Thinking About Style in an Application Essay

An application essay is like a puzzle. The parts must fit together seamlessly in order to reveal the whole picture. Application essays require style, which reflects the author’s design, to attract and hold the reader’s attention. Different writers have different styles and it is important to find your own when you are crafting your application essay.

Imagine Indian summer in a college town, the weather warm enough to merit polo shirts but not cool enough yet to cause the leaves to turn russet and yellow. A small, dedicated group of teaching professionals sit facing each other across a long oak table in a red brick building on the local college campus.

The admissions committee looks at the towering stack of application folders, each filled with glowing letters of recommendation, outstanding transcripts, impressive standardized test scores, and application essays. They take a few files each, and read quietly for a while, sorting through the stack, separating the folders into three or four separate files. When this is completed, they take turns reading the application essays associated with each file out loud to one another. If the consensus is that it is a great essay, worthy of taking another long look at the rest of the application, it goes into the “read it again” file.

This is an imagined scenario, which does take place on college campuses every year. The purpose of this story is to illustrate the importance of a well-written application essay with style. If the application essay is memorable or intriguing, it accomplishes its purpose. Moving the application folder to the right pile is the job of the application essay. An application essay with unique style can convince the admissions committee to review a folder again.

Application Essays are Vital

Other elements of style found in application essays include the use of vivid language, insightful humor, biting sarcasm, mountains of descriptive adjectives, and diverse sentence structure. The use of quotations, of monologues and dialogues, of images so real they jump off the page into your lap are all devices used to add elements of style to an application essay.

Style can also be added through judicious use of language. Colloquialisms, formal phrasing, and the use of foreign expressions can add texture and dimension to an application essay. Style is derived from the author of the application essay. The writer will bring personal style to the essay.