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Articles & Advice > College Admission > Articles
Using Dialogue in Your College Application Essay
Admission officers are swamped. They want to be wowed by hopeful students' applications—including their admission essays. Try using dialogue to stand out!
by Ashley Wellington Founder, Mint Tutors LLC
Last Updated: Oct 4, 2023
Originally Posted: Aug 19, 2014
Admission officers are swamped with applications. Particularly at very selective institutions, they need to make quick judgements about students' applications and personal statements. This makes the opening line of that application essay critical. If you want to wow them from the get-go, follow the advice below.
Will your essay get tossed in the "eh" pile?
“I hate to break it to you, but your essay might not get read,” my college counselor remarked without even looking up from his computer as I nervously handed him my first draft. I was horrified at the time, but he was, and still is, right. Just picture it: admission officers, especially those for the most selective institutions, are sifting through a record number of applications and have about three months to eliminate the majority of those deserving, accomplished candidates.
And guess what? When it comes to the Ivy League and their ilk, most of those applicants look identical on paper, with comparable grades, test scores, activity lists, accolades, and course loads. After pulling several weeks’ worth of consecutive all-nighters, the admission officers’ eyes start to blur, and they can barely differentiate among the nation’s best and brightest teenagers, all eagerly vying for a coveted spot in their school’s freshman class. As they flip through the paperwork of yet another valedictorian, someone remarks, “Annie Applicant looks like a run-of-the-mill achieve-o-tron.” But they haven’t gotten to the essays yet, and that’s where students really set themselves apart! They note items on the transcript—over 200 hours of volunteer work at a local special needs daycare, a patent application, a regional award for a short story, the lead role in three school musicals—that really fascinates them, so they assume the essay will shed light on some of these impressive endeavors. Right?
Then they hit the first line of her personal statement. “For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. When I was younger, books were my escape. I could really relate to the characters and would get lost in various stories for hours at a time. If I had a bad day, I would curl up with a book.”
Before the admission officers even hit the fourth sentence, they’ve tossed her file into the “eh” pile, purgatory for applicants who don’t have the writing chops to match their academic records. Have Annie’s chances of admission been dashed? Not necessarily, but the uphill battle is infinitely steeper now that she’s done nothing to set herself apart from the other applicants who, shockingly, also love to read.
Related: How to Write a Great College Admission Essay, Step-by-Step
Perhaps the third paragraph is where Annie’s narrative really comes alive as she weaves readers through her favorite novels and relates characters to her everyday life, giving insight into her world, but who would read that far? The opening is so generic that admission officers simply don’t have time to give Annie the benefit of the doubt; they quickly move on to their discussion of Joe College, whose first line describing his sublime experience as Townsperson #5 in his school play makes them laugh out loud.
So how do students master that strong opening without seeming too gimmicky or desperate? How do they make the gatekeepers to the country’s top schools stop and think, “Wow, even though I am going blind from squinting at countless single-spaced pages, I sure wish this particular essay were longer than 650 words!”? A great way to capture admission officers’ attention in the application essay is starting with dialogue. This approach is certainly not a Band-Aid for an otherwise mediocre essay, but it might just keep someone reading long enough to get to know you as an applicant. But before you slap a witty exchange on the top of your essay, make sure you heed these warnings:
Don’t make the other person too interesting
You open with: “‘Hey, are you free to come to the environmental club meeting?’ asked my friend Kevin, who was canvassing the library to recruit helpers for the school-wide solar panel installation project he would be pitching at the next faculty meeting.
‘Sorry, but I’ve got miles to go before I sleep!’ I tell him as I launch back into my independent research project on the theme of depression in Robert Frost’s poetry.”
How might admission officers respond to this exchange? Suddenly, they are more interested in Kevin than they are in you. Then, they put your application aside and look to see if there are any applicants named Kevin from your school so they can learn more about this unique solar panel project.
You should have used Kevin’s voice as a sounding board for expressing your own passions and beliefs, not as the force driving the conversation. You have to remember that you’re selling yourself, not your friends, and you don’t want to be overshadowed by your own essay’s supporting cast.
Keep your language natural
You open with: “’I have to scamper off to my occupation of preparing caffeinated beverages!’ I elucidate for the benefit of my roommate, Natalie, as I ambulate through our means of egress.”
Admission officers will read that, scratch their heads, and think, “Yeah, I see that she knows some SAT words, but did she mean, ‘I’ve got to run to my job at the coffee shop!’ I shout to Natalie as I scamper out the door”? That version would have saved time and sounded more like an authentic teenager. Now they really have no idea who you are, and even worse, they probably find you annoying.
Related: How to Show, Don't Tell to Boost Your Writing for School and Beyond
...but not too natural
You open with: “’I’m so wiped I don't even know what to do. Like, I can’t even. It’s ridic!’ I whine as my BFF Selena sits down beside me in English class.”
Admission officers ask themselves, “Is this her real essay? Someone must have hacked her Common App account, because no one would risk coming across as this vapid!” They then worry that you won’t be able to hold your own in seminars on War and Peace when you don’t have the attention span to finish typing the word “ridiculous.” Even if you sound that way in real life (I hope not!), you need to be cognizant of the fact that an essay this important requires you to bring your verbal A-game.
Related: What NOT to Do in Your College Application Essay
In general, don’t be afraid to lead off with an in-medias-res conversational tidbit that will help you come to life. Here's an example:
“You ski for how many miles? Then you shoot a rifle?” Andy gasped in disbelief as I explained that I couldn’t hang out after school because I had to go to the range and practice my aim for my upcoming biathlon.
“And every time I miss the target, I have to ski a 150-meter penalty loop just for good measure,” I added, chuckling as Andy’s jaw dropped.
Take your time thinking about what examples best represent you as an applicant in the context of the application essay prompts given. Then, once you narrow your options to a worthy anecdote, explore that moment—and the unique, enchanting, entrancing dialogue within.
Looking for more application essay advice? We've got you covered. Check out our College Admission section now!
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Dialogue: The Dos and Don’ts of Quotes in Your College Essay
“Hey,” I began, “you have cow eyes. I know that sounds like a bad thing but have you ever looked into a cow’s eyes? They are so deep and brown and beautiful. I’ve looked into a lot a cow eyes because I’m from Wisconsin.”
This dialogue segment is from Malcolm Conner’s winning “Modern Love” College Essay , p r i n t e d j u s t a c o u p l e m o n t h s a g o i n t h e N e w Y o r k T i m e s . Without dialogue, he might have said “I fumbled with my words, trying to compliment her,” but the dialogue shows his rambling and awkward demeanor instead.
Dialogue is an underutilized tool in the college essay. So many students don’t even consider adding an outdated adage from a parent or a hilarious crack from a high school coach to break up their prose, set the scene or build the profiles of their stories’ characters. And yet, dialogue is one of those devices that can give you a lot of bang for your buck, delivering a punch of personality or a wallop of context using just a few carefully culled utterances. Dialogue is also one of those tools that is easy to waste if you don’t know how to wield it for maximum effect. So when should you use dialogue in your college essay? And when should you avoid it?
If it reveals something specific about a character in your essay. Is your character cranky? A jokester? Is your character selfish? (“You can’t have any.”) Dialogue can telegraph these kinds of qualities to a reader very quickly.
If it helps to move the story forward. Maybe when everything is going great, your friend pulls you aside and says, “I have to tell you something, something bad.”
If it expresses humor or heartache or other emotions in the character’s own words. Is your character a funny grandparent? (“If you eat any more potatoes, Ireland’s gonna come for you, sport.” “Honey, if I had known about senior discounts, I would have let my hair go grey twenty years ago.”)
Don’t use dialogue:
If it is expressing something that is obvious to the reader without adding an additional layer of context or insight to the story or your characters. If it doesn’t tell us anything new about the character, the story may be better without it.
If you’ve already used it a few times in your essay. The impact of dialogue is enhanced when it’s used sparingly — especially in short pieces of writing.
If it takes away from the focal point of your story. Dialogue can be great insight into a character or situation, but if it doesn’t serve a purpose in hitting home your main point, it needs to be cut.
All of this said, of course, there are exceptions to these rules. If used intentionally, as a conscious creative choice, submitting an essay overflowing with dialogue can actually work to amazing effect. For example, maybe your essay is a discussion between you and your former self, between you and your best friend, or you and your parent. In these cases, you should ask yourself: why is this the best way to share my story? If you can answer that question and still believe you’re making the right choice, by all means, continue with your experiment.
Otherwise, the tips above should help you on the road to incorporating the right kind and amount of dialogue into your college essay. When used well, dialogue illuminates. It shows personality. It’s specific. I say, “Do it! Do it! Do it!”
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Written by CEA HQ
Category: Admissions , advice , College Admissions , Essay Tips , Essay Writing , Quick Tips , Tips , Uncategorized
Tags: 2017-2018 college applications , college admissions , college admissions essay , college applications , college essay , college essay help , college essay tips , dialogue , Essays
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How to Start a College Essay to Hook Your Reader
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What is the purpose of the college essay introduction, tips for getting started on your essay, 6 effective techniques for starting your college essay.
- Cliche College Essay Introduction to Avoid
Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free
Have you sat down to write your essay and just hit a wall of writer’s block? Do you have too many ideas running around your head, or maybe no ideas at all?
Starting a college essay is potentially the hardest part of the application process. Once you start, it’s easy to keep writing, but that initial hurdle is just so difficult to overcome. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you jump that wall and make your essay the best it can be.
The introduction to a college essay should immediately hook the reader. You want to give admissions officers a reason to stay interested in your story and encourage them to continue reading your essay with an open mind. Remember that admissions officers are only able to spend a couple minutes per essay, so if you bore them or turn them off from the start, they may clock out for the rest of the essay.
As a whole, the college essay should aim to portray a part of your personality that hasn’t been covered by your GPA, extracurriculars, and test scores. This makes the introduction a crucial part of the essay. Think of it as the first glimpse, an intriguing lead on, into the read rest of your essay which also showcases your voice and personality.
Take the time to sit down and brainstorm some good topic ideas for your essay. You want your topic to be meaningful to you, while also displaying a part of you that isn’t apparent in other aspects of your application. The essay is an opportunity to show admissions officers the “real you.” If you have a topic in mind, do not feel pressured to start with the introduction. Sometimes the best essay openings are developed last, once you fully grasp the flow of your story.
Do a Freewrite
Give yourself permission to write without judgment for an allotted period of time. For each topic you generated in your brainstorm session, do a free-write session. Set a time for one minute and write down whatever comes to mind for that specific topic. This will help get the juices flowing and push you over that initial bit of writer’s block that’s so common when it comes time to write a college essay. Repeat this exercise if you’re feeling stuck at any point during the essay writing process. Freewriting is a great way to warm up your creative writing brain whilst seeing which topics are flowing more naturally onto the page.
Create an Outline
Once you’ve chosen your topic, write an outline for your whole essay. It’s easier to organize all your thoughts, write the body, and then go back to write the introduction. That way, you already know the direction you want your essay to go because you’ve actually written it out, and you can ensure that your introduction leads directly into the rest of the essay. Admissions officers are looking for the quality of your writing alongside the content of your essay. To be prepared for college-level writing, students should understand how to logically structure an essay. By creating an outline, you are setting yourself up to be judged favorably on the quality of your writing skills.
1. The Scriptwriter
“No! Make it stop! Get me out!” My 5-year-old self waved my arms frantically in front of my face in the darkened movie theater.
Starting your essay with dialogue instantly transports the reader into the story, while also introducing your personal voice. In the rest of the essay, the author proposes a class that introduces people to insects as a type of food. Typically, one would begin directly with the course proposal. However, the author’s inclusion of this flashback weaves in a personal narrative, further displaying her true self.
Read the full essay.
2. The Shocker
A chaotic sense of sickness and filth unfolds in an overcrowded border station in McAllen, Texas. Through soundproof windows, migrants motion that they have not showered in weeks, and children wear clothes caked in mucus and tears. The humanitarian crisis at the southern border exists not only in photographs published by mainstream media, but miles from my home in South Texas.
This essay opener is also a good example of “The Vivid Imaginer.” In this case, the detailed imagery only serves to heighten the shock factor. While people may be aware of the “humanitarian crisis at the southern border,” reading about it in such stark terms is bound to capture the reader’s attention. Through this hook, the reader learns a bit about the author’s home life; an aspect of the student that may not be detailed elsewhere in their application. The rest of the essay goes on to talk about the author’s passion for aiding refugees, and this initial paragraph immediately establishes the author’s personal connection to the refugee crisis.
3. The Vivid Imaginer
The air is crisp and cool, nipping at my ears as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky, starless. It is a Friday night in downtown Corpus Christi, a rare moment of peace in my home city filled with the laughter of strangers and colorful lights of street vendors. But I cannot focus.
Starting off with a bit of well-written imagery transports the reader to wherever you want to take them. By putting them in this context with you, you allow the reader to closely understand your thoughts and emotions in this situation. Additionally, this method showcases the author’s individual way of looking at the world, a personal touch that is the baseline of all college essays.
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4. The Instant Plunger
The flickering LED lights began to form into a face of a man when I focused my eyes. The man spoke of a ruthless serial killer of the decade who had been arrested in 2004, and my parents shivered at his reaccounting of the case. I curiously tuned in, wondering who he was to speak of such crimes with concrete composure and knowledge. Later, he introduced himself as a profiler named Pyo Chang Won, and I watched the rest of the program by myself without realizing that my parents had left the couch.
Plunging readers into the middle of a story (also known as in medias res ) is an effective hook because it captures attention by placing the reader directly into the action. The descriptive imagery in the first sentence also helps to immerse the reader, creating a satisfying hook while also showing (instead of telling) how the author became interested in criminology. With this technique, it is important to “zoom out,” so to speak, in such a way that the essay remains personal to you.
5. The Philosopher
Saved in the Notes app on my phone are three questions: What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope for? First asked by Immanuel Kant, these questions guide my pursuit of knowledge and organization of critical thought, both skills that are necessary to move our country and society forward in the right direction.
Posing philosophical questions helps present you as someone with deep ideas while also guiding the focus of your essay. In a way, it presents the reader with a roadmap; they know that these questions provide the theme for the rest of the essay. The more controversial the questions, the more gripping a hook you can create.
Providing an answer to these questions is not necessarily as important as making sure that the discussions they provoke really showcase you and your own values and beliefs.
6. The Storyteller
One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.
Beginning with an anecdote is a strong way to establish a meaningful connection with the content itself. It also shows that the topic you write about has been a part of your life for a significant amount of time, and something that college admissions officers look for in activities is follow-through; they want to make sure that you are truly interested in something. A personal story such as the one above shows off just that.
Cliche College Essay Introductions to Avoid
It’s best to avoid introductory sentences that don’t seem to really say anything at all, such as “Science plays a large role in today’s society,” or “X has existed since the beginning of time.” Statements like these, in addition to being extremely common, don’t demonstrate anything about you, the author. Without a personal connection to you right away, it’s easy for the admissions officer to write off the essay before getting past the first sentence.
Quoting Someone Famous
While having a quotation by a famous author, celebrity, or someone else you admire may seem like a good way to allow the reader to get to know you, these kinds of introductions are actually incredibly overused. You also risk making your essay all about the quotation and the famous person who said it; admissions officers want to get to know you, your beliefs, and your values, not someone who isn’t applying to their school. There are some cases where you may actually be asked to write about a quotation, and that’s fine, but you should avoid starting your essay with someone else’s words outside of this case. It is fine, however, to start with dialogue to plunge your readers into a specific moment.
Talking About Writing an Essay
This method is also very commonplace and is thus best avoided. It’s better to show, not tell, and all this method allows you to do is tell the reader how you were feeling at the time of writing the essay. If you do feel compelled to go this way, make sure to include vivid imagery and focus on grounding the essay in the five senses, which can help elevate your introduction and separate it from the many other meta essays.
Phrases like “Ever since I was young…” or “I’ve always wanted…” also lend more to telling rather than showing. If you want to talk about your childhood or past feelings in your essay, try using one of the techniques listed earlier (such as the Instant Plunger or the Vivid Imaginer) to elevate your writing.
CollegeVine has a peer essay review page where peers can tell you if your introduction was enough to hook them. Getting feedback from someone who hasn’t read your essay before, and thus doesn’t have any context which may bias them to be more forgiving to your introduction, is helpful because it mimics the same environment in which an admissions officer will be reading your essay.
Writing a college essay is hard, but with these tips hopefully starting it will be a little easier!
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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay: Perfect Writing Guide
Writing essays is a part of every student’s life. The tool that can be useful for all composition genres with no limitations is dialogue. Typically, article writing at school and college is related to informative or argumentative intentions.
Dialogues can be included in reflective or narrative texts and creative assignments, such as screenplays. Likewise, if your paper is more on the argumentative side, you may include a dialogue when transcribing an extract from an interview to reinforce your thesis.
To get the highest mark for your paper, it is crucial to know how to write a dialogue in an essay. Keep reading this article to find out how to add it to your paper, whether for academic, informative, or creative purposes.
Usage of Dialogues in Essays
Over our educational years at school and university, we are taught to compose argumentative, narrative, informative, creative, and expository essays. Writing becomes a skill we need to develop to be successful when composing a report.
Quote, text line, or dialogue represents two or more characters talking, and can turn a dull paper into an easy-going and fun learning experience.
And just like when watching a movie, dialogues will have us more engaged in discovering the ending of the tale. Moreover, you will have a strong thesis for persuasive essay texts by including dialogues in them. How is this accomplished?
Dialogue serves more than just fiction, as we stated earlier. They transform information into a fluid and rhythmic piece of writing, providing data on an actual scenario portrayed as a conversation. This results in a direct and captivating piece that will teach and entertain the reader. That sounds like a win-win situation, right?
How to Format Dialogue in an Essay?
Here you will encounter some of the essential rules in terms of punctuation and formatting that should be followed when writing effective dialogue in your article so that it is read naturally. If you are unsure of your profile essay writing skills, keep reading this page to get accurate and precise information for composing your best paper.
- How to add dialogue in an essay: you can either use double quotation marks to indicate what someone said, or start in a new line using a Dash followed by the actually spoken phrase every time a new character speaks. This demonstrates that dialogue conversations have started.
“Elisa gave me this purse for my birthday.”
—Elisa gave me this purse for my birthday.
—It looks good on you.
—Thank you, I like it a lot.
- If you are quoting already, use single quotation marks to add another quotation within. This is useful when you depict someone describing a certain circumstance that happened to them.
“He was eating lunch next to me when Tom came by and yelled, ‘let’s go outside,’ so we went.”
- Make sure to use closing quotation marks when the character finishes talking. If dashes are used instead, end that person’s speech with a complete stop, showing that a dialogue has ended.
“I took my cat to the Vet last night to get a shot. He is alright now.”
- When a character is quoted, exclamation and question marks should be placed inside the quotation marks. If the exclamation or quotation marks refer to the greater sentence, not the quotation itself, place them outside the quotation marks.
My niece screamed, “let’s play hide and seek!”. What was your reaction when your niece screamed, “let’s play hide and seek”?.
- Do not add a period if the character pauses in the speech; in this case, write the speech, then use a comma to include a remark and add another comma before the last part of said speech.
“I couldn’t finish the presentation tonight,” he said with a tired voice, “I will tomorrow.”
- If a quote is too long, for example, longer than a paragraph in the essay, you can break it into two sections to make it easier to read. Such a situation is frequent when you write a narrative text. This type of assignment is often given to college and high school students. And it’s one of the most difficult tasks. If you need more confidence in your composition writing skills but still want to get a great mark and impress your teacher, we recommend you to buy narrative essays from professional writers. They will definitely know how to deal with complicated quotes. Here you can see an example of how a big direct quote was shortened to create a new paragraph for the text:
“Christmastime at work is very intense, and we work long shifts. Last year, we launched fifteen new products so that they were sold out during Christmastime. Luckily, it was a success. Our most popular items were: a Christmas cookie-scented candle, a new edition of the traditional elf-pet costume, and a unique knife that cuts the turkey easily and evenly.
I tried the candle immediately and loved the scent; my sister dressed her dog and three cats as elves, poor things, but she looked amused, and my mom tried the turkey knife; she genuinely said it was the best she could use to cut the turkey.”
How to Write Dialogue in an Essay?
Knowing how to put dialogue in your essay will allow you to bring out your creative side while mastering the skill of showing rather than telling. If you want to know particular features of writing a good process essay , read to master how to write a dialogue and search for relevant sentences. Also, you’ll need to craft coherent paragraphs, use speech tags and be aware of the format and punctuation rules when writing dialogue in your paper.
Common Dialogue Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes are easy to make when we need to learn the rules of correct essay writing, so pay attention to the most common mistakes to avoid delivering an enjoyable and compelling text.
One of the most frequent mistakes students make when they need to learn how to put dialogue in an essay is confusing dialogue with citations. The latter is adequate when directly referencing, word-by-word, other authors to support statements previously made regarding a particular topic. At the same time, dialogues are supposed to deliver information by being creative and motivating the reader to relate to a life situation described in the dialogue.
Citation: also known as direct quotes, is information written by an author and referenced to support a claim.
Dialogue: a speech between two or more characters, often portrayed to captivate the reader, and what is used is only a part of a greater conversation.
Other mistakes to avoid in your text:
- Providing too many details and unnecessary talk can be counterproductive. Keep it simple.
- Repeating information from one word to another. Describe it in your own words or show it through dialogue formatting. This will make the topic more interesting as the teacher will use their imagination. If you need help with how to do it properly, we recommend asking for help from a specialized platform, such as Edusson.com . Here you will find professional writers who will write your article quickly, plagiarism-free papers with high quality, and at a reasonable price.
- Using more dialogue tags than required can distort the readability of the conversation.
- Mentioning the characters’ names often, which only happens in real talk, decreases credibility.
- Incorrect use of opening quotation marks.
Some types of articles would benefit from dialogues to bring more dynamics into them. Check to avoid the mistakes we presented to you, compose creatively, and most importantly, just as dialogue tells a story. It describes a scenery that will make the reader learn through real-life association, so use dialogue when you think it will add value to the text.
Example of Dialogue in an Essay
Here we will give you examples of how to add dialogue to an essay:
Do thorough research on the topic by looking up reliable sources Use an online plagiarism checker to ensure that your paper is unique Explain the purpose of your study, providing supporting arguments, examples, and close by validating the thesis mentioned at the beginning. If the topic you are writing about is rather technical, define the meaning of its relevant vocabulary Teach the reader, do not assume they know everything. Otherwise, they wouldn’t come to read Verify that your composition is cohesive and informative Finally, read both your text and dialogue out loud to check they are coherent and eloquent.
Knowing these dialogue rules, you are ready to write with confidence! Whether you are writing for college, creating a dialogue for fun, or just eager to learn about this topic, you already know the essentials of how to write a dialogue in your essay with the correct format and punctuation rules. Additionally, if you are ever in need of professional help for your writing, you can always opt to pay to write an essay to ensure that you are submitting a well-written, high-quality paper.
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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay: Essential Rules
11 Nov 2022
✏️An Introduction to Essay Dialogue
❓Why Essay Dialogues are Important
🤝The Art of Employing Dialogue
✅Ways to Type Dialogue in an Essay
✍️APA & MLA Formats for Dialogue
✔️APA Speech Writing Tips
📝MLA Text Guide
For any student who needs to write an academic essay, it is imperative to understand various writing regulations. A big part of this is knowing how to craft the text properly. Many students forget about this and make simple mistakes that cost them precious points when their assignments are assessed. You can include all the right information, study the best research papers, and have the strongest arguments. Still, you won't get the score you deserve if you don't follow the necessary structural regulations.
From writing citations the right way to including personal sayings to achieve the right kind of effect on the reader, students must learn how to stylize different aspects of an essay. When learning about formatting a college application essay , a thesis paper, or any other kind of text, knowing how to write dialogue in an essay is essential. Let's go over everything vital in this regard so you never have to struggle with formatting in the future.
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An Introduction to Essay Dialogue
Writing dialogues in an essay is often used in order to express certain ideas or emotions in a more effective way. Using quoting symbols to include sayings in a text is also helpful in portraying conversations between two or more people. Whether we talk about direct or indirect quotes , these are great for achieving a greater effect in some cases.
One crucial distinction to make is between dialogue and direct quotes. The purpose of the two is different. Dialogues add a creative or emotional touch to your words, while quotes are often used to support some claims or arguments. The former helps the reader view the text from the perspective of the speaker, while the latter puts more weight on what is written.
Writing a dialogue in an essay can be a great way to add depth to your work. However, before diving into the dialogue, students should ensure that they have a basic understanding of their paper's subject matter and purpose. Additionally, students who have difficulty crafting the dialogue for their essays can opt to hire a philosophy paper writing service for assistance.
Why Essay Dialogues Are Important
Before we go on to talk about how to write dialogue in an essay, it is vital to understand the need for this literary device. Even if you buy college essays online to save yourself the time and stress of crafting something on your own, learning the need to use dialogues will help you submit better papers. In most instances, formatting dialogue is needed in creative or narrative texts. That is because they help add more to the story. Readers of such texts feel more involved when they come across a dialogue spoken by an actual character.
In persuasive or argumentative essays , it is suggested to use quotations from experts. This helps students support certain information or claims, which is crucial for writing a compelling piece of text on essay topics that require strong citations and references. The more expert opinions you add to such an assignment, the more substantial your work will be.
The Art of Employing Dialogue in Essays and Its Significance
Dialogue can be a powerful tool for conveying information and adding depth to an essay. Using dialogue, authors can engage readers and create a dynamic narrative supporting their purpose. There are numerous reasons for employing dialogues in various contexts.
Enhancing Clarity and Understanding
When presenting complex ideas or arguments, incorporating dialogue can help clarify points and make them more accessible to readers. This approach helps make it easier for readers to understand complex concepts by breaking them down and demonstrating various points of view. Additionally, dialogue can help reduce the amount of technical jargon or abstract language used, making it simpler for readers to comprehend the material.
Humanizing Subjects and Encouraging Empathy
Dialogue can be an effective way to convey the thoughts and feelings of characters in a story. It can create a stronger connection between readers and characters, helping them to understand their struggles, emotions, and motivations. Additionally, dialogue can help to humanize diverse perspectives on social issues, enabling readers to empathize with individuals’ experiences and gain new insights into the complexities of different viewpoints.
Providing Authenticity and Credibility
Incorporating real-life conversations into an essay can provide credibility and authenticity to the writing. It helps readers engage more deeply with the source material, allowing them to experience firsthand accounts of events or opinions. This deeper connection builds trust and gives extra weight to the author's argument.
Adding Variety and Interest
Dialogue can be an excellent tool for adding variety and interest to an essay. It can break up long blocks of text, introduce a change in pace and tone, and create an immersive reading experience that captures the reader's imagination. By including dialogue in their writing, authors can make their essays more dynamic and engaging for readers.
When utilizing dialogue writing in your text, whether crafting your research paper outline in MLA format or in another one, you should know what types of dialogues you can use. There are two main options. Each of these two has a very different effect on the reader, so knowing the differences between them is essential to use them effectively.
This is when you put exact sayings inside quotation symbols without changing the text in any way. This is a great way to give the readers a clearer and more direct view of a situation. Here are two examples of this:
Dan said, "I don't want to go to dinner tonight because I'm tired."
"It's okay. We can reschedule it for next weekend," replied Joanna.
This is when you paraphrase someone's saying to provide a general idea of what they said. When writing passively, you can add more information or background to the paragraph and include more details for the readers. Here is how the above-mentioned exchange would look if written passively:
Dan said that he didn't want to go to dinner as he was tired. Even though Joanna was disappointed to hear this, she agreed and suggested rescheduling it for next weekend.
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Ways to Type Dialogue in an Essay
Following the right punctuation rules is key when it comes to learning how to format dialogue in an essay. There are simple yet crucial, regulations to note when adding speech to any piece of text. The good news is that you can ask PapersOwl to help with your work, and rest assured, the academic writing process will be handled carefully, with separate speech tags and everything else that's needed. Still, students must know everything about including dialogue correctly in papers. Here are the main steps to follow:
1. Very commas, question marks, and exclamation marks remain within double quotation marks when writing dialogue. Here is an example:
"I've just had the best pizza ever!" said John excitedly".
2. Commas are used to set off dialogue tags. These are also placed inside the quoting symbols, like so:
"I won't have any more of this," he said, "It has been too long since I've done anything of my own accord."
3. A period is placed after the closing quotation marks if the quote is located at the end of a sentence. Here is how such text is written:
Tiffany looked sadly at her brother and said, "I can't believe we have ruined this cake so badly."
4. Use single quoting marks when including a quote within a quote:
"The popular saying 'Less Is More' about modern architecture signifies this style very well," the teacher said.
5. In a conversation that goes beyond one paragraph, you should use opening quotations when it starts. The ending sign, however, is used only when the conversation ends, even if it's after several paragraphs.
APA & MLA Formats for Dialogue
Students often forget that there are differences to keep in mind when creating papers in different formats. For example, writing an essay in APA format requires some specific things when including speech in the text as compared to an MLA essay format .
APA Speech Writing Tips
For writing in APA, there are many small things to consider if you want to create an accurate piece of text. As far as including sayings in your work is concerned, here are some points that writers should keep in mind:
- If the subject says something short, starting the speech with a new paragraph is not necessary.
- For sayings in which the number of words exceeds 40, each paragraph needs to have opening quotation marks as well as ending ones.
- If more than two people are having a conversation, each person gets their own passage in the text. This is one of the most crucial tips to keep in mind when you make an APA-compatible piece of text.
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MLA Text Guide
There are many things you need to check when wondering how to format dialogue in MLA. To make things easier, you can just buy your MLA paper online and rest assured that you won't find any mistakes in any line of the text. Still, here are the points you should check before submitting the final task:
- Even if the saying is very small, it should begin in a new passage.
- A comma should be used to separate each dialogue tag.
- In longer sayings that span more than one passage, a quotation mark should be in place at the beginning of each passage.
- The ending symbol needs to be placed at the end of the full saying, however.
These are the main points of change between APA and MLA assignments. It's not a long list, but each point is vital whether you're creating one page of text or publishing complete books.
When you write any piece of text, it is crucial to remember how to put dialogue in an essay to ensure better readability. Not only that but professors will analyze your work for these points to see if you're aware of these nuances. Everything from direct to indirect quotes has its own regulations that need to be included in your text. The realistic examples shown here are a good way to figure out how to craft each sentence of someone's saying. By using the right kind of punctuation and including each dialogue tag in the proper location, you can describe multiple or single quotes effectively. Just follow the info laid out here; you'll never have to worry about this issue further.
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Writing A Narrative Essay
- Library Resources
- Books & EBooks
- What is an Narrative Essay?
- Choosing a Topic
- MLA Formatting
- Using Descriptive Writing
- OER Resources
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Examples of Dialogue Tags
Examples of Dialogue Tags:
Ebooks in Galileo
Additional Links & Resources
- Dialogue Cheat Sheet
Dialogue is an exchange of conversation between two or more people or characters in a story. As a literary style, dialogue helps to advance the plot, reveal a character's thoughts or emotions, or shows the character's reaction within the story. Dialogue gives life to the story and supports the story's atmosphere.
There are two types of dialogue that can be used in an narrative essay.
Direct dialogue is written between inverted commas or quotes. These are the actual spoken words of a character
Indirect dialogue is basically telling someone about what another person said
Dialogue is an important part of a narrative essay, However formatting dialogue can be troublesome at times.
When formatting dialogue use these rules and examples to help with your formatting:
Place double quotation marks at the beginning an end of spoken words. The quotations go on the outside of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation.
- Example: "What is going on here?" John asked.
Each speaker gets a new paragraph that is indented.
“hi,” said John as he stretched out his hand.
"Good Morning, how are you?" said Brad shaking John’s hand.
"Good. Thanks for asking," John said.
Each speaker’s actions are in the same paragraph as their dialogue.
A dialogue tag is anything that indicates which character spoke and describes how they spoke.
If the tag comes before the dialogue, use a comma straight after the tag. If the dialogue is the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the first letter. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation (period, exclamation point, or question mark), but keep it INSIDE the quotation marks.
- Examples Before:
James said, “I’ll never go shopping with you again!”
John said, “It's a great day to be at the beach.”
She opened the door and yelled, “Go away! Leave me alone!”
If the dialogue tag comes after the dialogue , Punctuation still goes INSIDE quotation marks. Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. End the dialogue tag with appropriate punctuation. Use comma after the quote unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation mark.
- Examples After:
“Are you sure this is real life?” Lindsay asked.
“It’s so gloomy out,” he said.
“Are we done?” asked Brad .
“This is not your concern!” Emma said.
If dialogue tag is in the middle of dialogue. A comma should be used before the dialogue tag inside the closing quotation mark; Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is not capitalized. A comma is used after the dialogue tag, outside of quotation marks, to reintroduce the dialogue. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation followed by the closing quotation marks.
When it is two sentences, the first sentence will end with a punctuation mark and the second begins with a capital letter.
- Examples middle:
“Let’s run away,” she whispered, “we wont get another chance.”
“I thought you cared.” Sandy said, hoping for an explanation. “How could you walk away?”
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Jerry whispered. “I’ll miss him.”
Questions in dialogue.
if there is a dialogue tag, the question mark will act as a comma and you will then lowercase the first word in the dialogue tag
- Example: What are you doing?" he asked.
if there is simply an action after the question, the question mark acts as a period and you will then capitalize the first word in the next sentence.
“Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.
“James, why didn’t you show up?” Carol stomped her feet in anger before slamming the door behind her.
If the question or exclamation ends the dialogue, do not use commas to separate the dialogue from dialogue tags.
- Example: “Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.
If the sentence containing the dialogue is a question, then the question mark goes outside of the quotation marks.
Did the teacher say, “The Homework is due Tomorrow”?
If you have to quote something within the dialogue. When a character quotes someone else, use double-quotes around what your character says, then single-quotes around the speech they’re quoting.
"When doling out dessert, my grandmother always said, 'You may have a cookie for each hand.'"
Dashes & Ellipses:
Dashes ( — ) are used to indicate abruptly interrupted dialogue or when one character's dialogue is interrupted by another character.
Use an em dash inside the quotation marks to cut off the character mid-dialogue, usually with either (A) another character speaking or (B) an external action.
- Including the em dash at the end of the line of dialogue signifies that your character wasn't finished speaking.
- If the speaking character's action interrupts their own dialogue .
- Use em dashes outside the quotation marks to set off a bit of action without a speech verb.
- Heather ran towards Sarah with excitement. “You won’t believe what I found out—”
- "Is everything—" she started to ask, but a sharp look cut her off.
- "Look over there—" She snapped her mouth shut so she didn't give the secret away.
- "Look over there"—she pointed towards the shadow—"by the stairway."
Use ellipses (...) when a character has lost their train of thought or can't figure out what to say
- Example: “You haven’t…” he trailed off in disbelief.
Action beats show what a character is doing before, during, or after their dialogue.
“This isn't right.” She squinted down at her burger. “Does this look like it is well done to you?”
She smiled. “I loved the center piece you chose.”
If you separate two complete sentences, you will simply place the action beat as its own sentence between two sets of quotes.
“I never said he could go to the concert.” Linda sighed and sat in her chair. “He lied to you again.”
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How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples
The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.
A standout essay has a few key ingredients:
- A unique, personal topic
- A compelling, well-structured narrative
- A clear, creative writing style
- Evidence of self-reflection and insight
To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.
Table of contents
Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.
While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.
Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
What do colleges look for in an essay?
Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :
- Demonstrated values and qualities
- Vulnerability and authenticity
- Self-reflection and insight
- Creative, clear, and concise writing skills
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It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.
Create an essay tracker sheet
If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:
- Deadlines and number of essays needed
- Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts
You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.
College essay tracker template
Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.
If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.
What makes a good topic?
- Meaningful and personal to you
- Uncommon or has an unusual angle
- Reveals something different from the rest of your application
You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:
- What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
- What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
- What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
- What makes you different from your classmates?
- What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
- Whom do you admire most? Why?
- What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?
How to identify your topic
Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:
- Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
- Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.
After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.
Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.
The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.
This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.
Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences
- Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
- Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
- Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
- Story: Broadway musical interests
- Lesson: Finding my voice
- Story: Smells from family dinner table
- Lesson: Appreciating home and family
- Story: Washing dishes
- Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
- Story: Biking with Ava
- Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
- Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.
Single story structure
The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.
Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.
Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person
- Situation: Football injury
- Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
- Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
- My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
- Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game
Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs
Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.
Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..
Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).
While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.
Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.
Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook
Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.
Option 2: Start with vivid imagery
Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.
A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .
Show, don’t tell
“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”
First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.
- What are the most prominent images?
- Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
- What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?
Be vulnerable to create an emotional response
You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.
Use appropriate style and tone
Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:
- Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
- Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
- Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
- Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
- Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).
You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:
- Summarizing what you already wrote
- Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
- Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”
Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.
Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure
The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.
In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.
Option 2: Revealing your insight
You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.
Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.
It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.
Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.
Respect the word count
Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.
Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.
Check your content, style, and grammar
- First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
- Then, check for style and tone issues.
- Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.
Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.
- Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
- Friends and family can check for authenticity.
- An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.
The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.
College admissions essay checklist
I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.
I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.
I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.
I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.
I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.
I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.
I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.
I’ve used appropriate style and tone .
I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.
I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.
I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.
Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.
Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.
You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.
You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.
If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay
College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.
When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.
Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.
So, what does this mean for you?
Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.
Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.
More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.
Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.
Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.
Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.
Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.
Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.
Grab the Reader From the Start
You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.
Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.
Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.
Focus on Deeper Themes
Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.
College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.
They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.
Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?
Show Don’t Tell
As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.
The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.
Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.
Try Doing Something Different
If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?
If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.
You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.
However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.
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Write With the Reader in Mind
Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.
Use transitions between paragraphs.
Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?
Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?
Write Several Drafts
Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.
Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.
Read It Aloud
Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.
If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.
Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.
Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.
Ask Others to Read Your Essay
Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.
Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.
Pay Attention to Form
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.
In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.
End Your Essay With a “Kicker”
In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.
It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.
So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.
While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.
Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!
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Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”
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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application
What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?
How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start early. Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
- Keep the focus narrow. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
- Be yourself. Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
- Be creative. “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
- Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.
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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.
- AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business, All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including Pine Row Press , Months to Years, and Atlanta Review .
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How to Write Dialogue
Updated 22 March 2023
Dialogue, sometimes known as conversation, is a way for people with different perspectives and points of view to discuss issues that are important to them. It is often used in schools and communities to address a wide range of concerns, including school policies, community problems, and workplace relationships. The goal of dialogue is to build understanding between participants, although misunderstandings or miscommunications may arise during the process. Despite these challenges, effective dialogue is essential to building relationships, understanding, and trust among people with different viewpoints. When writing dialogue, you should remember to write the characters in their own voices. This is important because it makes it easier for readers to distinguish their speech from the rest of the dialogue. Ensure that your dialogue fits with the story and the character’s personality. For example, if you have two characters, you might want to make them talk more about their future plans or current issues than they do about what happened in their past. This can give your readers a more personal connection to your characters. Create tension by giving your characters opposing agendas If you have one character who wants to change things and the other who is more agreeable, try creating conflict in your dialogue. This can be done through hints, suggestions, and the strategic revelation of information. Identify and highlight character dialogue that adds intrigue to the plot. You can also use dialogue to foreshadow the upcoming events in your story by using it in a comical way. This can help your reader understand the complexities of your plot and keep them engaged in what is going on. Dialogue is a great way to advance the plot of your story without having to write pages and pages of descriptions, but it can be tricky to get right. This is why it is best to start with small conversations between your characters and work your way up from there. 1. Don’t use more than three lines at a time when someone is speaking and don’t repeat what they said earlier. You don’t want your character to suddenly speak for pages and pages without anything happening, so make sure that you limit the amount of dialogue they have. You can do this by varying their speech patterns, vocabulary, and mannerisms. 2. Break up long speeches with action and other character dialogue. This is especially helpful if you have multiple characters speaking in one dialogue. You can do this by adding a pause or interruption between each character’s speech. 3. Use a variety of sentence structures to capture the mood and the flow of the conversation. Whether you are writing a comedy or thriller, incorporating a variety of sentence structures into your dialogue will help your readers better understand the emotions your characters are experiencing. 4. Use punctuation marks and quotation marks to ensure that your written dialogue sounds like the actual dialogue from a real person. If you are struggling to come up with good dialogue, you may want to read plays or screenplays to get inspiration for your own writing. You can also practice your dialogue writing by reading your work aloud to yourself or a friend and seeing how it sounds.
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My Davidson | A Student Blog Student-to-Student: Advice from Davidson College Students on the College Essay
Current Davidson College students share their tips and tricks for navigating and writing the college essay.
About the Authors
This piece was written by Senior Fellows in Davidson College's Office of Admission & Financial Aid; Zaynab Abuhakema ’24, Nathanael Bagonza ’24, Chloe Boissy Stauffer ’24, Kelsey Chase ’24, Amanda Fuenzalida ’24, Olivia Howard ’24 (she/her), Ann Nishida ’24, Lilly Sirover ’24, Samuel Waithira ’24 and Ruby Zhou ’24.
Learn more about them below.
Zaynab Abuhakema ’24 (she/her) is a physics major and theatre minor from Summerville, South Carolina.
“Just be honest! We want to know more about YOU and why you can see yourself at Davidson. Tell us about your passions in the way that makes the most sense to you. Have someone read over it if you want, but don’t worry too much about the technical part. Just show us who you are the best way you can on a page.”
Nathanael Bagonza ’24 (he/him) is an English major from Haverhill, Massachusetts.
“Don’t worry about if your writing is ‘great’ or not; rather, be intentional in ensuring that your essays demonstrate who you are and what you are passionate about! I ended up becoming an English major writing a collection of essays for my senior honors thesis, but what made my application essays work from day one was telling stories that really spoke to my true, authentic self.”
Chloe Boissy Stauffer ’24 (she/her) is an environmental studies and political science double major from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
“A couple pages of writing will never capture your whole story- admissions counselors understand this. In order to communicate an accurate snapshot of who you are, try thinking of one hobby, one accomplishment, or one interaction that you think best reflects your overall skill set and worldview. By using one or two examples to ‘anchor’ your story, you can frame your personality, backstory and values. Whatever you write, make sure it’s authentic to who you are because that’s who we want to get to know.”
Kelsey Chase ’24 (she/her) is a political science major from Concord, New Hampshire.
“I read a lot of Common App essays during my college process, not because I wanted to study them or compare them to my own, but because I genuinely thought they were fascinating to read. This helped me realize that it’s helpful to think about writing the essays for a peer rather than an admissions officer. Don’t worry about what you think the admissions officers want to hear; rather, write an essay that you think would help potential friends understand you at your core. I would also advise against your parents or adults taking too much editorial control over your essay — you want your essay to sound like you, which is someone who’s 17 or 18 years old, not a professional. It can definitely be helpful to have someone read over it just to catch grammar mistakes or awkward phrasing, but what matters most is that you feel like it really conveys something important about who you are.”
Amanda Fuenzalida ’24 (she/her) is a biology major from Naples, Florida and Santiago, Chile.
“When I think about the personal essay, I always think about growth, because that is what life is, a continuous growing process. And at 17–18 years, you do not have to have everything figured out or have decided what you want to for the rest of your life. But what you can do well is reflect on the experiences that have made you the person you are at this very moment. And thinking about this personal statement, I would think maybe what are key major parts of my life that have shaped me to be who I am, that make you proud of yourself. Reading back your essay, you should feel that sense of pride, that this essay reflects the person you (not anyone else) are proud you have become.”
Olivia Howard ’24 (she/her) is a biology and German Studies double major from Dacula, Georgia.
“I do not consider writing to be my strong suit, and I remember the dread and fear I had when I was writing my college essays. Essays are intimidating, and you might feel lost trying to fit your story into the limits that are set. My advice to you is to be patient with yourself and allow who you are to come through on the page. Do not over stress about having the most complex grammar and sentence structure, but rather focus on writing what matters to you. It is okay to not be an award-winning writer who uses metaphors and various literary devices. A lot of times it is better to tell your story in a simple way rather than using flowery language and fluff that does not get your point across.”
Ann Nishida ’24 (she/her) is a biology major and music minor from Ridgewood, New Jersey.
“The focus is on you . The essay portion is a chance for the admission counselors to see a side of you that a transcript or test score won’t fully represent. A good starting point in discovering your unique qualities may be to ask yourself Why ? Why am I passionate about certain activities, why do I interact with my environment in a certain way, why do I want to go to Davidson, etc. Good luck!”
Lilly Sirover ’24 (she/her) is a biology major and public health minor on the premedicine track from Haddonfield, New Jersey.
“As someone who prefers speaking over writing, I highly recommend using a voice recording app to talk through your essay ideas as you begin the writing process. Talking through your unique strengths, challenges you have navigated, a personal experience that changed your perspective, a topic that you are endlessly curious about, or something else personal to you allows your story to develop naturally.”
Samuel Waithira ’24 (he/him) is an economics major and applied mathematics minor from Nairobi, Kenya.
“Be genuine with every aspect of your application. Do not try to mold your application into what you believe the college wants. When you present your true self, you build trust with the admissions team, showing that you have confidence in who you are. Remember that each applicant is unique, and colleges are often looking for a diverse student body. By being genuine, you can showcase your individuality and the qualities that set you apart from other applicants.”
Ruby Zhou ’24 (she/her) is an English major on the predental track from Houston, Texas.
“Start writing. I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever I have a daunting task looming over me, and I just need to start writing or I’ll never get it done. The writing might sound horrible and you might feel embarrassed, but if you think about it, the earlier you start, the more time you have to change “bad” writing to something beautiful.”
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How to Write Dialogue In An Essay
“Dialogue: The conversation between two or more characters.”
The dialogues create the interest of the readers in reading. They want to read it thoroughly.
Many students don’t know how to write dialogue in an essay. The understanding of inserting the source matter into the essay is the primary theme of any academic paper. The point of resource can be mentioned to support your claims or can be used to analyze the counterclaim and describe its genuineness.
The skill of using quotations in the essay is so critical that you must know how and when to quote a text source and what would be of doing it. The most struggling area for many students is that they do not know how and when they need to use the dialogue in essay writing.
Several writers do not understand the difference between the quotes and the dialogues, not even knowing how the punctuation is used to describe both of them. The main reason for this is that most of the academic subjects do not focus on the dialogue-based essay; instead, these educational institutes only target the argument-based articles that do not need any dialogues.
Therefore, this blog will describe the efficiency of the dialogues in your narrative essay, why they are essential to use, and how to write dialogue in an essay.
Stay tuned with us!
Table of Contents
What is the meaning of dialogue?
Dialogue is a method that is used by a writer to draw a conversation between two or more individuals.
Dialogue is a technique that is used in all types of fiction, such as plays, movies, books, and even used in essay writings. Generally, dialogues are useful to create more visual and dramatic effects in the fiction, whereas the quotes are useful for citation.
The quotation symbols are used to mark the dialogues in your writing. Therefore the difference between the direct quote and dialogues becomes necessary to know.
Besides the detail on how to write dialogue in an essay we have provided a table which differentiates both Dialogue and Direct Quote :
One of the blunder mistakes of the writer is that they use the dialogues as a quote. This mistake happens just because we are skilled in using the speech as a quote in argument-based essays on many subjects.
We forget that we are using a planned narration and provide dialogues to it to show more weight. Because of it, people are not able to understand the meaning of using it and the reason why it is used. Therefore this article becomes necessary to solve the problem related to how to write dialogue in an essay.
When to use the dialogue
Dialogues are an essential part of fiction, but we have to remember that dialogue writing only appears in the original essay writing, and that is a narrative essay.
A narrative essay is a kind of essay which is not used to support the argument of something. Therefore it becomes necessary to know how to write dialogue in an essay.
If we talk about an argument essay, it supports a claim that has a point of view in the right direction, whereas in an expository essay, it supports a claim that has an idea, and this idea must be worked for the welfare of humankind.
But, the narrative essay does not contain any argument; instead of it, it is related to the experiences and stories.
If we talk about an argument essay, it supports a claim that has a point of view in the right direction, whereas in an expository essay, it supports a claim that has an idea, and this idea must be worked for the welfare of humankind. But, the narrative essay does not contain any argument; instead of it, it is related to the experiences and stories.
The conversation between you and your friend do not take a stand in an argumentative essay. Therefore it is better to use it as a direct quote even if it is taken as a spoken material.
The direct quote method will be considered as the conventional standard because these kinds of essays expect the essay writer to be scientific and objective in their writing’s discussion.
Why do we need dialogues?
The method of using dialogues in your essay can provide tension, depth, and development to the character to the nonfiction writings. Dialogue also aids the story to move along.
As the dialogues are the reported speech, therefore it becomes necessary to recreate them from your memory – use the rhythm, words, and emotions that can give a flavor to it. Readers are engaged with the realistic dialogues which suit to the situations and circumstances.
Tips to write a Dialogue in an essay
- Don’t write long paragraphs in your dialogue
- Make a brief and effective dialogue
- Avoid the small talks in the dialogue
- Visualize your character
- Cut out the greetings
- Be specific with the writer’s voice
How to write dialogue in an Essay? General rules
As you already came to know that when you have to use the dialogues in your essay, now, we can provide you a proper format for writing the dialogues.
The dialogue writing format consists of mainly two kinds of categories: first, one is how to use quotation marks, and the second one is where to put the punctuation.
Quotation symbols/marks (U.S. norms)
There are three rules for putting the quotation marks, and these are below with the relevant examples:
Rule 1:- Use double quotation symbols to signify the saying of a person in your writing.
Rule 2:- For a quote that is written within the quote, always use a single quotation mark.
For example: “What did Benjamin Franklin want to say, when he said, ‘Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead,” Mr. John asked.
Rule 3:- If you have more than a paragraph of dialogues of a particular person, then use the opening quotation symbols at the start of each paragraph. Use the closing quotation symbol merely at the end of the dialogues.
For example, Emma nodded and suddenly said,” I think Ava is right. We can not do this assignment until Monday if we will not work together.
“But now we have a few days left. Do you all think that we can complete the assignment until the afternoon of Monday?”
There are some rules regarding the use of punctuation that you need to know while using the dialogues.
If the quotation that you are using is at the end of the sentence, then put a full stop inside the quotation symbols.
Incorrect method: Lucy said,” this is the time to go”.
Correct method: Lucy said,” this is the time to go.”
Put exclamation and question marks within the quotation symbol merely if both of them are the part of a person’s saying.
Incorrect method: The boy shocked and said,” the graphics of the Avengers movie are the best one”!
Correct method: The boy shocked and said,” the graphics of the Avengers movie are the best one!”
If a quote is a part of a more substantial sentence, then the punctuation must be after the quotation marks.
Incorrect method: Did you hear John scream, “I have scored 100 marks in mathematics subject?”
Correct method: Did you hear John scream, “I have scored 100 marks in mathematics subject”?
Use a comma after these words – said, exclaimed, asked, or other related words if they arrive before a quote.
Incorrect method: My brother said, “he is going to the market.”
Correct method: My brother said, “he is going to the market.”
Put a comma within the quotation marks if the verbs come after a quote.
Incorrect method: “Just come back on time for dinner” my sister warned me when I came to you.
Correct method: “Just come back on time for dinner,” my sister warned me when I came to you.
If a quote is apart, then put a comma after the initial part of it and after the words, like- ask, say, explain, etc.
Incorrect method: “Yes,” Anna said, shaking her hand with us “ This project is yours.”
Correct method: “Yes,” Anna said, shaking her hand with us “ This project is yours.”
The specific use of quotation symbols and punctuation is not just like a hot knife through butter; you need to learn them for no reason. These norms make your essay easier to read and understand.
Without these rules, your dialogues will be a headache for the essay’s reader, and you too, when you revise it for the editing, so remember all the rules, which we have mentioned on the topic of how to write dialogue in an essay.
Let’s understand how to write dialogue in an essay in a different writing style?
Writers always mention the sources they utilised in their essays. These can be exact quotations, dialogues, or paraphrases, and they can be long or brief. The formatting type has an impact on dialogue punctuation. MLA and APA are the most popular. Let’s look at how to punctuate conversation and direct quotes adequately.
In the case of MLA writing style
The following guidelines should be followed when citing a conversation in MLA format.
- Always provide the author and page number when including a direct quotation.
- If you include text to a quotation, surround them with brackets to indicate that they are not an element of the actual text.
- Commas are used to separate speech tags in brief quotes.
- If the quotation is excessively long or contains material that is irrelevant to you, use an ellipsis to show that some information was left out.
- Every paragraph in a long quotation should begin with quotation marks.
- Do not add double or single quotation marks when adding indirect quotes.
In the case of APA writing style
Keep the following dialogue guidelines in mind when structuring quotations in APA format.
- Put the quotation and the conversation tags on the same line if a character’s quote is brief.
- If you’re going to use a quotation longer than 40 words, start by introducing the source and author. As a new paragraph, add a colon and a quotation. There are no quotation marks required, and the entire quote should be indented. Mention the page from which the quote was taken in brackets towards the conclusion of the quotation.
- Put quotation marks at the beginning of paragraphs as well as at the conclusion of the quote if a character’s sentence spans more than one paragraph.
- The use of quotation marks is not required in an indirect quote in APA. The character’s portion begins with the dialogue tags.
Now you know about dialogue writing in an essay from the above blog. But, still, you find any difficulty, then you can conduct our service members who are available to you 24*7. They are the best problem solver for the queries related to how to write dialogue in an essay.
Our expert team has an experience of years that can be beneficial for you. They will provide the essay help according to your preferences and deliver it before the deadline so that you can check your work.
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Yes, ChatGPT can help with your college admissions essay. Here's what you need to do to stay within the rules.
- Students who use tools like ChatGPT to write their college essays need to walk a fine line.
- Colleges will likely penalize students who submit completely AI-generated applications.
- Using AI to edit or draft the essays may be acceptable though, a tutoring company founder says.
The education sector has had a rough ride with generative AI.
After the release of ChatGPT, some colleges and schools were quick to put a blanket ban on the bot when students began using it to write their essays. Professors and teachers were left with the difficult task of navigating the new concept of AI plagiarism.
Now, several colleges have changed their tune and are encouraging students and staff to use generative AI as a tool — as long as they don't use it to cheat. However, the guidance is still pretty vague, especially when it comes to admissions and college essays.
"The landscape is shifting, but colleges are not unified in their approach to GPT," Adam Nguyen, founder of tutoring company Ivy Link , told Insider. "If you look across the landscape of college admissions, especially elite college admissions, there are no clear rules on whether you could use GPT or not."
In February, I tested the chatbot's ability to write college application essays . The results were relatively successful , with two private admissions tutors agreeing the essays definitely passed for ones written by a real student and probably would have had a shot at most colleges, but probably not the most selective institutions.
There are telltale signs when an entire essay is AI-generated, Nguyen said. For example, there tends to be a lot of repetition, and the essays are generally mediocre.
"If an essay is clearly written by AI, I think they will penalize the student and that application," Nguyen said.
While it's clear students should be writing their own work, it's less clear if students are allowed to use the tech to help them draft or edit essays.
As colleges grudgingly accept that AI is not going anyway, Nguyen said there's a fine line for students to walk.
"If you fill in the details, restructure the essay, and provide the specific language and sentences, that will make the essay your own," he said. "I think many colleges would be fine with that."
He continued, "I would suggest not using it as a default. If you're really stuck, you could use it to start." He suggested that, as a general rule, at least 80% of the essays needed to be edited and changed to be on the safe side.
"If an essay's really good, it won't raise any suspicion, and I don't think most colleges will care that you use GPT to start, as long as they can't tell either," he added.