"Sit up and pay attention" -- that's what writers want their readers to do. This hope is never more true than when a student has written an essay, be it for a class, university admissions or even a scholarship. Kelly Walter Executive Director BU Admissions states that student essays are often the "top factor" in deciding who gets admitted. To be one of the chosen, write an essay that stands out by producing a polished piece with a clear voice, strong word choice and engaging style.

Style

Essays for school often need to be concise and written in an academic style. Most importantly, write an essay that stands out with a style that flows well throughout. Whether a teacher or a college admissions officer, readers do not want to be bored, so try to vary the rhythm of the essay by writing sentences of different length and make good use of appropriate transition words and phrases. Don't be afraid to use figures of speech such as a simile or imagery -- readers remember writing that is expressive.

Word Choice

Choose your words carefully and be precise about the meaning you want to convey. Conciseness comes from finding the best word to express an idea rather than using a word that has to be modified with many adjectives and adverbs. Avoid slang and regional expressions, and try to avoid using the passive voice. In addition, consider the connotative meanings of words, or meanings associate with a word beyond its standard dictionary definition. What's the difference between "newfangled" and "modern"? Both words refer to the idea of newness, but the connotations of the first word suggest novelty or uselessness. Pick words that reflect your confidence in the idea you are conveying so that the reader believes in you.

Voice

When writing college admissions and scholarship essays, let your natural voice come through. Colleges want to get a sense of who an applicant is beyond just their test scores and grades. Kelly Walter, Executive Director of Admissions at Boston University, states she often starts with admissions essays before even looking at applications. Use in your own unique voice from the start of the essay, beginning with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention. While it is true that your essay must be structured and somewhat formal, don't be afraid to inject humor if it matches your personality, or if you feel it is an appropriate place to animate your reader. Let your natural personality come through to create an outstanding essay.

Polished Writing

Proofread your work multiple times. An engaging essay with precise word choice and a strong voice is ruined by bad grammar or punctuation. Have others read the essay as well, they will help point out typos and weak points. Remember to also read the essay aloud. If a sentence or paragraph does not sound natural or seems confusing, reword it. Finally, step away and give yourself at least a day or two before your final edit. Your essay isn't finished until you submit it, so use the time to make it sound like a polished representation of your academic goals and abilities.