Do you break out into a cold sweat when you read the phrase ‘essay required’ when applying for culinary school or scholarships? When you apply, essays help the admissions officers get to know you personally, and learn what makes you different from the other students applying. It’s you opportunity to convey what makes you special and deserving – your time to shine.
Writing the application essay is not easy, nor should it be. Typically schools and groups provide a topic such as defining your goals and plans, what prompted you to choose culinary as a career path or even a type of challenge that you have experienced in your life (and how you handled it). On rare occasions, the request for an essay may be open ended, and the topic left up to you. Regardless of the topic you ultimately choose, there are rules and guidelines that can help you rise to the top with an exceptional entrance essay.
First and foremost, read the directions explicitly. The first test of the essay is to see if you can follow directions and how well. Pay specific attention to the topic, the word length minimum and maximum, and the type style (whether or not it should be single-spaced or double-spaced). In addition, before you begin make note of the document format. It’s a frustrating endeavor trying to import an Apple document into Microsoft Word software without loss of formatting and data, under the stress of an impending deadline.
As soon as you read the description and topic, brainstorm ideas. Write down a list of possible focus areas and thoughts. Discuss your ideas with family or close friends and listen to their feedback. They may also be able to provide subject matter as well, or offer details and fodder for additional context.
Decide upon your focal point and work on an outline. Outlines help keep you on track and provide stimulation and direction when you need a nudge in the right direction. Concentrate on one event – too many occurrences can cause confusion and have less impact on the reader.
When the time comes to begin writing, use a powerful and unique opening line. Draw the admissions personnel in immediately. For example, starting with something like, “My first foray into the culinary field was the summer of 2010, when my church group managed to burn the entire fundraising dinner.” It catches the reader’s attention, and they immediately want to know more about what happened – and how it brought you to applying for culinary school and scholarships.
Don’t reiterate the same content that is already explained in the application itself. You should use this opportunity to not simply list your accomplishments or awards, but to explain in detail what cannot be seen on paper. Show through the writing of your story that you are dedicated and disciplined, passionate, creative and eager to learn all you can in the kitchen and classroom. Don’t just tell them – show them through your own memoir excerpt.
Be wary of the language and wording you choose to use. You don’t have to be super formal, as you would with a technical essay or academic writing, but this is not the time to use slang terminology, acronyms or poor spelling and grammar. If you have had issues in the past with these concerns, have someone help you, utilize software to help you make corrections or even pay to have someone edit your essay for grammar, punctuation and spelling concerns.
Finishing writing is only half of the project. Now comes the review and editing! Run your spellcheck and grammar check software – but do not rely solely on them.
Ideally, if time permits, put the essay aside for a couple of days (but not too long). After you’ve given yourself a break from it, re-read it again and make corrections. It’s much easier to make edits when you have fresh eyes. After you make the first round of edits, go back to the beginning and read it out loud to yourself. Does it sound alright, or are there places that don’t flow? Make adjustments as necessary. Finally, have someone else (or more than one person) proof it. Listen to what they tell you about anything that doesn’t make sense, progress properly or even if it ‘doesn’t look quite right’.
Once you are done, go back and review the guidelines once more. Ensure your packet is complete with all the supporting forms and documentation, and all data is filled out. Make a copy of the entire packet for your records.
Make sure your submission is properly addressed and that you send it registered mail with a return receipt for verification. Give yourself (and the postal service) plenty of time before the culinary school or group’s deadline. Once mailed, keep the postal receipt with your copies of your application packet. Once the packet is delivered, the postal service will send you the signed return receipt for verification. Then all you need to do is wait for the review officers to be bowled over by your essay! Good luck!