Hi all! I’m Rachel Erwin, an Exam Prep Coordinator at MEK Review and an essay coach for our ACS programs. In my free time, I enjoy reading classic and modern literature, going to museums, and playing sports. I’m a news junkie with a particular interest in social justice and educational equity. I love discussing shared interests with my students, and every year I’m delighted to learn new things from students as we explore their various passions (who knew that the ancient Chinese instrument the Erhu was so amazing?).
Over the years, I have seen how many students struggle with writing application essays. One common struggle is writing an essay that “shows” rather than just “tells.” Let’s explore why it’s important to “show, not tell.” Then, I’ll give you some tips on how to become better at “showing.”
Why it’s important to “Show, Not Tell” on your application essays
It’s more interesting!
Anton Chekov, the famous playwright, once wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Showing is a much more interesting way of painting a picture or creating an impact than simply stating a fact. Think of the examples below.
Which essay would you want to continue reading? Definitely, the “showing” version! It’s more dynamic and pulls you in as the reader.
This is the same way you want your college application to work—pulling in the admissions officer so that your essay sticks out!
How to “Show, Not Tell”
Now, you should know why it’s important. But how do you do it?
Here are some quick tips.
Tip #1: Use sensory details, not just adjectives
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description.”
To accomplish what Lewis is describing, you have to be able to appeal to the five senses. Describe something in a way that invokes sight, hearing, smell, touch, or taste.
Tip #2: Use figurative language
Don’t shy away from similes, metaphors, personification, and other types of figurative language that can make your writing more vivid.
Let’s look at an example from a former student of mine, who was struggling to talk about something very personal: her struggle with mental health.
She has such a powerful topic but needs to add more description and figurative language to really show her struggle.
In the later draft, her use of similes and metaphors allows the reader to really get a sense of how difficult the simple task of getting up felt to her during this dark time. That makes the rest of her essay all the more powerful when we see her rise above these challenges to ask and receive help.
Putting yourself into your writing
A lot of students know how to describe an experience. But not many know how to put themselves into their writing. This requires a great deal of introspection and self-awareness, and is guaranteed to make any ordinary topic into a unique and interesting application essay.
For more expert advice, check out our College Admissions Counseling Programs. My fellow college essay coaches and I will help you write amazing college application essays guaranteed to impress admission officers.
Call 855-346-1410 or contact us here to get started.
We can’t wait to hear from you!