissions counselors with these techniques.
A simple, straightforward essay that is easy to understand and provides an honest glimpse at you as a person and a writer is more valuable to the reader than a convoluted piece which may contain more errors in usage. Maintaining your own level of comfort in the language will show your sincere effort and likely make your writing easier to follow.
Clearly State (and Stick to) Your Point
In the American academic environment, there is typically a greater emphasis on the thesis or ???argument??? as the driving force of any essay. Whereas other settings demand less precision in the thesis, allowing the essay to develop perhaps more naturally toward its eventual main idea, in American classrooms, it is standard practice to place the thesis in the first paragraph, typically at the paragraph's end.
If you are writing a personal essay about an obstacle you have overcome or a positive experience you had, it might seem that you aren' arguing anything, but truthfully you are. Whatever the overall impression is that you would like the reader to understand after reading your essay, even if the essay's core is a personal anecdote, is your argument or thesis. If you want readers to understand that the time you went on a long trip with your siblings reemphasized for you the importance of family, don't leave it to chance, say so!
Once you have established what you're arguing, it is important to make sure that all of your sub-points and connecting details relate back to the main topic as outlined in your thesis. Even if the examples you use are not all "evidence" of the final point, they should at least be understood to be paving the way for your ultimate argument. One of the biggest problems exhibited by native and non-native speakers alike in writing is this disconnect between thesis and examples, so allow yourself to stand out by doing a good job of linking all of your ideas to the thesis and to each other.
What Do You Have to Offer?
Although the fact that English is not your first language may place you at a bit of a disadvantage, you have one advantage over the typical applicant to an American college or university. While admissions offices will be inundated by hundreds of similar essays from students of similar backgrounds (coming from native English-speaking households in the US), something in your life experience that may seem fairly standard could be an interesting new twist to an admissions counselor.
Don't try to make your essay like everyone else's. Instead capitalize on the aspects of your life that would be less common to read about in an application essay in the United States and speak profoundly about your distinctive understanding of the world. Your cultural background may provide a unique perspective to the person reading your essay and that experience might be what helps put your application on top of the stack.