How to Write a Good Explanatory Essay
If you cast your memory all the way back to last week, I discussed the different situations that dictate whether to write an explanatory essay. Now that we know when to write an explanatory essay, it’s time to cover what a good one says.
1. Describe the problem
Don’t equivocate here – own the issue. If you try to hide it, or explain it away without admitting that it was your fault, you’ll come across as whiny and as someone who makes excuses.
Instead, in as straightforward a manner as possible, describe what happened. If you can gussy it up to make it an interesting tale, all the better. Just don’t glorify it – this isn’t an HBO series.
2. Demonstrate its resolution
If it won’t be solved by law school, then it’s not going to fly. You should be able to show the admissions committee that the problem won’t follow you to law school. If it was a medical issue, demonstrate successful treatment. If it was an arrest, talk about accepting your punishment and how you changed your life to reflect the lesson you learned. If it was a death in the family, talk about how you lack any more grandparents (that’s only half-serious).
Bottom line is that you need to alleviate fears of the situation repeating in law school while making sure that the explanation reflects positively on you, or, at the very least, the way you resolved it does. Arrests are the perfect example – show that you took your well-deserved punishment and have become a better person because of it.
3. Turn it into a newly discovered positive
You know how at every interview now they ask you what your weaknesses are, and you’re supposed to answer with things that are actually strengths (thus demonstrating that lying is also a strength of yours)? Do that here.
You won’t be able to convince the ad board that being hungover your entire freshman year is a strength (well, maybe at some law schools). However, you can convince them that the steps you’ve taken since then have instilled you with new strengths. Don’t just tell them, though; make sure you have something to demonstrate your new interest. Volunteer work at high schools to prevent underage drinking would be a good step.
So, in short, writing an explanatory essay feels like it sucks a lot more than it actually does. Be honest, don’t whine, own the mistake, and demonstrate what it taught you.
And don’t spill your shot on it when you’re done. That’s just bad form.