College & Beyond

Show, Don’t Tell

This question and answer, found on the Common Application and others, is a beautiful example of a college essay.

I want to draw your attention to the introduction, which “shows” versus “tells.” The reader actually feels present in the dorm room.

By appealing to all the senses, the reader becomes immersed in the student’s experience. I picture the worn-out toe shoes and carpet; I hear the opera singing, as well as the sounds of the dancer’s shoes as she turns. I “see” the sculptor putting the final touches on her piece.

This introduction reels the reader into her world, so that the reader wants to continue reading; an admissions director, feeling part of the student’s experience, becomes an advocate for this candidate, picturing the candidate on the college campus and recommending him or her for admission.