Nail the Questbridge Biographical
Roxanne Ocampo 2017
If you are working on your
Questbridge “National College Match” essays, you will have encountered the
“Biographical Essay.” Many students
fumble at this point because they are confused about what to write, how to
write it, and how to make it exceptional.
¡No te preocupes! Quetzal Mama’s got your back. Follow the proven strategies below to create
a winning essay.
First, read the prompt
carefully. Fortunately, the Biographical
Essay prompt is very direct and straightforward. Read the prompt below, and note they are
asking you to respond to five (5) specific questions:
We are interested in
learning more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your
aspirations and accomplished your academic successes. Please describe the
factors and challenges that have most shaped your personal life and
aspirations. How have these factors caused you to grow?
you’ve read the prompt and discerned the five questions. However, we both know it cannot be that
simple, ¿verdad? Of course not. The clever and astute student will go beyond
the simple Q&A tactic, and contemplate what they are really asking. Why not ask Questbridge directly? Sounds too easy? It’s not – they hand you the answer right on
essays show evidence of strong writing ability, as well as intellectual spark,
determination, and altruism.
Now, the tricky
part will be to incorporate the rubric above and answer the prompt. Before you begin implementing rhetorical
devices and building a sophisticated theme, you will want to keep it
simple. The first thing you will do is
sketch an outline. You will write down
your “story” in an informal way, structuring it by focusing on the following:
1. Describe how you grew up –
where did you reside (geographically), what dynamics shaped your life such as
socioeconomic or political factors, and did you experience extenuating factors? Your simple response might look like
this: “I grew up in Barrio Logan, the
home of Chicano Park in San Diego, California.”
Then, elaborate on what that environment was like, what forces impacted
your community, and how did this experience influence and shape your life
them what specific challenges impacted
your life thus far. For example,maybe your high school did not have a comprehensive Advanced Placement (AP) program. Perhaps your family works in the agricultural fields, and
you were forced to move several times to follow the crop seasons (impacting the
quality and quantity of your academic life)?
Being the first in your family to attend college is also an extenuating
factor that should not be overlooked.
3. Specifically state your academic
accomplishments and aspirations, and how the first two
items have influenced your goals. Your
answer should be technically accurate, and concise. Don’t make the mistake of trying to impress
the reader(s) by overstating goals. For
example, if your major is Biological Sciences, say that! Steer away from overly ambitious statements
like, “I intend to major in Human Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology, and double-major in Public Health, while conducting secondary research in Molecular & Cell Biology, and pursuing an
Honors Distinction upon graduation.”
While it is commendable that you have lofty aspirations, you want your
goals to sound realistic and achievable.
tell them what you learned from the
above experiences, challenges, and set-backs, and how you will bring your
newfound [talents, wisdom, energies, skills, attitude, etc.] to your future
undergraduate community. The golden
number seems to be “3” when stating your answer to this question. For example, “From my experiences, setbacks,
and challenges, I learned three
Now that you've created a unique story to help them “learn more about you," you need to move on to the next set of instructions: “. . . show evidence of strong writing
ability, as well as intellectual spark, determination, and altruism.”
Tip #1: Don't forget the 500 word limit.
Tip #2: You need a killer introduction. I recommend my students begin their introductory paragraph by telling a story, asking a question, or using a
quote. Any of these introductory
devices will allow you to introduce your topic, and effortlessly flow to the
next section. Don't get CHEESY! To avoid this common mistake, read Section 4 "Blunders to Avoid."
Tip #3: Better back that thing up! You must provide evidence to claims you made in your introductory paragraph. For example, if you said that growing up in a
barrio created educational challenges, then tell them exactly what those
challenges were! When citing examples, the magical rule seems to be 3. Learn more about the Magical Power of 3 here.
Tip #4: If your essay content begins to sound too negative or gloomy, flip it! Read this article on how to flip a negative into a positive essay.
Tip #5: After you created your draft version, identify your “Reader Panel" (team of readers). This might be your AP or IB English teacher, a local English Instructor
at a Community College, or a college admissions coach. Ask your Panel to review your essay to ensure it is well written, covers
all of the criteria, represents exceptional writing skills, and has a positive
and inspirational tone.
If you follow the above guidelines,
you will “nail” the Biographical Essay. Don’t
forget, the National College Match application is due 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on September 27, 2017.
Want to know more about essay writing tips, or strategies to NAIL your college applications? See Quetzal Mama's 4 books for students on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Posted September 15th, 2013 by Quetzal Mama