When applying for college, you’ll come across two main types of essays that you’ll need to compose—the narrative or personal essay and the series of short-answer questions. Sounds like a daunting task? You can try looking at this part of the application as an opportunity to tell the admissions panel who you are, why you chose their university, and most importantly, why they should choose you.
With careful planning, you’ll be able to address this portion of the app, you can craft excellent responses that the panel will notice. Here is some advice to follow on how tackle this part of the application process.
What to Expect
As you might have noticed, the format and style for this component differs from the academic essay or even the longer personal narrative. Some common traits of the short-answer essay include:
A series of more focused questions
A word-count of 100 to 200 words
More of a challenge to address due to brevity and a need to balance between conciseness and adequate details
So when addressing these questions, you’ll need to tell a unique story while staying within specific parameters.
Addressing Short-Answer Questions: What to Steer Clear from
When looking at strategies for answering short-answer essay questions, it’s helpful to start with what NOT to do. Some of the pitfalls to avoid include:
Repeating the question
Using “big words” that you normally wouldn’t use to begin with
Normally, for a test in one of your classes, you would use part of the question to formulate a thesis. However, this situation calls for the total opposite. You’ll need to get right to the point but at the same time, catch your reader’s attention.
In regard to word choice, you might be tempted to incorporate as many “50-dollar” words as possible. This is not a good idea. Chances are you’ll sound like you’re over-compensating for a lack of vocabulary at the very least. In the worst case, you’ll sound arrogant. Just remember that the admissions committee is looking to see how you’ll apply your leadership skills, what talents you have to contribute to a specific department, or how you plan to further your career goals by participating in a particular program. So you’ll need to choose your wording wisely.
Other mistakes you’ll need to stay away from involve:
Overuse of the thesaurus
Disregard for or lack of comprehension of the directions
Grammatical and/or structural errors
Basically, you’ll need to take the time to plan and review your answers carefully. Also, you’ll need to break down each question and the instructions to make sure you understand how to tailor your response. Breaking down the question into distinct parts will help when figuring out the content. So, for example, if the instructions require you to answer each question in 150 words or less, you should not strive for 200.
Also, try not to digress from the topic—even if it’s challenging. For example, if a question asks about your service to your community, you should probably not discuss your love for music. Instead, if you have volunteered to work with children who otherwise would not have access to music lessons, then you should discuss that experience.
The Next Steps toward Great Content
Now that you know what to avoid, here are some tips to follow.
Be specific and strike a balance with the details (not too many and not too few)
Employ the right tone that’s appropriate for the topic
Ask another person to review your answers and provide feedback
For more information, you can also refer to this video.
So following these tips will help you to overcome yet another challenge on your post-secondary journey to your career goals.
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