So you’ve spent hours and hours studying for the SAT; you’ve worked with your tutor, you’ve read every strategy in existence, you’ve learned your grammar, you know all the SAT tricks, and then, just like that, you take the test and are done. What do you do when suddenly the test has come and gone? Go home and binge Netflix? Of course not! It’s time to get started on your college application essays!
Grades, SAT scores, and extracurriculars are all important to your application, but a well-crafted essay can truly make the difference in whether or not you get accepted into your dream school. It is your perfect opportunity to not only show how interesting and talented and amazing you are but also that you know how to write.
If you are intimidated by this task, I have good news for you. While you were studying for the SAT, you were learning how to write better the whole time! You may be thinking, “But I didn’t write anything- I just corrected passages the SAT gave me.” However, these same corrections can be made on your own essay. Get into your SAT mindset and ask yourself the same questions the test asked you. Here are 5 ways SAT questions that you studied for will help your admissions essay.
SAT questions you studied for: “Which choice provides the most relevant detail?” or “The author is considering deleting the underlined sentence. Should the sentence be kept or deleted?”
How it can help your essay: These questions have something in common: they deal with relevance! When preparing for the SAT, you learned how to sort through the answer choices by eliminating any answer that introduces a new topic that is not clearly explained. Use this same method again. When reading your essay, ask yourself, “Is this relevant?” Most essays have a limited word count, so you need to choose your words widely. Perhaps you tried to add a supporting detail, but it’s not clearly explained and serves only as a distraction. These are the sorts of issues that remembering relevance can help you resolve.
SAT questions you studied for: “Which choice most effectively combines the two sentences at the underlined portion?” or “Which choice most effectively sets up the information that follows?”
How it can help your essay: Your SAT tutor might have said, “when in doubt, leave it out.” Or, in other words, choose the least wordy answer. Good writing is as concise as possible. The shortest answer with grammar and meaning in tact is always your best bet. You learned this for the SAT, but what about your own writing? Making your essay wordy and long-winded doesn’t make you seem smarter. However, your top college will be impressed by an essay that gets its point across effectively.
SAT questions you studied for: Here is a question from one of College Board’s practice tests. Perhaps you remember seeing it when you were studying:
How it can help your essay: The issue in this sentence is that we don’t know what “this” is! It is talking about the cultural identity? Raising awareness? Only answer choice D clarifies what “this” is. Check your essay for these types of errors. “This” and “that” are the most common ambiguous words. Just because you know what you are trying to say does not mean that your reader will. Err on the side of clarity.
4. Logical Sequence
SAT questions you studied for: “To make this paragraph most logical, sentence 2 should be placed where?”
How it can help your essay: Unsure of how to organize your college essay? Think about how you decided to organize passages on the SAT. What makes the most sense? Be sure to introduce a topic clearly before delving into details and anecdotes about the topic. Make sure your transitions are clear so the reader knows when you are changing topics. If you are introducing a new topic entirely, start a new paragraph. Don’t jump around between the points you are trying to make. Create a clear train of thought for your reader to follow first- then, you can get creative.
5. Punctuation and Grammar
I don’t have to give you an example of a question to prove that the SAT tests you on punctuation and grammar- it’s everywhere! Chances are, it’s the first thing you studied when preparing for the SAT. So many students learn the rules of punctuation for the SAT, but when it comes time for writing an essay, they forget to put a comma after an introductory phrase or they use a colon even though it doesn’t come after an independent clause. When you start editing your essay, pretend it’s a passage on the SAT. Did you use a comma only because you felt like you needed to pause? Take it out! Did you put commas around a clause even though it’s essential to the meaning sentence? Delete! Did you make your verb agree with the object of the preposition instead of the subject of the sentence? Fix it! Remember everything you learned when studying for the SAT. You’re going to knock this essay out of the park.