I put "clarity" in quotes because I know it is not the right word but I cannot think of what the correct word should be.

I am writing a continued interest letter for my top college. I have an engineering/computer science-based internship and I am unsure of whether to go in-depth about my project or just stay at surface level. The reason for this is that to go in-depth, I will have to mention some technical terms the admission committee might not know (i.e. Raspberry Pi, mqtt, etc.) My current plan is to give a lot of context clues but I am a little unsure.

What should I do?

  • 2
    I would rather ask this at academia.stackexchange.com. While we can help you with your writing, you are writing for a specific audience with very specific expectations and conventions that most of us here know nothing about. Many of the members of Academia.SE work in science or research and will be able to give you better recommendations than we can. —— In general, scientific writing is all about clarity! I would assume that showing that you can write clearly, concisely and knowledgably is the style that will work most in your favour when applying for a science related position.
    – Ben
    Feb 25 at 16:26
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    Most people involved in a computing faculty would know what a Raspberry Pi is. Are you worried about people with no knowledge of the subject (e.g. general administration office staff)? You have to assume the people assessing your technical skills will have technical knowledge or else there's no way they could do their job. But this side of the question is off-topic and one for Academia SE.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 26 at 13:30
  • Can you say what a '… college continued interest letter…' might be? Mar 2 at 21:59
  • @DylanLevine Thanks for explaining that. Why would you not use headings/topics with simple explanations, followed by sub-headings with details, leaving the committee/department/whomever to choose how much to read? If that's hard, why not reach out to some accepted students, or their tutors? Mar 2 at 22:16

1 Answer 1


About the opposites and the reader

I agree that it is problematic setting up 'clarity' and 'sounding smarter' as opposites, but I get that you do not intend for this to be the case.

With clarity you seemingly mean 'ease of understanding for the unspecialised reader' and with sounding smart you mean diving into 'advanced content' or 'subject-technical language', and as with many other things, it's probably the somewhat frustrating answer that applies; "It's a matter of balance."

If it's a technical college - which we might assume, since you're writing about the thing that you are - it seems to me, that you could absolutely expect the reader to know about, at least on a basic level, the things you write about. Unless you're writing about absolute cutting-edge technology or research, chances are that it would have to get very technical or specific in order for it to be too much.

About the overall purpose of the text you're writing

I'm not personally familiar with the sort of application/text you're writing, but I would absolutely expect any school or educational institution to look at it as an example of how you approach and work with a given topic or phenomena. If this is the case, they are most likely to look at how well you can communicate or introduce the topic or 'problem area' and how your text is relevant based on this, and how well you show academic prowess or potential. The latter (in most of europe at least) focuses a lot on critical/creative (as in explorative as well as solution-oriented) thinking and the ability to communicate clearly why 'your' perspective adds value to your field, and, potentially, how your thoughts or suggestions may; 1: make clear how a solution or approach/understanding is flawed, 2: open up new areas of the field or 3: create solutions for an existing issue, or one that 'you' have discovered.

This doesn't mean, that you have to be a genius or have already found or made a major breakthrough - not at all. But, and again this is my take, your letter should to some degree show, that you could at some point be part of that type of work.

So what should you do?

If you've been given a prompt/assignment/task/problem formulation, pay close attention to what they ask, and try to follow their guidelines as closely as possible. In the end, the college is interested in students who show that they can follow 'their guidelines' - even if you may at some point see them as outdated (but that's a different 'problem').

Apart from that, I would say give'm hell. Unless it becomes totally unclear why you're working on/writing about the thing that you are, the advanced and technical parts show what you actually know and understand. From there, if you have the chance, have someone read it and see if they struggle to understand the point of the text - not whether they understand the advanced parts. Perhaps they can approach it as sci-fi, where it's not important they they actually know how the technical parts really work, but they understand that you're highlighting and working with something important or at least relevant.

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