Join Leigh Ann Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the purpose of the essay, part of College Prep: Writing a Strong Essay.
- Our words always have a purpose. Everything we speak or write is designed to achieve a particular goal. Purpose is at the heart of all communication. Whether it's a toddler throwing a tantrum at the park or a lobbyist schmoozing in a fancy restaurant, our actions are driven by purpose. The toddler's purpose is to persuade her mother to stay longer at the park. The lobbyist's is to convince the state senator to vote in favor of her client's interests.
In both these scenarios, the speakers use everything they possibly can in order to achieve their goals. Crying, whining, sweet-talking, flattery, whatever it takes to get them what they want. Think of this Whatever it takes, as Rhetoric. Rhetoric is the range of words, or facts, or emotions we can use whenever we're trying to get something done. We often here this term mentioned in stories about politics or international relations. But in fact, rhetoric can apply to all forms of communication in any type of situation.
By understanding the factors that make up rhetoric and how to handle or interpret a situation where rhetoric is being used, you can craft the words you need to speak or write in order to accomplish your purpose. If you've taken the AP Language and Composition course, this should all sound very familiar to you. In the case of the college application essay, your purpose is to persuade someone to buy what you're attempting to sell. Which, in this case, is you. You need to prove that you have something of value to offer. You just need to choose the Words, Phrases, and Examples that will help you to accomplish this.
In addition to Purpose, another critical factor is the Audience, which we'll talk about in our next movie. The three other parts of the Rhetorical Situation are the Speaker, the Occasion, and the Tone of the written or spoken communication. By thinking about your role as the writer and how you fit into the other elements of this situation, you can improve your chances of writing a strong college application essay.
- Understanding the essay purpose and audience
- Reviewing common and unusual essay prompts
- Starting with a strong opening statement
- Showing, not telling
- Adhering to word limits
- Organizing the essay
- Varying sentence structure
- Revising the essay
- Communicating sincerity and enthusiasm