How to write an Admission Essay: Active Voice vs Passive

Admissions essays are your chance to make a first impression on the admissions counselors at those universities to which you've chosen to apply. As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. You've very likely thought long and hard about the content of the essay, and worked diligently to ensure that it's interesting, intriguing, and promotes your uniqueness and talents. However, before you attach it to your application and submit it, consider one final edit.

Why Exceptional Grammar and Writing are Important

Your admissions essay should demonstrate several things:

  • That you are a valuable addition to the school.
  • That you can express yourself clearly through your writing.
  • That you are willing to go above and beyond as a student.

To be certain that you're illustrating this final point with your admissions essay, it's important to keep in mind that grammar and polished, professional writing are critically important in an academic environment. Granted, the content of your essay is extremely important, but it can be undermined by your failure to write professionally. That's because many students are enthusiastic about self-expression, but few show that they have the discipline to truly shine in an academic setting. Taking the extra time and effort to polish your essay and present your finest writing in the process shows you care not only about self-expression but about quality work.

Active vs. Passive Voice

Writing in a passive voice is, unfortunately, a bad habit many students learn in grade school. After a time, it becomes second nature. And in fact, outside of an academic or strict professional setting, many adults are guilty of it as well. That's because it's an easy way to lengthen a piece of writing. As a rule, academics frown on using passive voice in all but the most necessary circumstances. Besides, the last thing you want to do in your admissions essay is reduce its impact by adding meaningless extra words. Take the time to go through your essay and mark all instances in which you've used a passive voice, then go back and rewrite those sentences in active voice.

Final Editing

Having done this, you'll probably find it's necessary to do one final edit to polish your essay and tweak any issues with flow that the change to active voice may have caused. Use the opportunity to do one last proofread as well, and correct any errors you find.

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