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  Be careful of using words that have a negative meaning in American English. The word “propaganda,” for example, means something like “government-controlled brain washing” in the US. (Your best choice is to use the words “marketing” or“publicity” if you want to indicate that you organized a campaign to raise awareness of a certain problem.)

  Likewise, in the US we do not use the words“cripple” and “retarded”; we use “handicapped” (or even better, “disabled”) and “developmentally disabled” or “mentally challenged.” We don’t call old people“old people”—we call them “elders” or “theelderly.” And we prefer “business person” or “business professional” to “businessman.”


  同样的,在美国,我们也不会用“cripple”或者是“retarded”之类的词,取而代之的是“handicapped”(disabled更好)以及“developmentally disabled”或“mentally disabled”。我们在称呼老人时也不直接用“oldpeople”,而是用“elders”或是“theelderly”。我们也不经常用“businessman”,而是用“businessperson”或“business professional ”。


  Vary the length of the sentences in your essay. If you have written several long sentences in a row, insert a short sentence to give the reader a break. Variety in your sentences will make your essay easier to read (and thus more memorable).

  It also demonstrates that you have a superior command of the English language. And don’t be afraid of including a one-sentence paragraph. A one-sentence paragraph (especially at the beginning or end of your essay) will be very dramatic and grab the reader’s attention.




  If English is your second language, don’t try to make it hard on yourself by writing really long sentences and using large vocabulary words. (Don’t say “internationalization”; just say“international.”Why use “metropolis” when you can just use “city”?) Remember that the readers are not hoping to be impressed by your vocabulary—they want to be impressed by your story.



  If you are applying to graduate school, your personal statement will need to include detailed evidence of your research. For example, if you are applying to a graduate program in biology, your PS should include specific descriptions of experiences you have had, such as research projects, internships, work in biological laboratories, and such.

  The other key elements for graduate study applications are what you want to study, the field you are interested in, the background you have, why you have chosen this particular program, and your plans after graduation.




  Avoid using inappropriate reasons for why a particular college is attractive to you. (I have actually seen essays where the applicant described how much he “loved” the University of Chicago and wanted to date her, and another where the applicant wrote that NYU was attractive because she just loved the color purple on the NYU website.) You must read the website carefully to discover specific programs, activities, curricula, distinguished professors (and the like) that you can point to and say, “THIS is why I want to go to University X.”



  Do not tell the school how good it is. “I want to attend the prestigious University X because it is a top UScollege with an international reputation,”just sounds insincere.



  Catch the reader's attention in the first sentence of your essay by writing something dramatic or humorous. In one excellent essay I read, the applicant (hoping to major in entomology), wrote this: “Ahhhh! There are bugs in the shampoo!" Doesn't that make you want to read more? (He then went on to describe how his mother had found one of his“science experiments” involving insects, and how experiences like this made him want to study entomology.)




  If you start with a story, you can end with some reference to the same story. (Our entomology student, for example, could then mention his mother's shock again in his last paragraph.)



  Well-chosen quotations can add powerful credibility to your essay. All you need to do is decide what the key concept of your essay is (such as strength, honor, or patience) and then use the internet to find quotations that use any of these key words.The best quotations come from persons who are well-known to both Chinese and American readers, and they must be admirable persons. (Past American and Chinese presidents are good examples.) The quote should be short, about one powerful sentence in length.

  Including a striking quotation in your essay is particularly persuasive if you are applying to a humanities program or want to be an English major, as it demonstrates the breadth of your reading.



  Your purpose in writing your essay is to come across as a unique individual, one who stands out from all the other applicants and one whose writing style is lively, fresh, and different. For undergraduate essays, the personal details of your life and the struggles you have had to overcome will make good stories. Good stories are memorable. You don’t have to be a perfect person; indeed, it may be that any“flaws” you have will convince the reader that you are a multi-faceted person who learns from your mistakes.

  These flaws don’t have to be terrible: You can describe the time that you made complete a fool of yourself before your friends. (Americans call this the“My most embarrassing moment” essay.) Then tell the reader what you learned from this experience.




  Always try to make your writing as “concrete” as possible, meaning that you provide specific examples (or stories) to support your main points. Instead of just writing, for example, “I spent two months doing chemistry research,” describe the nature of that research, what process you used, and what it taught you. Depth is more important than breadth.

  The reader will be more impressed by specific details about ONE of your experiences than a list of twenty experiences. (Save the list of experiences for your resume.)



  It is perfectly all right to describe your particular religion in an undergraduate essay. Readers in the US come from many different religious backgrounds and the admission officers will most likely bebroad-minded and tolerant. The main thing is not to try and “convert” the reader—you simply want to show how being a Buddhist (or a Catholic, or aChristian, or whatever) has had a profound impact on your life.



  A reference letter (or letter of recommendation) should be no longer than one page. The basic format for the first paragraph is to state how long you have known the student and what general attributes this student exhibits (knowledgeable, dedicated, persistent,etc.) that make you honored / delighted/ proud to recommend him or her. Each body paragraph should describe in detail each of the general attributes you mentioned in the first paragraph. The last paragraph then simply concludes with something like, “I believe that student so-and-so will be an asset to your esteemed institution and thus I give her my highest recommendation. If you have any questions,please contact me.”




  Avoid describing any of the student’s physical attributes. Readers in the US become very uncomfortable when they read that the applicant is “ a lovely young girl” or a “strong handsome boy”. (Admission officers are not allowed to evaluate you based on what you look like.)



  Do not include negative information in a letter of recommendation. Describe only the applicant's successes, not failures.



  Resumes need to be very clean, clear, simple, and elegant. Do not include fancy fonts or distracting wingdings for bullets. Besure that your main headings stand out from the text by putting them in bold,or italics, or a larger font size. You want whoever reads your resume to be impressed by your achievements and accomplishments, not by your graphic designabilities.