“I want to explain how lacrosse involves determination, sacrifice, never giving up, never losing confidence, grit, unselfishness, quick thinking on the fly, looking out for others, etc.” These were my client’s initial wishes for his 250-word Columbia “greatest passion” essay. My response: “Sorry! That’s too much… And even if you could fit all these points in, the result would only be blur – not a clear or vibrant message.”
As essay questions seem to trend shorter and shorter, I more and more often hear a client ask, on starting a given essay, “I have to figure out how to fit everything in.” By “everything” he usually means all the positive reflections arising from that experience. For example, if it’s a leadership essay, those reflections might include: vision, motivational skill, big-picture thinking, ability to tap others’ talents and interests, commitment to a cause, etc.
Instead, I suggest making a note of all those points you could discuss, but then selecting one or two that (a) are backed up by engaging and revealing examples, (b) complement the messages conveyed by your other essays without being redundant, (c) don’t just make an obvious point (e.g., you have a strong work ethic), and (d) fill in an important point missing elsewhere (or perhaps only touched on elsewhere). For example, my client’s lacrosse essay could focus on quick thinking and responsiveness, or learning to sacrifice and push himself to the limit. The other relevant points were addressed (with vivid examples) in other essays.
— Cindy Tokumitsu, Senior Editor, Accepted.com