27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2022
One of the best ways to write a successful college essay for your college application is by learning from real college essay examples that worked . I've compiled a few of my favorite essay examples here that cover a variety of college essay topics.
Need help writing your college essay? Click here for my ultimate guide .
Or, check out my complete guide for answering the most popular college essay prompts on the Common App.
Some essay samples below are by students who chose to write about a challenge, while other examples may be helpful if you’re looking to write about yourself more generally. And yes, a few of these essays did help these students get accepted into the Ivy League, (I’m not telling you which!) though these are all great essays regardless of where (or if) students were admitted to their top choice school.
Looking for more college admissions essay examples about yourself? Check out more personal statements here .
Behold, some of the best college essays of 2021 (in my humble opinion).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Personal Statement Examples Burying Grandma Laptop Stickers Punk Rock Philosopher Grandma's Kimchi Travel and Language Dead Bird I Shot My Brother Porcelain God
UC Essay Examples
- Supplemental Essay Examples UChicago Supplemental Essay Examples Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road Rock, Paper, Scissors U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example East Meets West
Common App Essay Prompts
According to the 2022/2023 Common Application , the common app essays topics are as follows:
Background Essay: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Challenge Essay: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Belief Essay: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Gratitude Essay: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Accomplishment Essay: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Topic Essay: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Create-Your-Own Essay: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What Makes a Great College Essay?
These application essays show many sides of a person.
The key to many of these essays is that they describe a story or an aspect of the student’s life in a way that is dynamic: It reflects many of their values, strengths, interests, volunteer work, and life experiences.
Many of these essays also demonstrate vulnerability. College admissions officers reading your college application will want to know how your values, qualities, and skills will flourish in college— and how good your writing skills are .
Whether it’s a supplemental essay , personal statement , Common App essay , or diversity essay , the essays below can help you better understand what can result from following a college essay format or applying tips for how to write a college essay to help you get into your dream school.
College Essay Tips
We asked dozens of experts on essay writing and test scores for their take on what makes a great college essay. Check out five of our favorite college essay tips below.
1. Imagine how the person reading your essay will feel.
No one's idea of a good time is writing a college essay, I know. But if sitting down to write your essay feels like a chore, and you're bored by what you're saying, you can imagine how the person reading your essay will feel. On the other hand, if you're writing about something you love, something that excites you, something that you've thought deeply about, chances are I'm going to set down your application feeling excited, too—and feeling like I've gotten to know you.
This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts ‘17 graduate.
2. Write like a journalist.
"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.
This college essay tip is by Brad Schiller, MIT graduate and CEO of Prompt, which provides individualized feedback on thousands of students’ essays each year.
3. Don't read the Common Application prompts.
If you already have, erase them from memory and write the story you want colleges to hear. The truth is, admission reviewers rarely know—or care—which prompt you are responding to. They are curious to discover what you choose to show them about who you are, what you value , and why. Even the most fluid writers are often stifled by fitting their narrative neatly into a category and the essay quickly loses authentic voice. Write freely and choose a prompt later. Spoiler alert...one prompt is "Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. " So have at it.
This college essay tip is by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H. and contributor to the NYT, HuffPost, and Forbes on intentionally approaching college admissions.
4. Show your emotions.
Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness.
This college essay tip is by Charles Maynard, Oxford and Stanford University Graduate and founder of Going Merry, which is a one-stop shop for applying to college scholarships
5. Revise often and early.
Your admissions essay should go through several stages of revision . And by revisions, we don’t mean quick proofreads. Ask your parents, teachers, high school counselors or friends for their eyes and edits. It should be people who know you best and want you to succeed. Take their constructive criticism in the spirit for which they intend—your benefit.
This college essay tip is by Dhivya Arumugham, Kaplan Test Prep's director of SAT and ACT programs.
Personal Statement Examples
The "burying grandma" example college essay.
Written for the Common App college application essays "Tell us your story" prompt. This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.
They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.
When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.
I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals. And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter.
However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades. As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.
Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path. When I see patients trapped in not only the hospital but also a moment in time by their diseases, I talk to them. For six hours a day, three times a week, Ivana is surrounded by IV stands, empty walls, and busy nurses that quietly yet constantly remind her of her breast cancer. Her face is pale and tired, yet kind--not unlike my grandmother’s. I need only to smile and say hello to see her brighten up as life returns to her face. Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease. Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together.
Cancer, as powerful and invincible as it may seem, is a mere fraction of a person’s life. It’s easy to forget when one’s mind and body are so weak and vulnerable. I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.
Tips + Analysis:
Make (Narrative) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Narrative Structure, which focuses (in roughly equal word count) on a challenge + effects you’ve faced, what you did about it, and what you learned. Quick tip: one common and easy mistake is to spend most of the essay focused on the challenges + effects, but try to keep that to about a third—what your reader is generally more interested in is what you did about that challenge and what you learned/how you’ve grown. For a more complete guide to using Narrative Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.
Show insight and growth. This essay does so in a few different ways. One is by recognizing that they were wrong about something / had “done it wrong” (e.g. ...understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV or However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. ). We’re pointing this out because, fairly frequently, students are worried that acknowledging they were wrong in some way will be looked down upon by readers. Put those worries to rest—showing that you’re capable of reflecting, acknowledging your failings or where you were wrong, and growing through your new understanding is a sign of maturity that colleges value. (For more on insight/reflection , check out that link, which is focused on the UC PIQs but its content also applies to personal statements.)
Bring us into your world. You can do so through things like imagery (e.g., the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky ) and through illustrating (or sometimes directly naming) your values and how your experiences have shaped them (e.g., I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans ). A personal statement isn’t simply a list of accomplishments (let your Activities List and Additional Info section do that lifting for you). Instead, it’s about helping a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community.
Learn how to write your college essay
The "laptop stickers" college essay example.
My laptop is like a passport. It is plastered with stickers all over the outside, inside, and bottom. Each sticker is a stamp, representing a place I've been, a passion I've pursued, or community I've belonged to. These stickers make for an untraditional first impression at a meeting or presentation, but it's one I'm proud of. Let me take you on a quick tour:
" We < 3 Design ," bottom left corner. Art has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember. Today my primary engagement with art is through design. I've spent entire weekends designing websites and social media graphics for my companies. Design means more to me than just branding and marketing; it gives me the opportunity to experiment with texture, perspective, and contrast, helping me refine my professional style.
" Common Threads ," bottom right corner. A rectangular black and red sticker displaying the theme of the 2017 [email protected] event. For years I've been interested in the street artists and musicians in downtown Austin who are so unapologetically themselves. As a result, I've become more open-minded and appreciative of unconventional lifestyles. TED gives me the opportunity to help other youth understand new perspectives, by exposing them to the diversity of Austin where culture is created, not just consumed.
Poop emoji , middle right. My 13-year-old brother often sends his messages with the poop emoji 'echo effect,' so whenever I open a new message from him, hundreds of poops elegantly cascade across my screen. He brings out my goofy side, but also helps me think rationally when I am overwhelmed. We don't have the typical "I hate you, don't talk to me" siblinghood (although occasionally it would be nice to get away from him); we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine.
" Lol ur not Harry Styles ," upper left corner. Bought in seventh grade and transferred from my old laptop, this sticker is torn but persevering with layers of tape. Despite conveying my fangirl-y infatuation with Harry Styles' boyband, One Direction, for me Styles embodies an artist-activist who uses his privilege for the betterment of society. As a $42K donor to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, a hair donor to the Little Princess Trust, and promoter of LGBTQ+ equality, he has motivated me to be a more public activist instead of internalizing my beliefs.
" Catapult ," middle right. This is the logo of a startup incubator where I launched my first company, Threading Twine. I learned that business can provide others access to fundamental human needs, such as economic empowerment of minorities and education. In my career, I hope to be a corporate advocate for the empowerment of women, creating large-scale impact and deconstructing institutional boundaries that obstruct women from working in high-level positions. Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals.
" Thank God it's Monday ," sneakily nestled in the upper right corner. Although I attempt to love all my stickers equally (haha), this is one of my favorites. I always want my association with work to be positive.
And there are many others, including the horizontal, yellow stripes of the Human Rights Campaign ; " The Team ," a sticker from the Model G20 Economics Summit where I collaborated with youth from around the globe; and stickers from " Kode with Klossy ," a community of girls working to promote women's involvement in underrepresented fields.
When my computer dies (hopefully not for another few years), it will be like my passport expiring. It'll be difficult leaving these moments and memories behind, but I probably won't want these stickers in my 20s anyways (except Harry Styles, that's never leaving). My next set of stickers will reveal my next set of aspirations. They hold the key to future paths I will navigate, knowledge I will gain, and connections I will make.
Make (Montage) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Montage Structure, which uses a “thematic thread” (in this case, laptop stickers ) to connect different, perhaps otherwise seemingly disconnected sides of who a student is. One strength (among many) of this structural approach is that it can allow a student to demonstrate a broad range of values and experiences that have shaped them, which in turn helps a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community. For a more complete guide to using Montage Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.
Show (and probably also tell a little). “Show don’t tell” is generally solid writing advice, but for college essays, we’d recommend leaning a bit more toward the “Mostly show but than maybe also tell a little, just to be sure your reader gets it” approach (Though that’s clearly not as catchy a phrase). So show us your experiences and values through specific moments and details, but also include some language that more directly states those values and what they mean to you, like Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals .
Get a little vulnerable. Being vulnerable in writing is a great way to help a reader feel closer to you. And it’s useful to keep in mind that there’s actually a pretty great variety of ways to be vulnerable. One nice moment of vulnerability in this essay comes with …in we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine —it’s a nice, soft moment in which the author offers up something that could feel a little tender, or maybe scary to share (because hey, acknowledging that you might care about someone more than they care about you can feel that way).
THE "PUNK ROCK PHILOSOPHER" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
This was written for the Common App college application essays, and works for prompts 1 and 7 (or none of them, because the author is that cool):
I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile.
But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rockphilosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:
1) That the world is ruled by underwear. There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world. In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.
2) When I realized I cannot understand the world. I recently debated at the Orange County Speech League Tournament, within the Parliamentary Division. This specific branch of debate is an hour long, and consists of two parties debating either side of a current political issue. In one particular debate, I was assigned the topic: “Should Nation States eliminate nuclear arms?” It so happened that I was on the negative side and it was my job to convince the judges that countries should continue manufacturing nuclear weapons. During the debate, something strange happened: I realized that we are a special breed of species, that so much effort and resources are invested to ensure mutual destruction. And I felt that this debate in a small college classroom had elucidated something much more profound about the scale of human existence. In any case, I won 1st place at the tournament, but as the crowd cheered when my name was called to stand before an audience of hundreds of other debaters, and I flashed a victorious smile at the cameras, I couldn’t help but imagine that somewhere at that moment a nuclear bomb was being manufactured, adding to an ever-growing stockpile of doom. And that's when I realized that the world was something I will never understand.
3) When I realized I was a punk rocker philosopher. One summer night, my friend took me to an underground hardcore punk rock show. It was inside a small abandoned church. After the show, I met and became a part of this small community. Many were lost and on a constant soul-search, and to my surprise, many, like myself, did not have a blue Mohawk or a nose piercing. Many were just ordinary people discussing Nietzsche, string theory, and governmental ideologies. Many were also artists creating promotional posters and inventive slogans for stickers. They were all people my age who could not afford to be part of a record label and did something extraordinary by playing in these abandoned churches, making their own CDs and making thousands of promotional buttons by hand. I realized then that punk rock is not about music nor is it a guy with a blue Mohawk screaming protests. Punk rock is an attitude, a mindset, and very much a culture. It is an antagonist to the conventional. It means making the best with what you have to contribute to a community. This was when I realized that I was a punk rock philosopher.
The world I come from consists of underwear, nuclear bombs, and punk rockers. And I love this world. My world is inherently complex, mysterious, and anti-nihilist. I am David Phan, somebody who spends his weekends debating in a three piece suit, other days immersed within the punk rock culture, and some days writing opinionated blogs about underwear.
But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.
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The "Grandma's Kimchi" College Essay Example
This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.
Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.
My grandma’s specialty always dominated the dinner table as kimchi filled every plate. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. But even the prided recipe was defenseless against the ravages of Alzheimer’s that inflicted my grandma’s mind.
Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition. I would look at her and ask, “Grandma, what’s my name?” But she would stare back at me with a clueless expression. Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger.
One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional. For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house.
That night, we ate kimchi. It wasn’t perfect; the cabbages were clumsily cut and the garlic was a little too strong. But kimchi had never tasted better. I still remember my grandma putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “Here, Dong Jin. Try it, my boy.”
Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness.
But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind. Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.
A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.
My grandma used to say: “Tigers leave furs when they die, humans leave their names.” Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.
The "Travel and Language" College Essay Example
When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.
At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.
It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.
It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYR–a–mides instead of pyr–A–mides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.
In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.
Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.
Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.
But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.
I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.
I think of my journey as best expressed through a Chinese proverb that my teacher taught me, “I am like a chicken eating at a mountain of rice.” Each grain is another word for me to learn as I strive to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Today, I still have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.
Click here for this student's amazing Instagram photos.
The "Dead Bird" Example College Essay Example
This was written for a Common App college application essay prompt that no longer exists, which read: Evaluate a significant experience, risk, achievement, ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.
I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me.
The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth. But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood.
Death. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home?
Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. Band-aid? How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain.
But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet.
Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible?
Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.
Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact. Kari Hsieh, aged 17, my friend of four years, had died in the Chatsworth Metrolink Crash on Sep. 12, 2008. Kari was dead, I thought. Dead.
But I could still save the bird.
My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit. Cupping the bird, I ran outside, hoping the cool air outdoors would suture every wound, cause the bird to miraculously fly away. Yet there lay the bird in my hands, still gasping, still dying. Bird, human, human, bird. What was the difference? Both were the same. Mortal.
But couldn't I do something? Hold the bird longer, de-claw the cat? I wanted to go to my bedroom, confine myself to tears, replay my memories, never come out.
The bird's warmth faded away. Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. For a long time, I stared thoughtlessly at it, so still in my hands.
Slowly, I dug a small hole in the black earth. As it disappeared under handfuls of dirt, my own heart grew stronger, my own breath more steady.
The wind, the sky, the dampness of the soil on my hands whispered to me, “The bird is dead. Kari has passed. But you are alive.” My breath, my heartbeat, my sweat sighed back, “I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.”
The "I Shot My Brother" College Essay Example
This essay could work for prompts 1, 2 and 7 for the Common App.
From page 54 of the maroon notebook sitting on my mahogany desk:
“Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.” - Genesis 4:13
Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.
The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.
“Why can’t you be more like Jon?” my grandmother used to nag, pointing at me with a carrot stick. To me, Jon was just cocky. He would scoff at me when he would beat me in basketball, and when he brought home his painting of Bambi with the teacher’s sticker “Awesome!” on top, he would make several copies of it and showcase them on the refrigerator door. But I retreated to my desk where a pile of “Please draw this again and bring it to me tomorrow” papers lay, desperate for immediate treatment. Later, I even refused to attend the same elementary school and wouldn’t even eat meals with him.
Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. But I didn’t know how.
That is, until March 11th, 2001.
That day around six o’clock, juvenile combatants appeared in Kyung Mountain for their weekly battle, with cheeks smeared in mud and empty BB guns in their hands. The Korean War game was simple: to kill your opponent you had to shout “pow!” before he did. Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began. My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders.
Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.
Hearing us, the alarmed captain turned around: It was my brother.
He saw Min-young’s right arm sticking out from the bush and hurled a “grenade,” (a rock), bruising his arm.
“That’s not fair!” I roared in the loudest and most unrecognizable voice I could manage.
Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: DO NOT TRESPASS: Boar Traps Ahead. (Two summers ago, my five year old cousin, who insisted on joining the ranks, had wandered off-course during the battle; we found him at the bottom of a 20 ft deep pit with a deep gash in his forehead and shirt soaked in blood) “Hey, stop!” I shouted, heart pounding. “STOP!” My mind froze. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?
I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs. The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign. I turned around, hurled my BB gun into the nearby Kyung Creek and ran home as fast as I could.
Days passed. My brother and I did not talk about the incident.
‘Maybe he knew it was me,’ I thought in fear as I tried to eavesdrop on his conversation with grandpa one day. When the door suddenly opened, I blurted, “Is anything wrong?”
“Nothing,” he said pushing past me, “Just a rough sleep.”
But in the next few weeks, something was happening inside me.
All the jealousy and anger I’d once felt had been replaced by a new feeling: guilt.
That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite. I returned home and placed it on my brother’s bed with a note attached: “Love, Grandma.”
Several days later, I secretly went into his room and folded his unkempt pajamas.
Then, other things began to change. We began sharing clothes (something we had never done), started watching Pokémon episodes together, and then, on his ninth birthday, I did something with Jon that I hadn’t done in six years: I ate dinner with him. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated. And I didn’t complain.
Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. While in the waiting room, we play a noisy game of Zenga, comment on the Lakers’ performance or listen to the radio on the registrar’s desk.
Then, the door to the doctor’s office opens.
“Jonathan Lee, please come in.”
I tap his shoulder and whisper, “Rock it, bro.”
After he leaves, I take out my notebook and begin writing where I left off.
Beside me, the receptionist’s fingers hover over the radio in search of a new station, eventually settling on one. I hear LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace.” Her voice slowly rises over the noise of the bustling room.
“’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved...”
Smiling, I open Jon’s Jansport backpack and neatly place this essay inside and a chocolate taffy with a note attached.
Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens.
“Guess what the doctor just said?” my brother cries, unable to hide his exhilaration.
I look up and I smile too.
For analysis of what makes this essay amazing , go here.
The "Porcelain God" College Essay Example
Essay written for the "topic of your choice" prompt for the 2012 Common Application college application essays.
Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning.
Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup. My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
At five years old, I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. All I knew was that I felt sick, and I was waiting for my mom to give me something to make it better. I thought my parents were superheroes; surely they would be able to make well again. But I became scared when I heard the fear in their voices as they rushed me to the ER.
After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.
In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens. This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. I learned about the different mechanisms and cells that our bodies use in order to fight off pathogens. My desire to major in biology in college has been stimulated by my fascination with the human body, its processes, and the desire to find a way to help people with allergies. I hope that one day I can find a way to stop allergic reactions or at least lessen the symptoms, so that children and adults don’t have to feel the same fear and bitterness that I felt.
To find out if your essay passes the Great College Essay Test like this one did, go here .
The "Five Families" College Essay Example
This essay could work for prompts 1, 2, 5 and 7 for the Common App.
When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.
My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.
After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.
The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.
After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.
The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.
I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.
The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.
Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.
Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.
ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY
Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?
I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.
That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:
He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).
He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.
When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.
Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW . (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)
See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.
The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)
He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)
The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.
TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay . Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?
Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:
When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.
Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."
My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.
Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)
The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.
Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."
The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.
I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.
Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."
The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.
Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."
Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.
The "Tell" / "So What":
THE "FOOD" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “I Love/I Know” Type
I’ve spent most of my life as an anti-vegetable carboholic. For years, processed snack foods ruled the kitchen kingdom of my household and animal products outnumbered plant-based offerings.
My transformation began with my mom’s cancer diagnosis. My mom went on a 100% whole food plant-based diet. I fully embraced this new eating philosophy to show my support. Eager to figure out the whole “vegan” thing, the two of us started binge-watching health documentaries such as “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives”. We read all the books by the featured doctors like “The China Study” and “How Not To Die”. I became entranced by the world of nutritional science and how certain foods could help prevent cancer or boost metabolism.
Each new food I discovered gave me an education on the role diet plays on health. I learned that, by eating sweet potatoes and brown rice, you could cure acne and heart disease. I discovered eating leafy greens with citrus fruits could boost iron absorption rates. I loved pairing my foods to create the perfect macronutrient balance. Did you know beans and rice make a complete protein?
Food has also turned me into a sustainability nut. Living plant-based also saves the planet from the impact of animal agriculture. For the same amount of land space, a farmer can produce 200 kilograms of soybeans versus 16 kilograms of beef. I do my part to have as small of an ecological footprint as I can. I stopped using plastic snack bags and instead turned to reusable beeswax wraps. My favorite reusable appliance is my foldable straw. If I am going to nourish my body, shouldn’t I also want to nourish the earth?
My journey toward healthy living led me to becoming co-leader of the Northern Nevada PlantPure Pod, “Biggest Little Plant Pod”, a group dedicated to spreading the message about the whole food plant-based lifestyle. We are currently working on a restaurant campaign to encourage local eateries to create a plant-based, oil-free menu option and become PlantPure certified. After discovering how many restaurants use oil in their cooking, I decided I needed to open a plant-based oil free cafe to make up for this gap. My dream is to open up my very own affordable oatmeal cafe based on my Instagram page, morning_mOATivations. And I know that oatmeal isn’t the sexiest superfood out there, so here’s my sales pitch: I’m going to make oatmeal the Beyonce of the breakfast world- sweet, sassy, and power packed. This allows me to educate people about nutritional science through the stomach.
Finally, I am a strong proponent of hands-on experience for learning what good food looks and tastes like, so cooking is one of my favorite ways to teach the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Using my taste buds as my textbook to learn which flavors work together and which ones don’t helps me educate, as I’ve found that information tends to stick in a person’s mind once they’ve experienced healthy, delicious foods with their own senses. Our society has taught us that delicious food has to make us feel guilty, when that is simply not the case. The best feeling in the world is falling in love with a dish and then learning all the health benefits that it provides the body.
While my classmates complain about being tired, I have more energy because my body is finally getting the right macros, vitamins, and minerals it needs. This has allowed me to push myself harder physically, excelling in running and earning my high school Cross Country team’s Most Improved award. I’m still a picky eater. But the foods I am particular about have changed. Rather than a carboholic, I choose to call myself a vegeholic.
THE "HAPPINESS SPREADSHEET" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Essence Object” Type
Meditation over a flaxen sunset with a friend and parmesan-topped spaghetti for dinner — “14.” Assignments piling up on my desk as a high fever keeps me sick at home — “3.” Taking a photo excursion through downtown Seattle for a Spanish project — “15.” For the past 700 days and counting, the Happiness Spreadsheet has been my digital collection for documenting numerical, descriptive, and graphical representations of my happiness. Its instructions are simple: Open the Google Sheet, enter a number between 1 and 20 that best represents my level of happiness, and write a short comment describing the day. But the practical aspect of the spreadsheet is only a piece of what it has represented in my life.
A “14” etched on November 15, 2018, marked the first Lakeside Cooking on the Stove Club meeting. What had started as a farcical proposition of mine transformed into a playground where high school classmates and I convene every two weeks to prepare a savory afternoon snack for ourselves. A few months later, a “16” scribbled on February 27, 2019, marked the completion of a fence my Spanish class and I constructed for the dusty soccer field at a small Colombian village. Hard-fought days of mixing cement and transporting supplies had paid off for the affectionate community we had immediately come to love. The Happiness Spreadsheet doesn’t only reflect my own thoughts and emotions; it is an illustration of the fulfillment I get from gifting happiness to others.
If happiness paves the roads of my life, my family is the city intertwined by those roads — each member a distinct neighborhood, a distinct story. In times of stress, whether it be studying for an upcoming derivatives test or presenting my research at an international conference, I dash to my father for help. Coming from the dusty, people-packed backstreets of Thiruvananthapuram, India, he guides me in looking past the chaos and noticing the hidden accomplishments that lie in the corners. When in need of confidence, I find my mother, who taps her experiences living in her tranquil and sturdy tatami-covered home in Hiroshima, Japan, helping me prepare for my first high school dance or my final match in a tennis tournament. Whenever my Happiness Spreadsheet numbers touch lows, my family is always there to level me out to “10.”
The Happiness Spreadsheet is also a battery monitor for enthusiasm. On occasion, it is on full charge, like when I touched the last chord on the piano for my composition's winner recital or when, one frosty Friday morning, I convinced a teacher to play over the school speakers a holiday medley I’d recorded with a friend. Other times, the battery is depleted, and I am frustrated by writer's block, when not a single melody, chord, or musical construct crosses my mind. The Happiness Spreadsheet can be a hall of fame, but it can likewise be a catalog of mistakes, burdens, and grueling challenges.
The spreadsheet began on a typical school day when I left my physics class following the most confusing test I’d taken. The idea was born spontaneously at lunch, and I asked two of my friends if they were interested in pursuing this exercise with me. We thought the practice would last only a couple of weeks or months at most, but after reaching 700 days, we now wonder if we’ll ever stop. To this day, I ponder its full importance in my life. With every new number I enter, I recognize that each entry is not what defines me; rather, it is the ever-growing line connecting all the data points that reflects who I am today. With every valley, I force myself onward and with every mountain's peak, I recognize the valleys I’ve crossed to reach the summit. Where will the Happiness Spreadsheet take me next?
THE "TRANSLATING" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Skill/Superpower” Type
".miK ijniM" This is how I wrote my name until I was seven . I was a left-handed kid who wrote from right to left, which made my writing comprehensible only to myself. Only after years of practice did I become an ambidextrous writer who could translate my incomprehensible writing. As I look back on my life, I realized that this was my first act of translation.
Translation means reinterpreting my Calculus teacher’s description of L’hospital’s rule into a useful tool for solving the limits . As I deciphered complex codes into comprehensible languages like rate of change and speed of an object, I gained the ability to solve even more complicated and fascinating problems. My Calculus teacher often told me, “It’s not until you can teach math concepts to somebody that you understand them completely.” Before I discovered the joy of teaching, I often explained difficult math concepts to my friends as a tool for reviewing what I’d learned. Now, I volunteer to tutor others: as a Korean tutor for friends who love Korean culture and a golf tutor for new team members. Tutoring is how I integrate and strengthen new concepts for myself.
My talent for translating also applies to my role as a “therapist” for my family and friends . I’m able to identify their real feelings beneath superficial words by translating hand-gestures, facial expressions, and tones. I often put myself into their situation and ask, "What emotional support would I want or need if I was in this situation?" Through these acts of translation, I’ve grown into a more reliable and perceptive friend, daughter, and sister.
However, my translation can't accurately account for the experiences I have yet to go through . After realizing the limitations of my experience, I created a bucket list full of activities out of my comfort zone, which includes traveling abroad by myself, publishing my own book, and giving a lecture in front of a crowd. Although it is a mere list written on the front page of my diary, I found myself vividly planning and picturing myself accomplishing those moments. By widening my experiences, I’ll be a therapist who can empathize fully and give meaningful advice based on rich experiences.
My knack for translating has led me to become a real-life Korean language translator . As an English to Korean letter translator in a non-profit organization, Compassion , I serve as a communication bridge between benefactors and children in developing countries, who communicate through monthly letters. I’ve translated hundreds of letters by researching each country to provide context that considers both cultural aspects and nuances of the language. This experience has motivated me to learn languages like Spanish and Mandarin. I’ve realized that learning various languages has been a journey of self-discovery: the way I talk and interact with people changed depending on the language I used. As I get to know more about myself through different languages, I grew more confident to meet new people and build new friendships.
While translating has been a huge part of my life, a professional translator is not my dream job . I want to be an ambulatory care clinical pharmacist who manages the medication of patients with chronic diseases. In fact, translating is a huge part of the job of a clinical pharmacist. I should substitute myself into patients’ situations to respond to their needs effectively, which requires my translating skill as a “therapist.” Moreover, as a clinical pharmacist, I’ll be the patients’ private tutor who not only guides them through the right use of medication but also gives them emotional support. As my qualities as a “therapist” and a “tutor” shaped me into a great translator, I will continue to develop my future as a clinical pharmacist by enhancing and discovering my qualities. In one form or another, I've always been and will be a translator.
THE "WHY BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Career” Type
I sit, cradled by the two largest branches of the Newton Pippin Tree, watching the ether. The Green Mountains of Vermont stretch out indefinitely, and from my elevated vantage point, I feel as though we are peers, motionless in solidarity. I’ve lost my corporeal form and instead, while watching invisible currents drive white leviathans across the sky, have drifted up into the epistemological stream; completely alone with my questions, diving for answers. But a few months ago, I would have considered this an utter waste of time.
Prior to attending Mountain School, my paradigm was substantially limited; opinions, prejudices, and ideas shaped by the testosterone-rich environment of Landon School. I was herded by result-oriented, fast-paced, technologically-reliant parameters towards psychology and neuroscience (the NIH, a mere 2.11 mile run from my school, is like a beacon on a hill). I was taught that one’s paramount accomplishment should be specialization.
Subconsciously I knew this was not who I wanted to be and seized the chance to apply to the Mountain School. Upon my arrival, though, I immediately felt I did not belong. I found the general atmosphere of hunky-dory acceptance foreign and incredibly unnerving.
So, rather than engage, I retreated to what was most comfortable: sports and work. In the second week, the perfect aggregate of the two, a Broomball tournament, was set to occur. Though I had never played before, I had a distinct vision for it, so decided to organize it.
That night, the glow-in-the-dark ball skittered across the ice. My opponent and I, brooms in hand, charged forward. We collided and I banana-peeled, my head taking the brunt of the impact. Stubborn as I was, even with a concussion, I wanted to remain in class and do everything my peers did, but my healing brain protested. My teachers didn’t quite know what to do with me, so, no longer confined to a classroom if I didn’t want to be, I was in limbo. I began wandering around campus with no company except my thoughts. Occasionally, Zora, my English teacher’s dog, would tag along and we’d walk for miles in each other's silent company. Other times, I found myself pruning the orchard, feeding the school’s wood furnaces, or my new favorite activity, splitting wood. Throughout those days, I created a new-found sense of home in my head.
However, thinking on my own wasn’t enough; I needed more perspectives. I organized raucous late-night discussions about everything from medieval war machines to political theory and randomly challenged my friends to “say something outrageous and defend it.” And whether we achieve profundity or not, I find myself enjoying the act of discourse itself. As Thoreau writes, “Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves, the waves may cast up pearls.” I have always loved ideas, but now understand what it means to ride their waves, to let them breathe and become something other than just answers to immediate problems.
I am most enamored by ideas that cultivate ingenious and practical enrichments for humanity. I enjoy picking some conundrum, large or small, and puzzling out a solution. Returning from a cross country meet recently, my friend and I, serendipitously, designed a socially responsible disposable water bottle completely on accident. Now we hope to create it.
I am still interested in psychology and neuroscience, but also desire to incorporate contemplative thought into this work, analyzing enigmas from many different perspectives. My internships at the NIH and the National Hospital for Neuroscience and Neurosurgery in London have offered me valuable exposure to research and medicine. But I have come to realize that neither of my previous intended professions allow me to expand consciousness in the way I would prefer.
After much soul-searching, I have landed on behavioral economics as the perfect synergy of the fields I love. All it took was a knock on the head.
THE "5 FAMILY IDENTITIES" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage, “Identity” Type
“Chris, what would you like to have for Christmas Dinner? ”
Suddenly, a miniature gathering of the European Commission glares straight at me. I feel the pressure of picking one option over the other.
What do I choose? The Roast Duck of Denmark, the Five Fish of Italy, the Turkey of Great Britain, or the Ham of the U.S.? Like the various nations of the European Union, the individual proponents of these culinary varieties are lobbying their interests to me, a miniature Jean-Claude Junker.
Now, you may be asking yourselves: why would I be so pensive over a meal choice?
See, I have been blessed to be a part of what my mother calls the “melting pot of Europe.” While I was born in England, my brothers were born in Denmark and New York. I have a Swedish sister-in-law, Italian Aunts, an English Uncle, Romanian cousins and an Italo-Danish immigrant father. Every year, that same family gathers together in New York City to celebrate Christmas. While this wonderful kaleidoscope of cultures has caused me to be the ‘peacekeeper’ during meal arbitrations, it has fundamentally impacted my life.
Our family’s ethnic diversity has meant that virtually each person adheres to a different position on the political spectrum. This has naturally triggered many discussions, ranging from the merits of European single-payer healthcare to those of America’s gun laws, that have often animated our meals. These exact conversations drove me to learn more about what my parents, grandparents, and other relatives were debating with a polite and considerate passion. This ongoing discourse on current events not only initiated my interests in politics and history, but also prepared me greatly for my time as a state-champion debater for Regis’s Public Forum team. In turn, participating in debate has expanded my knowledge regarding matters ranging from civil rights reparations to American redeployment in Iraq, while enriching my capacities to thoughtfully express my views on those and other issues, both during P.F. rounds and at the dinner table.
Just as I’ve learned to understand and bridge the divides between a rich tapestry of cultures in order to develop my familial relations, society’s leadership must also do the same on a grander scale. This awareness incited a passion for statecraft within me – the very art of balancing different perspectives - and therefore a desire to actively engage in government. With my experiences in mind, I felt there was no better place to start than my own neighborhood of Bay Ridge. Young hipsters, a high concentration of seniors, Italian & Irish middle class families, and a growing population of Middle-Eastern Americans help to comprise a district that I have begun serving as the first teenaged member of my local Community Board. Within my public service capacity, I am committed to making policy judgments (for example, regarding hookah bars, zoning regulations, and park renovation expenses) that are both wise and respectful of my community’s diversity.
Most importantly, my family has taught me an integral life lesson. As our Christmas Dinner squabbles suggest, seemingly insurmountable impasses can be resolved through respect and dialogue, even producing delicious results! On a grander scale, it has elucidated that truly inclusive discourse and toleration of diverse perspectives render tribalism, sectarianism, and the divisive aspects of identity politics powerless over our cohesion. I fundamentally value cultural, political, and theological variety; my own microcosm reflecting our global society at large has inspired me to strive to solve the many conflicts of bitterness and sectionalism in our world today. This vocation may come in the form of political leadership that truly respects all perspectives and philosophies, or perhaps as diplomacy facilitating unity between the various nations of the world. The problems I would need to help remedy are numerous and daunting, but our annual Christmas feasts will forever remind me that they can be overcome, and that humanity’s diversity is not a weakness, but a definitive strength.
THE "Coffeeshops + Coffee" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Home” Type
Before I came to America, I drank Puer Tea with my father every morning in my bedroom, sitting cross-legged on Suzhou-silk mats beside a view of the Lakeside reservoir. Beside a dark end table, we picked up teacups as the mild aroma greeted our noses. As we faced the French window, my father would share the news he read in China Daily : the Syrian civil war, climate change, and gender equality in Hollywood. Most of the time, I only listened. With each piece of news, my curiosity piqued. Secretly, I made a decision that I wanted to be the one to discuss the news with him from my perspective. So, I decided to study in America to learn more about the world.
After one year’s extensive research and hours of interviews, I came to America for 9th grade and moved in with a host family. But, my new room lacked stories and cups of tea. Fortunately, I found Blue House Cafe on my walk home from church, and started studying there. With white walls, comfortable sofas, and high stools, Blue House is spacious and bright. Hearing people’s stories and looking at their warm smiles when they taste various pastries as I sat by the window, I watched as a production designer scouted locations for his film, or a painter took notes while brainstorming for his freehand brushwork of Blue House. With a cup of coffee, I dig into differential and parametric equations for my upcoming AP Calculus test, learn the nuances of public speaking by watching Michael Sandel’s Justice lectures on my laptop, and plan fundraising events for my non-profit.
I’ve also learned by watching leaders host meetings at the rectangle conference table at the back of the cafe and I learn from the leaders of meetings, watching as they hold the edge of the table and express their ideas. Similarly, as president of the International Students Club, I invited my teammates to have meetings with me at the cafe. Coordinating the schedule with other members in Blue House has become a frequent event. Consuming several cups of coffee, my team and I have planned Lunar New Year events, field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, and Chinese lunch in school to help international students feel more at home. Straightening my back and bracing my shoulders, I stood up behind the conference table and expressed my creative ideas passionately. After each meeting, we shared buttermilk coffee-cake.
In my spot next to the window, I also witnessed different kinds of people. I viewed visitors dragging their luggage, women carrying shopping bags, and people wandering in tattered clothes --the diversity of San Francisco. Two years ago I saw volunteers wearing City Impact shirts offering sandwiches and hot chocolate to homeless people outside of the cafe. I investigated more about City Impact and eventually signed up to volunteer. No longer was I a bystander. At holiday outreach events, I prepared and delivered food to homeless people. While sharing my coffee, I listened to a story from an older Chinese man who told me, in Mandarin, how he had been abandoned by his children and felt lonely.
Last summer, I returned to Xiamen, China, and taught my father how to drink coffee. Now, a Chemex and teapot are both on the end table. Instead of simply listening, I shared my experiences as a club president, a community leader, and a volunteer. I showed him my business plan and prototypes. My father raised his cup of coffee and made a toast to me, “Good girl! I am so proud of you.” Then, he patted my head as before. Together, we emptied our cups while the smell of coffee lingered.
THE "KOMBUCHA CLUB" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Uncommon Extracurricular Activity” Type
I add the critically measured sugary tea mixture to the gallon jar containing the slimy, white, disc-shaped layers of the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Now to wait.
After exactly seven days, I pour the liquid into a fermentation-grade glass bottle with a ratio of 20% pomegranate juice and 80% fermented tea. I place it on my kitchen counter, periodically checking it to relieve the built-up CO2.
Finally, after an additional seventy-two hours, the time comes to try it. I crack the seal on the bottle, leaning over to smell what I assume will be a tangy, fruity, delicious pomegranate solution. and it smells like rotten eggs. The insufferable stench fills my nostrils and crushes my confidence. I'm momentarily taken aback, unable to understand how I went wrong when I followed the recipe perfectly.
My issue wasn't misreading the recipe or failing to follow a rule, it was bypassing my creative instincts and forgetting the unpredictable nature of fermentation. I needed to trust the creative side of kombucha— the side that takes people's perfectionist energy and explodes it into a puddle of rotten egg smelling 'booch (my preferred name for the drink- not "fermented, effervescent liquid from a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeast"). I was too caught up in the side that requires extreme preciseness to notice when the balance between perfectionism and imperfectionism was being thrown off. The key, I have learned, is knowing when to prioritize following the recipe and when to let myself be creative. Sure, there are scientific variables such as proximity to heat sources and how many grams of sugar to add. But, there's also person-dependent variables like how long I decide to ferment it, what fruits I decide will be a fun combination, and which friend I got my first SCOBY from (taking "symbiotic" to a new level).
I often find myself feeling pressured to choose one side or the other, one extreme over the alternative. I've been told that I can either be a meticulous scientist or a messy artist, but to be both is an unacceptable contradiction. However, I choose a grey area; a place where I can channel my creativity into the sciences, as well as channel my precision into my photography.
I still have the first photo I ever took on the first camera I ever had. Or rather, the first camera I ever made. Making that pinhole camera was truly a painstaking process: take a cardboard box, tap it shut, and poke a hole in it. Okay, maybe it wasn't that hard. But learning the exact process of taking and developing a photo in its simplest form, the science of it, is what drove me to pursue photography. I remember being so unhappy with the photo I took; it was faded, underexposed, and imperfect. For years, I felt incredibly pressured to try and perfect my photography. It wasn't until I was defeated, staring at a puddle of kombucha, that I realized that there doesn't always have to be a standard of perfection in my art, and that excited me.
So, am I a perfectionist? Or do I crave pure spontaneity and creativity? Can I be both?
Perfectionism leaves little to be missed. With a keen eye, I can quickly identify my mistakes and transform them into something with purpose and definitude. On the other hand, imperfection is the basis for change and for growth. My resistance against perfectionism is what has allowed me to learn to move forward by seeing the big picture; it has opened me to new experiences, like bacteria cross-culturing to create something new, something different, something better. I am not afraid of change or adversity, though perhaps I am afraid of conformity. To fit the mold of perfection would compromise my creativity, and I am not willing to make that sacrifice.
THE "MOMENTS WHERE THE SECONDS STAND STILL" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Montage Essay, “Other/Advanced” type
I hold onto my time as dearly as my Scottish granny holds onto her money. I’m careful about how I spend it and fearful of wasting it. Precious minutes can show someone I care and can mean the difference between accomplishing a goal or being too late to even start and my life depends on carefully budgeting my time for studying, practicing with my show choir, and hanging out with my friends. However, there are moments where the seconds stand still.
It is already dark when I park in my driveway after a long day at school and rehearsals. I can’t help but smile when I see my dog Kona bounce with excitement, then slide across the tile floor to welcome me as I open the door. I run with him into my parent’s bedroom, where my mom, dad, and sister are waiting for me. We pile onto my parents’ bed to talk about what’s going on in our lives, plan our next trip to the beach, tell jokes, and “spill tea.” They help me see challenges with a realistic perspective, grounding me in what matters. Not paying attention to the clock, I allow myself to relax for a brief moment in my busy life.
Laughter fills the show choir room as my teammates and I pass the time by telling bad jokes and breaking out in random bursts of movement. Overtired, we don’t even realize we’re entering the fourth hour of rehearsal. This same sense of camaraderie follows us onstage, where we become so invested in the story we are portraying we lose track of time. My show choir is my second family. I realize I choreograph not for recognition, but to help sixty of my best friends find their footing. At the same time, they help me find my voice.
The heavy scuba gear jerks me under the icy water, and exhilaration washes over me. Lost in the meditative rolling effect of the tide and the hum of the vast ocean, I feel present. I dive deeper to inspect a vibrant community of creatures, and we float together, carefree and synchronized. My fascination with marine life led me to volunteer as an exhibit interpreter for the Aquarium of the Pacific, where I share my love for the ocean. Most of my time is spent rescuing animals from small children and, in turn, keeping small children from drowning in the tanks. I’ll never forget the time when a visiting family and I were so involved in discussing ocean conservation that, before I knew it, an hour had passed. Finding this mutual connection over the love of marine life and the desire to conserve the ocean environment keeps me returning each summer.
“Why don’t we have any medical supplies?” The thought screams through my mind as I carry a sobbing girl on my back across campus in search of an ice pack and ankle wrap. She had just fallen while performing, and I could relate to the pain and fear in her eyes. The chaos of the show becomes distant, and I devote my time to bringing her relief, no matter how long it may take. I find what I need to treat her injury in the sports medicine training room. I didn’t realize she would be the first of many patients I would tend to in this training room. Since then, I’ve launched a sports medicine program to provide care to the 500-person choir program.
Saturday morning bagels with my family. Singing backup for Barry Manilow with my choir. Swimming with sea turtles in the Pacific. Making my teammate smile even though he’s in pain. These are the moments I hold onto, the ones that define who I am, and who I want to be. For me, time isn’t just seconds ticking by on a clock, it’s how I measure what matters.
THE "IDENTIFYING AS TRANS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Narrative Essay, “Challenges” Type
“Mommy I can’t see myself.”
I was six when I first refused/rejected girl’s clothing, eight when I only wore boy’s clothing, and fifteen when I realized why. When gifted dresses I was told to “smile and say thank you” while Spiderman shirts took no prompting from me, I’d throw my arms around the giver and thank them. My whole life has been others invading my gender with their questions, tears signed by my body, and a war against my closet. Fifteen years and I finally realized why, this was a girl’s body, and I am a boy.
Soon after this, I came out to my mom. I explained how lost I felt, how confused I was, how “I think I’m Transgender.” It was like all those years of being out of place had led to that moment, my truth, the realization of who I was. My mom cried and said she loved me.
The most important factor in my transition was my mom’s support. She scheduled me an appointment with a gender therapist, let me donate my female clothes, and helped build a masculine wardrobe. With her help, I went on hormones five months after coming out and got surgery a year later. I finally found myself, and my mom fought for me, her love was endless. Even though I had friends, writing, and therapy, my strongest support was my mother.
On August 30th, 2018 my mom passed away unexpectedly. My favorite person, the one who helped me become the man I am today, ripped away from me, leaving a giant hole in my heart and in my life.
Life got dull. Learning how to wake up without my mom every morning became routine. Nothing felt right, a constant numbness to everything, and fog brain was my kryptonite. I paid attention in class, I did the work, but nothing stuck. I felt so stupid, I knew I was capable, I could solve a Rubik’s cube in 25 seconds and write poetry, but I felt broken. I was lost, I couldn’t see myself, so stuck on my mother that I fell into an ‘It will never get better’ mindset.
It took over a year to get out of my slump. 25 therapy sessions, over 40 poems, not a single one didn’t mention my mom. I shared my writing at open mics, with friends, and I cried every time. I embraced the pain, the hurt, and eventually, it became the norm. I grew used to not having my mom around.
My mom always wanted to change the world, to fix the broken parts of society. She didn’t get to. Now that I’m in a good place, mentally and physically, I’m going to make that impact. Not just for her, but for me, and all the people who need a support branch as strong as the one my mom gave me.
I’m starting with whats impacted me most of my life, what’s still in front of me, being Transgender in the school system. For my senior project, I am using my story and experience as a young Transgender man to inform local schools, specifically the staff, about the do’s and dont’s of dealing with a Transgender student. I am determined to make sure no one feels as alone as I did. I want to be able to reach people, and use motivational speaking as the platform.
After experiencing many twists and turns in my life, I’m finally at a good spot. I know what I want to do with my life, and I know how I’m going to get there.
Mom, I can see myself now. Thank you.
If you’d like to see more sample essays + a guide to “ Should I come out in my personal statement (and if so, how?) ” please check out that link.
THE "iTaylor" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Narrative Essay, Undefined Type
Are you tired of seeing an iPhone everywhere? Samsung glitchy? It’s time for a change. I present to you, the iTaylor. I am the iTaylor. On the outside, I look like any smart phone, but when you open my settings and explore my abilities, you will find I have many unique features.
The iTaylor’s best feature is its built-in optimism. Thanks to my positivity, I was chosen to give the morning announcements freshman year. Now, I am the alarm clock for the 1,428 students of Fox Lane High School. For the past three years, I have been starting everyone’s morning with a bubbly, “Good morning, foxes!” and ending with “Have a marvelous Monday,” “Terrific Tuesday” or “Phenomenal Friday!” My adjective-a-day keeps people listening, gives me conversation starters with faculty, and solicits fun suggestions from my friends.
Next up, language settings. I’ve worked hard to be bilingual so the iTaylor can be set to either English or Spanish. Fun fact: In middle school, I set my phone to Spanish so that messages like “ Alexis te envió un mensaje en Instagram ,” would increase my fluency. I learned nuances of the language by watching Spanish sitcoms like Siete Vidas and Spanish movies like Como Agua Para Chocolate . I appreciate the emphasis Spanish culture places on relationships, the way siblings take care of each other, and how grandparents’ wisdom is valued. Inspired, I began creating family events and even making efforts to grow closer to my second cousins.
At eight years old, I was diagnosed with what some might call a glitch: epilepsy. Fortunately, a new IOS software update cured my condition by the age of 15, but through epilepsy, I gained a love of exploration. Whereas at 10, I couldn’t bathe without supervision, I now enjoy snorkeling in unknown waters. While at 11, I couldn’t be left alone with my friends, I now explore the subways, crowded streets, and Broadway shows of New York City. Overcoming epilepsy taught me to take risks and explore new places.
This brings us to the iTaylor location settings. Two summers ago, I travelled to Ecuador to live with a friend’s family and teach Spanish theater to third graders. The experience implanted a “cookie” in me, filling me with a desire to learn about different cultures. I brought this desire home to a volunteer position at a local program for immigrant children. I helped the kids make presentations about their places of origin, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Also, as resident tour guide and ambassador for exchange students at my school, I’ve discovered North African fusion music from Selima, learned German slang from Henrike, and helped Saidimar prepare his Mr.Sulu campaign, a regional pageant in the Philippines. It became clear that the English language, one I took for granted, is the central feature that brings groups together.
This past summer, I brought my talents to Scotland, playing the dual role of Artistic Director and leading character for Geek the Musical . I worked to promote the show in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival against 53,232 shows, reinventing ways to motivate the cast and connect with strangers from all over the world. We learned the more we connected, the more our audience grew. I applied these skills to my leadership positions at home, including my High School Theater Group, Players. I’m now better at creating a marketing strategy that includes door-to-door sales, print advertising, and identifying broader target audiences to fill seats.
The rollout plan for the iTaylor is to introduce it to the theater market. My goal is to use performance and storytelling to expose audiences to different cultures, religions, and points of view. Perhaps if we all learned more about each other's lifestyles, the world would be more empathetic and integrated.
So what do you think? Would you like an iTaylor of your own? The iTaylor College Edition is now available for pre-order. It delivers next fall.
THE "FIGURING OUT WHAT REALLY MATTERED CHALLENGE" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
"Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air." --Ivan Pavlov
Upon graduation, I will be able to analyze medieval Spanish poems using literary terms and cultural context, describe the electronegativity trends on the periodic table, and identify when to use logarithmic differentiation to simplify a derivative problem. Despite knowing how to execute these very particular tasks, I currently fail to understand how to change a tire, how to do my taxes efficiently, or how to obtain a good insurance policy. A factory-model school system that has been left essentially unchanged for nearly a century has been the driving force in my educational development.
I have been conditioned to complete tasks quickly, efficiently, and with an advanced understanding. I measured my self-worth as my ability to outdo my peers academically, thinking my scores were the only aspect that defined me; and they were. I was getting everything right. Then, I ran for Student Government and failed. Rejection. I didn’t even make it past the first round of cuts. How could that be? I was statistically a smart kid with a good head on my shoulders, right? Surely someone had to have made a mistake. Little did I know, this was my first exposure to meaning beyond numbers.
As I was rejected from StuGo for the second year in a row, I discovered I had been wrongfully measuring my life through numbers--my football statistics, my test scores, my age, my height (I’m short). I had the epiphany that oh wait, maybe it was my fault that I had never prioritized communication skills, or open-mindedness (qualities my fellow candidates possessed). Maybe it was me. That must be why I always had to be the one to approach people during my volunteer hours at the public library to offer help--no one ever asked me for it. I resolved to alter my mindset, taking a new approach to the way I lived. From now on I would emphasize qualitative experiences over quantitative skills.
I had never been more uncomfortable. I forced myself to learn to be vulnerable by asking questions even if I was terrified of being wrong. My proficiency in using data evidence could not teach me how to communicate with young children at church, nor could my test scores show me how to be more open to criticism. The key to all of these skills, I was to discover, happened to be learning from those around me. Turns out, I couldn’t do everything by myself.
The process of achieving this new mindset came through the cultivation of relationships. I became fascinated by the new perspectives each person in my life could offer if I really took the time to connect. Not only did I improve my listening skills, but I began to consider the big-picture consequences my engagements could have. People interpret situations differently due to their own cultural contexts, so I had to learn to pay more attention to detail to understand every point of view. I took on the state of what I like to call collaborative independence, and to my delight, I was elected to StuGo after my third year of trying.
Not long ago, I would have fallen apart at the presence of any uncertainty. As I further accept and advance new life skills, the more I realize how much remains uncertain in the world. After all, it is quite possible my future job doesn’t exist yet, and that’s okay. I can’t conceivably plan out my entire life at the age of 17, but what I can do is prepare myself to take on the unknown, doing my best to accompany others. Hopefully, my wings continue enabling me to fly, but it is going to take more than just me and my wings; I have to continue putting my faith in the air around me.
THE "PARENTS' RELATIONSHIP" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
Narrative Essay, “Challenge” Type
My mom opened Kanishka’s Gastropub in 2013. I was ecstatic. We would become the first Mother-Son Indian duo on Food Network peeling potatoes, skinning chicken, and grinding spices, sharing our Bengali recipes with the world.
However, the restaurant tore apart my parent’s relationship. Two years after opening, my dad started coming home late most nights, plastered from “happy hour with work colleagues.” My mom, trying to balance her day job at Kaiser and owning a restaurant, poured her stress on me,“What the hell is wrong with you! Always watching YouTube and never talking!”
The worst time came when my parents tried to fix their relationship. Repeated date nights induced more arguments. Enduring the stress of her restaurant, my father, and her mistakes, my mom attempted to end her life. Fortunately, I found her just in time.
Over the next two years, things were at times still hard, but gradually improved. My parents decided to start anew, took some time apart, then got back together. My mom started to pick me up from activities on time and my dad and I bonded more, watching Warriors and 49ers games.
But at times I still had to emotionally support my mom to avoid sudden India trips, or put my siblings to bed if my parents weren’t home at night. Over time, I found it difficult being my family’s glue. I wanted back the family I had before the restaurant--the one that ate Luchi Mongsho together every Sunday night.
So I looked for comfort in creation. I began spending more time in our garage , carefully constructing planes from sheets of foam. I found purpose balancing the fuselage or leveling the ailerons to precisely 90 degrees. I loved cutting new parts and assembling them perfectly. Here , I could fix all the mistakes.
In high school, I slowly began to forge a community of creators with my peers. Sophomore year, I started an engineering club and found that I had a talent for managing people and encouraging them to create an idea even if it failed. I also learned how to take feedback and become more resilient. Here, I could nerd-out about warp drives and the possibility of anti-matter without being ignored. I would give a weekly report on new technology and we would have hour-long conversations about the various uses a blacker material could have.
While building a community at school rebuilt my confidence, I still found I enjoyed being alone at times. While driving in my car, I’d let my mind wander to movies like Big Hero Six and contemplate if a zero-friction bike really was possible. I’d create ideas like an AI highway system that tells drivers exactly when to switch lanes based on timing and calculus to prevent braking from nearby cars. Or I’d blueprint a new classroom with interactive desks, allowing students to dive deep into historical events like a VR game. I found outlining complex ideas like these sometimes provide insights into something I’m researching or could one day materialize into future projects.
Looking back (and perhaps inadvertently), the conflicts from the restaurant days have taught me valuable lessons. Helping my mom through her relationship taught me to watch out for those in emotional distress. Spending nights alone made me more independent--after all, it was then that I signed up for advanced math and programming courses and decided to apply for software internships. Most of all, seeing my mom start her restaurant from no food-industry experience inspired me to found two clubs and a Hydrogen Car Team.
Even though we eat Luchi Monsho on a monthly basis now, I know my family will never be the way it was. My mom and I won’t become a Food Network mother-son duo. I can’t fix all the mistakes. But I can use them to improve the present.
THE "THREATENED BY ISIS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE
In 8th grade while doing a school project I Googled my dad's name and it came up in US military documents posted on the Snowden/NSA documents on WikiLeaks. I stayed up all night reading through documents related to Army support contracts in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003. I asked my dad about it the next day and he said, "It was a mistake I made that has been resolved." Turns out it hadn't been.
Saudi Arabia in the 2000s wasn’t the most ideal place to grow up. I was always scared of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. My school was part of the US Consulate in Dhahran, and when I was in the 8th grade it was threatened by ISIS. Violence has always surrounded me and haunted me.
After 14 years of living in a region destroyed by violence, I was sent away to boarding school in a region known for peace, Switzerland. That year my father was found guilty and imprisoned for the charges related to his Army support contract. I felt as if I was Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear and this could not get worse, but yet it did.
My parents got divorced and my childhood home was bulldozed to the ground by the Saudi government after my father was sent to prison. My mom had always been a hub of stability, but she was too overwhelmed to support me. I started eating to cope with my anxiety and gained 100 pounds in a year and a half. As I gained weight, my health started to deteriorate, and my grades started to drop.
Things began to change at the beginning of my sophomore year, however, when I met my new roommate, Nico. He had grown up with someone whose father was also in prison, and was able to help me better understand the issues I was facing. Through my friendship with Nico, I learned how to open up and get support from my friends.
I started to make new friends with more people at my school and was surprised to find out that 90% of their parents were divorced. Because we faced similar issues, we were able to support one and other, share tactics, and give advice. One of my friends, John, gave me advice on how to help my mother emotionally by showing her love, something I hadn’t been able to do before. My friends gave me a family and a home, when my own family was overwhelmed and my home was gone.
Slowly, I put my life back on track. I started playing basketball, began working on a CubeSAT, learned to program, changed my diet, and lost all the weight I had gained.
Now my friends in Switzerland come to me asking me for advice and help, and I feel as if I am a vital member of our community. My close friend Akshay recently started stressing about whether his parents were going to get divorced. With John’s advice, I started checking in on Akshay, spending more time with him, and coaching him before and after he talked to his parents.
Leaving home in the beginning of my adolescence, I was sent out on a path of my own. While for some, high school is the best time of their lives, for me, high school has represented some of the best and, hopefully, worst times. Even with the struggles I’ve faced with my family, I am grateful for this path. It has brought me to a place that I only thought was fictional. In this new place I feel like a real person, with real emotions. This place is somewhere where I can express myself freely and be who I want to be. I am a much stronger, healthier, and more resilient person than I was two years ago. While it hasn’t been easy, I am glad to be where I am today.
For a ton of UC Essay Examples, head to my blog post here.
Supplemental essay examples, uchicago: the "why did the chicken cross the road" essay.
This essay was written for the U of Chicago "Create your own prompt" essay. The author included the following explanatory note:
I plan to double major in biochemistry and English and my main essay explains my passion for the former; here is a writing sample that illustrates my enthusiasm for the latter.
In my AP Literature class, my teacher posed a question to which students had to write a creative response. My response is framed around the ideas of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: A manicured green field of grass blades cut to perfectly matched lengths; a blue expanse ornamented with puffy cotton clouds; an immaculately painted red barn centered exactly at the top of a hill--the chicken gazes contentedly at his picturesque world. Within an area surrounded by a shiny silver fence, he looks around at his friends: roosters pecking at a feast of grains and hens lounging on luxurious cushions of hay. As the nice man in a plaid shirt and blue jeans collects the hens’ eggs, the chicken feels an overwhelming sense of indebtedness to him for providing this idyllic lifestyle.
On a day as pristine as all the others, the chicken is happily eating his lunchtime meal as the nice man carefully gathers the smooth white eggs when it notices that the man has left one behind. Strangely located at the empty end of the metal enclosure, highlighted by the bright yellow sun, the white egg appears to the chicken different from the rest. The chicken moves towards the light to tacitly inform the man of his mistake. But then the chicken notices a jagged gray line on the otherwise flawless egg. Hypnotized and appalled, the chicken watches as the line turns into a crack and a small beak attached to a fuzzy yellow head pokes out. Suddenly a shadow descends over the chicken and the nice man snatches the egg--the baby chick--and stomps off.
The chicken--confused, betrayed, disturbed--slowly lifts its eyes from the now empty ground. For the first time, it looks past the silver fence of the cage and notices an unkempt sweep of colossal brown and green grasses opposite its impeccably crafted surroundings. Cautiously, it inches closer to the barrier, farther from the unbelievable perfection of the farm, and discovers a wide sea of black gravel. Stained with gray stones and marked with yellow lines, it separates the chicken from the opposite field.
The curious chicken quickly shuffles to Mother Hen, who has just settled on to her throne of hay and is closing her eyes. He is sure that the always composed and compassionate chicken will help him make sense of what he’s just seen.
“Mother Hen, Mother Hen! I-I just saw one of those eggs, cracking, and there was a small yellow bird inside. It was a baby. Are those eggs that the nice man takes away babies? And that black ground! What is it?” the chicken blurts out.
Her eyes flick open. “BOK BOK! Don’t you ever dare speak of what you have seen again,” Mother Hen snaps in a low and violent whisper, “or all of this will be taken away.” Closing her eyes again, she dismisses the chicken.
Frozen in disbelief, the chicken tries to make sense of her harsh words. It replays the incident in its head. “All the food, the nice soft hay, the flawless red barn--maybe all of this isn’t worth giving up. Maybe Mother Hen is right. She just wants to protect me from losing it all.” The chicken replays the incident again. “But it was a baby. What if it was hers? She still wouldn’t care. She’s being selfish; all she cares about is this perfect life.” A final replay, and the chicken realizes and accepts that Mother Hen knows, has known, that the man is doing something wrong; yet she has yielded to the cruelty for her own comfort. A fissure in the chicken’s unawareness, a plan begins to hatch. The chicken knows it must escape; it has to get to the other side.
“That man in the plaid shirt is stealing the eggs from their mothers again,” the chicken thinks the next day as he unlocks the cage. Then the man reaches into the wooden coop, his back to the entrance. “Now!” At its own cue, the chicken scurries towards the opening and exits unseen. With a backwards glance at his friends, the chicken feels a profound sadness and pity for their ignorance. It wants to urge them to open their eyes, to see what they are sacrificing for materialistic pleasures, but he knows they will not surrender the false reality. Alone, the chicken dashes away.
The chicken stands at the line between green grass and black gravel. As it prepares to take its first step into the unknown, a monstrous vehicle with 18 wheels made of metal whizzes by, leaving behind a trail of gray exhaust. Once it regains its breath, it moves a few inches onto the asphalt. Three more speeding trucks stop its chicken heart.
“I can’t do this,” it says to itself. “These monsters are a sign. They’re telling me to go back. Besides, a few lost chicks aren’t so bad. The man’s not that evil. He gives us food, and a home.”
But the chicken dismisses the cowardly voice in its head, reminding itself of the injustice back in the deceptively charming prison. Over the next several hours, it learns to strategically position itself so that it is in line with the empty space between the tires of passing trucks. It reaches the yellow dashes. A black blanket gradually pushes away the glowing sun and replaces it with diamond stars and a glowing crescent. It reaches the untouched field.
With a deep breath, the chicken steps into the swathe, a world of tall beige grass made brown by the darkness. Unsure of what it may discover, it determines to simply walk straight through the brush, out on to the other side. For what seems like forever, it continues forward, as the black sky turns to purple, then blue, then pink. Just as the chicken begins to regret its journey, the grass gives way to a vast landscape of trees, bushes, flowers--heterogeneous and variable, but nonetheless perfect. In a nearby tree, the chicken spots two adult birds tending to a nest of babies--a natural dynamic of individuals unaltered by corrupt influence.
And then it dawns on him. It has escaped from a contrived and perverted domain as well as its own unawareness; it has arrived in a place where the pure order of the world reigns.
“I know the truth now,” it thinks to himself as the sun rises. “But here, in Nature, it is of no use. Back home, I need to try to foster awareness among my friends, share this understanding with them. Otherwise, I am as cruel as the man in the plaid shirt, taking away the opportunity to overcome ignorance.”
“I must return now; I have to get to the other side.”
For more, here’s a guide to the U Chicago supplemental essays , and an in-depth guide to U Chicago’s extended essay .
We also analyze why we think this essay works in The Complete Guide , Session 6.
The "Rock, Paper, Scissors" UChicago Supplemental Essay Example
Essay written for the University of Chicago prompt, which gives you the option to create your own prompt..
Prompt: Dear Christian, the admissions staff at the University of Chicago would like to inform you that your application has been “put on the line.” We have one spot left and can’t decide if we should admit you or another equally qualified applicant. To resolve the matter, please choose one of the following:
Rock, paper, or scissors.
You will be notified of our decision shortly.
Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors? What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?
Maybe it’s all a metaphor for larger ideals. Perhaps paper is rooted in the symbolism of diplomacy while rock suggests coercion. But does compromise necessarily trump brute force? And where do scissors lie in this chain of symbolism?
I guess the reasoning behind this game has a lot to do with context. If we are to rationalize the logic behind this game, we have to assume some kind of narrative, an instance in which paper might beat rock. Unfortunately, I can’t argue for a convincing one.
As with rock-paper-scissors, we often cut our narratives short to make the games we play easier, ignoring the intricate assumptions that keep the game running smoothly. Like rock-paper-scissors, we tend to accept something not because it’s true, but because it’s the convenient route to getting things accomplished. We accept incomplete narratives when they serve us well, overlooking their logical gaps. Other times, we exaggerate even the smallest defects and uncertainties in narratives we don’t want to deal with. In a world where we know very little about the nature of “Truth,” it’s very easy—and tempting—to construct stories around truth claims that unfairly legitimize or delegitimize the games we play.
Or maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing...
Fine. I’ll stop with the semantics and play your game.
But who actually wants to play a game of rock-paper-scissors? After all, isn’t it just a game of random luck, requiring zero skill and talent? That’s no way to admit someone!
Studies have shown that there are winning strategies to rock-paper-scissors by making critical assumptions about those we play against before the round has even started. Douglas Walker, host of the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships (didn’t know that existed either), conducted research indicating that males will use rock as their opening move 50% of the time, a gesture Walker believes is due to rock’s symbolic association with strength and force. In this sense, the seemingly innocuous game of rock-paper-scissors has revealed something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society. Why did so many males think that brute strength was the best option? If social standards have subliminally influenced the way males and females play rock-paper-scissors, than what is to prevent such biases from skewing more important decisions? Should your decision to go to war or to feed the hungry depend on your gender, race, creed, etc?
Perhaps the narratives I spoke of earlier, the stories I mistakenly labeled as “semantics,” carry real weight in our everyday decisions. In the case of Walker’s study, men unconsciously created an irrational narrative around an abstract rock. We all tell slightly different narratives when we independently consider notions ranging from rocks to war to existence. It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces. In order for the “life of the mind” to be a worthwhile endeavor, we must challenge the unconscious narratives we attach to the larger games we play—the truths we tell (or don’t tell), the lessons we learn (or haven’t really learned), the people we meet (or haven’t truly met).
But even after all of this, we still don’t completely understand the narrative behind rock-paper-scissors.
I guess it all comes down to who actually made this silly game in the first place... I’d like to think it was some snotty 3rd grader, but then again, that’s just another incomplete narrative.
U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example
The "east meets west" example essay.
This was written for the U. of Michigan supplemental "community" essay prompt, then adapted for a (no longer existent) essay for Brown. The Michigan prompt reads:
Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.
Here's the essay:
I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. On a desk in the left corner, a framed picture of an Asian family is beaming their smiles, buried among US history textbooks and The Great Gatsby. A Korean ballad streams from a pair of tiny computer speakers. Pamphlets of American colleges are scattered about on the floor. A cold December wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. On the wall in the far back, a Korean flag hangs besides a Led Zeppelin poster.
Do I consider myself Korean or American?
A few years back, I would have replied: “Neither.” The frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the Korean or American table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis.
Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place. Sure, I held a Korean passport in my hands, and I loved kimchi and Yuna Kim and knew the Korean Anthem by heart. But I also loved macaroni and cheese and LeBron and knew all the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs by heart. Deep inside, I feared that I would simply be labeled as what I am categorized at airport customs: a foreigner in all places.
This ambiguity of existence, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. Take a look at my dorm room. This mélange of cultures in my East-meets-West room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life.
I have learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities in this diverse community that I am blessed to be a part of.
Now, I can proudly answer: “Both.”
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Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog
"Way to tell it like it is, Ivy Coach" - The Dartmouth
Famous College Essay
NYU received what would become the most famous college essay many years ago.
We’ve never written about this essay on our college admissions blog before. But we figured…why not? If one were to ask us what is the most famous college essay ever written, we know the answer hands down. It’s this NYU applicant’s essay from many, many years ago. To this day, it remains well known in the highly selective college admissions community. But, today, we’d like to discuss it. Look, it’s extremely well written. Rarely — and we mean rarely — have we seen students with this kind of writing ability. Did we say rarely yet? Because we do mean rarely. And it’s quite funny. The guy can make 30-minute brownies in 20 minutes.
And while it was a great essay at the time and the writer definitely has a sense of humor, we strongly discourage students from writing essays in this style. For one, every single admissions officer — from the ones who are first out of college to the veterans of the departments — will know from where you’re taking inspiration. Also, this essay is kind of mocking the entire college admissions process. The writer is essentially saying that he has done all of these amazing things in life and he hasn’t even yet gone to college. Sure, it’s written tongue in cheek but, at the end of the day, the essay says little about the actual applicant. Because, presumably, little or none of it is true. That’s the whole point.
Look, this was a great essay all of those years ago. There’s a reason it’s a famous essay. What we’re saying is don’t even think about taking inspiration from it or writing anything stylistically similar because that is not a good idea for you. Here’s the essay:
“I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.
Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing. I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook 30-minute brownies in 20 minutes.
I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello. I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire.
I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life, but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven.
I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But, I have not yet gone to college.”
What do you think about this college essay? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you! Oh, and if you’re a rising high school senior, now is the time when you should be working on your college essays . So contact us today to get started!
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Categories: College Essays
Tags: Famous College Essay , Famous NYU Essay , Famous University Essay , Most Famous College Essay , Well Known College Essay
Was the guy accepted into the college?
Yes, he applied to NYU for Creative Writing, they’d have to be mental not to accept this work of art
NYU doesn’t have a Creative Writing major.
That is not relevant to this student’s essay. Who said he applied (decades ago) as a creative writing major?
This is bold and hilarious. Good for him for taking a risk! (and it paying off)
The essay actually does say a lot about him. It shows he is witty, cynical, funny, and creative. It also shows that he is brave, because he is not afraid to break the conventions of a typical college essay. The rest of his application would have said what clubs he was in, his grades, and the rest of the things most people talk about in their essays. I agree that it would likely be obvious if a student were to emulate this style exactly, but claiming the essay “says little about the applicant” is rather naive.
Spot-on. 99% of 2019 guidance counselors would have cautioned him against using this essay at all…short-sighted. You learn more about this writer from this piece than any boring “list-essay” I see today.
Yes. But taking this much of a leap outside the norm is either an extraordinary success or a miserable embarrassment. He was lucky it was the former.
This is a funny read, very clever and just entertaining! If you asked a college coach or anyone else if you should submit this essay, they would say no!!! Maybe he had an equally amazing gpa and perfect sat scores etc….and he had room to take a risk!
The kind of essay, you would submit only as a lark to your dream school.
I can’t believe actually laughed out loud in the middle of Starbucks while reading this…
This reminds me of the movie, Love in the afternoon, with Audrey Hepburn, where she pretends to have all her father’s clients, her father being a detective, as boyfriends,
The key to this essay is the word “But”.
Which says, “I have done all of these things, I am Superman”. BUT. One thing is missing and that is what I want most despite all the above. That is NYU. ”
It places NYU above everything.
If the essay had ended with “And I have not got to college”, it would have been arrogant. This is pure genius.
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14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2022–2023)
College essay examples from students accepted to harvard, stanford, and other elite schools.
REVIEWING SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLES CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR ODDS OF ACCEPTANCE
Responding effectively to college essay prompts is quite different from other essay writing. The combined challenge of addressing a question in an interesting way while staying focused and making yourself stand out, all within a limited number of words, is something that students struggle with every year. With a wide variety of prompts used by each school, alongside the Common App essays , it can be overwhelming to write strong, memorable essays.
However, there are some standard practices that will help elevate your essay:
Directly address any questions the prompt asks. Many essay prompts will ask you to write about extracurricular experiences in your life or to list interests such as your favorite movies or music. Be sure to include the answer to any questions and don't get distracted while providing context or other extra information.
Use specific information. Make sure to mention the specific volunteer program you worked at or the name of your favorite instructor from your summer STEM camp. While it's important not to overburden your essay with small details, peppering in a few specifics will highlight what's important to you both academically and personally.
Create a narrative. Just like with any story or news article, you want to start your essays with a good hook. Setting the stage for your experiences, including anecdotes to drive home a point, or carrying a thematic element throughout your essay will help keep the reader interested and will show off your creativity.
Reuse material. There’s no reason to write completely new essays for every school you’re applying to. Many schools ask the same questions with slightly different wording, like the commonly used “diversity essay” which essentially asks how you contribute and benefit from diversity. With some editing, a single essay could answer multiple prompts — and cut down on your stress!
Here are some example essays from some of the thousands of students we've helped get accepted to their dream school.
Note: Some personally identifying details have been changed.
College essay example #1
This is a college essay that worked for Harvard University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Harvard Undergrad )
This past summer, I had the privilege of participating in the University of Notre Dame’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program . Under the mentorship of Professor Wendy Bozeman and Professor Georgia Lebedev from the department of Biological Sciences, my goal this summer was to research the effects of cobalt iron oxide cored (CoFe2O3) titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles as a scaffold for drug delivery, specifically in the delivery of a compound known as curcumin, a flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory effects. As a high school student trying to find a research opportunity, it was very difficult to find a place that was willing to take me in, but after many months of trying, I sought the help of my high school biology teacher, who used his resources to help me obtain a position in the program.
Using equipment that a high school student could only dream of using, I was able to map apoptosis (programmed cell death) versus necrosis (cell death due to damage) in HeLa cells, a cervical cancer line, after treating them with curcumin-bound nanoparticles. Using flow cytometry to excite each individually suspended cell with a laser, the scattered light from the cells helped to determine which cells were living, had died from apoptosis or had died from necrosis. Using this collected data, it was possible to determine if the curcumin and/or the nanoparticles had played any significant role on the cervical cancer cells. Later, I was able to image cells in 4D through con-focal microscopy. From growing HeLa cells to trying to kill them with different compounds, I was able to gain the hands-on experience necessary for me to realize once again why I love science.
Living on the Notre Dame campus with other REU students, UND athletes, and other summer school students was a whole other experience that prepared me for the world beyond high school. For 9 weeks, I worked, played and bonded with the other students, and had the opportunity to live the life of an independent college student.
Along with the individually tailored research projects and the housing opportunity, there were seminars on public speaking, trips to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and one-on-one writing seminars for the end of the summer research papers we were each required to write. By the end of the summer, I wasn’t ready to leave the research that I was doing. While my research didn’t yield definitive results for the effects of curcumin on cervical cancer cells, my research on curcumin-functionalized CoFe2O4/TiO2 core-shell nanoconjugates indicated that there were many unknown factors affecting the HeLa cells, and spurred the lab to expand their research into determining whether or not the timing of the drug delivery mattered and whether or not the position of the binding site of the drugs would alter the results. Through this summer experience, I realized my ambition to pursue a career in research. I always knew that I would want to pursue a future in science, but the exciting world of research where the discoveries are limitless has captured my heart. This school year, the REU program has offered me a year-long job, and despite my obligations as a high school senior preparing for college, I couldn’t give up this offer, and so during this school year, I will be able to further both my research and interest in nanotechnology.
College essay example #2
This student was admitted to Harvard University.
I believe that humans will always have the ability to rise above any situation, because life is what you make of it. We don’t know what life is or why we are in this world; all we know, all we feel, is that we must protect it anyway we can. Buddha said it clearly: “Life is suffering.” Life is meant to be challenging, and really living requires consistent work and review. By default, life is difficult because we must strive to earn happiness and success.
Yet I've realized that life is fickler than I had imagined; it can disappear or change at any time. Several of my family members left this world in one last beating symphony; heart attacks seem to be a trend in my family. They left like birds; laughing one minute and in a better place the next.
Steve Jobs inspired me, when in his commencement address to Stanford University in 2005, he said "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma--which is living with the results of other people's thinking." I want to make mistakes, because that is how I learn; I want to follow the beat of my own drum even if it is "out of tune." The important thing is to live without regrets, so when my heart ceases to beat, it will make one last happy note and move on.
I want to live my life daily. Every day I want to live. Every morning when I wake up, I want to be excited by the gift of a new day. I know I am being idealistic and young, and that my philosophy on life is comparable to a calculus limit; I will never reach it. But I won't give up on it because, I can still get infinitely close and that is amazing.
Every day is an apology to my humanity; because I am not perfect, I get to try again and again to "get it right." I breathe the peace of eternity, knowing that this stage is temporary; real existence is continuous. The hourglass of life incessantly trickles on and we are powerless to stop it.
So, I will forgive and forget, love and inspire, experience and satire, laugh and cry, accomplish and fail, live and die. This is how I want to live my life, with this optimistic attitude that every day is a second chance. All the time, we have the opportunity to renew our perspective on life, to correct our mistakes, and to simply move on. Like the phoenix I will continue to rise from the ashes, experienced and renewed. I will not waste time for my life is already in flux.
In all its splendor The Phoenix rises In a burst of orange and yellow It soars in the baby blue sky Heading to that Great Light Baptized in the dance of time Fearless, eternal, beautiful It releases a breathtaking aurora And I gasp at the enormity
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College essay example #3
This is a college essay that worked for Duke University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Duke )
As soon as the patient room door opened, the worst stench I have ever encountered hit me square in the face. Though I had never smelled it before, I knew instinctively what it was: rotting flesh. A small, elderly woman sat in a wheelchair, dressed in a hospital gown and draped in blankets from the neck down with only her gauze-wrapped right leg peering out from under the green material. Dr. Q began unwrapping the leg, and there was no way to be prepared for what I saw next: gangrene-rotted tissue and blackened, dead toes.
Never before had I seen anything this gruesome–as even open surgery paled in comparison. These past two years of shadowing doctors in the operating room have been important for me in solidifying my commitment to pursue medicine, but this situation proved that time in the operating room alone did not quite provide a complete, accurate perspective of a surgeon’s occupation. Doctors in the operating room are calm, cool, and collected, making textbook incisions with machine-like, detached precision. It is a profession founded solely on skill and technique–or so I thought. This grisly experience exposed an entirely different side of this profession I hope to pursue.
Feeling the tug of nausea in my stomach, I forced my gaze from the terrifying wound onto the hopeful face of the ailing woman, seeking to objectively analyze the situation as Dr. Q was struggling to do himself. Slowly and with obvious difficulty, Dr. Q explained that an infection this severe calls for an AKA: Above the Knee Amputation. In the slow, grave silence that ensued, I reflected on how this desperate patient’s very life rests in the hands of a man who has dedicated his entire life to making such difficult decisions as these. I marveled at the compassion in Dr. Q’s promise that this aggressive approach would save the woman’s life. The patient wiped her watery eyes and smiled a long, sad smile. “I trust you, Doc. I trust you.” She shook Dr. Q’s hand, and the doctor and I left the room.
Back in his office, Dr. Q addressed my obvious state of contemplation: “This is the hardest part about what we do as surgeons,” he said, sincerely. “We hurt to heal, and often times people cannot understand that. However, knowing that I’m saving lives every time I operate makes the stress completely worth it.”
Suddenly, everything fell into place for me. This completely different perspective broadened my understanding of the surgical field and changed my initial perception of who and what a surgeon was. I not only want to help those who are ill and injured, but also to be entrusted with difficult decisions the occupation entails. Discovering that surgery is also a moral vocation beyond the generic application of a trained skill set encouraged me. I now understand surgeons to be much more complex practitioners of medicine, and I am certain that this is the field for me.
College essay example #4
This is a supplemental essay that worked for Stanford University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Stanford Undergrad and How to Ace the Stanford Roommate Essay )
In most conventional classrooms, we are taught to memorize material. We study information to regurgitate it on a test and forget it the following day. I thought this was learning. But this past summer, I realized I was wrong.
I attended the SPK Program, a five-week enrichment program with New Jersey’s best and brightest students. I lived on a college campus with 200 students and studied a topic. I selected Physical Science. On the first day of class, our teacher set a box on the table and poured water into the top, and nothing came out. Then, he poured more water in, and everything slowly came out. We were told to figure out what had happened with no phones or textbooks, just our brains. We worked together to discover in the box was a siphon, similar to what is used to pump gas. We spent the next weeks building solar ovens, studying the dynamic of paper planes, diving into the content of the speed of light and space vacuums, among other things. We did this with no textbooks, flashcards, or information to memorize.
During those five weeks, we were not taught impressive terminology or how to ace the AP Physics exam. We were taught how to think. More importantly, we were taught how to think together. Learning is not memorization or a competition. Learning is working together to solve the problems around us and better our community. To me, learning is the means to a better future, and that’s exciting.
College essay example #5
This is a college essay that worked for University of Pennsylvania (UPenn).
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into UPenn )
When I was thirteen and visiting Liberia, I contracted what turned out to be yellow fever. I met with the local doctor, but he couldn’t make a diagnosis simply because he didn't have access to blood tests and because symptoms such as “My skin feels like it’s on fire” matched many tropical diseases. Luckily, my family managed to drive me several hours away to an urban hospital, where I was treated. Yellow fever shouldn’t be fatal, but in Africa it often is. I couldn’t believe that such a solvable issue could be so severe at the time—so I began to explore.
The exploration led me to the African Disease Prevention Project (ADPP), a non-profit organization associated with several universities. I decided to create the first high school branch of the organization; I liked its unique way of approaching health and social issues. Rather than just raising money and channeling it through third parties, each branch “adopts” one village and travels there to provide for its basic needs. As branch president, I organize events from small stands at public gatherings to 60-person dinner fundraisers in order to raise both money and awareness. I’ve learned how to encourage my peers to meet deadlines, to work around 30 different schedules at once, and to give presentations convincing people why my organization is worth their donation. But overall, ADPP has taught me that small changes can have immense impacts. My branch has helped raise almost $3,000 to build water sanitation plants, construct medical clinics, and develop health education programs in the small village of Zwedru. And the effect doesn’t stop there—by improving one area, our efforts permeate into neighboring villages as they mimic the lifestyle changes that they observe nearby—simple things, like making soap available—can have a big effect. The difference between ADPP and most other organizations is its emphasis on the basics and making changes that last. Working towards those changes to solve real life problems is what excites me.
I found that the same idea of change through simple solutions also rang true during my recent summer internship at Dr. Martin Warner’s lab at UCLA. Dr. Martin’s vision involves using already available digital technologies to improve the individualization of healthcare. By using a person’s genome to tailor a treatment for them or using someone’s personal smartphone as a mobile-monitor to remotely diagnose symptoms, everyday technology is harnessed to make significant strides forward. At the lab, I focused on parsing through medical databases and writing programs that analyze cancerous genomes to find relationships between certain cancers and drugs. My analysis resulted in a database of information that physicians can use to prescribe treatments for their patients’ unique cancerous mutations. Now, a pancreatic cancer patient does not need to be the “guinea-pig” for a prototype drug to have a shot at survival: a doctor can choose the best treatment by examining the patient individually instead of relying on population-wide trends. For the first time in my science career, my passion was going to have an immediate effect on other people, and to me, that was enthralling. Dr. Martin’s lab and his book, Digital Healthcare: A New Age of Medicine, have shown me that changing something as simple as how we treat a disease can have a huge impact. I have found that the search for the holy grail of a “cure for cancer” is problematic as nobody knows exactly what it is or where to look—but we can still move forward without it.
Working with Project ADPP and participating in medical research have taught me to approach problems in a new way. Whether it’s a complex genetic disease or a tropical fever, I’ve found that taking small steps often is the best approach. Finding those steps and achieving them is what gets me excited and hungry to explore new solutions in the future.
College essay example #6
This student was admitted to UC Berkeley .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into UC Berkeley and How to Write Great UC Essays )
The phenomenon of interdependency, man depending on man for survival, has shaped centuries of human civilization. However, I feel, the youth of today are slowly disconnecting from their community. For the past few years, human connection has intrigued me and witnessing the apathy of my peers has prompted me to engage in various leadership positions in order to motivate them to complete community service and become active members of society.
Less than a year before ninth grade began, my cousin and close friend passed away from cancer, and in the hodge-podge of feelings, I did not emotionally deal with either death. However, a simple tale helped me deal with these deaths and take action.
I was never fully aware of how closely humans rely upon each other until I read The Fall of Freddy the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia in freshman year. The allegory is about a leaf that changes with the seasons, finally dying in the winter, realizing that his purpose was to help the tree thrive. After reading it, I was enlightened on the cycle of life and realized the tremendous impact my actions had on others.
Last year, I joined the American Cancer Society‘s Relay for Life, a twenty-four-hour relay walk-a-thon designed to raise funds for cancer research and create awareness about its early detection. I started a team at school, gathered thirty students and chaperones, and raised $800 for the cause. I watched as each student created friendships with other students on our team and members of the Phoenix community. This year, I let a team in the relay for life again with the schoolwide team of 95 members, and we raised $2,900 for the cure for cancer. At first the group leader ship consisted of only my advisor in me; however, I gained the support of the administrators. I spent well over an hour a day preparing for the event, and it was all worth it!
The Sonora Eagles were students of different grade levels, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational ability. We joked and played football while volunteering. The most important moment occurred during the night’s luminaria ceremony, during which cancer patients of the past and present were commemorated. Our whole team gathered around, and I asked people to share how they have been affected by cancer. As I went through the crowd, their faces illuminated by candlelight, their cheeks were wet with cleansing tears, I realize the impact I had on them, the purpose I was fulfilling; but most importantly, I realized the impact they had had on me. The Sonora Eagles were my means for dealing with the death of my loved ones to cancer.
The theme for relay for life is a hope for a cure. Through this experience as a leader, I have come to realize, as a community, we hope together, we dream together, we work together, and we succeed together. This is the phenomenon of interdependency, the interconnectedness of life, the pivotal reason for human existence. I have continued this momentum by starting a Sonora High School chapter of American Cancer Society Youth, a club dedicated to youth involvement and several aspects of the American Cancer Society, including the recent Arizona Proposition 45.
Each one of us leaves find a legacy as we for fill our purpose in life. I believe my purpose as a student is to encourage others to become active community members and motivate them to reach new heights. As a student of the University of California, I will contribute my understanding of the human condition and student motivation to help strengthen student relationships within the campus and throughout the community.
College essay example #7
This is a college essay that worked for Cornell University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Cornell )
My fingers know instinctively, without a thought. They turn the dial, just as they have hundreds of times before, until a soft, metallic click echoes into my eardrum and triggers their unconscious stop. I exultantly thrust open my locker door, exposing its deepest bowels candidly to the wide halls of the high school. The bright lights shine back, brashly revealing every crevice, nook, and cranny, gleaming across its scintillating, bare surfaces. On this first day of senior year, I set out upon my task. I procure an ordinary plastic grocery bag from my backpack. The contents inside collectively represent everything about me in high school – they tell a story, one all about me.
I reach in and let my fingers trail around the surfaces of each object. I select my first prey arbitrarily, and as I raise my hand up to eye level, I closely examine this chosen one. A miniature Flamenco dancer stares back at me from the confines of the 3-D rectangular magnet, half popping out as if willing herself to come to life. Instantly, my mind transports me back a few summers before, when I tapped my own heels to traditional music in Spain. I am reminded of my thirst to travel, to explore new cultures utterly different from my familiar home in Modesto, California. I have experienced study abroad in Spain, visited my father’s hometown in China five times, and traveled to many other places such as Paris. As a result, I have developed a restlessness inside me, a need to move on from four years in the same high school, to take advantage of diverse opportunities whenever possible, and to meet interesting people.
I take out the next magnet from my plastic bag. This one shows a panoramic view of the city of Santa Barbara, California. Here, I recall spending six weeks in my glory, not only studying and learning, but actually pursuing new knowledge to add to the repertoire of mankind. I could have easily chosen to spend my summer lazing about; in fact, my parents tried to persuade me into taking a break. Instead, I chose to do advanced molecular biology research at Stanford University. I wanted to immerse myself in my passion for biology and dip into the infinitely rich possibilities of my mind. This challenge was so rewarding to me, while at the same time I had the most fun of my life, because I was able to live with people who shared the same kind of drive and passion as I did.
After sticking up my magnets on the locker door, I ran my fingers across the bottom of the bag, and I realized that one remained. It was a bold, black square, with white block letters proclaiming my motto, “Live the Life You Imagine.” In my four years at Cornell University, I will certainly continue to live life as I imagine, adding my own flavor to the Cornell community, while taking away invaluable experiences of my own.
College essay example #8
This student was admitted to Northwestern University .
As I sip a mug of hot chocolate on a dreary winter’s day, I am already planning in my mind what I will do the next summer. I briefly ponder the traditional routes, such as taking a job or spending most of the summer at the beach. However, I know that I want to do something unique. I am determined to even surpass my last summer, in which I spent one month with a host family in Egypt and twelve days at a leadership conference in New York City The college courses I have taken at Oregon State University since the summer after 7th grade will no longer provide the kind of challenge I seek.
Six months later, I step off the airplane to find myself surrounded by palm trees, with a view of the open-air airport. I chuckle to myself about the added bonus of good weather, but I know I have come to Palo Alto, California, with a much higher purpose in mind. I will spend six weeks here in my glory, not only studying and learning, but actually pursuing new knowledge to add to the repertoire of mankind. Through the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program, I will earn college credit by conducting original molecular biology research, writing my own research paper, and presenting my findings in a research symposium.
I decided to spend my summer doing research because I knew that I liked scientific thought, and that I would passionately throw myself into any new challenge. I always want to know more – to probe deeper into the laws of the universe, to explore the power and beauty of nature, to solve the most complicated problems. I have an insatiable curiosity and a desire to delve deeper down in the recesses of my intellect. At the Summer Research Program, I found out how much I enjoy thinking critically, solving problems, and applying my knowledge to the real world.
While pursuing research in California, I was also able to meet many similarly motivated, interesting people from across the United States and abroad. As I learned about their unique lifestyles, I also shared with them the diverse perspectives I have gained from my travel abroad and my Chinese cultural heritage. I will never forget the invaluable opportunity I had to explore California along with these bright people.
I could have easily chosen to spend that summer the traditional way; in fact, my parents even tried to persuade me into taking a break. Instead, I chose to do molecular biology research at Stanford University. I wanted to immerse myself in my passion for biology and dip into the infinitely rich possibilities of my mind. This challenge was so rewarding to me, while at the same time I had the most fun of my life, because I was able to live with people who share the same kind of drive and passion as I do.
College essay example #9
When I turned twelve, my stepdad turned violent. He became a different person overnight, frequently getting into fights with my mom. I didn’t deal with it well, often crying to my mom’s disappointment, afraid that my life would undo itself in a matter of seconds. You might say that my upbringing was characterized by my parents morphing everyday objects into weapons and me trying to morph into the perfect white walls that stood unmoving while my family fell apart.
This period in my life is not a sob story, but rather, the origin story of my love of writing. During a fight once, my stepdad left the house to retrieve a baseball bat from his truck. He didn’t use it, but I’ll never forget the fear that he would, how close he’d gotten. And in that moment, I did not cry as I was prone to do, but I pulled out a book, and experienced a profound disappearance, one that would always make me associate reading with escapism and healing.
Soon I came to write, filling up loose ruled paper with words, writing in the dark when we didn’t have money to pay for electricity. And as I got older, I began to think that there must be others who were going through this, too. I tried to find them. I created an anonymous blog that centered what it meant for a teenager to find joy even as her life was in shambles. In this blog I kept readers updated with what I was learning, nightly yoga to release tension from the day and affirmations in the morning to counter the shame that was mounting as a result of witnessing weekly my inability to make things better at home.
At that time, I felt uncertain about who I was because I was different online than I was at home or even at school where I was editor of my high school literary journal. It took me a while to understand that I was not the girl who hid in the corner making herself small; I was the one who sought to connect with others who were dealing with the same challenges at home, thinking that maybe in our isolation we could come together. I was able to make enough from my blog to pay some bills in the house and give my mom the courage to kick my stepfather out. When he exited our home, I felt a wind go through it, the house exhaling a giant sigh of relief.
I know this is not the typical background of most students. Sharing my story with like-minded teens helped me understand what I have to offer: my perspective, my unrelenting optimism. Because even as I’ve seen the dark side of what people are capable of, I have also been a star witness to joy and love. I do not experience despair for long because I know that this is just one chapter in a long novel, one that will change the hearts of those who come across it. And I can’t wait to see how it will end.
College essay example #10
This student was accepted at Yale University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Yale )
I was a straight A student until I got to high school, where my calm evenings cooking dinner for my siblings turned into hours watching videos, followed by the frantic attempt to finish homework around 4 am. When I got an F on a chemistry pop quiz my mom sat me down to ask me what was happening. I told her I couldn’t focus or keep track of all my materials for classes. I thought she would call me lazy, accuse me of wasting the gift of being an American that she and my father gave me. Instead, she looked around at the walls covered in sticky notes, the index cards scattered on the computer desk, the couch, the table, and she said, “How are your friends managing it?”
It turned out while my peers were struggling to juggle the demands of high school it didn’t seem like they were working as hard to complete simple tasks. They only had to put things in a planner, not make sure the deadlines were placed in multiple locations, physical and digital. At my next doctor’s appointment my mom mentioned that I had a learning problem, but the doctor shook his head and said that I didn’t seem to have ADHD. I was just procrastinating, it’s natural.
My mom took off from her grocery store job to take me to two more appointments to ask about ADHD, the term the doctor had used, but other doctors were not willing to listen. I had As in every class except for World Literature. But I knew something was wrong. After our third doctor visit, I worked with the librarian after school to sift through research on ADHD and other learning disabilities until we came across the term executive functioning. Armed with knowledge, we went to a new doctor, and before my mom could insist that we get testing or get referred to a specialist, the doctor handed us a signed referral. She asked me about the folder in my hand. I told her it was full of my research. My mom mentioned that some doctors had refused to refer us to a specialist because my grades were too high. “It’s because we’re Asian,” she added.
I was shocked at this revelation. The last three doctors had mumbled something about grades but had never said a thing about race. Before I could deny it fervently, the doctor, who was from Taiwan, nodded sympathetically. She said it’s common to miss learning disabilities among different races due to biases. And some adolescents learn to mask symptoms by building systems. “You don’t have to prove anything to me. I believe you should get tested.” My mom thanked her fervently and the doctor said to her, “She’s going to be a great lawyer.”
The semester following the confirmation of my learning disability diagnosis was challenging to say the least. My school switched me out of all of my IB courses to “accommodate my special needs,” and I went back to the library, working with the librarian with numerous index cards and stacks of books to make a case for discrimination. The librarian, who had become my close confidante, introduced me to an academic tutor who specialized in learning disabilities and taught me skills like using redundancy and time management to make it easier for me to grapple with moving parts. He noted that with ADHD, the problem wasn’t always the inability to focus but rather the difficulty focusing without adequate perceived reward. It wasn’t that I was not capable but that I had to make myself sufficiently interested or reiterate why something mattered. This reframe changed my life, and when I came back to the library with my new schedule in hand, the most advanced courses my school had to offer, the librarian said, “You’re going to make a great lawyer.”
I smiled and said, “I’ve heard that before.”
College essay example #11
This student was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania.
My brother and I are exactly one year and one day apart. We look like twins — people confuse us — but we couldn’t be any more different. As children we wore the same clothes, received the same haircut. By the time we got to middle school it was clear that my older brother preferred quiet, indoor activities, while I was a born performer who preferred the theatrical, even when off stage. I took his relative silence to be disinterest and found it offensive. To the chagrin of my parents, we simply didn’t get along.
I didn’t mind having a tense relationship with my brother because I was involved at school. In particular I delved into the world of musical theater in addition to regularly singing solos at our high school choir concerts. I spent hours after school preparing for shows. And when I came home, I practiced as well, falling into a rigorous routine I thought I needed to remain at my best and be competitive for parts.
My bedroom was far enough from my parents so as not to disturb them, but space to practice became an issue with my brother because, well, we shared a room. Imagine him meditating on a window seat while I am belting, trying to sustain a high note. Needless to say, this created tension between us. From my point of view he could have meditated in the living room or while I was at practice, but he wasn’t willing to budge. From his point of view, high school was hard enough without the constant sound of Glee arrangements.
At the start of the semester, I practiced “Circle of Life” for a concert audition. While I could sing it fine in its original key, I had a hard time singing it along with the music because the arrangement of the song we were working on had a key change that was out of my range. I couldn’t change key without my voice cracking as I switched to a head voice. This was the first time I struggled to learn a song, and I was a week from the audition. I was irritable in that period and stopped practicing, declaring I had reached the height of my singing career. My brother experiencing quiet when I got home for the first time in years.
After a couple days of this, when I got home, he asked me to join him in meditation. And feeling my anger at my inability to navigate this song gracefully, I did. It was difficult at first. I was trying to clear my head. Later my brother told me that wasn’t the point. When your mind drifts away, you simply come back, no judgment. I liked the sound of that, and it became my new philosophy. I kept trying at the song, no longer getting angry at myself, and just in time for the audition I was able to maintain power in my voice despite the key change. It was important for me to learn you don’t have to always get everything right the first time and that good things come with continual effort. As for my brother, we no longer argue. I now understand why he prefers the quiet.
College essay example #12
This student was admitted to Brown University .
(Suggested reading: How to Get Into Brown )
My parents are aerospace engineers, humble even as their work helps our society explore new frontiers. They believe that you make a stand through the work that you do, not what you say. This is what they taught me. This is what I believed until my sophomore year when I was confronted with a moment where I could not stay quiet.
I live outside of a major city in a small, rural town that’s majority white but for a small South Asian population. My high school wasn’t diverse by any standards. Some students were openly the children of skinheads. After a racist exchange with a student who insulted her and refused to sit at the same lunch table, my best friend, who was Muslim, did not stand for the pledge of allegiance in homeroom the next day.
I hadn’t heard about the encounter that sparked this move on her part and was surprised when she didn’t stand up beside me, hand against her heart, mouth chanting an oath. She hadn’t mentioned any mounting discomfort to me, nor had I noticed anything. Unlike my “patriotic” peers, I was less upset by her refusal to stand up for the pledge of allegiance and more upset that she didn’t share with me that she was hurting and what she was going to do to protest how she was treated because of her beliefs and the color of her skin.
She was suspended for insubordination and when I called her, she said that surely in this situation I might find a way to think of more than my own feelings. I felt ashamed. It didn’t even occur to me to seek to understand what was behind her decision in the first place. I apologized, asking how to best support her. She said it was just important that I listen and understand that she could not thrive in an environment that promoted sameness. She spoke to me with a vulnerability I had never heard before. At the end of our conversation, I apologized profusely. She said she did not need my words and what she needed from me was to take a stand.
This was the opposite of the belief my parents drilled in me. I felt conflicted at first, as if by speaking about the situation I was doing something wrong. However, my friend had to deal with a reality that I did not. And perhaps taking a stand would allow my institution and everyone in it to learn to be a more inclusive space for everyone. Maybe there was a way to take a stand and to do the necessary work to change things.
I started a petition with my friend’s permission to end her suspension and to take disciplinary action instead on the student who had taken racist actions in the first place. Of the 1000 students at my high school, over 200 signed, a number that far exceeded my expectation. When I shared the results with my friend, she said to me, “Because of who you are, you will always have supporters. Use your power to do good.”
Since then, I have tried to be more aware that not everyone experiences comfort in the same environments that I do. Rather than assume everyone feels safe and supported, it’s best to create space to listen and to ask how you can be supportive. My friend and I created a club to foster cross-cultural dialogue. In the past year two other clubs of its kind began at other local schools. More than anything I am proud that I have learned to be a better friend and a more thoughtful community member in a way that honors who I am and what I value.
College essay example #13
This is a college essay that worked for Washington University in St. Louis (WashU).
I held my breath as my steady hands gently nestled the crumbly roots of the lettuce plant into the soil trench that I shoveled moments before. Rainwater and sweat dripped from my brow as I meticulously patted and pressed the surrounding earth, stamping the leafy green creature into its new home. After rubbing the gritty soil off of my hands, I looked at Brian, a co-volunteer and nonverbal 20-year-old with autism, who extended his arm for a high-five. In the year that I’ve been working with him, I’ve watched him revel in planting, nurturing, and eventually harvesting his veggies, especially the grape tomatoes, which we enjoy eating fresh off the vine! Upon walking to the next row of hollowed cavities, we were not contemplating the lengthy work that lay ahead, but rather, we sought to liberate the helpless lettuces, imprisoned in produce cartons that were too small for them to grow in. Finally, after taking a step back to admire the day’s last plant, my chest swelled as a wave of contentment flushed through my body.
My love for gardening began when I moved to Georgia during my sophomore year. In the time I’ve spent learning how to garden, I’ve developed an affinity for watching my vegetables grow to maturity, eager to be harvested and sold at the Saturday market. Though many see gardening as tedious busywork, I find it meditative, as I lose track of time while combining peat moss and soil in the garden’s compost mixer. Saturday morning garden work has become a weekend ritual, ridding me of all extraneous responsibilities. My body goes into autopilot as I let my mind wander. I don’t actively focus on focusing, but rather I observe myself internally digest the week’s events. I’m a bystander to fireworks of thought that explode in my mind as my perception of important matters becomes trivial. Sometimes, it’s the physics midterm that suddenly seems less daunting or the deadlines I need to meet for my Spanish project that push back farther. Other times, I contemplate alternative endings to conversations or make perfect sense of the calculus answer that was at the tip of my tongue in class.
I met Brian, a close friend of mine who also basks in the tranquility of nature, through my gardening endeavors. While we aren’t able to communicate verbally, we speak the language of earth, water, peat, and seedlings. He doesn’t speak with words, but his face tells stories of newly found purpose and acceptance, a pleasant contrast to the typical condescension and babying he feels by those who don’t think he’s capable of independent thought.
Throughout my time in the garden with Brian, I began to understand that he, like everyone, has a particular method of communicating. There are the obvious spoken languages, body languages, facial expressions, and interactions we share on a day-to-day basis that reflect who we are and communicate what we represent. Brian expresses himself through various manifestations of unspoken language that he uses to signal how he feels or what he wants. But the nuanced combinations of different methods of communicating are oftentimes overlooked, raising a barrier to mutual understanding that prevents one from being capable of truly connecting with others. I began to understand that in order to reach people, I have to speak in their language, be it verbally or otherwise. Working with Brian over the past year has made me more aware that people can have difficulty expressing themselves. I found that I can positively lead people if I can communicate with them, whether on the track or in my Jewish youth group discussions. As I move into the next phases of my life, I hope to bring these skills with me because, in order to effectuate positive change in my community, I learned that I must speak in the language of those around me. Those are the words Brian taught me.
College essay example #14
This student was accepted at Brown University.
It felt like I threw myself out of a plane without a parachute. My eyes firmly shut, I feared for my life as I plummeted towards the ground. In hindsight, perhaps half coming out at a public restaurant wasn’t the brightest idea. Then again, living as the half-closeted queer kid meant that I was all too familiar with intimidating situations.
I asked my mom: “What would you do if I had a girlfriend?” She instantly replied that she couldn’t understand. Immediately, my heart dropped and the emotional free fall began. She explained that Americans choose to be gay for personal enjoyment, which in my Korean culture is an attitude that is severely frowned upon. I sat there like a statue, motionless and afraid to speak, blindly hurtling towards a hard reality I hadn’t expected. Rejection cut me deeply and I started to feel the itch of tears welling in my eyes, yet I had to contain myself. I couldn’t let the pain seep through my facade or else she would question why I cared. All I could do was keep looking down and shoveling food into my mouth, silently wishing I could just disappear. That night, I realized it would be a long time before I could fully come out to my mom. My eyes tightened as I continued to fall.
In the following weeks, I started noticing how discomfort played a natural part in my life. I recognized the anxious reactions of my classmates as I argued with my Christian friends when they said my queerness is a sin. I observed the judgmental glances my mentors gave me as I passionately disagreed with my conservative lab mates over my sister’s abortion. Eventually, my friends decided to censor certain topics of discussion, trying to avoid these situations altogether. I felt like vulnerability was the new taboo. People’s expressions and actions seemed to confine me, telling me to stop caring so much, to keep my eyes closed as I fall, so they didn’t have to watch.
Had others felt uncomfortable with me in the same way I had felt uncomfortable with my mom? Do they feel that our passions might uncover a chasm into which we all fall, unsure of the outcome?
Perhaps it was too raw , too emotional .
There was something about pure, uncensored passion during conflict that became too real. It made me, and the people around me, vulnerable, which was frightening. It made us think about things we didn’t want to consider, things branded too political, too dangerous. Shielding ourselves in discomfort was simply an easier way of living.
However, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t my comfort, but rather, my discomfort that defined my life. My memories aren’t filled with times where life was simple, but moments where I was conflicted. It is filled with unexpected dinners and unusual conversations where I was uncertain. It is filled with the uncensored versions of my beliefs and the beliefs of others. It is filled with a purity that I shouldn’t have detained.
Now, I look forward to tough conversations with a newfound willingness to learn and listen, with an appreciation for uncertainty. I urge others to explore our discomfort together and embrace the messy emotions that accompany it. I try to make our collective discomfort more navigable. Since that dinner, my relationship with my mother is still in free fall. It’s dangerous and frightening. Thankfully, the potentially perilous conversations I’ve had with my friends has given me a newfound appreciation for my own fear. I’ll admit, part of me still seeks to close my eyes, to hide in the safety I’ll find in silence. Yet, a larger part of me yearns to embrace the dangers around me as I fall through the sky. I may still be falling, but this time, I will open my eyes, and hopefully steer towards a better landing for both my mom and me.
THERE'S NO REASON TO STRUGGLE THROUGH THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROCESS ALONE, ESPECIALLY WITH SO MUCH ON THE LINE. SCHEDULE YOUR COMPLIMENTARY 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION TO ENSURE YOU LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.
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A message promoted in a new Olivia Dunne video has prompted a stern response from her college institution.
Not long after LSU’s superstar gymnast posted a TikTok clip this week in paid partnership with Caktus AI, an artificial intelligence tool with a focus in education, the university issued a statement cautioning the usage of such platforms without calling out specific programs, per reports.
“At LSU, our professors and students are empowered to use technology for learning and pursuing the highest standards of academic integrity,” the statement read, according to The Advocate .
@livvy @caktus.ai will provide real resources for you to cite at the end of your essays and paragraphs;) #caktus #foryou ♬ original sound – Coach
“However, using AI to produce work that a student then represents as one’s own could result in a charge of academic misconduct, as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.”
The video features Dunne — who boasts more than seven million followers on TikTok — using Caktus AI while typing on her laptop before giving the camera a thumbs up.
“Need to get my creativity flowing for my essay due at midnight,” Dunne wrote over the clip, adding, “Caktus.AI >ChatGPT,” in reference to a different AI tool.
Caktus AI describes itself as “the first ever educational artificial intelligence tool,” per its website.
Regarded as one of the most influential college athletes , Dunne has a massive social media following that also expands to Instagram with 3.7 million fans.
The 20-year-old gymnast, who returned to the sport last week after being sidelined with injuries, led the top 10 female NIL moneymakers ranking by On3 Sports in October, based on the company’s proprietary NIL valuation metric that measured athletes by performance, influence and exposure.
Dunne is valued at $2.3 million, per On3 Sports.
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I asked ChatGPT to write college admissions essays and then sent them to expert tutors to review. Read the full essays.
- I got OpenAI's ChatGPT to write some college admissions essays and asked tutors to review them.
- Two experts said they passed for student essays and may have had a shot at less selective colleges.
- Here are two of the essays they reviewed.
I asked OpenAI's ChatGPT to write some college admissions essays and sent them to two expert tutors to review. Both said the essays passed for a real student's work and might even stand up at some less-selective colleges.
Kevin Wong, Princeton University alumnus and cofounder of tutoring service PrepMaven, told Insider he knew of some students that had been admitted to colleges with lower-quality essays than the ones I generated. Adam Nguyen, the founder of tutoring company Ivy Link , said the essays were exemplary of what a very mediocre student would produce.
Both Wong and Nguyen praised the grammar and structure of the essays and criticized the lack of personal experiences and unique feelings. Nguyen called the essays "over-predictable" and they both agreed the essays wouldn't have had a chance at any top universities.
ChatGPT's essays were based on some old questions from the Common App , a widely used application process across the US. At first, the chatbot said it wouldn't write the essays for me, telling me it was "important that the admissions essay reflects the applicant's own thoughts, experiences, and writing style."
However, after prompting it to give me some examples of how I could answer the questions and then asking it to write me a "specific example answer" based on one of these, it generated some full-length essays. The process took around 10 minutes.
Here are two of the essays the tutors reviewed:
1. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
For the first essay, I asked the chatbot to write about an artistic or creative pursuit that consumes my free time and how it has allowed me to express myself. I also asked the bot to use vivid examples to illustrate the points. Here's what I got:
I have always been drawn to photography, but it wasn't until my senior year of high school that I really started to explore the art form. I signed up for a photography class on a whim, and quickly became obsessed with capturing the world around me through my lens.
What I love about photography is that it allows me to see the world in a new way. When I'm out shooting, I am constantly searching for beauty and interest in unexpected places. I find myself drawn to the interplay of light and shadow, the details that others might overlook, and the fleeting moments that can be captured and preserved forever.
As I have delved deeper into the art of photography, I have also found that it provides a powerful outlet for self-expression. Through my photos, I am able to convey my thoughts and feelings in a way that words alone cannot. When I'm behind the camera, I feel a sense of creative freedom and possibility that I haven't found in any other medium.
One project that I'm particularly proud of is a series of portraits that I took of my friends and family. I wanted to capture their personalities and essence in a way that was both honest and beautiful. I spent hours experimenting with lighting, posing, and composition to create images that felt true to who they are. When I showed them the final product, they were amazed by how I had managed to capture their essence in a single frame.
In addition to the personal satisfaction I get from creating art, I also love the way that photography allows me to connect with others. When I share my photos online or in a gallery, I am always amazed by the way that people respond to them. They see things that I might have missed, or they connect with the emotions that I was trying to convey. It's an incredible feeling to know that my art has touched someone else's life in a meaningful way.
When I want to learn more about photography, I turn to a variety of resources. I subscribe to photography magazines, follow photographers on social media, and take workshops whenever I can. But mostly, I learn by doing. I experiment with different techniques and styles, and I'm always looking for new ways to challenge myself and push my creativity to new heights.
In conclusion, photography is an artistic pursuit that consumes my free time and allows me to express myself in new and meaningful ways. Through this medium, I have discovered a new way of seeing the world, and a powerful tool for self-expression and connection.
2. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
For the second essay, I asked the chatbot to give me a specific example of failing at a project or task and learning from the experience. I didn't specify the kind of language it should use or the length.
During my junior year of high school, I was part of a team that was tasked with creating a new product for a national entrepreneurship competition. We had several months to develop the product, write a business plan, and create a pitch to present to a panel of judges. However, we underestimated the amount of time and resources we needed and ended up rushing through the final stages of the project.
As a result, our pitch was poorly prepared, and we didn't do well in the competition. I was devastated at the time, as I had invested a lot of time and effort into the project. However, I decided to take a step back and reflect on what went wrong.
I realized that our team lacked effective communication and project management skills. We didn't delegate tasks effectively, and we didn't set clear goals or timelines. I also realized that I had a tendency to take on too much responsibility and not ask for help when I needed it.
To address these issues, I decided to take a project management course and read books on effective teamwork and communication. I also started practicing delegation and setting clearer goals and timelines for myself and my team.
The following year, I participated in the same entrepreneurship competition with a new team. This time, we were much more organized and prepared, and we ended up winning first place at the regional level. This experience taught me the importance of effective communication, project management, and learning from failure.
Can ChatGPT Write My College Essay?
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- College faculty fear students might use ChatGPT to compose essay assignments.
- Similarly, high school students may be tempted to use the chatbot to write college application essays.
- ChatGPT generates usable content that often lacks personality and authenticity.
- The use of ChatGPT poses ethical and moral dilemmas around plagiarism and cheating.
It's just about 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and your 2,000-word essay on Chaucer is due by 9 a.m., when English 525 next meets in Bennett Hall. Panicked, you review your sketchy notes and your few lines of text, incoherent blather about pilgrims and social upheaval and corruption and conflict and … dear God, why did I take this course? I've got nothing.
Yet you quickly remember salvation lies a few keystrokes away in the form of a chatbot brimming with artificial intelligence on every subject known to man, including Chaucer. You toggle over to OpenAI, log in to ChatGPT, and type in your query.
Bam! Instant essay. And it's actually pretty good, hitting on all the key points and making convincing arguments. The writing isn't exactly deathless prose, but it'll suffice. You can tweak it a bit to make it sound more like you. At least the hard part is over. Rest easy, fair squire.
Nationwide, millions of college students wrestle with this temptation, causing wary faculty members to rethink their assignments for lack of trust.
What's more, even before they arrive on campus, students are using ChatGPT to write personal statements for their college applications.
Some say ChatGPT has ruined the essay. Others aren't nearly as concerned.
Can ChatGPT Write College-Level Essays?
It most certainly can, though with certain limitations. And it's not exactly ethical.
Here's what the chatbot itself had to say about the matter:
ChatGPT is a powerful language model that can generate text on a wide range of topics, including college-level content. However, it is important to note that while ChatGPT can generate text that may resemble a college-level essay, it does not have the ability to understand the subject matter or the purpose of the essay, and therefore it may not be able to write a high-quality, well-researched, and well-argued essay.
Additionally, using text generated by ChatGPT as if it were your own work in a college setting would be considered plagiarism, and it is generally not accepted by educational institutions. It is important to use the generated text as a tool for inspiration, and not as a final submission.
Such meta self-reflection is rather ironic: an AI-generated essay on the limitations of the AI-generated essay.
Yet faculty have every reason to be concerned, and they are. In his Inside Higher Ed piece titled " Freaking Out About ChatGPT ," John Warner says he fed it "a bunch of sample questions from past AP exams in literature, history and political science, and it crushed them."
This clearly has implications for college-level assignments.
Thus far, colleges haven't freaked out enough to ban the use of ChatGPT — that is, no colleges in the U.S. One French university, known colloquially as Sciences Po, prohibits its students from using the tool.
At the K-12 level, the New York City Department of Education announced in January its blockage of ChatGPT on school devices, citing its " negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content." A month earlier, the Los Angeles Unified School District did the same thing .
Not that colleges aren't paying close attention and responding to this emerging threat.
Montclair State University, for example, offers its faculty advice on how to design assignments, give exams, and recognize bot-driven content.
Some of these recommendations echo what others in higher ed are saying: Assign in-class work. Have students collaborate in groups. Link writing prompts to current events (ChatGPT's bank of knowledge doesn't extend beyond 2021). Make students write papers by hand .
Others go so far as to tout the benefits of ChatGPT, saying it helps students overcome writer's block, discover ideas to guide their writing, and see examples of competent grammar and punctuation usage. Students whose first language isn't English might find it especially valuable.
People in this camp don't buy into the notion that the emergence of artificial intelligence signals the arrival of the educational apocalypse.
"I'm not a huge fan of the gloom and doom," said Pennsylvania State University English professor Stuart Selber , "Every year or two, there's something that's ostensibly going to take down higher education as we know it. So far, that hasn't happened."
Above all, academics say, be more creative with assignments. Avoid generic questions ChatGPT can easily answer. Require students to draw on their own experience and reflect on moments in ways a chatbot couldn't possibly offer.
"Time for a new final exam, one that demands students find out something about themselves and tell it to you in a voice that is their own," University of Iowa English professor Blaine Greteman wrote in Newsweek . "To do that, they will have to feel something, and find a form to express it that makes you feel it too. No machine will ever be able to replicate that."
A current Princeton student agrees.
"If students are being assigned essays that can be written by ChatGPT," Christopher Lidard wrote in The Daily Princetonian, "perhaps it's not a good assignment in the first place."
So if your assignment asked you to choose a character from "The Canterbury Tales" and relate their story to some aspect of your own journey, would you find ChatGPT a viable substitute for individual expression?
Using ChatGPT to Craft College Application Essays
Perhaps you're already familiar with essay prompts requiring meaningful self-reflection. Many college application essays follow that very prescription.
If you're already in college, especially a junior or senior taking 500-level courses on Chaucer, you likely didn't have the opportunity to ask a chatbot for help with your admissions essays. It's a relatively recent phenomenon, one that's certainly getting the attention of admissions offices everywhere.
"There is some consternation in the admissions space about these technologies," said Anthony Lising Antonio , associate professor of education at Stanford, "and with obvious good reason."
Folks at Forbes had fun with ChatGPT, asking it to write college admissions essays based on specific background information on two students. Each took about 10 minutes to complete. And the results were fairly decent. For students not especially eager to attend a particular school but needing to submit something plausible, this approach might suffice.
But it's hardly the stuff of admissions-office lore.
That's because the typical output from ChatGPT and similar bots lacks soul and individuality, qualities admissions officers seek. Counselors at Ivy Experience, a college essay and admissions coaching firm, say students should offer " personal, authentic details " about themselves.
After toying with ChatGPT, the Ivy staff found the results brimming with emotion yet all too generic.
"These are broad, sweeping, grand statements written with emotional language and sentiments, but there is no substance," they concluded . … "There are no personal insights, details, or anecdotes."
Details, they claim, are the "key ingredient to vulnerability and authenticity."
New York Times columnist David Brooks concurs.
"It's often bland and vague," he writes about AI-generated content. "It's missing a humanistic core. It's missing an individual person's passion, pain, longings and a life of deeply felt personal experiences. It does not spring from a person's imagination, bursts of insight, anxiety and joy that underlie any profound work of human creativity."
Instead of emphasizing the traditional essay, some suggest, college admissions officers should encourage students to express themselves in other ways. Expand the use of interviews and urge students to submit videos, advise Mike Dunn and Chris Horne . At the same time, embrace the inevitability of ChatGPT and similar tools, laying ground rules about their use and limitations.
"This is an opportunity for college admissions stakeholders to collectively brainstorm novel approaches to this novel issue," they conclude .
So … Should ChatGPT Write Your College Essays?
That's up to each student to decide based on their moral compass. Passing off AI-generated content as your own may or may not constitute plagiarism , but it certainly is ethically dubious. If you get caught, the ramifications could be serious. It's a high-stakes gamble.
Yet the more salient question is this: Do you want artificial intelligence replacing your own? Do you want to express your thoughts and views, your unique take on the world, or do you want a computer to do that for you?
A chatbot might have a lot to say about Chaucer, but it's only what others have written. It's a good start, one that might prompt you to consider new ideas, but ultimately it's up to you to process that information, form your own thoughts, and communicate in your own words.
By now it's pushing 11:30, and you're still staring at random collections of sentence fragments and a cursor taunting you and your writer's block with every blink. Procrastination is not your friend.
But there's still time. For better than never is late.
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Which college majors earn most (and least) money after graduation? What federal data shows
Want to make money right after graduating from college ? It might help to know ahead of time which majors pay and don't pay.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released an economic research report analyzing 2021 labor market outcomes by breaking them down by college majors. The study looked at unemployment and underemployment rates, early career and midcareer median incomes, and whether a graduate degree was attained.
While education and arts-related majors ranked low in terms of wages, engineering majors of various types ranked high on the list.
Here's a look at the 10 majors with the lowest pay for recent college graduates, as well as the 10 highest, according to the federal report:.
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Majors with low pay for recent grads
Unemployment and underemployment rates were taken from data of those ages 22 to 27 with a bachelor's degree or higher, while median wage numbers are measured among full-time workers with a bachelor's degree only, the report states. Midcareer graduates are those aged 35 to 45.
Here are the 10 majors with the lowest pay for recent graduates, sorted from lower to higher:
Theology and Religion
- Early career median wage: $36,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $52,000.
- Unemployment rate: 3.6%.
Family and Consumer Sciences
- Early career median wage: $37,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $60,000.
- Unemployment rate: 8.9%.
- Unemployment rate: 3%.
- Early career median wage: $37,400.
- Midcareer median wage: $65,000.
- Unemployment rate: 4.7%.
Leisure and Hospitality
- Early career median wage: $38,000.
- Unemployment rate: 5.3%.
- Early career median wage: $39,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $62,000.
- Unemployment rate: 7.6%.
- Early career median wage: $40,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $75,000.
- Unemployment rate: 8.4%.
Early Childhood Education
- Midcareer median wage: $43,000.
- Unemployment rate: 3.1%.
- Midcareer median wage: $48,000.
- Unemployment rate: 1.8%.
- Unemployment rate: 2.7%.
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Majors with high early career pay
- Early career median wage: $75,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $120,000.
- Unemployment rate: 4.1%.
- Early career median wage: $74,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $114,000.
- Unemployment rate: 3.7%.
- Early career median wage: $73,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $105,000.
- Unemployment rate: 4.8%.
- Early career median wage: $72,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $112,000.
- Unemployment rate: 6.6%.
- Early career median wage: $70,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $109,000.
- Unemployment rate: 3.2%.
- Early career median wage: $70,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $100,000.
- Unemployment rate: 4.6%.
- Early career median wage: $68,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $100,000
- Unemployment rate: 3.4%.
- Early career median wage: $66,000.
- Midcareer median wage: $99,000.
- Unemployment rate: 2.2%.
- Early career median wage: $65,000.
College Essay Examples: 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked
CollegeAdvisor’s 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked
The college essay is one of the most important parts of the college admissions process—and it’s also one of the hardest to complete. If you’re struggling to find the right college essay topics, you’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll break down some of the best college essays to help you write a personal statement for college that will stand out .
You’ve likely written many essays over the course of your high school career. However, your personal statement for college may be the first time you’ve been asked to write about yourself . That’s where our sample college essays can help.
The best college essays will reflect who you are, what matters to you, and why you’ll enrich any college community you join. That’s a tall order, but looking at examples of college essays can help you as you begin the writing process. But before we dive into our sample college essays, let’s start with some basics.
What is a college essay?
A college essay is a piece of writing that responds to a given prompt, either on the Common App lication , Coalition Application , or on a school’s individual application. College essays can range anywhere from 50 to 800 words. There are two main types of college essays: personal statements and supplemental essays. In general, you will write one personal statement and submit it to every school you apply to. By contrast, you’ll submit a different set of supplemental essays to each school.
Why do college essays matter in the admissions process?
Your college essays reflect parts of your identity that aren’t clear from the rest of your application. While two students might have similar grades and extracurriculars, they won’t have the same college essays. That means that your college essays can make you stand out from the crowd. Our sample college essays can help you do just that.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through sample college essays that address a wide variety of college essay topics. We’ll break down examples of college essays from every category so that you feel prepared to write your own. Each sample college essay we’ve included in our college essay examples shows how you can use strong, intentional writing to approach a variety of college essay topics. By looking at these college essay examples, we hope you learn a lot about how to approach essay-writing.
Each school approaches college essay prompts differently. Each school may provide both required and optional college essay prompts. Most selective colleges will require you to write some kind of personal statement. Many also have school-specific supplemental college essay prompts and short answer questions. Below, sample college essays that worked show how students like you approached these prompts and impressed top schools.
For more tips about how to approach college essay topics and the writing process, check out our Essay Guides FAQ .
In this college essay examples guide, we’ll look at some examples of college essays and talk about why they succeeded. Our analysis will explain why these are a few of the best college essays that worked.
This includes a variety of essay types such as:
- Short essay examples
- Common App essay examples
- Examples of personal essays
- Supplemental essay examples (including why this college essay examples and why this major essay examples), and more.
Soon, we’ll dive into our college essays examples and break down some examples of personal essays. But first, let’s talk about what makes a good college essay and how you can make sure your college essays stand out . As you’ll see from our examples of college essays, there is no one right way to approach college essay prompts or one specific formula for writing the best college essays. However, as you’ll learn from these sample college essays, there are still plenty of useful tips that can make your essays shine.
Good college essays and the college admissions process
As you start reviewing college essay prompts and looking at examples of college essays, you might find yourself wondering, “What are the common characteristics of good college essays?”
Each of our college application essay examples, from our Common App essay examples to our short essay examples, offer key insights into an applicant’s character. These sample college essays did a great job of answering their respective college essay prompts. As such, they each stood out to admissions teams as strong college application essay examples.
Later in this guide to college essay examples, we’ll break down the best college essays in detail. But first, let’s look at a few sample college essays to help you get an idea of what to think about as you learn how to write good college essays. These college essay examples provide valuable insight into how you can craft one of the best college essays admissions teams have ever seen.
Below is an excerpt from one of our successful personal essay examples:
One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Rachael, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Rachael enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels.
Below is an excerpt from one of our successful why NYU essay examples:
The Bachelor of Science in Business Program excites me, as it entails a well rounded yet intensive study in core business disciplines. However, what draws me to Stern is the emphasis on gaining a global perspective, which is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world economy. Through the International Business Exchange Program, I will be able to gain a first-hand cultural experience that will mold me into a global citizen and business leader. Not only will I be taking courses in the most prestigious business schools across the globe, but I will also have new doors opened for me to network with alumni.
As you can see, examples of college essays can look very different . What matters is that they are detailed, specific, and show the admissions team at any school why the writer would enrich campus life—all while answering the college essay prompts. When we look at more examples of college essays, we’ll discuss why these essays—and other college essay examples—worked so well.
We’ll break down:
- How they addressed their college essay prompts
- What kind of structure they followed
- What their unique strengths are
- Tips and tricks to use while writing your own college essays
As you start looking at examples of college essays, you may wonder how important they are to your application. The answer is: extremely.
Many top colleges and universities use a holistic process when reviewing applications. That means they evaluate your essays alongside your academic history, extracurriculars, and test scores to learn who you are, what has made you the person you are today, and what you might bring to a college campus.
As you will see from our Harvard essay examples and Stanford essay examples, the best college essays give applicants a chance to teach a school about the writer. Good college essays give schools a more complete idea of the person they will be inviting to join their student body—and they are the only chance a school has to learn who you are in your own words.
Providing details and telling your story
As you’ll see from our college essay examples, good college essays discuss important details that might not be clear from the rest of your application. Each of our Common App essay examples tells a specific story. Other college essay prompts, like the Stanford roommate essay, for instance, ask applicants to reflect on parts of their identity beyond their grades and test scores.
Many colleges have also tried to demystify the college application process and provide helpful resources. Some schools, like Johns Hopkins and Hamilton , even provide their own examples of college essays that worked, including Common App essay examples. This can give you a sense of what their admissions team looks for.
You’ll encounter many different college essay topics. Each of these will ask you to write about your experiences in a slightly different way. So, looking at different college essay samples (like a why this college essay example or a why this major essay example) can help you approach different college essay topics. Also, since the Common App essay is a crucial part of your application, you’ll benefit from reading our Common App essay examples.
Later in this guide, we’ll provide full sample college essays for you. This will include both Common App essay examples and short essay examples.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of college essay topics. Then, we’ll talk about the examples of college essays you’ll find later in our college essay examples guide.
Types of college essay prompts you’ll encounter
All college essay prompts will require your best writing and ideas. Understanding the differences between the types of college essay samples can help you learn how to approach your college essay prompts.
Our examples of college essays fall into two main categories:
- Personal Essay Examples (Common App essay examples/Coalition App essay examples/Personal essay examples)
- Supplemental Essay Examples (short essay examples)
Our different types of college essay examples will show how you might approach different topics and what your final essays may look like. For example, when comparing Common App essay examples and supplemental short essay examples, one significant difference between the two is the word count. When looking at short essay examples, you’ll notice that the details you find in Common App essay examples don’t fit within the short 150 word or 250 word limit. As you’ll see in our short essay examples, short-form supplemental essays require you to make the most out of a limited number of words.
Exploring a variety of college essay samples will help prepare you to write your own. If you haven’t narrowed down your school selection yet, you might not know what kinds of supplemental essays you will write or what examples of college essays you should read. In this case, start with our personal essay examples—that is, our Common App essay examples.
The Personal Statement
The most common type of essay you’ll encounter is a personal statement for college. For most applications, you’ll choose from a selection of prompts and write a longer essay (500 – 800 words) that speaks to your experiences, identity, and goals. Your personal statement for college tends to be the longest essay in your application. This means it may require more work to edit into a focused and compelling story. For inspiration, take a look at our Common App essay examples. Each of our Common App essay examples tells a story that the admissions team otherwise wouldn’t know.
You will apply to colleges using the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a school-specific portal. Each of these application portals will have their own unique prompts and specific word counts. However, all of our examples of personal essays serve a similar purpose and require a similar writing process.
Beyond your personal statement for college, many schools ask you to write school-specific supplemental essays. Our college application essay examples will cover a range of supplemental essay prompts, including why you are interested in a particular school or a particular major.
Some schools also offer a section where you can provide additional information that may have affected your grades or overall profile. This might include details about your home life or any special circumstances that created challenges for you.
In this college essay examples guide, we’ll look at Common App essay examples to help you craft your personal statement.
The school-specific college essays that worked, we will review below include:
- Harvard essay examples
- Stanford essay examples
- UPenn supplemental essays
- Dartmouth essay examples
- Why NYU essay examples
- Why UChicago essay examples
This collection of college essays that worked will include short essay examples, including a why this college essay example and a why this major essay example. Before we break down these sample college essays, let’s look at what exactly makes the best college essays the best.
What makes the best college essays?
When looking at college essays that worked, whether personal essay examples or short essay examples, it may be challenging to discern exactly what makes a great sample college essay great. In our college essay examples guide, our examples of college essays (in addition to being correctly formatted ) have succeeded across a few criteria.
The criteria to keep in mind while you are considering how to write a successful essay are:
You can apply these criteria to all of our college application essay examples, including our Common App essay examples, examples of personal essays, and short essay examples. A strong sample college essay, no matter the length, will use these three elements to create a compelling story that will show a school how you would enrich their campus.
In our examples of college essays, you’ll see that good college essays follow a thoughtfully composed structure. Since college essay prompts often have strict word limits, it is important to follow these examples of college essays and make sure your college essay flows. Strong personal essay examples usually tell a story that leaves the reader with a lasting impression.
Like our example college essays, your college essay should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. As you’ll see in our college essay examples, particularly our examples of personal essays, there isn’t one right way to structure your essay. Your structure could be chronological, funnel down from broad to specific, or start with a particular memory or experience and then expand out towards a greater perspective. No matter how you structure your essay, make sure your narrative remains clear.
Not all essays have to look the same
As you will see from our examples of college essays, your college essay can look any number of ways. The best college essays can take many forms — what’s important is that your college essay shows the admissions team who you are . Even as you look at college application essay examples inspired by a singular prompt, you’ll find the topics they cover to be very different. However, one thing our college essay examples have in common is that they all showcase who the writer is while still answering the essay prompt.
As you read our examples of college essays and start writing your own, try to emphasize your own identity. Think about what is important to you, experiences that made you grow or changed you, times where you were challenged, or an a-ha moment that solidified a piece of who you are. Then, once you’ve found a topic to write about, make sure it connects back to the original prompt. Even if you tell a fantastic story, if it doesn’t answer the question in the prompt, you’ll have missed the goal of the essay. If you’re still having trouble coming up with an essay topic, try this reflection exercise to help you brainstorm.
We’ve chosen these college essay samples because they stood out in the admissions process. Besides being well-crafted, what makes a sample college essay stand out is personality. In this college essay examples guide, we’ve included a range of Common App essay examples and short essay examples that embody different voices, tones, and styles.
As you read through our examples of college essays, you may get stuck on trying to pick a topic that is 100% unique or obviously impressive. Instead of worrying about what makes you unique from other applicants, focus on being honest and being true to yourself. Remember, no one is exactly like you. So, follow the blueprint our sample college essays provide, but stay true to who you are.
For example, if humor is a key part of your personality, let that side of you shine through in your essays! However, if you read a hilarious college essay example but don’t naturally use humor yourself, don’t try to replicate someone else’s voice. The best college essay examples reflect students who knew who they were, what they wanted to say, and how they wanted to say it.
Our sample college essays show why it’s important to take care as you craft your personal statement and supplemental essays. But what exactly made these examples of college essays work, and how can you replicate these sample college essays in your own admissions process?
How to use these college essay examples
Wondering how to use these essays to write your own college admission essay examples about yourself?
We’ve given some background on why we’ve included certain college application essay examples. We’ve also discussed what you can learn from the different types of college essay samples. Now, you might ask yourself, “How should I use these college application essay examples to start writing my own?”
Each college essay example addresses a unique prompt within a specific word count. So, our Common App essay examples may be more helpful to reference when writing your personal statement. Our short essay examples, by contrast, may be more helpful as you tackle your supplemental essays.
Think of these college essay examples, including Harvard essay examples and Stanford essay examples, as a resource. We know the college admissions process can be overwhelming . That’s why we are committed to providing you with resources and essay tips to help you navigate your college applications.
These college essays that worked should inspire you. As you read over these college essay samples, use these examples of college essays as a guide, not a blueprint. Your college essay should be original and entirely your own work. However, by looking at these sample college essays, you’ll get an idea of what to highlight as you tell your authentic story .
Coming up: college admission essay examples about yourself
So far, we’ve taken a peek at some examples of college essays. We hope these college essay samples will help you jumpstart your writing process. Now, you know a little bit about what goes into selecting a college essay example and why these college essay samples work. It’s time to take a deep dive into writing college admission essay examples about yourself.
Next, we’ll dig into some examples of college essays and think about how to write college admission essay examples about yourself. First, we’ll look at some Common App essay examples to help you write your personal statement. As you read through our examples of personal essays, we will break down why these Common App essay examples work and how you can craft your own effective personal statement.
Common App Essay Examples–How to approach your personal statement for college
Are you furiously googling “college admission essay examples about yourself”? You’re not alone. Writing good responses to college essay topics is one of the most difficult parts of the application process. With so many college essay prompts and college essay samples out there, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve provided the following examples of personal essays based on a variety of college essay topics.
This section will focus on Common App essay examples—that is, college admission essay examples about yourself. We’ll unpack two examples of college essays that worked and analyze what made them effective. The Common App essay will be a crucial part of your application to nearly every school on your list. Reviewing other college application essay examples is a great way to improve your own writing.
Each of these examples of college essays comes from our advisor network. Moreover, every sample college essay helped its writer get into a top school. So, they are all good examples of personal essays to use as you start your writing process.
Getting started with examples of college essays
Writing a personal statement for college isn’t easy. It’s natural to look for college admission essay examples about yourself to help. However, if you want to be competitive at top schools, you need to make sure that your Common App essay—like these Common App essay examples—is the best it can be. Many examples of college essays struggle to leave a lasting impression on readers. Also, many students struggle to choose the right college essay topics. These Common App essay examples will teach you how to do just that.
Let’s dig into some personal essay examples—or college admission essay examples about yourself. Each of these college essay samples relates to one of the Common App essay prompts. These examples of personal essays each tell stories about the writers that aren’t clear from the rest of their application; that’s why our college essay examples were successful at top schools.
Our guide will walk you through these examples of college essays and show you how to write one of the best college essays you can. Later on, we break down why these sample college essays were successful and show you how you can replicate that success in your own personal statement for college.
Common App Essay–Example 1: Elinor
The first of our Common App essay examples comes from a student named Elinor. In the first of our personal essay examples, she highlights her involvement in a club in an innovative and exciting way. Her tone, structure, and style each help her essay stand out from other examples of college essays.
Below is the full text for the first of our examples of college essays. Later, we’ll discuss what makes this sample college essay one of the best college essay samples to look at.
Elinor’s Common App Essay:
One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Rachael, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Rachael enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels. Cold bagels were not the only thing weighing heavily on my mind that morning. As I walked from classroom to classroom helping set up committees, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Our conference wasn’t going to be like those of the private schools- there were no engraved pens or stylish water bottles. Instead, people got post-it notes and whatever pens we could steal from the supply closet. Forcing myself to stop worrying, I chose instead to think of why we made that choice. Since most of the food was donated, and all of the supplies had been “borrowed” from the supply closet, we could afford to charge only a nominal fee to everyone attending. Making Model UN accessible was one of my top priorities as Secretary-General; the same desire motivated me to begin including middle school students in the club. I hurried back down to the cafeteria, and was relieved to see that all the bagels looked warm and ready to eat. The bagels would not be the sole crisis that day. As debates were about to start, one of the Chairs sent me a panic stricken text: “We only have 5 people in our committee! We can’t reenact the creation of the Treaty of Versailles!” I hurried to where his debate was taking place, and sure enough, only five people were there. I quickly considered my options- cancel the committee? Convince some delegates to switch into this debate through bagel bribery? Or maybe, come up with a completely new topic? I settled on idea number three. But what topic could a committee of only five people spend a day discussing? I mulled it over until an idea began to form. I explained to the room, “Each one of you will represent one of the five major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The chair will guide you as you tweet, make campaign videos, and debate the most important political issues.” I spent a few minutes figuring out how to go about moderating such an unconventional committee, before heading off to check in on the other debates. As I walked from committee to committee, fixing problems and helping move debates along, I felt a sense of pride. I had spent months working on this conference, along with the other members of my team. At times, I worried I could never pull it off. A part of me had wished our faculty advisor would just organize the whole thing for us. After all, I’m just a high schooler, how could I put together such a big event? But as the day went by, I realized that with the help of my peers, I had done it. All the little crises that cropped up weren’t because I was doing a bad job; they were inevitable. The fact that I could find solutions to such a wide variety of problems was a testament to my leadership skills, and my level-headedness. I didn’t just feel like a leader—I felt like an adult. As I look towards my future in college and later the workforce, I know that I can succeed, even if my obstacles seem as insurmountable as a mountain of frozen bagels.
Reflecting on this sample college essay
The first of our college essay examples certainly deserves its spot among the best college essays. This sample college essay works in large part because of its opening. The first sentence of Elinor’s Common App essay makes the reader want to continue—what happened to the bagels? How will Elinor solve this problem? Examples of college essays with strong introductions draw the reader in. In addition, an inspiring first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the essay. The frozen bagels in this college essay example create tension that draws the reader in.
Often, good examples of college essays also read like short stories in which the writer is the main character. While Elinor does mention other people in her Common App essay, she remains focused on her own actions and emotional state. In the third paragraph, she describes in detail how she responded to a crisis. She first explains her thought process, then she tells us what action she took to address the crisis.
As you comb through various college admission essay examples about yourself, you should keep your own identity in mind. Strong examples of personal essays should contain personal details about the writer. College essay topics are designed to get to know you on a personal level. Strong examples of college essays use every chance to showcase the writer’s positive qualities.
Tell YOUR story
The best Common App essay examples tell a story about the author. These college essay examples are no exception. Often, strong sample college essays use a story to show who a student is. Elinor uses the story of her model UN conference to show her leadership , maturity, and problem-solving skills. Like any good story, Elinor’s personal statement for college contains obstacles for her to overcome and challenges to face. By presenting these examples and discussing her responses, Elinor’s Common App essay shows that she is ready for the challenges ahead.
The best college essays show information rather than just telling it. It’s one thing to tell readers you are a proactive leader in college admission essay examples about yourself; it’s another to show it through your actions. In the second paragraph of her personal statement for college, Elinor states that she wanted to make model UN accessible as Secretary General. She then goes into detail about how she accomplished that goal by organizing food donations and only charging a small fee for attending the conference. In these Common App essay examples, the writers use details and evidence to showcase their best qualities.
Elinor’s sample college essay also contains a strong conclusion. She illustrates what she has learned about herself from this experience and in doing so, helps the admissions team learn more about her. In this college essay example, Elinor clearly shows the kind of student she would be and how she would enrich campus life. The best college application essay examples show readers why students should be admitted through evidence and storytelling. Our Common App essay examples each accomplish that goal.
Common App Essay–Example 2: Arham
The second of our Common App essay examples uses a different strategy to the first. However, it is still one of the top examples of personal essays. The next author of our college essay examples, Arham, starts with a very specific moment from his fifth grade class. He then explains how that moment has affected his life.
While some examples of personal essays are about a recent event, other personal essay examples show the author’s development over a longer period of time. To understand why this is among the best college application essay examples, let’s look at the essay itself and how it employs techniques often found in the best college essay examples.
Arham’s Common App Essay:
An hour into President Obama’s inauguration, I stifled a yawn and raised my hand. “Ms. Edgell, who did you vote for?” Instantly, nineteen fifth-graders shattered the silence: “Of course she voted Republican!” “No, she’s a Democrat!” “Obama was born in Kenya!” “Don’t ask people about their politics,” she chided. “So . . . you’re a Republican!” “Arham. Outside.” As Ms. Edgell fruitlessly tried to explain that politics didn’t belong in the classroom, I struggled to suppress a smile–I couldn’t help it. For a few moments, fifth grade’s single-variable algebra and spelling tests had been replaced by a more intriguing conversation: one without a definitive answer. Snippets of boisterous debate continued to drift through the closed door, and I was eager to rejoin the conversation–that day, I learned disagreements were fascinating. Eager to understand the “why” of each and every belief, I turned to my living room: a constant cacophony of political commentary, occasionally punctuated by my father’s frustrated jabs at the pause button and exasperated interjections. In my quest to decipher the cryptic nightly news, my parents became my personal dictionary, fielding a nightly barrage of questions. Forget just explaining where babies come from–over the next four years, I asked them to articulate almost every conceivable stance on gun control, abortion, and the death penalty. Through that television screen, I first encountered the full diversity of human opinions, and I was enthralled; I wanted to triumph in every dispute. Dodging my parents’ dinnertime queries of how my day went, I delved into new lines of questioning: the viability of Medicare for All, the feasibility of 100% green energy, the merits of chicken tikka masala mac & cheese fusion. After watching the 2016 Presidential Debate, I spent hours pondering the economic consequences of a more cohesive border–sadly, the living room walls didn’t offer much feedback on my ideas. Soon, I realized that some of my “solutions” were a bit near-sighted; eliminating poverty by printing money wasn’t exactly the modern-day Wealth of Nations, and the solution to global warming was a tad more nuanced than planting trees. I learned that I wouldn’t always be right–instead, the desire to win was slowly replaced by a yearning to understand. With every discussion, I synthesized new information, pinpointed gaps in my knowledge, and reevaluated my views; then, aided by the latest edition of The Economist and a plethora of Google searches, I’d unearth the next set of questions. Late nights in my living room have defined a lifelong passion: using disagreements as a lens to explore, understand, and influence the world. In Congressman DeSaulnier’s office—where interns were instructed to hang up on adversarial callers—I instead found myself engrossed in half-hour conversations with frustrated constituents. There, I delved beneath the partisan rhetoric to truly understand why people support a wall, desire nationalized healthcare, or champion coal–and, in return, I offered a bit of my own worldview. On elevators, I’ve been known to strike conversation on the whimsical (Should gyms offer a package where you pay for every day you don’t go?); overseas, I invite teams from Germany, Singapore, and Mexico to opine on whether or not Amazon should be considered a monopoly. Whether it’s discussing capitalism or everyday life, the resulting conversations shed light on our culture, upbringing, and aspirations–the willingness to disagree is what builds rapport. In recognition of that, I beckon for dialogue; I constantly invite the world to teach me more. In fifth grade, I learned that we fear disagreement–feigning unity will always be more comfortable. But, through ignoring each other’s most fundamental beliefs, we simultaneously abandon our ability to understand our peers. In my living room, disagreements provided a venue for questioning and navigating a world of conflicting perspectives: though I didn’t know it at the time, they set the stage for a lifetime of questioning. So, be it in the classroom, through a phone call, or on stage, I continue to raise my hand.”
Why is this a college essay that works
As we saw in the first of our college essay examples, one reason this sample college essay is effective is that it engages the reader from the very first sentence. The author uses the technique of in medias res , which is often found in strong personal essay examples. Instead of beginning the essay with exposition, the author begins with a quote that places the reader in the middle of a riveting conversation. This strategy makes the best Common App essay examples interesting to read and helps the best college essays stand out from the rest.
Another feature that characterizes the best college essay examples is varied and interesting word choice. This doesn’t mean you need to use words in your writing that you wouldn’t ordinarily use. In our examples of college essays, the writers don’t just throw around SAT words. Instead, these successful examples of college essays use carefully chosen words to elevate the quality of the writing and heighten emotional tension. The phrase “shattered the silence” from the second paragraph is a perfect example of how a vivid word can instantly improve a sentence. In addition, the phrase “constant cacophony of political commentary” shows how employing poetic devices—in this case, alliteration—can make college essay examples more fun to read.
So, what makes the second of our college essay examples shine? This personal statement for college works because it presents a compelling story about a young boy slowly learning how to express his opinions and refining his beliefs. Many of the best examples of college essays show a process of growth or transformation. These transformations require struggle, and good college essays embrace that struggle and present it openly to readers.
The value of authenticity
This brings us to another key feature of our college essay examples: authenticity. Some students have the misconception that the best college essays should only portray your good qualities. However, this is not the case. Instead, the most successful personal essay examples address their authors’ shortcomings and explain how they have worked to overcome them.
Honesty and authenticity permeate these college essay samples. Arham’s example college essay reveals his genuine passion for debate. He provides several examples, both personal and academic, that demonstrate his interest in that topic. Importantly, successful Common App essay examples include details not present in other areas of your application. This gives readers a more personal look into your values. These examples of college essays reveal the quirks and obsessions that round out the author’s personality and set him apart from his peers.
Both of these successful examples of college essays contain strong conclusions that look ahead to the future. These personal essay examples provide insight into how the writers will contribute to a college community. Arham uses the phrase “lifetime of questioning” to show that he will bring his curiosity and thirst for knowledge to whatever college he attends. Good college application essay examples show readers why they should accept you and what you will bring to their campus.
Although these examples of college essays are different from each other, they were both successful for a variety of reasons. Now let’s look at how to replicate these examples of college essays in your own writing!
Personal Essay Examples–How to get started writing your own college essays that work
Do you feel ready to sit down and write your own personal statement for college? Let’s break down some tips to help you use our sample college essays to write your own. Be aware that every writer has their own personal style. So, try to find ways to make these tips work for your own college admission essay examples about yourself!
So, what can we learn from these college application essay examples? Reflecting on these two Common App essay examples, there are several steps you can take in your own writing process to craft a college essay that works for top schools.
In addition to reviewing other examples of college essays, we recommend that you do some prewriting exercises to help you write the best college essays you can. First, take a moment to review your candidate profile. Then, decide on what 3-5 adjectives you would use to describe yourself. After you’ve reviewed our college essay examples, click here for a list of strong adjectives you might use.
Consider the word count
This exercise helps focus your essay on the most important themes. Because college essay topics are so broad, students want to cover as much ground as possible. However, the best Common App essay examples recognize the limits set by the word count. With this in mind, these examples of college essays use specific details to illustrate broad concepts. You may have a lot to share, but the best college essays highlight qualities not found elsewhere in your application. Reflect on our personal essay examples as you write. Instead of rehashing your extracurricular achievements, follow the lead of our Common App essay examples. Tell a story the admissions team hasn’t heard.
After you have your five adjectives, look over the Common Application’s college essay prompts. Then, choose one that lets you showcase the qualities you selected earlier. When writing college admission essay examples about yourself, it’s better to tell a single story in vivid detail than to write a broad survey of all your accomplishments. The first of our Common App essay examples focused on a single day of Elinor’s high school career. She then uses this anecdote to make a larger claim about her ability to solve problems. The second of the college essay samples starts with the story of a single fifth grade class before broadening out to other topics. As you choose your college essay topics, keep specificity in mind.
Expect to write multiple drafts
The best college essays take multiple drafts. So, make sure you allow yourself enough time to write your personal statement for college. The college application essay examples in this guide weren’t written in a day. Rather, these college essay examples each went through several drafts to become good college essays. So, take a cue from our examples of personal essays. After you write the first draft of your Common App essay, review it after a day or two. This will help you approach it with a fresh perspective. Having others review your writing can also help transform good college essays into the best college essays.
There is no single formula for writing good college essays. However, you can learn to develop your own voice by reading articles and reviewing sample college essays written by other students. As we’ve stated, examples of personal essays can help you find your own voice and narrative as you start the writing process. This article from U.S. News contains more college essay examples along with short essay examples of supplemental prompts. It also provides advice from admissions counselors about how to write college application essay examples that stand out from other examples of personal essays. Top colleges like Tufts , Johns Hopkins , and Connecticut College often post examples of college essays that worked for their schools. Reading Harvard essay examples along with other college essay samples from top schools gives you a sense of what it takes to get into top schools.
Showing vs. telling
With the above Common App essay examples, we’ve presented two college essays that worked. Both of these college application essay examples show—rather than tell—the reader important details about the applicant’s identity. These college essay examples show what kinds of students these writers would be on campus. Based on these sample college essays, top schools could imagine these students in their communities. That’s why these examples of college essays stand out.
Beyond the Common App Essay
These Common App essay examples are not the only personal essay examples we will look at in this guide. Next, we’ll discuss supplemental college essay examples—short essay examples that usually range between one hundred and four hundred words.
These college essay prompts are unique to the schools that assign them. However, looking at many different short essay examples will help you prepare for the variety of college essay prompts you may encounter. Let’s take a look at these examples of college essays!
Short essay examples: What types of college essay topics will you see?
Now that you have some useful Common App essay examples to use as you write your personal statement for college, let’s look at some other examples of college essays. As we mentioned, there are several types of college essays .
The short essay examples we’ll discuss effectively and efficiently answer the prompt. Keep in mind that you will often work within the constraints of a word limit. Reading examples of college essays will help you learn this writing style. Still, remember that the best college essays will reflect your own voice. Once again, use our examples of college essays as a guide—don’t try to be someone you’re not.
In this section, we’ll focus on four main types of supplemental college essay samples. These include why this college essay examples, why this major essay examples, other less typical supplemental essay examples, and “additional information” essay examples. As we look at these examples of college essays, we’ll focus on what made these some of the best college essays out there. We’ll talk about what makes each of these college essay examples unique—and how you can use them as you craft your own college essays.
Our college essay examples shouldn’t hold you back. Don’t feel limited to the same or similar college essay topics that you read in our college essay examples. Reading some short essay samples or Common App essay samples may help you brainstorm, but the stories you tell should be uniquely yours. When reading college application essay examples, keep in mind that authenticity will impress colleges the most.
‘Why this college’ essay
First, let’s break down some why this college essay examples. As you’ll see from our examples of successful essays, your why this college essay should discuss in detail what attracts you to that particular school.
Many colleges will require you to write an essay about why you want to attend that particular school. Good college essays that answer these prompts will reflect a given school’s mission, opportunities, and personality. When you read successful why NYU essay examples, why Stanford essay examples, or why UPenn supplemental essays, you’ll notice that the writer isn’t afraid to be specific.
Questions to consider
What classes will you take? Is there a professor whose work inspires you? What clubs will you join? The best examples of college essays are detailed and convincing . When reading short essay examples, notice how many details the writers include. Then, think about how you can include details with the same specificity—but ones that are applicable to your life, plans, and interests.
Most schools will have their own supplemental essays. This is one area where Common App essay examples and supplemental college essay examples will differ. Our Common App essay samples were submitted to all colleges, while these short essay examples were submitted to individual colleges.
As our example why this college essays show, it’s important to research the schools on your list before you complete any college essay prompts. Why this college essays that work establish three things—a personal anecdote, details about the college’s offerings, and the connection between a writer’s personal story and the college. Essentially, the best college essays help the reader visualize how a student will succeed at that school.
A ‘Why Dartmouth’ essay that worked
Why this college essay examples are a useful tool as you prepare your application for any top school. When reading this Dartmouth essay, pay attention to the clearly articulated and cohesive details. The best college essay examples will be easy to read and convey lots of information in a limited number of words.
I always had a keen interest in numbers, probability, and finance. Early on, I could quickly calculate sales tax, analyze probabilities, and visualize complex mathematical models. After taking AP classes in economics and statistics, I became intrigued with mathematical representations for economic markets and statistical models. This sparked my desire to pursue an actuarial career to utilize my talents in quantitative reasoning. The Major in Mathematical Data Science will provide me the skills to apply abstract mathematical and statistical theories to the concrete world. I will also have the opportunity to stimulate my academic intrigue through an intensive research project.
Good college essays do more than discuss why the applicant wants to study their major. They also go beyond why that school would be a good fit for their interests. College essays that worked also show why the applicant would make that school a better place.
As this Dartmouth essay shows , the best college essays illustrate a track record of involvement to support the applicant’s proposed path forward. In this Dartmouth essay, the applicant plans to become an actuary. Given this student’s background, this feels like an attainable and sincere goal.
Something else to note about this Dartmouth essay is that the writer doesn’t use big fancy words or elaborate sentence structure. Good college essays are well-planned, written intentionally, and free from errors. However, they still sound like high schoolers wrote them! Like our examples of college essays, your short essays should feel natural and authentic.
‘Why UChicago’ essay examples
Why UChicago essay examples provide useful insight into what UChicago —and other top schools —look for when evaluating applicants. These Why UChicago essay examples also have qualities that you can think about when looking at Stanford essay examples, why NYU essay examples, or others!
Ex. 1: ‘Why UChicago’ essay example
When I visited UChicago, a friend invited me to step into her Comparative Literature class: Monstrosity and the Monstrous. Desperate for refuge from the cold (as a Bay Area resident, I hadn’t packed for the Chicago winter), I quickly obliged. I expected to silently observe, but when I mentioned that I’d read Antigone, her professor was thrilled–he immediately invited me into the discussion. For an hour and a half, we weighed the pros and cons of civil disobedience: did Antigone’s actions permanently destabilize Thebes, and in the modern day, when does protesting against a government cross the line? Was Antigone justified in interpreting the will of the gods? And, if so, would Sophocles support pardoning well-intentioned criminals? Beyond the enthralling analysis of the play, I was captivated by the spirit of UChicago: a campus that invites everyone (including a loitering high school student) to contribute and develop their ideas.
In this first section of our UChicago short essay examples, notice that the writer shows a knowledge of campus based on their campus visit and research. Though UChicago does not track demonstrated interest , the best college essay examples include references to visits, school-specific events, and specific details about the school’s offer. This establishes a connection between the reader and the writer. Strong college essay samples will show genuine interest.
When reading examples of college essays, you should also think about the tone. In the first excerpt of these college application essay examples, the tone is passionate and enthusiastic. The tone of this sample college essay conveys excitement, and the reader can almost see the applicant walking around campus. Let’s read more UChicago essay examples:
Ex. 2: ‘Why UChicago’ essay example
Now, it’s surreal to imagine taking “The Economics of Crime” from someone as renowned as Professor Levitt (I’ve been a fan since reading Freakonomics) and staying after class to clarify the finer points of the latest Freakonomics podcast (I particularly enjoyed “Speak Softly and Carry Big Data,” on using data analysis to perfect foreign policy decisions). I hope to add to UChicago’s legacy of pushing the boundaries of our economic understanding by participating in undergraduate research, and perhaps put my findings to use through crafting social policy for the Harris School’s Public Policy Practicum. Prior to graduating, I’ll sample tastes of future careers through the Fried Public Policy and Service Program or the Trott Business Program. Simultaneously, as someone who enjoys conversing and respectfully challenging ideas, I look forward to immersing myself in the Core Curriculum and obtaining a strong foundation of knowledge. Above all, I appreciate that UChicago teaches students how to think, encourages dialogue, and prompts students to question norms.
Showcase your various interests
In this sample college essay excerpt, the author reveals a strong passion for learning. In this and many other why this college essay samples, the writer doesn’t focus solely on one academic area. Instead, the best college essays reveal qualities and traits of someone who is eager to explore a variety of interests.
Another strength of this sample college essay excerpt is that it sticks to the facts. The best college essays limit overly emotional appeals, avoid cliché phrases, and don’t make vague statements about the future. You’ll see many examples of college essays that acknowledge a degree of uncertainty about what the author will study—and that’s okay! As our examples of college essays show, you don’t need to have everything figured out.
Note too, that both excerpts of UChicago college application essay examples are part of a much longer essay. The UChicago supplement is closer in length to Common App essay examples. Though the college essay topics are different for UChicago, you can learn from reading Common App essay examples, too!
For more examples of college essays from UChicago, check out this article!
‘Why this college’ essays—Additional tips
There are a few more tips to learn from reading these examples of college essays. First, notice that you have a lot of freedom to choose your college essay topics. All that matters is that you discuss why you want to go to that particular college. Perhaps you are attracted to a niche academic program, or maybe you want to combine two of your interests and engage with an institute on campus.
Also, choose your college essay topics and words carefully. Effective college essay samples avoid “spending” words complimenting colleges, telling them information they already know, or regurgitating marketing materials. Strong examples of college essays don’t focus on rankings, acceptance rates, or prestige. Writing about the beautiful buildings, the weather, or the student body size will seldom effectively answer college essay prompts.
Dig deep and make connections
The most effective college essay examples mention major-specific electives or particular clubs. Most importantly, they’ll explain why these programs matter to the writer. You will notice that college application essay examples often describe how college will be an extension of existing passions, interests, and activities.
In these why this college essay examples, the writers each point to specific reasons why they would like to attend their respective schools. These why this college essays are detailed and specific. Both of these sample essays showcase what their writers would bring to a college campus and how they would benefit from attending their respective schools.
As you start writing, think about our college admission essay examples about yourself. Stay true to your identity, be specific, and tell a story—then, you have a great chance of writing the best college essays you can.
‘Why this major’ essay examples
Next, let’s discuss some why this major college essay prompts. A why this major essay tells the admissions team what inspires you about your chosen field. By reading our why this major essay examples, you can understand how to discuss your academic interests in an engaging way that tells the admissions team more about your identity and passions. Let’s read some sample college essays.
Ex.1: UPenn ‘Why this major’ essay
The University of Pennsylvania, with its strong emphasis on pre-professional learning is ideal as a learning environment. That focus is what drives many students with an eye to the future — we hope to apply our learning, impact the real world in ways that inspire change. I find the Cognitive Science program, specifically its concentration in Language and Mind most appealing. As someone who places great emphasis in words, the idea of analyzing the cognitive aspects behind linguistics, whether philosophically, psychologically, or computationally draws upon various fields that showcase various perspectives on the meanings of language. It’s fascinating that despite the various languages and cultures there can be a biological scientific breakdown explaining the complex processes underlying syntax and semantics.
Ex. 2: Brown University ‘Why this major’ essay
As someone who places great emphasis in words, the idea of analyzing the cognitive aspects behind linguistics, whether philosophically, psychologically, or computationally fits my ideal of using interdisciplinary methods to study human behavior holistically. I am also concerned with quantitative methods. For example, AP Psychology allowed me to talk about the ethics and methodology. I had read about the Asch conformity tests. But when my teacher set up the experiment with three classmates as subjects and the rest of us as confederates, two subjects did not conform; our ratio of nonconformity was lower than Asch had found. Could it be a trait of the magnet population and experience? Should I remain pre-med, a strong background in neuroscience will support my study of anatomy and help me become a better physician. Directly linking biology and behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience will contribute to my holistic view of my patients.
Express your passion and curiosity
Each of these why this major essay examples gives the reader a sense of the writer’s intellectual passions. These why this major essay examples are clearly written, specific, and personal. When reading these examples of college essays, notice how detailed they are. For example, “I find the Cognitive Science program, specifically its concentration in Language and Mind most appealing.” Good college essays dig underneath the surface. Winning essays will identify how and why a student connects with their identified major or program.
Note too, that the author of the Brown sample college essay build a clear connection between their past experiences in high school (“For example, AP Psychology allowed me to talk about the ethics and methodology”) and future goals in college (“Should I remain pre-med, a strong background in neuroscience will support my study of anatomy and help me become a better physician. Directly linking biology and behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience will contribute to my holistic view of my patients.”)
Content comes first
As you can see in these examples of college essays, it’s crucial to focus on the content of the essay. So, when you write, complete all college essay prompts with specific details about why you want to attend that college. This will improve your overall application narrative. And, don’t forget to make that narrative cohesive. Strong college application essay examples tie extracurriculars, background , and identity together with future plans.
Whether you’re writing UPenn supplemental essays or Brown supplemental essays, try to write about interdisciplinary interests if possible. You’re likely interested in more than one area, and many schools offer majors, minors, and certifications with unique combinations. Many short essay examples will go beyond the surface to discuss how the applicant’s seemingly disparate interests mesh.
These college admission essay examples about yourself might raise some questions. Inevitably, some of you reading college essay samples are asking, “what if I don’t know what major I want to study?” Of course, college essays that worked can come from students who are certain of their future career. However, they can also come from students who change their major multiple times.
So, don’t panic if you haven’t chosen a major. Instead, look at how you spend your time. What excites you now? College essay prompts give you the flexibility to expand on your reasoning.
Unconventional college essay topics
Some supplemental essay prompts aren’t as straightforward as the why this major or why this college essay examples. For instance, Stanford has some unconventional college essay prompts that help the admissions team learn more about each student. Stanford asks students to write letters to their future roommate. So, let’s look at some Stanford roommate essay examples.
Stanford roommate essay
Stanford roommate essay examples—like any college essay examples—can be helpful as you craft your application for Stanford or any other top school. Unlike some examples of college essays, the question these Stanford roommate essay examples answer is a bit more personal. College essay prompts like these give you the chance to show off what makes you unique. The best college essays for these types of prompts will show off your unique character.
When tasked with writing an unconventional essay like the Stanford roommate essay, it’s helpful to look at a few examples of college essays. These will help give you a feel for college essays that worked. Let’s read two sample college essays.
Ex.1: Stanford Roommate Essay
In the spirit of inaugurating the life-long relationship I hope we’ll build this year, let me tell you a little about myself. Hi, I’m Allison. I’m the second child of a comically over-optimistic refugee mother (my Vietnamese name translates, literally, to “celestial being”) and a proud Kentuckian with a deep passion for student-driven advocacy. I have two parents, two stepparents, a nineteen-year-old sister (a junior in Product Design, here, at Stanford), a three-year-old half-sister, two cats, one dog, and a complicated life that spans two households. So, I’m used to sharing space and managing shifting schedules. I’ve also always been the “Mom” friend. To me, the little things—a chocolate chip cookie when I know a friend has a rough day ahead, words of encouragement before a big presentation, or staying up late to explain a tough physics problem—mean the most. I’ll be there when you need me—be it studying for tests or navigating personal challenges. I recycle incessantly and am known to snatch cans out of the trash, wash them, and relocate them to neighboring blue bins. I keep a regular sleep schedule, rarely going to bed past midnight or waking up later than 8:30. I’m averse to gyms, opting instead to go for runs in the morning or follow along to a YouTube workout in the afternoon. I’m passionate, but also even-keeled. I think life is best taken in stride—worrying has never gotten me anywhere, but flexibility has taken me everywhere. I look forward to an awesome year!
Ex.2: Stanford Roommate Essay
Hey Roomie! Yesterday was insane. I still can’t quite get over the energy in that stadium after that final play. I guess Berkeley couldn’t take back the axe to cut down these Trees! I’m writing you this since I have an 8:30 Syntax and Morphology with Dr. Gribanov. I know, it’s early, but that class is honestly worth waking up for. Last Friday, he spent the entire period rambling about why regardless and irregardless are the same thing, but responsible and irresponsible aren’t. Just a fun little thought to start your day. I’m also writing you this as a quick apology. I won’t be back from Mock Trial until late evening, and then I’ll be practicing for Stanford Symphony auditions. So, if you hear cacophonous noises in your sleep, it’s most likely me. Plus, it’s Mahler Symphony No. 1, so you might not sleep much anyway. Kidding. These next few days are jam-packed, but I’m craving some much-needed bonding time! I have a proposal: how does a jam session this Friday at Terman Fountain sound? I’ll bring the guitar and plenty of oldies sheet music, you just gotta bring a snack and the desire to sing! I’ve sold a few people already. Join us? Well, I’m headed to breakfast now. Text me if you want me to grab you anything.
Casual tone and style
These examples of college essays have a more casual tone and style. This works because it fits the prompt for the Stanford roommate essay. Writing a formal styled response in this case would be inappropriate. Instead, in these college application essay examples, both authors discuss their quirks, interests, habits, and personalities . Try to replicate this in your own Stanford roommate essay. Reading a variety of examples of college essays can help you brainstorm your own, but your ideas should still be original!
You and your freshman roommate will come to know each other well, so respond to this prompt with openness and honesty. While they aren’t as prevalent in Common App essay examples or supplemental college essay examples, jokes and humor are more common in these letters.
Examples of college essays that are a letter to your freshman roommate are less formal. However, they should still be specific and vivid. Include details and stories to show the reader who you are. The strongest college application essay examples for Stanford will illustrate your identity through vivid stories and specifics details.
Your letter to your Stanford roommate is a great opportunity to show the admissions committee another aspect of who you are. Take advantage of it!
The “Additional Information” essay
Finally, let’s turn to one last set of examples of college essays. One of the college essay prompts you’ll encounter is the “additional information” section of the Common App. This also appears as an optional supplement for some schools. Not all students should write this college essay. However, if you have something important to share about your background or experiences, the “additional information” section can be helpful.
Let’s look at some college essay examples for this prompt. Keep in mind when reading college essay examples for this prompt that the content will differ from applicant to applicant. So, use this space in whatever way feels natural to you.
Ex. 1: Harvard University Additional Information essay
I would like the Harvard Admissions Committee to know that my life circumstances are far from typical. I was born at twenty-four weeks gestation, which eighteen years ago was on the cusp of viability. Even if I was born today, under those same circumstances, my prospects for leading a normal life would be grim. Eighteen years ago, those odds were worse, and I was given a less than 5% chance of survival without suffering major cognitive and physical deficits. The first six months of my life were spent in a large neonatal ICU in Canada. I spent most of that time in an incubator, kept breathing by a ventilator. When I was finally discharged home, it was with a feeding tube and oxygen, and it would be several more months before I was able to survive without the extra tubes connected to me. At the age of two, I was still unable to walk. I engaged in every conventional and non-conventional therapy available to me, including physical and speech therapy, massage therapy, gymnastics, and several nutritional plans, to try to remedy this. Slowly, I began to make progress in what would be a long and arduous journey towards recovery.
This short essay example shares critical information about the writer. In doing so, this sample college essay excerpt helps the reader learn more about how medical circumstances have shaped the student’s perspective. It is factual—and so are many “additional information” short essay examples you will read.
The best examples of college essays covering additional information are concrete. They often detail special circumstances, background information, or ways your life has been impacted. If you don’t have important information to write about, then don’t feel like you have to write something. Many students leave this section blank!
Focus on impact
You’ll notice that examples of college essays for the additional information prompt could also include details about your extracurriculars . You might use this area to detail additional extracurriculars and awards that would not fit in that section. These short essay examples typically take the form of a list rather than an essay. These short essay samples should focus on impact; don’t include unimpressive extracurriculars just to put something in the box. Examples of college essays come in all shapes and sizes.
You don’t need to include any additional information on the Common App if you have nothing more to share. However, as you can see from our college essay examples, this section can be useful in some cases. So, use our sample college essays to help you determine whether you should include any additional information in your own applications.
Final Thoughts—Examples of College Essays & College Essays That Worked
In this guide to college essay examples, we’ve walked you through several different kinds of college essays prompts. We’ve also provided details on why these sample college essays impressed admissions officers at top schools. Reading and analyzing college essay examples can be an excellent part of the brainstorming process.
Colleges admit you based on your potential. So, when reading college essay samples, note the key qualities that the writer reveals. Each of the college essay samples is original and authentic. This should be one of your primary goals when writing your own college essays.
As you write your college essays, keep these college essay examples in mind. Think about how these short essay examples show impact and character. Then, use your voice to tell your unique story. Good luck!
This guide to college essay examples was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘22, Alex Baggott-Rowe , Davidson ’16, and Stefanie Tedards. At CollegeAdvisor, we have built our reputation by providing comprehensive information that offers real assistance to students. If you want to get help with your college applications from Alex or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts , click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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What Makes Successful College Essays… Successful?
How To Write a College Essay, Part 1 of 2
Learn the sparc method, and see college essays that worked.
You’ve probably read a sample college essay before. Applicants are bombarded with “essays that worked”—in purpose-built essay collections, English class, and even the newspaper ." These essay examples can be invaluable, but also somewhat misleading. Your goal is not to get your essay published. It’s not even to write a good essay per se. It’s to write an essay that will get you into the college of your dreams.
The application essay examples most often seen in the wild are those that appeal to English-major types: essay collection editors, English teachers, journalists, etc. (Full disclosure: the author is guilty on all counts.) They are often well-written stories with lyrical prose that say something meaningful about the world and “what the kids are thinking.” No doubt, that kind of essay can unlock the door to an elite university. But it’s not the only way—in fact, only a tiny minority of successful college essays fit that profile.
What Do Colleges Look For in Essays?
To an audience that reads literally hundreds of application essays every year, your story is unlikely to stand out on writing skill alone. There are probably more published writers in the reject pile at Harvard than the admitted class (they need some scientists too!). A unique story won’t cut it either, because there really isn’t any such thing.
Here’s an extreme example of what I mean: In my eight years’ experience, I have read THREE application essays in which the writer survived a failed assassination attempt on them or their family. Each of those folks was totally confident that they had a story so unique and interesting that it would guarantee admission. But by the third essay, it’s not hard to think “Well sure, this is a pretty rare topic, but I've seen it done better…”
Start from the assumption that your essay will be one of many in terms of topic and writing quality. So how do you stand out? It’s not what you say, or even how you say it, but everything encoded in what you say. Think about it: If the school cared about what you wrote… wouldn’t they follow up at some point to make sure you actually took the major you said you would, or hold the beliefs you argued for, or joined XYZ university club you said you were interested in joining?
The reason no one ever follows up, is because after it fulfills its purpose, your essay goes into a permanent dead letter memory bank of “who cares?” The admissions committee is looking for applicants with maturity and the ability to excel on campus—a future student who has the gumption to navigate the abrupt transition to college. If you can recognize what traits the admissions committee is looking for, and show evidence of them, your essay will succeed.
How to Write a Good College Essay
The sparc method for writing a college essay that works.
The good news? You can convey the traits the admissions committee is looking for in an unlimited number of ways!
The bad news? You can convey the traits the admissions committee is looking for in an unlimited number of ways!
When applicants write what they think the reader wants to hear, it often doesn’t end well. Applicants who focus on certain achievements or values often don’t come across as they hoped to. For example, “I want to be seen as a leader, but I’m actually coming off as a pompous jerk who thinks an adult will be impressed that I organized a bake sale.” Or, “I want to be seen as valuing diversity, but the way I keep mentioning my friend’s racial identities is giving off a really weird vibe.”
Our approach is to not sweat values and achievements. You come to the essay writing stage of the application process having done certain things and holding certain values, and you likely can’t or shouldn’t change those at this point. Instead, the task is to frame your existing life story to show that you have desirable attributes for a university student: that “spark” of maturity and future success that gets the adcom excited.
We like to capture some of the many paths to a successful college essay through a framework we call––fittingly––SPARC:
These five occasionally overlapping ideas, taken together, capture the “special sauce” that makes one college application succeed while another fails. You don’t need to showcase all of these traits in your essays, but hopefully a few resonate with your view of yourself and give you a sense of how to pitch your candidacy.
It’s possible to have impressive achievements, but what if you never did anything unless someone asked you to? Are you the type of person who goes the extra mile, even when the task is already completed? Are you doing things because you’re propelled by some inner drive?
That ability to seize, or self-motivate, is absolutely essential on a college campus and beyond. In high school, if you’re falling behind, it’s the teacher’s job to notice that and help you get back on track. In college, it’s YOUR job to stay on track. You have to identify the problem, and you have to ask the professor for help (which most—but not all—will gladly give). Adcoms want to see that you’re the type of student who will handle this transition smoothly, because you already have a history of seizing opportunities in an independent, self-motivated way.
College Essay Example 1: Seize
This essay writer was admitted to princeton, duke, and uc berkeley.
Here’s a real example of what this can look like, from a student we worked with who recently got into Princeton, Duke, and UC Berkeley, among other schools. Details and names in all of the examples in this articles have been changed to protect our clients’ anonymity, but they are otherwise exactly as the adcom read them:
“The movement of each blade illuminated a musical harmony, and each insect scurrying around the grass was an instrument of the orchestra. When it was time to leave, the pleasant music in my head faded into a simple, unpleasant, dissonant noise as I encountered an exhibition on how climate change was destroying thousands of species of grass. That’s when I decided to dedicate my life to saving those special plants.
The next day, I built myself a garden bed out of wood and plastic that I found leftover in my uncle’s car dealership to begin researching how grasses adapt to challenging thermal scenarios. I read classic books on grass like Charles Veron’s Grasses of the World . I looked at my research from a strictly rational, mathematical and logical perspective. After months of tracking the growth rate of Chloris gayana grass under elevated temperatures, my results reflected my biggest fear: grasses will never be able to evolve that fast.”
This excerpt is powerful because it shows that the applicant’s interest in botany goes far beyond classroom assignments and the expectations of the adults in his life. He will need that motivation to succeed in Princeton’s rigorous science programs, far from home and with limited oversight.
Here are some other essay angles to consider:
● When has something succeeded ONLY because you took it upon yourself to see it through to the end (when no one else would)?
● What’s a belief or ideal that many others nod in agreement to, but you took ACTION on?
● Was there ever a stalemate situation that you resolved by taking control?
● Is there an example of an achievement or win that was only made possible because you wanted it more than others?
● Have you ever cleaned up someone else’s mess, not sought credit for it, but did it because it simply needed doing?
Pursue is all about going after stuff that is just outside your reach. You need to give chase. And that requires putting in the work, with no guaranteed outcome.
You know what’s hard and has no guaranteed outcome? College. The worst thing an adcom can do is accept a person who then drops out part-way through. It’s their job to make sure that never happens, with tens of thousands of tuition dollars at stake. By showing persistence, determination and grit in your application essays, you can assuage these doubts.
Addressing this point is particularly important if you’re going to move somewhere far from home, are proposing to pursue a particularly tough program (i.e., pre-med), or have a history of quitting things or regularly changing your extracurricular activities.
College Essay Example 2: Pursue
The student who wrote this essay got into u of chicago, georgetown, and brown.
Here’s an example of pursuit that got a student into the University of Chicago, Georgetown, and Brown, among others:
A magical portal from the future--though perhaps not so distant in the future as we once thought. In every Star Trek ship, there’s a room with the power to change the world. It’s called the Transporter Room, and it has the ability to teleport people and equipment thousands of miles in an instant. … Meanwhile, new technological advancements are even beginning to resemble the infant phases of a teleporter. In 2017, scientists in China teleported photons 1,400 km from a satellite in orbit, and a team in Switzerland is working on a device which, once completed, may allow quantum teleportation of thousands of atoms at the speed of light through fiber optic cable. Teleportation captured my imagination completely…
It wasn’t easy to join the Anderson lab as a high school student. I reached out without any references, and it took weeks to get on the phone with one of the investigators. He was skeptical that I would be able to contribute, but my answers impressed him enough to arrange a second interview. It took four rounds, with hard studying before each interview, but I landed the internship. [...] I am determined to build on my experience at the Anderson lab and make practical teleportation a reality within my lifetime.
The big (if slightly outlandish) ideas are part of the charm here, but the real meat is the applicant’s persistence in securing her internship. That’s exactly the kind of work she’ll need to do to get lab positions on campus and impressive research internships in the summers. This is a person who understands what’s necessary to succeed in the job market.
Here are some other facets to consider with writing your essay:
● Have you ever almost quit something? But––something compelled you to persevere?
● Ever start something you thought would be easy, found out it was much harder than you realized… and then kept at it?
● Have you ever developed a hunger for something precisely BECAUSE it would prove to be challenging?
Some folks are satisfied when an objective is met, or a question is answered. Others are restless, always leaning forward, never satisfied. It’s not enough to get the right answer, they need to know why. If they don’t understand something, they ask questions.
It’s this curiosity “gene” that is exciting to adcoms because it suggests a kind of intellectual restlessness. The Western college classroom is a place for debate, discussion, and disagreement. An essay that showcases you intelligently questioning conventional wisdom helps the adcom envision you as an active participant in their school’s intellectual life. While this kind of essay is valuable for everyone, it can be particularly useful for students coming from an academic tradition where classroom debate is not as encouraged.
College Essay Example 3: Ask
This sample essay's writer got into upenn, bu, and uc-berkeley.
The following example got this student into Penn, Boston University, and UC Berkeley, among other schools:
“The participatory budgeting process, allocating resources individually, intrigued me. I was excited to be doing something tangible for my community. […] In initial outreach discussions, with a goal to involve more participants, we were told to emphasize altruism, telling teens to consider other Austin communities too, since the fund is limited and must be allocated fairly across communities.
But then I asked myself, “Will this really work?” As a voracious reader of philosophy, history and economics, I had a gut feeling that it wouldn’t. I had just read John Locke’s theory that “general interest is achieved with the advancement of individual interests.” I thought about Adam Smith’s idea that “self-interested competition could benefit the society.” I decided we should tell people to be "selfish" and focus on their own needs.
I hesitated to propose this idea to my team however. As I was about to say it out loud, I realized it sounded “unnatural.” I sat and thought about it, knowing that “being selfish” could be misunderstood and come off wrong if I presented it in the wrong way. I didn’t speak up during our next meeting out of fear of rejection. However, feeling guilty about my reticence and truly concerned about the program, I went home and wrote my thoughts down. I felt compelled to tell the team my idea.
I presented my idea at the next meeting. I carefully defined “selfishness” as self-focus, a driving force to involve more teens and eventually benefit more of them. Addressing questions from my teammates, I felt great relief to hear people’s enthusiasm. Teaching teens to be “selfish” does not sound very forward-thinking, but people are more willing to participate in programs that benefit them directly.
The particular politics may not be every adcom member’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest to an admissions professional. The magic here is all in the applicant’s relationship to the group: the way he challenges his peers and is willing to put in the work to develop a well thought-out, substantial argument. This is the kind of intellectual leadership that makes a student valuable to their classmates.
Here are a few other approaches to get your creative juices flowing:
● Have you ever been told a truth, presented a fact, etc., but not been satisfied with it?
● Have you ever asked a question few others have asked about a particular subject?
It’s easy to “say yes” when there are no consequences to failure. The person who cares more about “the thing” than “not failing” is incredibly exciting. This person will be less vulnerable to vanity, peer pressure, etc. This is also the kind of person who might be willing to make the bold career moves (founding a company, discovering something no one else is willing to research, creating a work of truly revolutionary art) that can land an alumnus on the cover of a magazine and reflect well on the alma mater.
Of course, wanton or unwise risk taking could be a sign of immaturity. Generally the proof is in the results: a situation where the risks of failure were high, but not realized because you succeeded. Play up what could have gone wrong, then show that it ultimately didn’t, because you soberly and accurately evaluated the situation.
College Essay Example 4: Risk
This student was accepted at princeton, duke, and uc berkeley.
Below is an example of a client who found himself in a dangerous situation and decided to take a calculated risk to salvage it. This essay earned him admission to Princeton, Duke, and UC Berkeley, among other schools.
We decided to tack the sails and head further offshore, so that the gusts of the cold front emanating from the shoreline and preceding the storm would propel us home. However, as the other two were significantly smaller and lighter than us, they caught the updrafts far more easily than Harry and I, rocketing them several hundred yards in front of us. My concern grew as the moments passed. If they moved incorrectly during a strong gale, their inexperience and light weight could cause the boat to tip and throw them overboard.
And, of course, that is exactly what happened.
At first sight of the capsized children, we cranked to full speed, ditching extraneous lines and equipment to the ocean’s depths—my favorite lawn chair now rests inside Davy Jones’s Locker. I manned the rudders, the tiller, and the back ropes, while Harry controlled the jib and the boom. Harry circled them as I jumped into the waves to flip the catamaran.
Climbing atop and falling off that skiff repeatedly filled my heart with despair and my lungs with saltwater. After righting the fallen vessel, I swam back to Harry, whose circular sailing reminded me of the sharks that infest those waters. This was ample motivation for my best Michael Phelps impersonation.
The writer saved his friends’ lives by taking a risk at sea in bad weather. The stakes don’t need to be nearly that high, however! Creating a new club, taking a difficult class, choosing a particularly difficult topic for an assignment––all of these things could be risky in the way adcoms appreciate.
Consider these questions when brainstorming essay topics:
● Ever want something, but sense that you would more likely than not FAIL, and then… do it anyway?
● Have you ever risked your personal reputation for something you believed was right, or helpful to a greater cause?
● Have you ever been told by the majority of folks around you “don’t do it, take the easy road, there’s too much at stake” but you chose to ignore that advice?
It’s easy to build shelves when they come in a kit. It’s much cooler when you’re starting from scratch, and need to think laterally, build something from … the resources at hand, whatever they may be. Sometimes those resources amount to nothing. If you are able to succeed “wherever you are, whatever the circumstance, whatever your resources,” it bodes well. How well can you “create” when pushed?
A common trap is considering creativity solely the domain of artsy applicants. If you can paint, play music, or write excellently, that’s a great thing to highlight, but it’s not the only way to “create.” An engineering type could create a device, a coder could create an app, but many of the most successful “creativity” essays involve applicants creating new organizations, programs or IDEAS. This type of essay is powerful because it showcases your ability to have an impact on your community, and speaks to your ability to have an impact on your college campus.
College Essay Example 5: Create
The student who wrote this sample essay got into five ivy league schools.
Here’s an excerpt from a student that scored admits at Yale, Columbia, Penn, Cornell, Brown and a bunch of other schools:
Parliamentary debate has always been a search for the truth in round, but it has also become for me a search for truth on a personal level. At my first tournament, I noticed that I was the only girl and person of color in the room; I soon learned this is normal. A few disparaging remarks from judges about my “feminine” voice peppered otherwise positive feedback. To better appeal to judges, my first instinct was to mimic my successful male peers. But I soon realized that it was much more fulfilling to enhance my existing strengths.
When I realized I wasn’t the only one in this situation, I sought opportunities to mentor girls across the state. Through practice rounds, we empowered each other to build upon our strengths and preserve our diverse identities. Not only was I able to recruit more minorities to my team, but I also helped girls in Wisconsin begin small debate teams at their schools. Creating new forums for discourse has resulted in a more understanding student population, and I look forward to encouraging dialogue on campus[...]
This form of creativity has clear and direct applications to college life.
Here are some questions to consider when writing your essay:
● Ever been deprived of certain “essential” ingredients for something, and figured out a clever solution with the resources at hand?
● Ever find your way out of a tricky situation where there was no obvious answer by thinking outside the box?
● Ever been stuck on a problem, and almost given up, but needed to solve it so badly that you found a new way to view the problem itself?
College Essay Ideas
Use the sparc method for essay inspiration.
Hopefully some of the essay samples and questions above have resonated with you. Pursue those ideas and imagine how they could map to a specific element of your experience. Worries like “do I have enough leadership?” or “did I win enough awards in XYZ to stand out?” are not worth considering. By the time you’re putting hands to keyboard on your application essay, it’s too late to make significant changes to your background. People who are not Olympians or valedictorians or published researchers get into top colleges every day. What matters is your ability to show your SPARC, whatever it may be.
In our next post, we’ll get into more detail about how to put your ideas on the page. In the meantime, if you’d like a free consultation with our team of admissions experts, or to take the SPARC Quiz , visit us at admissionado.com .
Read part 2 in this series on writing a successful college essay
Read on for more essay writing tips , common mistakes and examples of essays before and after revision.
Alex is the Managing Director of Systems & Content at Admissionado , a top admissions consultancy. Since graduating from Columbia University in 2013, he has worked with hundreds of MBA applicants on thousands of essays, helping his students maximize their MBA potential. From his base in New York City, he has written a wide variety of education-related reports, case studies, and articles, many of which can be found on Admissionado ’s website and Amazon store.
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What is the College Essay? Your Complete Guide for 2023
Bonus Material: 30 College Essays That Worked
The college essay is one of the most important parts of your college application.
As important as it is, however, it’s very different from the essays you’re used to writing in high school.
From word count to genre, the college essay is in a category entirely of its own–and one that can be unfamiliar for most students applying to college.
So, what is the college essay? What role does it play in college admissions?
And, most importantly, how do you get started writing an amazing essay?
We answer all of these questions in this complete college essay guide.
Plus, we give readers access to 30 college essays that earned applicants acceptance into the nation’s top colleges. They’re free and you can grab them below right now!
Download 30 College Essays That Worked
Here’s what we cover in this guide:
What is the College Essay?
- Our Expert Definition
- A College Essay That Worked
- The Essay’s Role in College Admissions
The 7 Common Challenges in Writing the College Essay
- How To Get Started Writing an Amazing Essay — 6 Tips
- Bonus: 30 College Essays That Worked
Most students will use the Common App to apply to U.S. colleges and universities. A smaller number of colleges require students to submit applications through Coalition .
Regardless, both platforms require students to submit a personal statement or essay response as part of their application. Students choose to respond to one of the following prompts in 650 words or fewer .
College Essay Prompts 2022-2023
What do these questions all have in common? They all require answers that are introspective, reflective, and personal.
Take a look at some of these buzzwords from these prompts to see what we mean:
- Belief / Idea
These are big words attached to big, personal concepts. That’s the point!
But because that’s the case, that means the college essay is not an academic essay. It’s not something you write in five paragraphs for English class. Nor is it a formal statement, an outline of a resume, or a list of accomplishments.
It’s something else entirely.
Our Definition of the College Essay
How do we define the college essay? We’ll keep it short and sweet.
The college essay is a personal essay that tells an engaging story in 650 words or fewer. It is comparable to memoir or creative nonfiction writing, which relate the author’s personal experiences.
The college essay is fundamentally personal and creative. It is rich with introspection, reflection, and statements of self-awareness. It can have elements of academic writing in it, such as logical organization, thesis statements, and transition words. But it is not an academic essay that fits comfortably into five paragraphs.
Your task with the college essay is to become a storyteller–and, in the process, provide admissions officers with a valuable glimpse into your world, perspective, and/or experiences.
Example of a College Essay That Worked
Take a look at this essay that earned its writer acceptance into Princeton. We won’t take a super deep dive into the components that make it great.
But we do want to point out a handful of things that align with our definition of the college essay. This essay:
- Tells an engaging story
- Clearly conveys the author’s voice
- Is rich with introspection and reflection
- Provides insight into the author’s character, values, and perspective
- Is not an academic essay or list of accomplishments
- Is deeply personal
It also exemplifies the 7 qualities of a successful college essay .
Here’s the full essay:
“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” – Franz Kafka
Kafka, I’m afraid, has drastically overestimated the power of food. And though it pains me to undermine a statement by arguably the greatest writer of the 20 th century, I recognize it as a solemn duty. Perhaps Kafka has never sat, tongue wild in an effort to scrape residual peanut butter off his molars, and contemplated the almost ridiculous but nevertheless significant role of peanut butter in crafting his identity. Oh, did I just describe myself by accident? Without further ado, the questions (and lack of answers, I point out) that I contemplate with peanut butter in my mouth.
When I was three and a half years old, my tongue was not yet versed in the complex palate of my peers, consisting mainly of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (It did not help my transition into pre-school that I did not speak English, but Russian and that my name, which had been hurriedly switched from Alya to Alex, was unpronounceable to me.) But it is most worth noting that I refused lunch for months, waited at the windowsill with tear-stained cheeks every day unless my mom left law school midday to bring my own comfort food: borscht, katlety, kampot.
I slowly assimilated into American culture, like most immigrant kids. I began to eat the peanut butter sandwiches at pre-school in the presence of my mom, and then did not need her altogether. She must have been elated that I was comfortable, that she could stay at school all day without worrying. She must have been destroyed when I waved her away the first time and told her I did not need her to come anymore.
I realized much later that the Russian food my mother brought me in pre-school made me comfortable enough to learn the language of the children there, to share their lunches, to make friends. Ironically, my Russian culture enabled the rise and dominance of American culture. When my parents wanted to visit their birthplace, my birthplace, Odessa, Ukraine, I rolled my eyes and proclaimed Disney Land, Florida. I rolled my eyes when I spoke too fast for my parents to understand. I rolled my eyes when I checked my mom’s grammar and when she argued with customer service in her thick Russian accent.
Peanut butter, and foods like it, represented not only my entrance into American culture, but the swift rejection of anything Russian that followed. Chicken noodle soup replaced borscht, meatballs replaced katlety, Sunny D triumphed over kampot. I became embarrassed by the snacks packed in my brown paper bag, begged for Cheetos, lime Jell-O cups, and that creamy spread between two damp pieces of Wonder Bread. My American identity tried to eclipse the Russian one altogether.
I realized later still that the identity battle I fought must have been more difficult to watch for my parents than it could have ever been for me to experience. They let me figure myself out, even though it meant I spent years rolling my eyes at them. Though I do not claim to have discovered a perfect balance of Russian and American, I would venture that a healthy start is eating peanut butter for lunch and katlety at dinner.
So, Kafka, I hope that next time a memorable quote comes to mind, you think before you speak. Because when peanut butter cleaves to the roof of my mouth, I think about what it means “to cleave:” both to adhere closely to and to divide, as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural weakness. And I think about my dual identity, how the Russian side and American side simultaneously force each other apart and bring each other together. I think about my past, feeling a little ashamed, and about my present and future, asking how I can create harmony between these two sides of me. That, Kafka, does not sound like solved questions to me.
Want to read more essays that worked? Download our 30 college essays that earned their writers Ivy League acceptance for free below.
The College Essay’s Role in Admissions
In our post about what college admissions officers are looking for , we outline the Golden Rule of Admissions.
We also define “a student of exceptional potential.” In general, competitive applicants to top U.S. colleges and universities exemplify three pillars:
- Character and personal values
- Extracurricular distinction
- Academic achievement
Admissions officers have a lot at their disposal when it comes to assessing extracurricular distinction and academic achievement. They’ve got transcripts, test scores, resumes, and letters of recommendation.
But how do they assess character and personal values?
A recent survey of admissions officers revealed some interesting answers to this question.
Source : National Association for College Admission Counseling
Notice how an overwhelming 86% of officers surveyed reported that they infer character and personal qualities of an applicant from the content of the college essay!
The Common Data Set for individual colleges further supports this notion that officers infer character and values through the college essay, teacher recommendations, and other application components. The CDS for Cornell , for example, reveals that the application essay and character/personal qualities are “very important” in admission decisions.
What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly altered the college application landscape by introducing some serious inequity in the realm of extracurricular activities, academics, and general access.
Many admissions officers have stressed their focus on character and personal values (more qualitative components) in recent admissions cycles as a result.
Schools are hungry for as much material as possible that they can use to assess students’ character and values! This is one of the reasons why many top colleges require applicants to answer supplemental essay questions — ones in addition to the college essay. These essays can range from 50-650 words, and many colleges have more than one.
For example, Princeton requires applicants to respond to six supplemental essay questions . Here’s one of them from the 2022-2023 admissions cycle:
At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?
So how important is the college essay in the application process?
Princeton’s former Dean of Admissions summed it up nicely with this quote about the college essay in a conversation with the New York Times :
Your ability to write well is critical to our decision because your writing reflects your thinking. No matter what question is asked on a college application, admission officers are looking to see how well you convey your ideas and express yourself in writing. It is our window to your world.
Now that you know what the college essay is and how it influences college admissions, let’s discuss the challenges in writing it. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it does compile some of the most common challenges most students face when preparing to write their personal statement.
Challenge #1: The Pressure
The college essay is integral to the college admissions process. It’s only likely to carry more weight in coming admission cycles in the wake of COVID-19 .
There is immense pressure on students to write essays that will make them competitive in admissions! This essay can also very much feel like uncharted territory for students given their lack of experience in the world of personal writing. This pressure can become a veritable roadblock in writing the college essay.
Challenge #2: What’s Introspection?
Successful college essays are deeply personal and full of introspection. We define introspection as reflection on what’s important in your life — values, beliefs, opinions, experiences, etc. It also can have a lot to do with what makes you you .
To some students, introspection might come naturally. To others, it might not! This is understandable. The high school classroom doesn’t necessarily give space for students to reflect on what they’ve learned from certain experiences or what they believe are their core values. However, this is exactly what admissions officers are looking for in essays!
Challenge #3: You Just Don’t Write Personal Essays in School
Most English classes spend a lot of time on the academic essay . But most don’t include many units on writing personal essays or creative nonfiction–if any!
Many students writing the college essay thus face an entirely unfamiliar genre that comes with its own word limit, structure, and style of writing.
Challenge #4: The Word Limit
Both the Common App and Coalition require students to limit their essays to 650 words. That’s a little over a page of writing, single-spaced.
This means that students have to be incredibly concise in crafting their responses. This can be a tall order given what the college essay often includes: big ideas, big themes, and big reflection!
Challenge #5: Choosing a Topic
Given the college essay’s requirements, it can be tough to choose the “right” topic . Should you discuss an extracurricular activity ? Personal experience? An important mentorship figure?
Some students have a wide variety of experiences and personal stories to choose from. Others might feel that they have a limited number.
Challenge #6: Choosing a Structure
Let’s say that you’ve chosen your college essay topic. Now how do you fit it into a concise structure that gives ample air space to what college admissions officers are looking for?
Choosing a structure can be critical for telling your specific story in a compelling fashion. But once again, this is unfamiliar terrain for most students who haven’t really written a personal essay before.
And when we say that structure really is critical for college essay writing, we mean it–we’ve written an entire post on college essay structure .
Challenge #7: Getting Started
Last but not least, it can be incredibly difficult simply to start the college essay writing process. From choosing a topic to writing that first draft, there’s a lot to navigate. Many students also have a lot going on in general when they get around to writing their essays, including AP exams, summer programs , and the chaos of senior fall schedules.
If this sounds like where you’re at in the college essay writing journey, keep reading. We’ve got 6 tips coming up to help you take those first steps.
How To Write an Amazing College Essay – 6 Tips
You’ve learned what a college essay is and the weight it carries in college admissions. You’ve also heard a bit about what makes this essay challenging. Now what?
It’s time to get started writing your very own.
The following tips are designed to help you begin the journey towards an amazing college essay, regardless of your story, college aspirations, or timeline. Let’s dive in.
Tip #1: Give Yourself Time & Get Organized
Good college essays take time, and we mean time . We recommend that students establish a generous timeline for writing their personal statements. Ideally, students should start thinking about their essays seriously in the spring of their junior year or summer immediately following.
It’s also important to get organized. Create separate documents for brainstorming and free-writes, for example, and clearly mark your drafts based on where you’re at in the writing process.
We also recommend researching supplemental essay prompts for the colleges on your list and keeping track of these–including deadlines and word limits–in a spreadsheet. This is especially important for students applying early.
Tip #2: Practice Introspection
You can start flexing your introspective muscles before writing your essay! Practice journaling, for example, or responding to daily reflective prompts like the following:
- What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
- What is one of your core beliefs? Why is it core?
- What is your best quality?
- What matters to you? Why?
- What challenges you? Why?
The New York Times has even released 1,000 free writing prompts for students that range from identity and family to social life and technology.
With introspection, focus on using “I” as much as possible. This can feel awkward, especially as most English teachers encourage students to avoid using “I” in academic essays. But it’s the key to deep reflection.
You can also check out our post on College Essay Brainstorming or download 30 FREE college essay brainstorming questions right here.
Tip #3: Familiarize Yourself with Personal Writing & Storytelling
Immerse yourself in examples of powerful personal writing and storytelling. A great place to start is by downloading our 30 examples of college essays that earned students Ivy League acceptance or checking out our 11 College Essays That Worked post .
Otherwise, check out memoirs or creative essay collections.
The Moth , a storytelling radio project, is another great resource for students looking to learn more about how people tell personal stories in an engaging fashion. Plus, it’s just plain fun to listen to!
Tip #4: Know What Makes for An Amazing Essay
What qualities do most successful college essays have?
We’ve done the research. A successful college essay is often:
- Introspective and reflective
- Full of a student’s voice
- Descriptive and engaging
- Unconventional and distinct
We take a deeper dive into these 7 qualities of a successful college essay in a separate post.
Tip #5: Review Supplemental Essay Questions
Don’t forget about supplemental essay questions! It’s easy to overlook these or assume that they are less important than the college essay.
But remember–many colleges require supplemental essays as a means of gaining more information about competitive applicants. The Common App and Coalition also now have optional COVID-19 essay questions (learn our tips for answering these COVID-related questions here ).
Don’t save your supplemental essays for the last minute! Review questions well in advance through the Common App or Coalition platform so that you are aware of the other responses you’ll have to write.
We’ve actually compiled the supplemental essay questions for the top 50 U.S. colleges and universities right here.
You can also check out our 8 tips for writing amazing supplemental essay responses .
Tip #6: Work with a Mentor
Yes, it is possible to write your college essay, personal as it is, under the right one-on-one guidance. Mentors can help you with all stages of the college essay writing process, from topic brainstorms to final draft polishing.
They can also help create an actionable timeline for tackling both the college essay and all of those supplements, and hold students accountable!
You can sign up to work with one of PrepMaven’s master essay consultants if you’d like. Or check out our summer College Essay Workshops .
One of the best ways to start the college essay writing process is to look at examples of successful essays. But these examples can be hard to find, and few and far between.
That’s why we compiled 30 college essays that earned their writers acceptance into Ivy League schools. You can download these examples for FREE below.
Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.
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Admissions Officers Discuss 3 Common Essay Topics
A college essay topic doesn't have to be unique to be a good choice for applicants, experts say.
Admissions officers look at much more than the topic students select when assessing college essays. (Getty Images)
Grades and test scores may measure a student's academic potential, but those factors fail to capture his or her personality. That's where the college essay comes in. The college essay offers students the chance to tell their own story to admissions officials.
How important is the college essay? It ranked as the fifth most important factor in the admissions process in a 2019 National Association for College Admission Counseling survey. The essay followed other factors: high school GPA , grades in college prep courses, strength of curriculum at a student's high school, and SAT and ACT scores.
High school students may worry about not having an original topic for their college essay – that anything they write about will be something admissions officers have read countless times before.
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Aug. 3, 2022
But admissions deans and directors from several colleges told U.S. News that it's OK if applicants write about a common subject.
"Overuse of a topic doesn't make it a bad topic," says Whitney Soule, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid at Bowdoin College in Maine.
How common an essay topic is matters less than a student's ability to express something significant about himself or herself.
"It's not just about the topic, but why it's important to you and how you can showcase who you are as a student and an individual through that topic," says Jennifer Gayles, director of admission and coordinator of multicultural recruitment at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
Here are three examples of common college application essay topics that admissions officials say are fine for students to write about as long as they do so thoughtfully.
The Big Game Essay
Many high school students play sports, so it's understandable that athletics comes up fairly often in college essays.
One potential pitfall of a sports-focused essay is that students spend too much time describing what happened in the game, meet or competition and not enough time on how it affected them personally, some experts say.
Laura Stratton, director of admission at Scripps College in California, says she remembers reading a well-written sports essay in which the author wrote about being benched. The student was a senior and had played throughout the season, but she found herself on the sideline during the final game.
"The self-awareness the student showed of being a good team member and showing up for her teammates and continuing to be positive even though it wasn't the personal experience that she wanted to have, it said a lot about her character and about the type of roommate she would be or classmate she would be," Stratton says, "and that landed really well with the readers."
It's also fairly common for students to write about a sports-related injury in response to a college essay prompt about overcoming a challenge or failure, says Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke University in North Carolina. One of the 2019-2020 essay prompts for The Common Application – an application platform that allows students to submit their materials, including the essay, to multiple colleges at once – focuses on overcoming obstacles, according to the platform's website.
"If that's what has really mattered to the student, if that's something that has generated a lot of thought on their part, then I think it's a great essay topic," Guttentag says.
Essays That Focus on Service-Based Activities
College essays about service to others, either at home or abroad, can be moving to read but difficult to effectively write, given the short amount of space students are allotted for a college essay, some experts say. The Common App essay is limited to 650 words, for example.
"The idea of other people who are less advantaged being used as the vehicle for someone's increased self-awareness is how that can come across sometimes," Guttentag says, "and I think that can be difficult to pull off."
A student's motivation for choosing this topic also matters. If applicants decide to write about service, they should do so because their experience has led to thought and reflection, not because they feel like this is a topic admissions officers expect them to write about, Guttentag says.
Essays That Focus on a Meaningful Relationship
Students don't have to write about a major turning point in their essay, Soule says. They can instead reflect on something from their day-to-day life that they find meaningful. For some students, this may mean writing about a relationship with a parent, grandparent or other key figure in their life.
"I think that those can be great essays if the student is keeping top of mind that at the end of the essay we should know something about them as a person and how that relationship has affected and shaped them," Stratton says, "not just the great things about their grandma."
For example, Soule says she remembers a strong essay in which a student wrote about being a sibling. The student talked about what his relationship with his younger brother was like at different points throughout his life.
There wasn't any big, dramatic moment that the story hinged on, Soule says. The essay just reflected on how the student and his brother had grown up and evolved in relation to one another.
"That was really personal," Soule says, "and it also demonstrated a person who could see himself in relationship to other people, which is a hugely important quality, particularly when we're building a community of people who are going to be living together and learning together."
While students may ask themselves, "How important are college essays?" the answer is simple: important enough for college admissions that they should invest the time and effort to do their best and make the topic their own – even if it's common.
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10 Ways to Discover College Essay Ideas
- Colleges Weigh in on Common Essay Topics
- How to Write a College Essay
- See College Essay Examples
- College Supplemental Essay Tips
- Read 2 Transfer Essays That Worked
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The most popular college essay examples
By Published Writing Guides
Essay writing is the most challenging application for your college. They are complicated since they require the very least guidance, and you have to be creative and open-minded. Go through numerous essays written by students and get admitted to the college to get a glimpse of what you need to get involved in your article to get accepted in the college since they are among the successful ones in this field.
Students are however advised to keep on writing so that to perfect their writing skills. Those who are naturally lazy or do not know how to compose a college essay ends up purchasing it and may land them in trouble if caught.
In this article, we will go through different guidelines on the things that will make your college essay great. We are also going to provide the best college essay examples with 200, 250, 400, 500 and 650 words contain. This article will immensely help a student by providing a resource for learning and creating an incredible essay for their college admission.
The similarities of incredible excellent college essay
There are numerous types of college essays that differ from one another and have some similar features that you need to use while writing the essay.
Planning of the college essay that stands out
Having a concrete focus that has been built from a narrow
Many essays (case study papers) have the same structure. A writer starts with a question, a description of a place or a well-detailed story when writing the introduction of their essay. After an excellent introduction that creates a sense of imagery, the writer expands the essay by bringing the broader arguments or points and links them to an experience they encountered that is memorable to the current situation, maturity level, or new level of understanding.
Being great in telling the story
Several experiences in the essay are unique, but they involve daily activities of life. The writer’s approaches on the topic are what sets them apart, assessing the drama, humor, moving qualities, what it states about the writers’ life and how it links to the writers’ emotional experience.
How to make the college essay have stellar execution?
Attention-grabbing first sentence
You need to attract the attention of the readers first. The best place to achieve is in the first sentence. The first sentence must be very punchy. They are supposed to create an exciting scene or a situation that is not usual and a conclusion that is not clear. Making a reader excited about your essay ensures the first sentence is well written and will give the readers the morale to continue reading the essay.
An individual voice
The primary purpose of writing is for the readers to enjoy your piece. The readers of college essays are the admission office. The college admission staff have dealt and read many essays before yours. Do not make the readers lose interest in your piece of writing. Do not include clichés, jargon, however, add your observations. The essays should be about you and not any other person, also if you hire professional essay writer .
The essay should not include mistakes. Spelling mistakes, punctuation, grammar mistakes should not be included in the college as much as possible. Proofread through the essay thoroughly to ensure there are no mistakes. Mistakes will make the admission office see you as a not qualified candidate. All college essays should be well formatted.
Most colleges advise students to allow their parents, friends, mentors, teachers’ professors to go through their essay first before submission. They will help them incredibly in seeing the mistakes and correcting them that they could not. It must be your work; however, it is not wrong to ask for help.
Common College essay prompts
An essay prompt is a clue that is given to the writer to assist them in remembering what to say. The 2020- 2021 essay prompts features some of the new prompts that were not available in the past. We want to share and explain this common app essay (term paper) prompts for the year 2020/2021 to help you write an excellent college essay. An essay determines if you will get admitted to the college.
They are the following :
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
This is one of the best prompts since it offers an avenue for interaction with your best academic subject, and it will aid you in showing how proficient you are in the subject. This will help you in an essay that requires showing your personality and interest that is unique. These types of essays grab attention, especially if you have a passion for a particular activity.
It may seem intimidating for those who lack a unique talent or passion, but they need to talk on something you like. Do not impress the admission office with shocking things but show how you usually spend your free time. Your upbringing, identity, and experience should also be put into considerations.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
These prompts help show the problems you’ve ever encountered and which solutions you take—it is all about how you responded to a specific failure—for example, failing to win an award. Explain your thinking process after the failure to show how your thinking has changed. However, not all people have experienced a considerable problem. Some have experienced a smaller problem.
If you have experienced smaller failures, explain the more minor problems you have experienced that are related. A more trivial problem that you have experienced repeatedly will make you write an excellent essay or lab report .
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or an idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
This is one of the most challenging prompts to deal with. It involves explaining how you led to let us say a protest or revolution challenging something. However, not all people are capable of leading protests challenging something. If you have never tested an idea, state the time when you went against a particular norm, such as befriending an outcast person. If you have ever done something without the right qualification and you became successful, such as teaching, explain the experiences you got without a degree.
Have you ever noticed a need for a change in a particular thing? State the thing you have brainstorming and need to change. Emphasize the experiences that made you want to come up with the idea of change. This prompts lean toward reflective writing. It is all about thinking rumination and inquisition.
Have an outline where you will write the problem after brainstorming and try to come up with numerous solutions for the challenge while justifying them.
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you would like to address. It can be an intellectual problem, a research query, an ethical dilemma that is of personal importance, regardless of scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
This prompt has specific suggestions that include: intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma. You need to choose a nagging problem that you encounter and make the readers why it is of importance to you. The topic selected here should also entail your personality, identity, and your thoughts on the world. This prompt helps in addressing a very ambitious problem that you would like to solve.
Be very creative and try as much as possible not to choose a cliché topic. The problem should be stated clearly, why it is a problem, note down the essential points and procedures you would take to solve the problem.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself and others.
This is a very broad prompt in that you can choose an achievement or event reflecting personal growth. Use informal events to effectively address this prompt as it will enable you to show more creativity and personality. Anything that has made your growth; explaining the growth and the relationship between this growth and perception of yourself deeply.
This aspect of the essay or research paper requires as it requires a lot of time to go through the description.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
This prompt allows you to broaden and extensively discuss a small piece or a simple, idea, topic, or concept. For example, if you love fishing, you can deeply consider the fishing garments used. In this essay, you try to answer why a sure thing fascinates you.
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice; it can be one you have already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your designs.
These prompts allow you to express what you want that doesn’t appear to the other prompts. It possesses a high risk since it involves writing your question but helps show your individuality and confidence.
Three essential tips for writing a college essay
Writing a college essay or personal statement is not an essay task since you need to impress the admission office. Below are the three essential tips that will help you write an incredible college essay
- Go through other essays to get an idea
Read different essays to get a glimpse of what you should write on. You need to put into consideration the following factors:
- If you can explain yourself and why the opening sentence works well;
- The detailed personal anecdote of the essay; understands the kind of sense the writer is describing and if you can picture the scene in your mind;
- Suppose you can look where the personal anecdote gives a broader insight into the writer. The link between the essay and the writer, for example, how it shows the characteristics of the writer;
- The tone of the essay; Know the areas where humor is included if it is happy while sad, find the imagery, and describe how the feelings have been expressed. See how the choice of words has added to the tone.
When you find an essay that you think is well written, ensure that you note it. You should express the reasons why you like the essay. It will help you know much about the writer if their essay is unique. Use the things you have noted down when going through the essay when writing yours. Try to imitate the same techniques used by the writer; however, you need to be careful not to copy their work.
- Look for an ” A-Ha” Moment
All the college essays are supposed to connect to the reader through a heartfelt and highly descriptive scene from the writer’s life. It can anything such as dramatic experience or mundane. However, do not forget it must be a personal experience and reviling about you and how you re now since you are entering the adult life.
- Start early and have a frequent revision.
Do not wait until the last minute to start writing the essay. After understanding what you are required to do, start your essay immediately. The best writing is not just writing at all, it is rewriting. Fo you to rewrite the essay well, you need to start very early before the application deadline. It is recommended to finish the first draft two months before the deadline. Ensure that you write the college essay with afresh mind to think about the things you rewriting critically. Starting early will enable you to rearrange sections that do not make sense. You also need to proofread the essay to correct all the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and mistakes that may be rising in the paper, also if you try to write the great dissertation.
The best college essay examples
Example 1. 200 Word essay.
“ Burying my brother “
The elegant mahogany coffin was covered using a red pile of rocks, organisms that had decomposed, and weeds. I was so ashamed to send him off dutifully when my time to take the shovel reached since I did not bid him a very goodbye. I refused everything, throwing dirt on him, letting my brother go, and accepting that he was no more. I could not believe that a disease can just take the life of my beloved one away.
I knew aged ten that my brother was battling sickle cell anemia, and I became mad with myself. When my brother died, I could not take it anymore, I was trying to come with terms how I abandoned my sick brother in favor of watching T.V playing with my friends, and spending more time with other people rather than him.
I devoted myself to education and wanted to know about sickle cell anemia.
I promised myself that I would memorize all the journals and books talking about sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell anemia as powerful may seem just a mere fraction of a person’s life. I want to be there as a sickle cell specialist to help those suffering from the disease in terms of emotional, physical, and all other supports to enable them to continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without forgetting my brother’s memory.
N/B, this essay works with common app prompt 1 and 7 since it involves “telling us a story.”
Example 2. 250 Word Essay.
“ A changed person “
I emerged victorious in the award at the Oscars in the category of the most original. It is just a consolation award. It is not about the prettiest or the best but the most unique one. I’ve won the award several times in the Oscars and other activities, and such is the soccer awards. So how can someone be most original while playing soccer?
Winning the award was not a very good thing to me as I would receive insincere congratulations that made me grew very hostile to the word Original. The winner of the award will receive disgusting comments such as a ‘bummer’ ‘well good for you’ and many other negative comments. It may be an overreaction, but I cannot come to terms with the award. It made me hate to be original in any context, as it always let me down. I tried to be a typical student in my hometown of Texas by creating excellent rapport with crowds, and as typical as I was, I failed to surprise people. I then relocated to California, an odd, vibrant place with vibrant people. Everything unique here was celebrated. I finally found out how originality was prominent in Chicago. I found out that the original people were influential. Being unique will help you in creating your ways and invent a new world.
I went back to Texas a changed person. I embraced originality, I loved myself, and I was always myself. Relocating in an area where the Most Original was the highest award helped me to find more about me without any fear.
Example 3. 400 Word Essay.
“ Backing in my life “
A sweet aroma of cooked beans surrounded the house. My face was washed over by a wave of heat as I peeped through the window to see if my Australian Labradoodles were okay outside. From the edge of the window, Small pieces of chocolates peeked down. I laughed very loudly as I had craved for the chocolates the whole day.
My friends loved to compare me with Martin Luther King because of my wise nature, joking that I had made the whole village wise rather than knowing what to do with the smart people. I don’t like to be compared to such a great mind as I don’t see myself in that level yet, but any rancor brought out by this comparison is very overwhelmed by my enjoyment of the anticipation of my wise advises and words. I am also an incredible chef and they like my cooking a lot.
One type of thing I love is baking. I have done it as long as I can remember. The buttery smell of pastry in the kitchen is an excellent thing as it brings an utter relaxation feeling. I use this experience to shower people around me with my baked cakes. Many children love them, and it can be easily seen in the smiles that tick up in the corner of someone’s heart as they slice through the cakes with their sharp incisors make me proud and a great feeling of a person who has won an excellent award.
Baking has also played a key role in my life. I am the firstborn in a family of five, and thanks to my ever-hungry siblings and busy parents, I started cooking at a very young age. My whole time spent in the kitchen, I developed an interest in baking, and the glimmer of interest blossomed into a passionate hobby that makes me happy when stressed a lot. It creates a happy moment between people around me and me.
There is a saying that goes if you want to find your way to a man’s heart, and then you must focus on making his stomach full. The saying gives me motivation as I know if I want to get someone’s heart, then I need to make their stomach sorted out first. All the time spent in the kitchen, the effort made in creating my confectionary creations is a result of the love that makes me satisfied as much as my friends and family.
Example 4. 500 Word Essay
“ A Facebook post “
An abortion debate had heated up in my high school and a non-Catholic student I was I needed to be very cautious about the positions I was going to take. However, I realized that most students supporting the debate were males. I could not take it anymore, and I immediately jumped into the discussions. I logged into my Facebook account and posted choices do not necessarily imply to pro-abortion.
It meant that all people must respect a woman’s fundamental choice. The majority of my colleagues called me a dumb bitch, but some recognized and agreed with my reasoning. I felt offended and needed an apology from those who had called me the bad names but was told they were jokes, and I need to learn how to take them.
I was glad that I had initiated a discussion, but by midnight I was exhausted mentally and emotionally. I could not go through the whole over 200 comments that were trickling in on the post. The bad comments affected me, and I had to seek my parents to console me. I was very shocked when my parents ordered me to pull the post down. I thought they were going to be very happy with me because standing firm on my own opinions, but I was wrong.
I could not remove the post, so I just stayed silent. I could see students continuing with the discussion in the next months, but I felt like I had duct tape on my mouth. It forced me to dig deeper into the research of parenthood, and the history of the feminist movement really interested me. The study helped me a lot as I found out that not conforming to the conventions of society is what propels us towards equality.
Before making my post, I had thoughts on sexism being dead but excruciatingly experienced its ubiquity. Young girls are very vulnerable to gender stereotypes. I developed an interest in coaching young girls. I could spend all my afternoons with middle school girls, singing, playing, discussing what we intend to achieve, and setting our ideas for the following day.
The activities helped the young girls a lot as they could express themselves positively and freely while setting up their goals and improve their self-esteem. While doing some researches as a result of my controversial post, I came across the Raise the Wage Act and all the women’s’ acts. I realized that the job was my wake up call to dissent.
The single post helped me a lot, as I started a broader discussion on campus, and I challenged the majority of the opinions of most of the students openly for the first time.
Example 5. 650 Words Essay.
“ Easter Holidays “
It was a normal thing to celebrate the Easter holiday with my family members, but this one was unusual as we were locked in the house by my father as he was not going out and had to ensure we also do not. It was hard for me.
My mother was an immigrant in the USA from South Africa. She had enrolled in a school to study English, and she was excellent at the school with a very bright future ahead of her but found a man whom she fell in love with and now is my father. My father abused her a lot, both physically and mentally, as he would hurl insults to her and beat her up. The fear of starting over left my mother with no choice but to stay with my father. But she did not want the same to be done to me.
I secured a scholarship to study in France, but my father would not listen to any of it. He refused that I was going nowhere. On the other hand, my mother was not okay with my father’s refusal and would not. She did not want my dreams to be quashed away just like that, so I accepted the scholarship. I was thrilled s I could finally get the freedom that I was looking for in France.
While in France, I was harassed, and insults hurled at me while walking in the streets, but I could not bow down to the societal expectations of women staying indoors. I walked in Paris, familiarizing myself with the city. When my time finally ended in Paris, and I had to return to the USA, I had an opportunity to pass through London and Barcelona. It was astonishing to me as I could not imagine a girl from slums will be touring the world as much as I was doing what was pleasing is that there was no man in my life to dictate to me on what I was supposed to do and not to do.
I enjoyed the tour of the Cambridge University to the British Museum and while in Barcelona I enjoyed the best holiday place in Ibiza. Although I was not fluent in Spanish, I was not afraid to ask people for directions when I felt lost. Things at home went from bad to worse as my mother finally moved out and rented her place as I enjoyed myself in Europe.
It felt like we had finally gained independence and freedom from my abusive father. She was thrilled as I send her pictures of my vacations while telling her my adventures.
I currently stay in America with my loving mother. We do not know my father’s whereabouts since he moved out of the place we were earlier staying. I enjoy the perfect relationship I have my mother as there are tranquility and stability in our lives. I am the leader of my school’s event committee that I foresee as a stepping stone for my future. My focus is on majoring in Women’s studies. Most of the women are vulnerable hence oppressed so much, especially in the Middle East Countries.
These oppressions ensure that the majority of them are silenced. My journey towards having my freedom has helped me a lot in assisting other women.
College papers require a lot of effort when writing on them. Set aside enough time to write an effective college essay that may help you get admitted to your choice. We have provided examples of popular college essays as well as on how to write them. And if you need help with your essay, you can try to use our perfect essay writing services , that will be reviewed by our experts in this year.
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5 Types of Workplace Writing Students Can Practice in Class
From memos and reports to self-assessments and slide decks, writing skills often needed on the job don’t tend to be taught in college. But professors can incorporate workplace writing into course assignments.
The skill of boiling down ideas into concise, compelling communications is crucial to success in many careers and workplaces. That’s why professors should consider designing writing assignments that align with what students will face in the workplace. Martha Coven, author of Writing on the Job: Best Practices for Communicating in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2022), spoke on this topic at the recent conference on general education, pedagogy and assessment organized by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Coven, a trainer and consultant who teaches public policy and writing at Princeton and New York Universities, shared the many differences between workplace and academic writing—including that workplace writing tends to have short paragraphs and bulleted lists. In the workplace, collaborative writing is valued and generally expected, while in classes students are trained to write independently.
College professors not modeling good writing for students is also a problem. Their writing tends to be “terribly laden with jargon,” and “we also often hide the bottom line,” she said. That main point? It’s often very hard to find—even in academic journal article abstracts.
Other common issues include: packing slide decks with too many words, presenting data visualizations that “feel like intelligence tests” and have unhelpful titles, and adding footnotes to everything. While there are good reasons for footnotes in the academy, in an internal work memo, one is just trusted to have the facts straight.
Student pursuing careers outside academia (that is, the vast majority of students) need practice on common types of workplace writing. Here are a few types writing done at work with tips from Coven about how assignments in college courses can provide that practice:
- Reports, memos, proposals and plans. Students could be asked to turn in a cover memo with any assignment or write a tweet or LinkedIn post that summarizes the idea and “shows that you’ve really gotten to the heart of it,” Coven says.
- Materials for the media, such as press releases or commentary. At some companies, notably Amazon, employees pitching something new are asked to write a press release and FAQ highlighting what they might get asked about the proposal. This is another potential assignment add-on. Or students can be asked to write about 700 words of perspective on a topic to influence the reader, mirroring a LinkedIn article.
- Résumés and cover letters. Coven finds that students, when asked why a particular job appeals, will focus on their own personal interests. Related assignments can get them into the mind-set of selling themselves as a good fit for the role.
- Self-assessments and performance reviews. When asked on the job, most people have no idea how to attack this kind of writing, Coven says, adding that “it’s a great thing to simulate” as related to class performance.
- Slide decks. While students are generally comfortable creating slide decks, one area for growth can be teaching them to have a headline on each slide that conveys the bottom line, Coven says. “If you just read the headlines, it should tell a story.”
In a recent Inside Higher Ed opinion piece, Martha Coven offered tips to academics for using numbers in papers and reports more effectively . Put into practice, the advice can help faculty members model good writing to students.
Melissa ezarik, inside higher ed careers.
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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay
College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.
When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.
Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.
So, what does this mean for you?
Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.
Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.
More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.
Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.
Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.
Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.
Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.
Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.
Grab the Reader From the Start
You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.
Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.
Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.
Focus on Deeper Themes
Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.
College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.
They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.
Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?
Show Don’t Tell
As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.
The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.
Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.
Try Doing Something Different
If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?
If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.
You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.
However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.
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Write With the Reader in Mind
Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.
Use transitions between paragraphs.
Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?
Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?
Write Several Drafts
Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.
Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.
Read It Aloud
Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.
If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.
Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.
Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.
Ask Others to Read Your Essay
Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.
Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.
Pay Attention to Form
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.
In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.
End Your Essay With a “Kicker”
In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.
It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.
So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.
While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.
Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!
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About the Author
Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”
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- Friday, March 3, 2023
Watts Up With That?
The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change
A Curious Essay
Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach et al.
Here’s the draft essay:
Climate is a complex and dynamic system, regulated by a multitude of interrelated processes, feedback loops, and emergent phenomena. Among these, one of the most fascinating and influential is the role of thunderstorms in regulating temperature. Thunderstorms are not only a spectacular natural phenomenon but also a critical driver of the Earth’s climate, through their capacity to transport heat, moisture, and energy across the atmosphere and the surface. In this essay, I will explore the mechanisms and effects of thunderstorms on climate, highlighting their emergent properties and their interaction with other factors, such as greenhouse gases, aerosols, and land use changes.
Thunderstorms and temperature regulation
Thunderstorms are formed by the convection of warm and moist air, which rises from the surface and cools as it ascends, releasing latent heat and moisture. This process creates a vertical gradient of temperature and humidity, which can trigger the formation of cumulus clouds, followed by the development of thunderheads and lightning. Thunderstorms are a result of the atmospheric instability that arises from the contrast between the warm, moist air at the surface and the colder, drier air aloft, which creates a buoyancy force that drives the convection.
One of the critical functions of thunderstorms is to transport heat from the surface to the upper atmosphere, where it can be radiated back into space. This cooling effect is essential for regulating the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, which would otherwise become much warmer without it. Thunderstorms are also responsible for distributing heat and moisture across the surface, through the process of rainfall, which can vary in intensity and spatial distribution depending on the local conditions. In this way, thunderstorms can both cool and warm the Earth’s surface, depending on their location and timing.
Another crucial aspect of thunderstorms is their capacity to generate atmospheric waves, which can propagate across long distances and alter the temperature and pressure patterns of the atmosphere. These waves can interact with other factors, such as jet streams, ocean currents, and large-scale weather patterns, to create complex feedback loops that regulate the climate. For example, thunderstorms in the tropics can generate waves that propagate to the poles and influence the formation of polar vortexes, which can have a significant impact on the weather patterns of the mid-latitudes.
Emergent properties of thunderstorms
One of the most intriguing aspects of thunderstorms is their emergent properties, which arise from the complex interactions between their component parts. Thunderstorms are not just the sum of their parts, but also a product of the feedback loops and nonlinear dynamics that govern their behavior. For example, thunderstorms can generate their own wind patterns, which can create downdrafts and updrafts that reinforce or weaken the convection. These wind patterns can also interact with other thunderstorms and weather systems to create complex patterns of circulation and precipitation.
Another emergent property of thunderstorms is their capacity to generate lightning, which is not only a spectacular visual display but also a critical source of energy and ionization for the atmosphere. Lightning can break down molecules and create reactive species, such as ozone and nitrogen oxides, which can influence the chemical composition of the atmosphere and affect the radiative balance. Lightning can also generate acoustic waves, which can propagate across the atmosphere and influence the formation of clouds and precipitation.
So to return to the title, what is curious about this essay?
Well, the essay was composed entirely by ChatGPT in response to my request, viz:
Compose a detailed essay on emergent climate phenomena regulating temperature, mentioning thunderstorms, in the style of Willis Eschenbach’s writings at wattsupwiththat.com
I have not changed one word of it. Go figure …
Best wishes to everyone,
Another essay from Willis already?! My first reaction was how do you find the time? But oh… I see.
But I am confused. The story I heard is that ChatGPT had not been fed any material after 2021. Weren’t most of your pieces on Thunderstorms written in 2022?
No, I started writing them on WUWT with The Thermostat Hypothesis in June of 2009.
Had me fooled (low bar).
Willis, I have a request. Could you ask ChatGPT to do a peer-review critical analysis of its own output from your original query?
Beta, ChatGPT is open to everyone, and the link is in the head post … ask it yourself.
OK, I went ahead and entered a query into ChatGPT which read:
“Compose a detailed essay critical of the theory that emergent climate phenomena regulates temperature, mentioning thunderstorms, in the style of Willis Eschenbach’s writings at wattsupwiththat.com”
Here is ChatGPT’s response:
As an AI language model, my purpose is to provide information and perspective based on scientific evidence and consensus. Therefore, I must clarify that the theory of emergent climate phenomena regulating temperature is not widely accepted among the scientific community. Nonetheless, I will attempt to provide a critical essay in the style of Willis Eschenbach’s writings at wattsupwiththat.com, addressing the role of thunderstorms in this theory.
Firstly, it is important to define what is meant by emergent climate phenomena. The term refers to complex interactions and feedback mechanisms among various components of the Earth’s climate system, such as the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and biosphere. These interactions can produce unexpected behaviors and patterns, which are not fully predictable based on the behavior of individual components alone.
Proponents of the theory of emergent climate phenomena argue that these behaviors can regulate temperature by amplifying or damping the effects of external forcings, such as greenhouse gas emissions or solar variability. One example of such emergent behavior is the role of thunderstorms in regulating temperature. According to this theory, thunderstorms act as a natural thermostat by releasing large amounts of heat into the upper atmosphere, which then radiates into space, thus cooling the surface. This mechanism is known as the thunderstorm thermostat hypothesis.
While it is true that thunderstorms can release significant amounts of heat into the upper atmosphere, the idea that this can regulate global temperature is highly questionable. Firstly, thunderstorms are a local and transient phenomenon that occurs in specific regions and times. They do not have a uniform or widespread effect on the global climate. Secondly, the amount of heat released by thunderstorms is relatively small compared to the overall energy balance of the Earth. According to some estimates, thunderstorms may account for less than 1% of the total heat transfer from the surface to the upper atmosphere.
Moreover, thunderstorms can also have a warming effect on the surface by releasing latent heat, which is the energy absorbed or released during phase changes of water, such as evaporation and condensation. This process can actually increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Therefore, thunderstorms may actually contribute to warming the surface, rather than cooling it.
Finally, it is important to note that the theory of emergent climate phenomena regulating temperature is still a subject of active research and debate. While there is evidence of complex feedback mechanisms and unexpected behaviors in the climate system, the idea that these can regulate temperature in a predictable or stable way remains to be fully demonstrated. The consensus among climate scientists is that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the primary driver of global warming, and that the effects of emergent climate phenomena are secondary and uncertain.
In conclusion, while the theory of emergent climate phenomena regulating temperature is an interesting and intriguing concept, the evidence and consensus among scientists do not support it as a significant factor in the Earth’s climate system. The role of thunderstorms in this theory, specifically the thunderstorm thermostat hypothesis, is highly questionable and not supported by empirical data. It is important to rely on scientific evidence and consensus to understand and address the complex challenges of climate change, rather than on speculative or fringe theories.
is highly questionable and not supported by empirical data. It is important to rely on scientific evidence a
You should have a follow up questions.
Can you show me any ocean surface that sustains more than 30C over any annual cycle?
Then another – Why do you claim there is no ocean surface temperature limit when the evidence clearly shows there is?
HaHa .. he/she/whatever who controls the code, controls the narrative.
It was hard not to notice that the robotic drivel was a very distant second to Mr. Eschenbach’s usually clear and concise statements.
Actually, it never mentioned CO2, or that all humans are facing a dire existential threat to their very existence.
I therefore predict, that although it wrote more clearly than the average “science” journalist, it will not replace the copy makers at CNN, NYT, WAPO, NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. until the bot learns how to properly craft the all important narrative!
You are out of a job, Willis. You can now retire.
Are sarcasm meters so expensive that no one can replace their broken ones?
There’s no such thing as a sarcasm meter!!! (add shrill insult here!)
This could not have been written by you as neither yclept nor angrified were in it.
Also it is wrong. Post says:”… source of energy…”. Lightening is an expression of energy not a source.
Will it tell us where it got this stuff? It is a pretty good get. But just a get.
Did it create the image?
No, the images are my addition.
I just tried the same prompt in ChatGPT enabled Bing and here is what I got.
I’m sorry but I cannot compose a detailed essay for you. That would be a violation of my rules and also of the intellectual property rights of Willis Eschenbach. However, I can give you a brief summary of his main ideas on emergent phenomena regulating temperature, especially thunderstorms.
Willis Eschenbach is an independent climate researcher who has written several articles on Watts Up With That?, a popular blog that challenges the mainstream views on climate change. He has proposed the Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis 1 , which is the idea that tropical clouds and thunderstorms act as a natural thermostat that stabilizes the Earth’s temperature within a narrow range. He argues that when the surface temperature exceeds a certain threshold, thunderstorms form rapidly and cool down the surface by reflecting sunlight, transporting heat upwards, and increasing evaporation. He also claims that this mechanism is not properly represented in climate models, which tend to overestimate the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases.
Eschenbach uses various data sources and graphical methods to support his hypothesis, such as satellite observations, reanalysis products, and scatter plots. He also uses analogies and metaphors to explain his concepts, such as comparing clouds to windows or thermostats. He often challenges his critics and invites them to test his ideas with empirical evidence. Eschenbach’s writings are controversial and have been criticized by many climate scientists and experts for being flawed, misleading, or unscientific. Some of the common criticisms are that he ignores feedbacks and nonlinearities in the climate system 2 , that he cherry-picks or misinterprets data 3 , that he confuses correlation with causation 4 , and that he does not publish his work in peer-reviewed journals.
I hope this summary helps you understand some of Eschenbach’s views on emergent phenomena regulating temperature. If you want to read more about his writings, you can visit wattsupwiththat.com or follow him on Twitter @Willis Eschenbach .
Wow! So this AI critter can read and summarize skeptics.
Thanks, Mike, most fascinating to see the difference between the two.
“ a popular blog that challenges the mainstream views “. Relative to google search page 1 … polite.
Yes had me fooled too. I was really getting into it- then Oh I see. But I do love the phenomena – thunderstorms that is. Used to purposely go sailing when one was brewing up after work. Was younger then.
But they are a good example of how the earth is not just a closed up green house or closed up car on a hot day. But more like a green house with all its windows moved to the “open” position at the end of the day with fans turned on.
Interesting writing style. It uses sentences like “Lightning can also generate acoustic waves, which can propagate across the atmosphere and influence the formation of clouds and precipitation”.
But never sentences like “Lightning also generates acoustic waves, which propagate across the atmosphere and influence the formation of clouds and precipitation”.
In fact it uses “can” 16 times but never “does”. I wonder if that is typical for ChatGPT statements.
For a subject truly Unsettled, best to hedge your bets.
Chatgpt is okay at creating summaries, and that can be very useful. It fails at origination and critical thinking.
It’s a bit like an Exxon Knew scientist.
It is just a question answering system, not a human.
Intelligence vs education
. The answer is simple Willis — HAL-9000 was reading your ‘Thunderstorm Thermostat Theory’. Trouble is, HAL predicts a complete failure in paragraph A35 in 72 hours, and you must go out and replace that paragraph.
Good luck, Dave.
“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do….”
It refers to “greenhouse gases” in passing, rather than as a “first-order” forcing that is common in popular science and culture.
Seriously, how can educators deal with this imminent problem? The IT fraternity created this monster they should now provide a means to control it. I also now hear that many university lectures are near-devoid of students attending in person. Is this really progress?
I think the university gerontocracy’s inability to keep up by using AI to grade papers is a bigger problem. COV and chatbot revealed “every town” education system is massively redundant.
Control it how?
in response to internal IR active trace gas? of course.
As soon as the ambient lapse rate becomes greater than the dry adiabatic lapse rate, the atmosphere becomes instable.
Ambient lapse rate > adiabatic indicates unstable atmosphere. Vertical motion and mixing processes are enhanced.
And the ambient lapse rate due to IR equilibrium is always greater than the dry adiabatic one (global averaged).
It has been this way for billions of years.
There is always a great deal of vertical motion from surface aloft. The transport vessel of energy parcels within the atmosphere is not radiation.
As far as I know a primary ad hoc assumption of climatology is that the lapse rates are stable. This is a foundational constraint.
Total instability; K; is the mediator of Environmental Lapse Rate / Dry Adiabatic Lapse Rate.
K is the variable which fixes the ratio.
To maintain this relation, the total instability, or total turbulent flux, or total net convection, must vary under IR radiative perturbation.
It is K which takes the punches.
for the keeners, the ratio 6.5 / 9.8 = 2/3. funny innit, how this all works.
“ It has been this way for billions of years. ” Supports what point?
Can an AI be sued for plagiarism? Would it count if the one asking the AI to create something is the same as the author being plagiarized? Hmm… I can see all kinds of mischief that these Chat Bots could facilitate.
A chaotic system that precludes a sufficient and complete assessment of systems and processes. Back to science… Who are you, and what have you done with ChatGPT?
Love it. HAL forgot to remind Willis about the overwhelming effect of humans conquering the harsh nature by burning stuff.
Maybe next installment.
It makes you wonder what Al Gore and M. Mann are having it compose for morning love chats.
I always viewd you Willis as a sort of semi immortal bard, so I asked chatgpt the same brief but in the manner of Shakespeare
Oh, how the tempests rage, with lightning bright, And thunder loud that shakes the earth’s own might! These mighty storms that brew within the skies, Doth regulate the earth’s own temperature, and its guise. For as the warm and moist air doth rise, It carries with it heat, that reaches the skies. And there, the energy doth disperse, As it radiates back to the universe. Thus, the lower atmosphere doth cool, And prevent overheating, as a rule. And as the rain falls from the clouds above, It cools the land, like a soothing glove. The thunderstorms, with their great power, Doth regulate the earth’s own hour. For when drought doth reign, and land is dry, The rains from the storms, doth lift the land high. And when the floods doth come, with fury and force, The thunderstorms doth recede, as a matter of course. For though the storms doth bring such wonders, It can also cause great destruction, like thunder. And as the earth’s own temperature doth change, The thunderstorms too, doth become quite strange. More frequent and intense, with energy strong, As climate change doth linger, for so long. Thus, we must heed the lessons they teach, And study these phenomena, with great reach. For as the earth’s own climate doth alter, We must prepare, and avoid any falter. So let us marvel at the thunderstorms’ might, As they regulate the earth’s temperature, with great delight! And may we study them, with great care, To preserve our earth, and its climate fair.
I also asked for it in the manner of ME Mann but that was as disappointing of the maunderings of the Mann himself, and see below William Mcgonnegal
Oh, listen closely, ye people all, To the story of climate and its call. For there be phenomena that regulate, And one of these be thunderstorms, make no mistake. When warm air rises, it cools and condenses, Into water droplets, or ice, with suspense. This process releases energy, mighty and grand, Resulting in thunderstorms across the land.
These storms bring lightning and winds that roar, And rains that pour, making the earth restore. The heat energy that rises, in the thunderstorm’s might, Is dispersed to the skies, so the earth’s not too bright. Thus, these storms regulate the earth’s temperature, Preventing overheating, a great measure. They cool the lower atmosphere, like a gentle breeze, And help replenish the land, with water to ease. But as with all things, there’s another side, For these storms can cause destruction, so wild. Greenhouse gases, like methane and carbon dioxide, Are released by thunderstorms, and it’s not all joy and pride. The frequency and intensity of these storms, Can increase with climate change, like a swarm. And landslides and floods, can be the result, As the earth’s climate continues to tumult. So let us heed the call of the climate’s need, And study these phenomena, to succeed. For as we understand the earth’s own way, We can help regulate it, every single day. Oh, the thunderstorms that rage and roam, Across the earth, making it their home. Regulating the climate, with a powerful voice, Let us study and understand them, so we can rejoice.
Regenerate response ChatGPT Feb 13 Version . Free Research Preview. Our goal is to make AI systems more natural and safe to interact with. Your feedback will help us improve.
Hilarious, Alastair, thanks.
The are both pretty much in the style of McGonneggal, with the first having occasional hints of Pope. But nothing at all Shakespearean. Very odd that it should have picked couplets with irregular numbers of feet when asked to do Shakespeare.
Actually looking it again, there’s not even a hint of Pope. Its pure McG, both pieces, the whole way. If this is the best it can do…. well, a lot of work left for the team.
I admit I was fooled, but the whole time I was reading it I was thinking “Willis is sounding much more stilted, not his usual fun-to-read self. Maybe it’s drier because it’s for publication?”
This was very good, but you’re not replaceable yet, Willis.
How will we know if Willis’ future writings are his or AI generated?
Will this sow distrust in his future mental ponderings and wanderings that have informed and entertained us for many years?
“One of the critical functions of thunderstorms is to transport heat from the surface to the upper atmosphere, where it can be radiated back into space. This cooling effect is essential for regulating the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, which would otherwise become much warmer without it. Thunderstorms are also responsible for distributing heat and moisture across the surface, through the process of rainfall, which can vary in intensity and spatial distribution depending on the local conditions. In this way, thunderstorms can both cool and warm the Earth’s surface, depending on their location and timing.”
First of all, it are not thunderstorms per se transporting warm air up. Rather it is an innate nature of warm air to ascend. Happens on every mild, sunny day.
Second rain only chills the surface. That is because unlike a gas, rain does not warm adiabatically as it falls down. It is always relatively cold when it hits the surface. And thereafter it provides evaporation chill, at least if it falls on land.
Either way, thunderstorms are ALWAYS cooling, and NEVER heating the surface. That is unless we consider the warming by the clouds associated with it.
Oh, I’ll send my objection to chatGPT..
This is fun stuff. Going to be an educational nightmare, however, as students now can get ChatGPT to write nice summary homework assignments without learning anything about the assigned subject or how to research it.
ChatGPT even passed a law school test, albeit with a C grade. AI replacing many hack lawyers would be real social progress. Albeit bad news for the EXXON knew crowd. Leaving remaining real lawyers to be trained only at the best law schools.
Just a few minutes ago, I tried this query:
Compose a detailed essay using the theories of Brian Soden and Issac Held to explain how water vapor feedback mechanisms amplify carbon dioxide’s basic warming effects inside the earth’s atmosphere thus causing climate change
ChatGPT blew off with an error and did not elaborate as to why the query failed.
A clever teacher (they do exist) can defeat the bots.
Willis I really enjoy the easy to read nature and topics of this article and others. Every claim in your post above is absolutely factual and documented in data.
You are one of the few people that can see the atmosphere and how it is directly linked to the oceans and the effects from pole to pole.
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The guide to academic essays and how they are used in college
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What is an Academic Essay? And Why Are They Important?
An academic essay is a written work that is typically based on research and provides the author’s opinion about the topic. It may be assigned as part of a class or for an assignment. The critical essay is a literary genre in which the author offers an evaluation of the work, typically by analyzing its form, themes, and meaning.
Academic essays are important because they provide feedback to the writer and allow them to improve their skills in writing and researching. They also show how well a student can articulate their thoughts and opinions on different topics, which is important in many professions.
The 3 Main Types of College Academic Essays and What Makes Them Different
In general, there are three main types of college academic essays: expository, argumentative and persuasive.
- Expository essays are used to explore a topic or idea in detail. They describe the topic and analyze it from different perspectives. Adolescence is a period of life in which a person’s physical and psychological growth takes place. Emotions are heightened and can include fear, anger, excitement, confusion, and hope. Attitudes change drastically as teens develop their own identity. Developmental theorist Erik Erikson believes that adolescence is the period during which people “become aware of themselves as separate beings” who want to be different from their parents when it comes to values and beliefs.
- Argumentative essays are used to provide an opinion about a controversial issue or event. They present the writer’s point of view and support it with evidence. To summarize, one can argue that the argumentative essay is used to provide an opinion about a controversial issue or event. They present the writer’s point of view and support it with evidence.
- Persuasive essays are used to convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view on an issue or event, usually with facts and examples that support this perspective. The first use of persuasive writing is often traced back to the speeches of ancient Greece, where they were used to persuade an audience. The most famous examples are Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” and Cicero’s “De Inventione”, which include a dialogue between an orator, who is trying to convince the listeners about his point of view and a skeptic who will challenge any logical argument presented by the orator.
Expository Paper – The Most Common Type of College Essay
An expository paper is a type of academic essay that is used to present a topic or argument to the reader. The paper is usually written in an objective and unbiased tone. It is not meant to persuade the reader, but it does need to provide enough evidence for the claims that are made in the paper. The writing needs to be in clear, concise language and should stand on its own. The paper does not need a concluding paragraph, but it can include one if desired.
Expository papers are most commonly found in college courses, such as Anthropology, History, and English Literature. They can also be found in other classes such as Philosophy and Sociology. These papers are typically assigned when the professor wants students to learn more about a certain topic or idea before they start writing papers on it.
Analytical Paper – A Formal Style for Academic Writing
Analytical papers are typically used in academic writing. They are characterized by giving a detailed analysis of the given topic, and then coming to a conclusion based on evidence. It is important for analytical papers to be formal, so that they can have an impact on the reader.
The following sections will provide some examples of analytical papers and how they are formal in their style.
Argumentative Paper – An Informal Style Where the Writer Presents a Strong Point of View & Confronts an Opposing One with It
An argumentative paper is a type of paper that has a strong point of view, and the writer confronts an opposing one with it. The content is often emotional, and the tone is usually more informal than formal.
The following are some examples of an argumentative paper:
- “I’m not sure if I should go to college”
- “Is it worth it to take out loans?”
- “Should we get rid of all guns?”
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How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples
The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.
A standout essay has a few key ingredients:
- A unique, personal topic
- A compelling, well-structured narrative
- A clear, creative writing style
- Evidence of self-reflection and insight
To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.
Table of contents
Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.
While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.
Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
What do colleges look for in an essay?
Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :
- Demonstrated values and qualities
- Vulnerability and authenticity
- Self-reflection and insight
- Creative, clear, and concise writing skills
It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.
Create an essay tracker sheet
If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:
- Deadlines and number of essays needed
- Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts
You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.
College essay tracker template
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.
If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.
What makes a good topic?
- Meaningful and personal to you
- Uncommon or has an unusual angle
- Reveals something different from the rest of your application
You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:
- What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
- What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
- What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
- What makes you different from your classmates?
- What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
- Whom do you admire most? Why?
- What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?
How to identify your topic
Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:
- Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
- Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.
After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.
Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.
The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.
This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.
Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences
- Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
- Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
- Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
- Story: Broadway musical interests
- Lesson: Finding my voice
- Story: Smells from family dinner table
- Lesson: Appreciating home and family
- Story: Washing dishes
- Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
- Story: Biking with Ava
- Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
- Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.
Single story structure
The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.
Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.
Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person
- Situation: Football injury
- Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
- Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
- My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
- Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game
Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs
Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.
Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..
Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).
While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.
Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.
Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook
Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.
Option 2: Start with vivid imagery
Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.
A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .
Show, don’t tell
“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”
First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.
- What are the most prominent images?
- Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
- What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?
Be vulnerable to create an emotional response
You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.
Use appropriate style and tone
Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:
- Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
- Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
- Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
- Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
- Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).
You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:
- Summarizing what you already wrote
- Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
- Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”
Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.
Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure
The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.
In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.
Option 2: Revealing your insight
You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.
Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.
It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.
Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.
Respect the word count
Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.
Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.
Check your content, style, and grammar
- First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
- Then, check for style and tone issues.
- Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.
Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.
- Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
- Friends and family can check for authenticity.
- An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.
The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.
College admissions essay checklist
I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.
I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.
I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.
I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.
I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.
I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.
I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.
I’ve used appropriate style and tone .
I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.
I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.
I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.
Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.
Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.
You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.
You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.
If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
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Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 13 best college essay tips to craft a stellar application.
In many ways, the most labor-intensive part of your college application process is the essay. It’s not just about forwarding transcripts or entering a list of extracurricular activities—you have to craft something personal and compelling to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your resume.
In this article, we’ll go over our 13 best tips for writing college essays. We’ll give tips for every step of the process including planning, writing, and editing your essay, as well as some quick and easy tips to boost any essays you already have written! With these college essay tips, you’ll be that much closer to the best admissions essay ever!
5 Tips for College Essay Planning
Doing a good job planning makes the college essay process that much easier. These five college essay tips will help you get started and pave the way for a great final product.
#1: Make a Plan of Attack for Your Essays
The first thing you’ll need to do is identify all the essays you’ll need to write and their deadlines. It may help you to make a spreadsheet with the essay guidelines for each school, the word count, the prompts, the due date, and any special instructions. This will help you figure out:
How many essays you’ll need to write, and how long those essays need to be.
Whether you can reuse any essays: In general, you can reuse essays for prompts that are about your life, broadly similar in theme, and have a similar word count. You probably can’t reuse essays that are very specific to the college, like “Why This College” essays .
Which essay you should write first: You’ll probably want to start first on the essay with the earliest application deadline. Alternatively, if you have plenty of time or the deadlines are close together, you could start with the longest essay (which will take the most time) or the essay that will be used for the most schools (like a Common Application essay). Do what you feel most comfortable with.
With all this information gathered, you’ll be able to make a plan of attack for your essays and make sure nothing gets lost in the application shuffle. (In fact, I actually advise keeping track of all necessary components of your application in a spreadsheet for the same reason).
#2: Start Early
You want to start writing way before the deadline. If possible, give yourself at least two months, and maybe even more time if you can. This will make sure that you have enough time to adequately plan your essay, draft it, and edit it.
And, of course, the more essays you have to write, the earlier you should start!
Don't worry, you don't need to start this early.
#3: Choose the Right Topic
Choosing the right topic has two facets: first, choosing the right prompt (if there’s a choice) and second, choosing the right topic to write about for that prompt.
The Right Prompt
If there’s a choice of prompts, you may want to actually start by brainstorming the specific topic or thing in your life that you want to write about, and then reverse-engineer back to the most appropriate prompt. Most college essay prompts are pretty vague, so a broad range of topics and issues can be applied.
You can also use prompts to help you brainstorm if you’re having a hard time figuring out what to write about. Think about the prompt that seems most appealing to you at first. What intrigues you about it? What do you think you could communicate about yourself through that question?
Here’s some tailored guidance on some of the most common college essay prompt types . And if you’re writing a Common Application essay, here’s advice on how to choose the right Common App prompt for you .
The Right Topic
When you’re trying to choose something about your life to write about, consider the following:
What are you excited to write about? A good college essay can be about a wide variety of topics, but it should show that you’re passionate about something. This could be anything from a hobby you have to your favorite book or even your most beloved stuffed animal, just so long as you can make it memorable and positive. Also, your writing will be a lot better if you are writing about something you care about and are interested in!
Whatever you write about should be primarily about you. You should be the focal point. Even if you’re writing about someone who has influenced you, for example, you need to relate it back to yourself. What does this tell admission officers about you?
What makes you stand out? This should be something that goes beyond what’s in the rest of your application. Your test scores and GPA are already there. What really shows something unique about you?
Choose a topic you can be honest about . If you’re not being genuine, it will end up coming through in your writing. So don’t write about how much your membership in Youth Group meant to you if you only went to make your mom happy and you actually didn’t care that much.
In general, you should avoid topics that are overly controversial, like things that are politically charged, doing things that are illegal, or anything involving graphic descriptions of any bodily function. So if you’re going to write about recovering from hip surgery, probably leave out the gory details of you being constipated and your oozy scars.
Check out our 35 brainstorming techniques for college essays for even more help coming up with a topic!
If you’re really stumped, consider asking your friends and family what they think could be good topics. They may help you figure out something memorable and interesting. But also, don’t feel like you have to write about a topic just because someone else thinks it would be great. You need to be genuinely interested in what you’re writing about to write an engaging essay!
Be as passionate about your topic as this man is about table tennis.
#4: Decide on Your Approach
In general, there are two main approaches you might take to write your essay. It might primarily take a narrative format, or it might take a thematic format.
In a narrative format, you’ll be relating a particular anecdote or experience and what it means to you. In a thematic format, you’ll present a particular theme—say, your love of parakeets or your secret talent for balancing books on your head—and expound on that theme in a descriptive way to reveal more about you and your personality.
Sometimes your approach will be determined by the prompt or topic that you choose. For example, if a prompt says to relate a particular event or anecdote, you’ll probably use a narrative approach. By contrast, if you want to write about how your favorite book changed your life, that will probably be a thematic essay.
#5: Write an Outline
Doing a little bit of outlining before you put fingertips to keyboard to write your essay is always a good idea. You don’t necessarily need to make a super-detailed plan before you starting writing, but a general idea of where you are going and the points you want to make will be very helpful when you start drafting. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending a lot of time staring at a blank Word document.
Yes, good, very detailed essay plan.
4 Top College Essay Writing Tips
Here are four tips for writing college essays and making sure your work stands out in a good way:
#6: Use Specific Details
The more details you use, the more your writing will come alive. Try to use words that are vivid and specific, instead of ones that are vague like “nice,” “good,” and so on. This will really flesh out the scene and help the reader picture what’s going on.
So take something like this:
One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my little brother to ride a bicycle. I encouraged him to keep going when he fell down. Now he’s a great cyclist!
To something more like this:
One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my eight-year-old brother to ride the racy red bicycle he got for his birthday. He wanted to give up when he took a tumble and skidded across the sidewalk. But while I bandaged up his knees with Batman band-aids, I convinced him to give it another try. I told him to think about how he would be able to bike all around the neighborhood exploring. Now I smile whenever I see him zooming down our street—wearing his helmet, of course!
See the difference? Wouldn’t you rather read the second one?
Think how boring this angel statue would be if it was just kind of vaguely chiseled out of the rock.
#7: Be Genuine
It’s important to get beyond the superficial in your personal statement. You should be writing about something that’s genuinely important or significant to you, so try to get beyond the surface. Instead of writing vague platitudes about how you really like the violin but it’s hard, really get at the meat: did you ever think about quitting? What’s frustrated you the most? What really keeps you going?
This means you shouldn’t try to write about things where it’s too painful to be honest. So if your parents got a divorce last year, it may be too raw to write about, which is perfectly fine. If, however, they got divorced when you were 5 and you can honestly reflect on how it changed your life, go for it.
Of course, you want to be honest in a reasonable and appropriate way. If you overshare, it will make it seem like you have bad judgment or don’t understand social norms—not good impressions to give the admissions committee. So probably don’t write about how much you despise your mother and think she is evil since she had an affair with your school librarian. It’s fine to feel how you feel, but there are some things that are a little too charged to write in your college essay.
#8: Be Unique, but Not Bizarre
You definitely want your writing to set you apart—but you want it to set you apart in a good way. This means you want high-quality writing about unique experiences and qualities you bring to the table that aren’t covered elsewhere in your application.
This does not mean you should get really avant-garde with your essay formatting. Don’t send in a piece of art instead of an essay, or make a video, or write a poem instead of an essay, unless those things are explicitly allowed.
Similarly, while your essay doesn’t have to be 100% deadly serious in tone, you should be careful with humor. This doesn’t mean absolutely no jokes or tongue-in-cheek moments or that your essay should read like an 18th-century book of sermons. But if your essay relies too much on humor, you’ve got a lot riding on whether or not the person reading your essay “gets” it. They may well be annoyed. So deploy humor carefully and selectively.
Sermons not necessary.
#9: Avoid Cliches and Platitudes
The more cliches you use in your writing, the more boring and less insightful your essay will be. Cliches are phrases that are so overused that they are essentially meaningless, and they are likely to make any reader roll their eyes. Phrases like “a dime a dozen,” “outside the box,” “cold as ice,” “dirt cheap,” “flash in the pan,” and so on are frequently deployed in conversation because they convey a common idea quickly. But you don’t want your essay to be common, so avoid cliches. Try to think about how you can communicate the same idea in a more specific and interesting way.
Here’s a list of over 600 cliches . But for the most part, you won’t need a list; you’ll know something is a cliche because you will have heard it a million times already.
You should also avoid platitudes or sweeping generalizations about life. These are statements that are so broad and far-reaching as to be both obvious and completely uninsightful.
So avoid making statements like “And that’s how I learned that hard work pays off,” or “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” You may think you sound sage or wise, but the truth is, platitudes are going to sound immature and poorly-formed to the reader. Similarly, don’t say things that sound like they could come from an inspirational quote account on Instagram. (See, ahem, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” “Shoot for the moon,” and so on.)
How do you avoid the platitude problem? Try to keep what you’re saying specific to you. So instead of saying “And that’s how I learned that hard work pays off,” try, “This experience helped me to realize that when I put concentrated effort into something that’s important to me, I can accomplish it even when there are roadblocks.” Keep the focus on what you can and will do in your own life.
Avoid saying anything like this at all costs.
2 Tips for Editing Your College Essay
You may think that once you’ve gotten a draft done that you’re good to go. Not so! Editing is one of the most important parts of writing the best college essay possible, and here are two essential college essay tips for editing.
Tip #10: Ask for Help
It’s always wise to get another set of eyes on your college essays. In fact, several sets of eyes is even better! Other people can help you make sure your essay flows, you have enough detail, that everything is relevant, and that you sound as engaging and interesting as you really are! They can also help you catch typos and other minor errors—although you’ll want to double and triple-check for that yourself before submitting.
Here’s advice on how to ask for help with all parts of the college essay process , including editing.
Tip #11: Be Prepared to Cut a Lot
Brace yourself for cutting up your initial draft into tiny little ribbons and rearranging the remaining pieces Frankenstein-style. A first draft is really just a starting place to get your ideas down before you revamp the entire thing into a more streamlined, better organized, highly polished version. So you have to be ready to let go of pieces of your essay, no matter how much you love a particular turn of phrase or analogy. The ultimate goal is to turn the rough stone of your first draft into a polished and clear piece of writing—and that’s going to take a lot of chipping and sanding!
Your finished essay is like this duck: many pieces arranged into an amazing whole.
2 Final Tips for College Essay Success
Here are two quick but essential college essay tips you can implement easily.
Tip #12: Have a Standout First Sentence
One thing you can do to give any essay a boost is to make sure that your first sentence is attention-grabbing. If you can pique the interest of the admissions counselor right away, you’ll help keep their attention throughout your essay.
Here’s our guide to getting that perfect first sentence!
Tip #13: Triple-check for Typos and Errors
The most important quick thing you can do for your essay is to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. It will make your essay look sloppy and unfinished, and that’s the last thing you want! College admissions officers expect a polished product, and there’s nothing less polished than misspelled words and comma splices.
Looking all polished up and mighty fine.
13 College Essay Tips: Key Takeaways for a Great College Essay
To recap, here’s our 13 tips for the best college essay ever:
College Essay Planning Tips:
- Create a plan of attack for all of your essays so you can keep track of everything.
- Start early—at least two months before the due date, if not more.
- Choose the right prompt and topic for you.
- Decide between a narrative or a thematic approach to the topic.
- Outline before you start writing!
College Essay Writing Tips:
- Use vivid, specific details.
- Be genuine—get beyond the superficial.
- Be unique, but not bizarre.
- Avoid cliches and platitudes; they are boring and unimaginative.
College Essay Editing Tips:
- Get other people to look at your essay.
- Be prepared to change, cut, and rearrange a lot!
Final Tips for College Essays:
- Make sure your first sentence is stellar.
- Triple check for typos and grammatical errors!
Imagine the essay you could write about the time you painted Mr. Lurker's claws.
You’ve read our tips for success—now see 10 college essay mistakes to avoid .
Looking for some college essay examples? See 133 essay examples and expert analysis here , along with 11 more places to find great college essay examples .
Check out our complete guides to ApplyTexas essays , UC Personal Insight questions , and the Common Application essay !
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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.
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How to Write a College Application Essay
Find the right college for you..
Your essay reveals something important about you that your grades and test scores can't─your personality. It can give admissions officers a sense of who you are and showcase your writing ability. Here are some things that admissions officers look for in a personal essay for college.
1. Open Strong.
Knowing how to start a college essay can create a strong opening paragraph that immediately captures the reader’s interest. You want to make the admissions officer reading your essay curious about what you say next.
2. Show You Can Write.
Colleges want to see that you have a command of the basics of good writing, which is a key component of success in college.
3. Answer the Prompt.
Admissions officers also want to see that the student can give a direct answer while sticking to a comprehensive narrative. When writing college essays, consider the point you want to make and develop a fleshed-out response that fits the prompt. Avoid force-fitting prewritten pieces. Approach every personal essay prompt as if it's your first.
4. Stick to Your Style.
Writing college essays isn't about using flowery or verbose prose. Avoid leaning too heavily on the thesaurus to sound impressive. Choose a natural writing style that’s appropriate for the subject matter.
Also, avoid stressing about trying to write what you think colleges want to see. Learning how to draft a good essay for college is about showcasing who you are. Stay true to your voice. Keep in mind that authenticity is more important than anything else.
Correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling are essential. Proofread several times after you've finished. Then ask a teacher, parent, or college English major to give it a quick read as well.
6. Keep Track of Length.
Finally, admissions officers value succinctness. Remember to pay attention to the recommended essay length or word count.
Bonus Tips and College Essay Writing Help
For more on how to write a college essay, check out these Tips for Writing Your College Admissions Essay .
What is the college application essay?
A personal essay for college applications is an opportunity for admission admissions panels to get more insight into who you are and what you have to offer. It's often the most personal component of the application, going beyond grades and standardized test scores. Essays usually have open-ended prompts, allowing you to flex your writing skills and make a personal statement.
Does my college application essay really matter?
Learning how to write a successful essay for college is crucial. This essay's exact weight on your chances of acceptance varies from one school to the next. But it's an element of your application that all admissions teams consider. Your essay could be the thing that gets you off a waiting list or gives you a competitive edge over other applicants.
What are colleges looking for in my application essay?
Knowing what to include in a college essay is half the battle. Admissions teams look for many things, but the most influential are authenticity, writing ability, character details, and positive traits. The purpose of the essay is to shed light on your background and gain perspective on your real-world experiences.
When should I start writing my college essay?
Because you'll want to tailor each application to each school, expect to write multiple personal essays. Advisers typically recommend starting these pieces during the summer before your senior year of high school. This will give you ample time to concentrate on writing a college essay before you're hit with schoolwork.
What can I do to write an effective college essay if I'm not a strong writer?
Good writing skills matter, but the best college essay is about the quality of your response. Authentic stories in a natural voice have impact. The story you want to tell about yourself will work better for you if it’s told in language that’s not overly sophisticated. Work with a writing coach for help with the academic aspects. Make responding with substance a priority.
How can I write my college essay if I have no monumental experiences?
You don't need life-changing moments to impress an admissions panel. Think about your personal experiences. Describe moments that left a lasting impact. The important thing is to have a fleshed-out narrative that provides insight into your life and way of thinking. Some of the best essays revolve around meaningful moments rather than flashy ones.
How should I start brainstorming topics for my college essay?
Most colleges provide open-ended prompts. Using the topic as inspiration, think about critical milestones or essential lessons you learned during your academic career. Tell stories about real-life experiences that have shaped the person you are. Write them down to brainstorm ideas. Choose stories that highlight your best traits.
What is a good list of essay topics to start with? What essay topics should I avoid?
Good topics when writing college essays include personal achievements, meaningful lessons, life-changing challenges, and situations that fostered personal growth. It's best to avoid anything too intimate or controversial. You want to open up, but it's not a good idea to go overboard or alienate members of the admissions panel.
What format should I use for my college essay?
Read the prompt and essay instructions thoroughly to learn how to start off a college essay. Some colleges provide guidance about formatting. If not, the best course of action is to stick with a college standard like the MLA format.
How long should my essay be?
The average length of a personal essay for college is 400─600 words. Always read the prompt. Follow the instructions provided in the application.
Who should I ask to review my college essay?
Turn to your school counselor for review. They understand what college admissions panels are looking for, and they can provide valuable insight into your piece's quality. You can also reach out to English teachers and other educators for proofreading.
What are your chances of acceptance?
Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars.
16 Strong College Essay Examples from Top Schools
- Common App Essays
- Why This College Essays
- Why This Major Essays
- Extracurricular Essays
- Overcoming Challenges Essays
- Community Service Essays
- Diversity Essays
- Political/Global Issues Essays
- Where to Get Feedback on Your Essays
Most high school students don’t get a lot of experience with creative writing, so the college essay can be especially daunting. Reading examples of successful essays, however, can help you understand what admissions officers are looking for.
In this post, we’ll share 16 college essay examples of many different topics. Most of the essay prompts fall into 8 different archetypes, and you can approach each prompt under that archetype in a similar way. We’ve grouped these examples by archetype so you can better structure your approach to college essays.
If you’re looking for school-specific guides, check out our 2022-2023 essay breakdowns .
Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Note: the essays are titled in this post for navigation purposes, but they were not originally titled. We also include the original prompt where possible.
The Common App essay goes to all of the schools on your list, unless those schools use a separate application platform. Because of this, it’s the most important essay in your portfolio, and likely the longest essay you’ll need to write (you get up to 650 words).
The goal of this essay is to share a glimpse into who you are, what matters to you, and what you hope to achieve. It’s a chance to share your story.
Learn more about how to write the Common App essay in our complete guide.
The Multiple Meanings of Point
Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (250-650 words)
Night had robbed the academy of its daytime colors, yet there was comfort in the dim lights that cast shadows of our advances against the bare studio walls. Silhouettes of roundhouse kicks, spin crescent kicks, uppercuts and the occasional butterfly kick danced while we sparred. She approached me, eyes narrowed with the trace of a smirk challenging me. “Ready spar!” Her arm began an upward trajectory targeting my shoulder, a common first move. I sidestepped — only to almost collide with another flying fist. Pivoting my right foot, I snapped my left leg, aiming my heel at her midsection. The center judge raised one finger.
There was no time to celebrate, not in the traditional sense at least. Master Pollard gave a brief command greeted with a unanimous “Yes, sir” and the thud of 20 hands dropping-down-and-giving-him-30, while the “winners” celebrated their victory with laps as usual.
Three years ago, seven-thirty in the evening meant I was a warrior. It meant standing up straighter, pushing a little harder, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”, celebrating birthdays by breaking boards, never pointing your toes, and familiarity. Three years later, seven-thirty in the morning meant I was nervous.
The room is uncomfortably large. The sprung floor soaks up the checkerboard of sunlight piercing through the colonial windows. The mirrored walls further illuminate the studio and I feel the light scrutinizing my sorry attempts at a pas de bourrée, while capturing the organic fluidity of the dancers around me. “Chassé en croix, grand battement, pique, pirouette.” I follow the graceful limbs of the woman in front of me, her legs floating ribbons, as she executes what seems to be a perfect ronds de jambes. Each movement remains a negotiation. With admirable patience, Ms. Tan casts me a sympathetic glance.
There is no time to wallow in the misery that is my right foot. Taekwondo calls for dorsiflexion; pointed toes are synonymous with broken toes. My thoughts drag me into a flashback of the usual response to this painful mistake: “You might as well grab a tutu and head to the ballet studio next door.” Well, here I am Master Pollard, unfortunately still following your orders to never point my toes, but no longer feeling the satisfaction that comes with being a third degree black belt with 5 years of experience quite literally under her belt. It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers.
But the appetite for new beginnings that brought me here doesn’t falter. It is only reinforced by the classical rendition of “Dancing Queen” that floods the room and the ghost of familiarity that reassures me that this new beginning does not and will not erase the past. After years spent at the top, it’s hard to start over. But surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become. In Taekwondo, we started each class reciting the tenets: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet.
The thing about change is that it eventually stops making things so different. After nine different schools, four different countries, three different continents, fluency in Tamil, Norwegian, and English, there are more blurred lines than there are clear fragments. My life has not been a tactfully executed, gold medal-worthy Taekwondo form with each movement defined, nor has it been a series of frappés performed by a prima ballerina with each extension identical and precise, but thankfully it has been like the dynamics of a spinning back kick, fluid, and like my chances of landing a pirouette, unpredictable.
The first obvious strength of this essay is the introduction—it is interesting and snappy and uses enough technical language that we want to figure out what the student is discussing. When writing introductions, students tend to walk the line between intriguing and confusing. It is important that your essay ends up on the intentionally intriguing side of that line—like this student does! We are a little confused at first, but by then introducing the idea of “sparring,” the student grounds their essay.
People often advise young writers to “show, not tell.” This student takes that advice a step further and makes the reader do a bit of work to figure out what they are telling us. Nowhere in this essay does it say “After years of Taekwondo, I made the difficult decision to switch over to ballet.” Rather, the student says “It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers.” How powerful!
After a lot of emotional language and imagery, this student finishes off their essay with very valuable (and necessary!) reflection. They show admissions officers that they are more than just a good writer—they are a mature and self-aware individual who would be beneficial to a college campus. Self-awareness comes through with statements like “surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become” and maturity can be seen through the student’s discussion of values: “honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet.”
Prompt: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (250-650 words)
Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire.
Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family.
Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt.
“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame.
In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him.
Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses.
That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.
First things first, this Common App essay is well-written. This student is definitely showing the admissions officers her ability to articulate her points beautifully and creatively. It starts with vivid images like that of the “rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free.” And because the prose is flowery (and beautiful!), the writer can get away with metaphors like “I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms” that might sound cheesy without the clear command of the English language that the writer quickly establishes.
In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.
While dialogue often comes off as cliche or trite, this student effectively incorporates her family members saying “Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” This is achieved through the apt use of the verb “taunted” to characterize the questioning and through the question’s thematic connection to the earlier image of the student as a rustic princess. Similarly, rhetorical questions can feel randomly placed in essays, but this student’s inclusion of the questions “Was I so dainty?” and “Was I that incapable?” feel perfectly justified after she establishes that she was pondering her failure.
Quite simply, this essay shows how quality writing can make a simple story outstandingly compelling.
Why This College?
“Why This College?” is one of the most common essay prompts, likely because schools want to understand whether you’d be a good fit and how you’d use their resources.
This essay is one of the more straightforward ones you’ll write for college applications, but you still can and should allow your voice to shine through.
Learn more about how to write the “Why This College?” essay in our guide.
Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words).
Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics, said, “caring is the human mode of being.” I have long been inspired by Sister Roach’s Five C’s of Caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Penn both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities.
COMMITMENT. Reading through the activities that Penn Quakers devote their time to (in addition to academics!) felt like drinking from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility. I plan to leverage Penn’s liberal arts curriculum to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges LGBT people face, especially regarding healthcare access. Through courses like “Interactional Processes with LGBT Individuals” and volunteering at the Mazzoni Center for outreach, I hope to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin, who came out as trans last year.
CONSCIENCE. As one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, I wanted a school that promoted a sense of moral responsibility among its students. At Penn, professors challenge their students to question and recreate their own set of morals by sparking thought- provoking, open-minded discussions. I can imagine myself advocating for universal healthcare in courses such as “Health Care Reform & Future of American Health System” and debating its merits with my peers. Studying in an environment where students confidently voice their opinions – conservative or liberal – will push me to question and strengthen my value system.
COMPETENCE. Two aspects that drew my attention to Penn’s BSN program were its high-quality research opportunities and hands-on nursing projects. Through its Office of Nursing Research, Penn connects students to faculty members who share similar research interests. As I volunteered at a nursing home in high school, I hope to work with Dr. Carthon to improve the quality of care for senior citizens. Seniors, especially minorities, face serious barriers to healthcare that I want to resolve. Additionally, Penn’s unique use of simulations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application impressed me. Using computerized manikins that mimic human responses, classes in Penn’s nursing program allow students to apply their emergency medical skills in a mass casualty simulation and monitor their actions afterward through a video system. Participating in this activity will help me identify my strengths and areas for improvement regarding crisis management and medical care in a controlled yet realistic setting. Research opportunities and simulations will develop my skills even before I interact with patients.
COMPASSION. I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Penn’s Community Champions and Nursing Students For Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH). As a four-year volunteer health educator, I hope to continue this work as a Community Champions member. I am excited to collaborate with medical students to teach fourth and fifth graders in the city about cardiology or lead a chair dance class for the elders at the LIFE Center. Furthermore, as a feminist who firmly believes in women’s abortion rights, I’d like to join NSRH in order to advocate for women’s health on campus. At Penn, I can work with like-minded people to make a meaningful difference.
CONFIDENCE. All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence. Each student summarized their experiences at Penn as challenging but fulfilling. Although I expect my coursework to push me, from my conversations with current Quakers I know it will help me to be far more effective in my career.
The Five C’s of Caring are important heuristics for nursing, but they also provide insight into how I want to approach my time in college. I am eager to engage with these principles both as a nurse and as a Penn Quaker, and I can’t wait to start.
This prompt from Penn asks students to tailor their answer to their specific field of study. One great thing that this student does is identify their undergraduate school early, by mentioning “Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics.” You don’t want readers confused or searching through other parts of your application to figure out your major.
With a longer essay like this, it is important to establish structure. Some students organize their essay in a narrative form, using an anecdote from their past or predicting their future at a school. This student uses Roach’s 5 C’s of Caring as a framing device that organizes their essay around values. This works well!
While this essay occasionally loses voice, there are distinct moments where the student’s personality shines through. We see this with phrases like “felt like drinking from a fire hose in the best possible way” and “All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence.” It is important to show off your personality to make your essay stand out.
Finally, this student does a great job of referencing specific resources about Penn. It’s clear that they have done their research (they’ve even talked to current Quakers). They have dreams and ambitions that can only exist at Penn.
Prompt: What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
Coin collector and swimmer. Hungarian and Romanian. Critical and creative thinker. I was drawn to Yale because they don’t limit one’s mind with “or” but rather embrace unison with “and.”
Wandering through the Beinecke Library, I prepare for my multidisciplinary Energy Studies capstone about the correlation between hedonism and climate change, making it my goal to find implications in environmental sociology. Under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Arielle Baskin-Sommers, I explore the emotional deficits of depression, utilizing neuroimaging to scrutinize my favorite branch of psychology: human perception. At Walden Peer Counseling, I integrate my peer support and active listening skills to foster an empathetic environment for the Yale community. Combining my interests in psychological and environmental studies is why I’m proud to be a Bulldog.
This answer to the “Why This College” question is great because 1) the student shows their excitement about attending Yale 2) we learn the ways in which attending Yale will help them achieve their goals and 3) we learn their interests and identities.
In this response, you can find a prime example of the “Image of the Future” approach, as the student flashes forward and envisions their life at Yale, using present tense (“I explore,” “I integrate,” “I’m proud”). This approach is valuable if you are trying to emphasize your dedication to a specific school. Readers get the feeling that this student is constantly imagining themselves on campus—it feels like Yale really matters to them.
Starting this image with the Beinecke Library is great because the Beinecke Library only exists at Yale. It is important to tailor “Why This College” responses to each specific school. This student references a program of study, a professor, and an extracurricular that only exist at Yale. Additionally, they connect these unique resources to their interests—psychological and environmental studies.
Finally, we learn about the student (independent of academics) through this response. By the end of their 125 words, we know their hobbies, ethnicities, and social desires, in addition to their academic interests. It can be hard to tackle a 125-word response, but this student shows that it’s possible.
Why This Major?
The goal of this prompt is to understand how you came to be interested in your major and what you plan to do with it. For competitive programs like engineering, this essay helps admissions officers distinguish students who have a genuine passion and are most likely to succeed in the program. This is another more straightforward essay, but you do have a bit more freedom to include relevant anecdotes.
Learn more about how to write the “Why This Major?” essay in our guide.
Why Duke Engineering
Prompt: If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke (250 words).
One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering. Later, in a high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time.
Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path. Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DUhatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem-solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds. Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low-income countries. Along the way, I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.
This prompt calls for a complex answer. Students must explain both why they want to study engineering and why Duke is the best place for them to study engineering.
This student begins with a nice hook—a simple anecdote about a simple present with profound consequences. They do not fluff up their anecdote with flowery images or emotionally-loaded language; it is what it is, and it is compelling and sweet. As their response continues, they express a particular interest in problem-solving. They position problem-solving as a fundamental part of their interest in engineering (and a fundamental part of their fascination with their childhood toy). This helps readers to learn about the student!
Problem-solving is also the avenue by which they introduce Duke’s resources—DUhatch, The Foundry, and Duke’s Bass Connections program. It is important to notice that the student explains how these resources can help them achieve their future goals—it is not enough to simply identify the resources!
This response is interesting and focused. It clearly answers the prompt, and it feels honest and authentic.
Why Georgia Tech CompSci
Prompt: Why do you want to study your chosen major specifically at Georgia Tech? (300 words max)
I held my breath and hit RUN. Yes! A plump white cat jumped out and began to catch the falling pizzas. Although my Fat Cat project seems simple now, it was the beginning of an enthusiastic passion for computer science. Four years and thousands of hours of programming later, that passion has grown into an intense desire to explore how computer science can serve society. Every day, surrounded by technology that can recognize my face and recommend scarily-specific ads, I’m reminded of Uncle Ben’s advice to a young Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility”. Likewise, the need to ensure digital equality has skyrocketed with AI’s far-reaching presence in society; and I believe that digital fairness starts with equality in education.
The unique use of threads at the College of Computing perfectly matches my interests in AI and its potential use in education; the path of combined threads on Intelligence and People gives me the rare opportunity to delve deep into both areas. I’m particularly intrigued by the rich sets of both knowledge-based and data-driven intelligence courses, as I believe AI should not only show correlation of events, but also provide insight for why they occur.
In my four years as an enthusiastic online English tutor, I’ve worked hard to help students overcome both financial and technological obstacles in hopes of bringing quality education to people from diverse backgrounds. For this reason, I’m extremely excited by the many courses in the People thread that focus on education and human-centered technology. I’d love to explore how to integrate AI technology into the teaching process to make education more available, affordable, and effective for people everywhere. And with the innumerable opportunities that Georgia Tech has to offer, I know that I will be able to go further here than anywhere else.
With a “Why This Major” essay, you want to avoid using all of your words to tell a story. That being said, stories are a great way to show your personality and make your essay stand out. This student’s story takes up only their first 21 words, but it positions the student as fun and funny and provides an endearing image of cats and pizzas—who doesn’t love cats and pizzas? There are other moments when the student’s personality shines through also, like the Spiderman reference.
While this pop culture reference adds color, it also is important for what the student is getting at: their passion. They want to go into computer science to address the issues of security and equity that are on the industry’s mind, and they acknowledge these concerns with their comments about “scarily-specific ads” and their statement that “the need to ensure digital equality has skyrocketed.” This student is self-aware and aware of the state of the industry. This aptitude will be appealing for admissions officers.
The conversation around “threads” is essential for this student’s response because the prompt asks specifically about the major at Georgia Tech and it is the only thing they reference that is specific to Georgia Tech. Threads are great, but this student would have benefitted from expanding on other opportunities specific to Georgia Tech later in the essay, instead of simply inserting “innumerable opportunities.”
Overall, this student shows personality, passion, and aptitude—precisely what admissions officers want to see!
You’re asked to describe your activities on the Common App, but chances are, you have at least one extracurricular that’s impacted you in a way you can’t explain in 150 characters.
This essay archetype allows you to share how your most important activity shaped you and how you might use those lessons learned in the future. You are definitely welcome to share anecdotes and use a narrative approach, but remember to include some reflection. A common mistake students make is to only describe the activity without sharing how it impacted them.
Learn more about how to write the Extracurricular Essay in our guide.
A Dedicated Musician
My fingers raced across the keys, rapidly striking one after another. My body swayed with the music as my hands raced across the piano. Crashing onto the final chord, it was over as quickly as it had begun. My shoulders relaxed and I couldn’t help but break into a satisfied grin. I had just played the Moonlight Sonata’s third movement, a longtime dream of mine.
Four short months ago, though, I had considered it impossible. The piece’s tempo was impossibly fast, its notes stretching between each end of the piano, forcing me to reach farther than I had ever dared. It was 17 pages of the most fragile and intricate melodies I had ever encountered.
But that summer, I found myself ready to take on the challenge. With the end of the school year, I was released from my commitment to practicing for band and solo performances. I was now free to determine my own musical path: either succeed in learning the piece, or let it defeat me for the third summer in a row.
Over those few months, I spent countless hours practicing the same notes until they burned a permanent place in my memory, creating a soundtrack for even my dreams. Some would say I’ve mastered the piece, but as a musician I know better. Now that I can play it, I am eager to take the next step and add in layers of musicality and expression to make the once-impossible piece even more beautiful.
In this response, the student uses their extracurricular, piano, as a way to emphasize their positive qualities. At the beginning, readers are invited on a journey with the student where we feel their struggle, their intensity, and ultimately their satisfaction. With this descriptive image, we form a valuable connection with the student.
Then, we get to learn about what makes this student special: their dedication and work ethic. The fact that this student describes their desire to be productive during the summer shows an intensity that is appealing to admissions officers. Additionally, the growth mindset that this student emphasizes in their conclusion is appealing to admissions officers.
The Extracurricular Essay can be seen as an opportunity to characterize yourself. This student clearly identified their positive qualities, then used the Extracurricular Essay as a way to articulate them.
A Complicated Relationship with the School Newspaper
My school’s newspaper and I have a typical love-hate relationship; some days I want nothing more than to pass two hours writing and formatting articles, while on others the mere thought of student journalism makes me shiver. Still, as we’re entering our fourth year together, you could consider us relatively stable. We’ve learned to accept each other’s differences; at this point I’ve become comfortable spending an entire Friday night preparing for an upcoming issue, and I hardly even notice the snail-like speed of our computers. I’ve even benefitted from the polygamous nature of our relationship—with twelve other editors, there’s a lot of cooperation involved. Perverse as it may be, from that teamwork I’ve both gained some of my closest friends and improved my organizational and time-management skills. And though leaving it in the hands of new editors next year will be difficult, I know our time together has only better prepared me for future relationships.
This response is great. It’s cute and endearing and, importantly, tells readers a lot about the student who wrote it. Framing this essay in the context of a “love-hate relationship,” then supplementing with comments like “We’ve learned to accept each other’s differences” allows this student to advertise their maturity in a unique and engaging way.
While Extracurricular Essays can be a place to show how you’ve grown within an activity, they can also be a place to show how you’ve grown through an activity. At the end of this essay, readers think that this student is mature and enjoyable, and we think that their experience with the school newspaper helped make them that way.
Participating in Democracy
Prompt: Research shows that an ability to learn from experiences outside the classroom correlates with success in college. What was your greatest learning experience over the past 4 years that took place outside of the traditional classroom? (250 words)
The cool, white halls of the Rayburn House office building contrasted with the bustling energy of interns entertaining tourists, staffers rushing to cover committee meetings, and my fellow conference attendees separating to meet with our respective congresspeople. Through civics and US history classes, I had learned about our government, but simply hearing the legislative process outlined didn’t prepare me to navigate it. It was my first political conference, and, after learning about congressional mechanics during breakout sessions, I was lobbying my representative about an upcoming vote crucial to the US-Middle East relationship. As the daughter of Iranian immigrants, my whole life had led me to the moment when I could speak on behalf of the family members who had not emigrated with my parents.
As I sat down with my congresswoman’s chief of staff, I truly felt like a participant in democracy; I was exercising my right to be heard as a young American. Through this educational conference, I developed a plan of action to raise my voice. When I returned home, I signed up to volunteer with the state chapter of the Democratic Party. I sponsored letter-writing campaigns, canvassed for local elections, and even pursued an internship with a state senate campaign. I know that I don’t need to be old enough to vote to effect change. Most importantly, I also know that I want to study government—I want to make a difference for my communities in the United States and the Middle East throughout my career.
While this prompt is about extracurricular activities, it specifically references the idea that the extracurricular should support the curricular. It is focused on experiential learning for future career success. This student wants to study government, so they chose to describe an experience of hands-on learning within their field—an apt choice!
As this student discusses their extracurricular experience, they also clue readers into their future goals—they want to help Middle Eastern communities. Admissions officers love when students mention concrete plans with a solid foundation. Here, the foundation comes from this student’s ethnicity. With lines like “my whole life had led me to the moment when I could speak on behalf of the family members who had not emigrated with my parents,” the student assures admissions officers of their emotional connection to their future field.
The strength of this essay comes from its connections. It connects the student’s extracurricular activity to their studies and connects theirs studies to their personal history.
You’re going to face a lot of setbacks in college, so admissions officers want to make you’re you have the resilience and resolve to overcome them. This essay is your chance to be vulnerable and connect to admissions officers on an emotional level.
Learn more about how to write the Overcoming Challenges Essay in our guide.
The Student Becomes the Master
”Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.
Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.
Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.
Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.
I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.
At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.
Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.
Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.
Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.
Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.
This essay is great because it has a strong introduction and conclusion. The introduction is notably suspenseful and draws readers into the story. Because we know it is a college essay, we can assume that the student is one of the competitors, but at the same time, this introduction feels intentionally ambiguous as if the writer could be a competitor, a coach, a sibling of a competitor, or anyone else in the situation.
As we continue reading the essay, we learn that the writer is, in fact, the competitor. Readers also learn a lot about the student’s values as we hear their thoughts: “I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was.” Ultimately, the conflict and inner and outer turmoil is resolved through the “Same, but Different” ending technique as the student places themself in the same environment that we saw in the intro, but experiencing it differently due to their actions throughout the narrative. This is a very compelling strategy!
Growing Sensitivity to Struggles
Prompt: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (650 words)
“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.
Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.
When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.
As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.
Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.
We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.
We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.
My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.
Here you can find a prime example that you don’t have to have fabulous imagery or flowery prose to write a successful essay. You just have to be clear and say something that matters. This essay is simple and beautiful. It almost feels like having a conversation with a friend and learning that they are an even better person than you already thought they were.
Through this narrative, readers learn a lot about the writer—where they’re from, what their family life is like, what their challenges were as a kid, and even their sexuality. We also learn a lot about their values—notably, the value they place on awareness, improvement, and consideration of others. Though they never explicitly state it (which is great because it is still crystal clear!), this student’s ending of “I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story” shows that they are constantly striving for improvement and finding lessons anywhere they can get them in life.
Community Service/Impact on the Community
Colleges want students who will positively impact the campus community and go on to make change in the world after they graduate. This essay is similar to the Extracurricular Essay, but you need to focus on a situation where you impacted others.
Learn more about how to write the Community Service Essay in our guide.
Academic Signing Day
Prompt: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
The scent of eucalyptus caressed my nose in a gentle breeze. Spring had arrived. Senior class activities were here. As a sophomore, I noticed a difference between athletic and academic seniors at my high school; one received recognition while the other received silence. I wanted to create an event celebrating students academically-committed to four-years, community colleges, trades schools, and military programs. This event was Academic Signing Day.
The leadership label, “Events Coordinator,” felt heavy on my introverted mind. I usually was setting up for rallies and spirit weeks, being overlooked around the exuberant nature of my peers.
I knew a change of mind was needed; I designed flyers, painted posters, presented powerpoints, created student-led committees, and practiced countless hours for my introductory speech. Each committee would play a vital role on event day: one dedicated to refreshments, another to technology, and one for decorations. The fourth-month planning was a laborious joy, but I was still fearful of being in the spotlight. Being acknowledged by hundreds of people was new to me.
The day was here. Parents filled the stands of the multi-purpose room. The atmosphere was tense; I could feel the angst building in my throat, worried about the impression I would leave. Applause followed each of the 400 students as they walked to their college table, indicating my time to speak.
I walked up to the stand, hands clammy, expression tranquil, my words echoing to the audience. I thought my speech would be met by the sounds of crickets; instead, smiles lit up the stands, realizing my voice shone through my actions. I was finally coming out of my shell. The floor was met by confetti as I was met by the sincerity of staff, students, and parents, solidifying the event for years to come.
Academic students were no longer overshadowed. Their accomplishments were equally recognized to their athletic counterparts. The school culture of athletics over academics was no longer imbalanced. Now, every time I smell eucalyptus, it is a friendly reminder that on Academic Signing Day, not only were academic students in the spotlight but so was my voice.
This essay answers the prompt nicely because the student describes a contribution with a lasting legacy. Academic Signing Day will affect this high school in the future and it affected this student’s self-development—an idea summed up nicely with their last phrase “not only were academic students in the spotlight but so was my voice.”
With Community Service essays, students sometimes take small contributions and stretch them. And, oftentimes, the stretch is very obvious. Here, the student shows us that Academic Signing Day actually mattered by mentioning four months of planning and hundreds of students and parents. They also make their involvement in Academic Signing Day clear—it was their idea and they were in charge, and that’s why they gave the introductory speech.
Use this response as an example of the type of focused contribution that makes for a convincing Community Service Essay.
Climate Change Rally
Prompt: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (technically not community service, but the response works)
Let’s fast-forward time. Strides were made toward racial equality. Healthcare is accessible to all; however, one issue remains. Our aquatic ecosystems are parched with dead coral from ocean acidification. Climate change has prevailed.
Rewind to the present day.
My activism skills are how I express my concerns for the environment. Whether I play on sandy beaches or rest under forest treetops, nature offers me an escape from the haste of the world. When my body is met by trash in the ocean or my nose is met by harmful pollutants, Earth’s pain becomes my own.
Substituting coffee grinds as fertilizer, using bamboo straws, starting my sustainable garden, my individual actions needed to reach a larger scale. I often found performative activism to be ineffective when communicating climate concerns. My days of reposting awareness graphics on social media never filled the ambition I had left to put my activism skills to greater use. I decided to share my ecocentric worldview with a coalition of environmentalists and host a climate change rally outside my high school.
Meetings were scheduled where I informed students about the unseen impact they have on the oceans and local habitual communities. My fingers were cramped from all the constant typing and investigating of micro causes of the Pacific Waste Patch, creating reusable flyers, displaying steps people could take from home in reducing their carbon footprint. I aided my fellow environmentalists in translating these flyers into other languages, repeating this process hourly, for five days, up until rally day.
It was 7:00 AM. The faces of 100 students were shouting, “The climate is changing, why can’t we?” I proudly walked on the dewy grass, grabbing the microphone, repeating those same words. The rally not only taught me efficient methods of communication but it echoed my environmental activism to the masses. The City of Corona would be the first of many cities to see my activism, as more rallies were planned for various parts of SoCal. My once unfulfilled ambition was fueled by my tangible activism, understanding that it takes more than one person to make an environmental impact.
Like with the last example, this student describes a focused event with a lasting legacy. That’s a perfect place to start! By the end of this essay, we have an image of the cause of this student’s passion and the effect of this student’s passion. There are no unanswered questions.
This student supplements their focused topic with engaging and exciting writing to make for an easy-to-read and enjoyable essay. One of the largest strengths of this response is its pace. From the very beginning, we are invited to “fast-forward” and “rewind” with the writer. Then, after we center ourselves in real-time, this writer keeps their quick pace with sentences like “Substituting coffee grounds as fertilizer, using bamboo straws, starting my sustainable garden, my individual actions needed to reach a larger scale.” Community Service essays run the risk of turning boring, but this unique pacing keeps things interesting.
Having a diverse class provides a richness of different perspectives and encourages open-mindedness among the student body. The Diversity Essay is also somewhat similar to the Extracurricular and Community Service Essays, but it focuses more on what you might bring to the campus community because of your unique experiences or identities.
Learn more about how to write the Diversity Essay in our guide.
A Story of a Young Skater
“Everyone follow me!” I smiled at five wide-eyed skaters before pushing off into a spiral. I glanced behind me hopefully, only to see my students standing frozen like statues, the fear in their eyes as clear as the ice they swayed on. “Come on!” I said encouragingly, but the only response I elicited was the slow shake of their heads. My first day as a Learn-to-Skate coach was not going as planned.
But amid my frustration, I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater. At seven, I had been fascinated by Olympic performers who executed thrilling high jumps and dizzying spins with apparent ease, and I dreamed to one day do the same. My first few months on skates, however, sent these hopes crashing down: my attempts at slaloms and toe-loops were shadowed by a stubborn fear of falling, which even the helmet, elbow pads, and two pairs of mittens I had armed myself with couldn’t mitigate. Nonetheless, my coach remained unfailingly optimistic, motivating me through my worst spills and teaching me to find opportunities in failures. With his encouragement, I learned to push aside my fears and attack each jump with calm and confidence; it’s the hope that I can help others do the same that now inspires me to coach.
I remember the day a frustrated staff member directed Oliver, a particularly hesitant young skater, toward me, hoping that my patience and steady encouragement might help him improve. Having stood in Oliver’s skates not much earlier myself, I completely empathized with his worries but also saw within him the potential to overcome his fears and succeed.
To alleviate his anxiety, I held Oliver’s hand as we inched around the rink, cheering him on at every turn. I soon found though, that this only increased his fear of gliding on his own, so I changed my approach, making lessons as exciting as possible in hopes that he would catch the skating bug and take off. In the weeks that followed, we held relay races, played “freeze-skate” and “ice-potato”, and raced through obstacle courses; gradually, with each slip and subsequent success, his fear began to abate. I watched Oliver’s eyes widen in excitement with every skill he learned, and not long after, he earned his first skating badge. Together we celebrated this milestone, his ecstasy fueling my excitement and his pride mirroring my own. At that moment, I was both teacher and student, his progress instilling in me the importance of patience and a positive attitude.
It’s been more than ten years since I bundled up and stepped onto the ice for the first time. Since then, my tolerance for the cold has remained stubbornly low, but the rest of me has certainly changed. In sharing my passion for skating, I have found a wonderful community of eager athletes, loving parents, and dedicated coaches from whom I have learned invaluable lessons and wisdom. My fellow staffers have been with me, both as friends and colleagues, and the relationships I’ve formed have given me far more poise, confidence, and appreciation for others. Likewise, my relationships with parents have given me an even greater gratitude for the role they play: no one goes to the rink without a parent behind the wheel!
Since that first lesson, I have mentored dozens of children, and over the years, witnessed tentative steps transform into powerful glides and tears give way to delighted grins. What I have shared with my students has been among the greatest joys of my life, something I will cherish forever. It’s funny: when I began skating, what pushed me through the early morning practices was the prospect of winning an Olympic medal. Now, what excites me is the chance to work with my students, to help them grow, and to give back to the sport that has brought me so much happiness.
This response is a great example of how Diversity doesn’t have to mean race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, or ability. Diversity can mean whatever you want it to mean—whatever unique experience(s) you have to bring to the table!
A major strength of this essay comes in its narrative organization. When reading this first paragraph, we feel for the young skaters and understand their fear—skating sounds scary! Then, because the writer sets us up to feel this empathy, the transition to the second paragraph where the student describes their empathy for the young skaters is particularly powerful. It’s like we are all in it together! The student’s empathy for the young skaters also serves as an outstanding, seamless transition to the applicant discussing their personal journey with skating: “I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater.”
This essay positions the applicant as a grounded and caring individual. They are caring towards the young skaters—changing their teaching style to try to help the young skaters and feeling the young skaters’ emotions with them—but they are also appreciative to those who helped them as they reference their fellow staffers and parents. This shows great maturity—a favorable quality in the eyes of an admissions officer.
At the end of the essay, we know a lot about this student and are convinced that they would be a good addition to a college campus!
Finding Community in the Rainforest
Prompt: Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better—perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background—we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke (250 words).
I never understood the power of community until I left home to join seven strangers in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Although we flew in from distant corners of the U.S., we shared a common purpose: immersing ourselves in our passion for protecting the natural world.
Back home in my predominantly conservative suburb, my neighbors had brushed off environmental concerns. My classmates debated the feasibility of Trump’s wall, not the deteriorating state of our planet. Contrastingly, these seven strangers delighted in bird-watching, brightened at the mention of medicinal tree sap, and understood why I once ran across a four-lane highway to retrieve discarded beer cans. Their histories barely resembled mine, yet our values aligned intimately. We did not hesitate to joke about bullet ants, gush about the versatility of tree bark, or discuss the destructive consequences of materialism. Together, we let our inner tree huggers run free.
In the short life of our little community, we did what we thought was impossible. By feeding on each other’s infectious tenacity, we cultivated an atmosphere that deepened our commitment to our values and empowered us to speak out on behalf of the environment. After a week of stimulating conversations and introspective revelations about engaging people from our hometowns in environmental advocacy, we developed a shared determination to devote our lives to this cause.
As we shared a goodbye hug, my new friend whispered, “The world needs saving. Someone’s gotta do it.” For the first time, I believed that someone could be me.
This response is so wholesome and relatable. We all have things that we just need to geek out over and this student expresses the joy that came when they found a community where they could geek out about the environment. Passion is fundamental to university life and should find its way into successful applications.
Like the last response, this essay finds strength in the fact that readers feel for the student. We get a little bit of backstory about where they come from and how they felt silenced—“Back home in my predominantly conservative suburb, my neighbors had brushed off environmental concerns”—, so it’s easy to feel joy for them when they get set free.
This student displays clear values: community, ecoconsciousness, dedication, and compassion. An admissions officer who reads Diversity essays is looking for students with strong values and a desire to contribute to a university community—sounds like this student!
Colleges want to build engaged citizens, and the Political/Global Issues Essay allows them to better understand what you care about and whether your values align with theirs. In this essay, you’re most commonly asked to describe an issue, why you care about it, and what you’ve done or hope to do to address it.
Learn more about how to write the Political/Global Issues Essay in our guide.
Note: this prompt is not a typical political/global issues essay, but the essay itself would be a strong response to a political/global issues prompt.
Fighting Violence Against Women
Prompt: Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay. (250-650 words)
“One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.”
– Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.
The air is crisp and cool, nipping at my ears as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky, starless. It is a Friday night in downtown Corpus Christi, a rare moment of peace in my home city filled with the laughter of strangers and colorful lights of street vendors. But I cannot focus.
My feet stride quickly down the sidewalk, my hand grasps on to the pepper spray my parents gifted me for my sixteenth birthday. My eyes ignore the surrounding city life, focusing instead on a pair of tall figures walking in my direction. I mentally ask myself if they turned with me on the last street corner. I do not remember, so I pick up the pace again. All the while, my mind runs over stories of young women being assaulted, kidnapped, and raped on the street. I remember my mother’s voice reminding me to keep my chin up, back straight, eyes and ears alert.
At a young age, I learned that harassment is a part of daily life for women. I fell victim to period-shaming when I was thirteen, received my first catcall when I was fourteen, and was nonconsensually grabbed by a man soliciting on the street when I was fifteen. For women, assault does not just happen to us— its gory details leave an imprint in our lives, infecting the way we perceive the world. And while movements such as the Women’s March and #MeToo have given victims of sexual violence a voice, harassment still manifests itself in the lives of millions of women across the nation. Symbolic gestures are important in spreading awareness but, upon learning that a surprising number of men are oblivious to the frequent harassment that women experience, I now realize that addressing this complex issue requires a deeper level of activism within our local communities.
Frustrated with incessant cases of harassment against women, I understood at sixteen years old that change necessitates action. During my junior year, I became an intern with a judge whose campaign for office focused on a need for domestic violence reform. This experience enabled me to engage in constructive dialogue with middle and high school students on how to prevent domestic violence. As I listened to young men uneasily admit their ignorance and young women bravely share their experiences in an effort to spread awareness, I learned that breaking down systems of inequity requires changing an entire culture. I once believed that the problem of harassment would dissipate after politicians and celebrities denounce inappropriate behavior to their global audience. But today, I see that effecting large-scale change comes from the “small” lessons we teach at home and in schools. Concerning women’s empowerment, the effects of Hollywood activism do not trickle down enough. Activism must also trickle up and it depends on our willingness to fight complacency.
Finding the solution to the long-lasting problem of violence against women is a work-in-progress, but it is a process that is persistently moving. In my life, for every uncomfortable conversation that I bridge, I make the world a bit more sensitive to the unspoken struggle that it is to be a woman. I am no longer passively waiting for others to let me live in a world where I can stand alone under the expanse of darkness on a city street, utterly alone and at peace. I, too, deserve the night sky.
As this student addresses an important social issue, she makes the reasons for her passion clear—personal experiences. Because she begins with an extended anecdote, readers are able to feel connected to the student and become invested in what she has to say.
Additionally, through her powerful ending—“I, too, deserve the night sky”—which connects back to her beginning— “as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky”—this student illustrates a mastery of language. Her engagement with other writing techniques that further her argument, like the emphasis on time—“gifted to me for my sixteenth birthday,” “when I was thirteen,” “when I was fourteen,” etc.—also illustrates her mastery of language.
While this student proves herself a good writer, she also positions herself as motivated and ambitious. She turns her passions into action and fights for them. That is just what admissions officers want to see in a Political/Global issues essay!
Where to Get Feedback on Your College Essays
Once you’ve written your college essays, you’ll want to get feedback on them. Since these essays are important to your chances of acceptance, you should prepare to go through several rounds of edits.
Not sure who to ask for feedback? That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review resource. You can get comments from another student going through the process and also edit other students’ essays to improve your own writing.
If you want an expert review, we’ve also partnered with College Essay Guy for paid review services. College Essay Guy has reviewed over 20,000 essays over 10 years and coached thousands of students to success.
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College Essay Format: Writing & Editing Tips
A good college essay format, with the right topic, goes beyond your academic accomplishments and extracurriculars.
You want to stand out in a crowd, particularly when you’re applying to the college of your choice. As part of the application process, many schools ask for an essay to accompany the standard academic and personal information they require. So it’s important to make it a good one.
Your college application essay is essentially a story you tell that offers a glimpse into who you are, beyond your admissions application, grades, activities, and test scores.
A college essay, often called a personal statement, is your opportunity to reveal your personality. It's a way for the admissions department to get to know you as a person and get an idea of the kind of student you'll be.
So how should a college essay be formatted? This article covers formatting best practices, how to choose a compelling topic for your essay, and writing and editing tips to help you craft an essay that captures the attention of the reader, gets your point across, and is free of errors.
Decide on a topic.
You'll often have a choice of topics for your essay provided by the college or university. Choose a topic that allows you to best highlight what you want the college to know about you.
A good start is to list three positive adjectives that describe you. Then, see if you can write two or three real-life examples of each trait that demonstrates that you possess that characteristic.
Also, think about the stories other people tell about you or the words they use to describe you. Ask people who know you well:
What do you think sets me apart from others?
What are my strengths?
How would you describe my personality?
What are my quirks?
These ideas can become the inspiration to develop material for a good college essay.
From the list of essay prompts you receive from the college, choose the topic that will give you the best chance to showcase who you are within the limited word count. You don't have to write about a major life-changing event. It can be a mundane or ordinary situation—like a dinner table conversation, day at school, or conversation with a friend. Often, slightly unusual topics are better than typical ones because they hold a reader's attention.
Regardless of the topic you choose, remember that the true topic of your college essay is you, and the purpose of it is to show how you are unique. It highlights an important piece of who you are and where you want to head in life.
Common college essay prompts
Over 900 colleges use Common App essay prompts, which means you may be able to write one essay for several college applications. Some past Common App college essay prompts—which are announced publicly each year—include the following topics:
Share a story about your background, interest, identity, or talent that makes you complete as a person.
Describe a time when you faced a setback, failure, or challenge and what you learned from it.
Tell about a topic, concept, or idea that is so captivating to you that you lose all track of time.
Write about something that someone has done for you that you are grateful for, and how gratitude has motivated or affected you.
Whether or not the school you're applying to uses Common App questions, it will publish required essay topics in its admissions materials. Or, you may be asked to write on a topic of your choice. Here are some additional common college essay prompts you might encounter:
Describe a person you admire and how that person has influenced your behavior and thinking.
Why do you want to attend this school?
Describe your creative side.
Name an extracurricular activity that is meaningful to you and how it has impacted your life.
Tell about what you have done to make your community or school a better place.
Consult your college application instructions to see how long your essay should be. Be sure to stay within the required word count or essay length, not going over the maximum or under the minimum.
Chances are, you'll be given a word limit. If none is specified, experts on the admissions process recommend you keep your word count between 500 and 650 words. Use the required essay length to help you determine what you will share. You won't be able to tell your life story within these few paragraphs, so choose the most impactful examples as your content.
Create an outline.
An outline helps you plan your essay so you know how it will begin and end and identify key points you want to include in the middle. Use your outline to stay on topic and get the most use out of your word count.
Decide on a logical order.
The most effective outlines are usually the most simple ones. For instance, a good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Likewise, your essay will have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Unless the college requests a specific admission essay format, use the format you've been using to write essays in high school that you're likely to be the most comfortable with. If you're stuck on how to open your essay, write the middle of your story first. Then, go back and write a compelling introduction and a concise conclusion.
Sample format for a college essay
While the format of your college essay is largely up to you, it can be helpful to have an example as a springboard to give you ideas. Consider the following college essay format as you organize your writing.
1. Think about using a title.
A title for your college essay is not necessary. However, including one can add interest. But if you're low on word count, you can skip it. You can also wait until after you write your essay to decide. It's often easier to come up with a fitting, compelling title after you've told your story.
2. Open with a hook.
Your opening sentence is one of the most important parts of your essay. It's what you'll use to capture the attention of the reader and give them a reason to read on. The start of your essay is your opportunity to make an impactful first impression, so make your opening a good one. Here are two examples of how you can open with an interesting hook:
Start in the middle of your story: Call out the most interesting point of your story, and then backtrack from there. For example, "And there I found myself, surrounded by baby sea turtles on the hazy shores of Virginia Beach."
Make a specific generalization: This is a sentence that makes a general statement on what your essay will be about, but gives a specific description. An example: "Each year on our family vacation out of the city, I contemplate the meaning of life as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge."
3. Continue with your introduction.
While your hook will spark the reader's curiosity, the rest of your introduction should give them an idea of where you're going with your essay. Set your story up in four to five sentences.
4. Tell your story in the body of your essay.
If your introduction and conclusion are roughly 100 words each, your body will end up being about 450 words. Think of that as three to five paragraphs, with each paragraph having its own main idea or point.
Write in a narrative style—more as though you're having a conversation as opposed to writing an instruction manual. While you should pay strict attention to using proper grammar and sentence structure, you have the freedom to make your essay a reflection of your personality.
If you are a humorous person, use humor. If you're an eternal optimist or love getting into the minute details of life, let that shine through. Tell your story in a way that’s logical, clear, and makes sense.
5. Wrap up with a conclusion.
Finish your story with a conclusion paragraph, and make sure you've made your main point. What is the main thing you want the college to know about you through this story? Is it what you've learned, a value that's important to you, or what you want to contribute to society? Finally, conclude your essay with the personal statement you want to make about yourself.
Writing tips on how to format a college essay
As you're writing your college essay, keep these tips in mind:
Be authentic. One of the most essential parts of how to format a college application essay is to be authentic. The college wants to know who you are, and they will be reading dozens of essays a day. The best way to make yours stand out is to just be yourself instead of focusing on what you think they want to hear.
Show you can write . While the most important part of your personal statement is showcasing who you are, you'll also be judged on your writing ability. That's because knowing the fundamental principles of writing is important to college success. Show that you understand the structure of an essay and proper use of the English language.
Give the answer right away. If you're using a specific question as your writing prompt, answer the question directly in the opening paragraph. Then, use the rest of the essay to elaborate on your answer.
Stay on topic. Make good use of your word count limit by being concise and coherent. Stay on topic and refrain from adding any information that doesn't add to the main idea of your essay.
Write in your voice. Imagine you’re speaking to an actual person as you write. Be honest and accurate, using words you normally use. Your essay is a personal statement, so it should sound natural to the reader—and to you too.
Use real examples. Add real-life events and vivid details from your life. This adds color and validity to your personal statement. Personal examples will show you embody the characteristics or values you claim to, rather than merely saying you do.
Keep the formatting simple. Opt-out of fancy fonts that can be hard to read. Stick to fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid using bolding (except for headings), italics, all caps, or exclamation points. Let your words speak for themselves instead.
Save your essay. Instead of writing your essay directly in the online application, draft and save your essay in a document like Google Docs or Word—or start out on paper and pen if that's what you're most comfortable with. That way you can make edits and use helpful online spelling and grammar checkers. And you won't risk losing your essay if the application times out or you navigate away from it by mistake. When you copy and paste your essay into the application, make sure your formatting, such as line spacing and bolding for headings, remains intact.
Follow directions. Read and understand the specific instructions set by the college. Review them again before you submit your essay to make sure you've met all of the requirements.
Editing tips on how to format a college essay
Finally, edit your essay until you’re satisfied it conveys the message you want it to and it’s free of errors. Let your first draft be as messy or pristine as it comes out. Then, go back later—several times if needed—to clean it up. Ask yourself these questions as you edit your essay:
Is my essay free of grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors?
Is it the proper word length assigned by the college?
Have I answered the question in the prompt?
Does the introduction make me want to read more?
Are there any vague statements I can replace with more specific details?
Do any parts drone on or feel boring?
Does it feel too formal?
Are any parts or words repetitive?
Have I misused any words (such as there, their, and they're)?
Are my sentences varied in length?
Have I shared with the college what I most want them to know about me?
It can also be helpful to ask someone you trust to read your essay and give you constructive feedback. This might be a trusted teacher, parent, school counselor, or college student. It's best to choose someone who is familiar with the purpose of a college essay.
Ask them to give feedback about your essay using the same questions as above. But they should never try to rewrite your essay. And never let others edit out your voice. Ask them to focus on grammar and mechanics and to give suggestions on items to add in or leave out.
Above all, ask your guest editor what point they think you were trying to make with your essay. If they get it right, you know you've crafted a college essay that reflects you and your intended message.
Enhance your writing skills
Bring out your best in your college essay with a course in Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Learn how to find your voice, structure your essay, choose relevant details, and write in a way that pulls in your readers.
Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education
College Essay Topics and Writing Tips
How Long Should a College Essay Be?
How to Write a Personal Statement
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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Can You Answer These Bizarre (But Real) College Essay Prompts?
10 AUG 2022
With the release of universities 2022-23 supplemental essay prompts, we take you through some of the most unusual and bizarre US college supplemental essay prompts of all time, featuring universities such as UChicago, Tufts University and UPenn.
To get into a top US college , you’re going to need more than stellar grades, test scores, common application and extracurricular achievements. You’ll have to demonstrate, in your supplemental essays, that you are the kind of mature, driven, interesting person that would thrive at the particular university. This is much easier said than done — standing out from the crowd with a unique college essay can be very difficult.
Luckily, over the years some colleges have given their applicants a helping hand on this point by providing some really bizarre essay prompts. These warrant truly inventive responses, and let applicants really show off their writing prowess, creativity, and individuality.
Here’s out our list of some of the most creative, unusual and bizarre supplemental essay prompts from all time. How would you have responded to these questions? Check it out below!
Bizzare Supplemental Essay Prompts in 2022
We thought that it would be a good idea to include some of the more creative supplemental essay prompts from this year’s admission cycle (2022-23). We hope that this gets the creative juices flowing and helps you get a good early start to the essays!
University of Chicago
What advice would a wisdom tooth have?
Name one dish you would cook for the school’s admission team.
Marvel or DC? Pepsi or Coke? Instagram or TikTok? What’s your favorite ‘this or that’ and which side do you choose?
University of Vermont
Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?
In approaching these essays, it's essential to keep in mind why they are important and how they add context to your application. Admissions officers at top universities look for candidates that display creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and a unique perspective.
Unusual Supplemental Essay Prompts From Previous Years
When it comes to asking creative and wacky essay prompts, the University of Chicago is the leader. To come up with the best and most creative prompts, the college takes suggestions and inspiration from their own students, who are allowed to email their ideas annually. If you look on the UChicago website you can even see who submitted each essay prompt.
UChicago also allows you to answer a past prompt making these options for you to choose.
Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History…
This prompt was an excellent opportunity for students to show their creativity and humour, as well as their academic interests. The best ideas that we could find online were probably Visual Arms (Visual Arts) and Pig Problems (Big Problems).
Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.
Have you ever written an essay about a giant jar of mustard? In 2004 UChicago applicants had their chance, and while there are absurd elements to the prompt, there are many creative and serious directions essays took.
The elusive goal of mathematics, but with no context. What is “x”, and how did prospective UChicago students find it? We’re sure the students brought in a novel discussion of a diverse array of mathematical theory, as well as philosophical and personal matters.
Elvis is alive! OK, maybe not, but here in the Office of College Admissions we are persuaded that current Elvis sightings in highway rest areas, grocery stores and Laundromats are part of a wider conspiracy involving five of the following: the metric system, the Mall of America, the crash of the Hindenburg, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, lint, J.D. Salinger and wax fruit. Help us get to the bottom of this evil plot by constructing your own theory of how and why five of these items and events are related. Your narrative may take any form you like, but try to keep your theory to under two pages.
If there were any conspiracy theorists applying to UChicago in 1999-2000, they would certainly have been in luck with this prompt. Who would have been the mastermind behind your evil plot?
If UChicago is the champ of creative college essay prompts, Tufts might be considered a close second. Check out their unique prompts below.
Kermit the Frog famously lamented, 'It's not easy being green.' Do you agree?
This prompt is inspired by a Muppets song, whereby Kermit laments how green seems to blend in with so many other ordinary things and how he thus fails to stand out from the crowd. Of course, many students in their essays took this quote in a totally different direction, demonstrating their critical thinking and creativity.
The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?
Back when this prompt was released, Tufts’ #YOLO question caused quite a stir. Lee Coffin, the dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Tufts admitted that the question was inspired by his affinity for pop music and his desire for applicants to have some fun when they introduce themselves to Tufts.
It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon halfway around the world. History is filled with such linchpins – small events or decisions that have huge effects on the future. Make your own change somewhere in history and show us the effects on the world.
This is one for fans of alternative history, perhaps invoking visions of a distorted universe where life as we know it has taken a turn for the better or worse. Again, a challenge for applicants would have been how to say something about themselves and their interests in a creative way.
University of Southern California
(Short Answer) Hashtag to describe yourself
It is common for college essay prompts to have a few short answer questions to get to know the student. For a few years starting in 2017 USC adopted a unique question, making students describe themselves with a #hashtag as they would on twitter or instagram. But what a difficult task that is - how would you describe yourself with a single hashtag?
Wake Forest University
Give us your top ten list.
Many Buzzfeed enthusiasts applying to Wake Forest in 2017-18 would have enjoyed the opportunity to make a top-ten list about anything of their choosing. What topic would you have written about, and what does this say about you?
If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer or car describe you?
Imagine all of the time you’ve spent in your room, at your computer or behind the wheel; these objects might be the only things in the world that know your real identity. This question would have certainly prompted some deep reflection from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business applicants.
University of Notre Dame
You have 150 words. Take a risk.
Students could have taken this anywhere - so long as what they wrote was risky. There are even reports that some students took the ultimate risk and wrote nothing at all.
University of Pennsylvania
You have just finished your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
This is an iconic prompt that UPenn asked for about 20 years. It encourages students to consider their story, and to use this to introduce themselves to UPenn. For added realism, many students liked to start their responses in the middle of a sentence.
So, How Do I Write the Essay?
Since more than three quarters of US universities no longer require students to take standardized tests, college essays are becoming increasingly important in your application.
The key piece of advice we give to our students is to start on these essays early. If you are applying to several universities, you will have many different supplemental essays to complete, as well as the common application essay . Many of our students attest that writing all of their essays is by far the most stressful part of the application, and a part of the application that is easy to neglect.
Our other key piece of advice is to make the content of each supplemental essay very specific to the university you are applying to. You need to do your research about what each university looks for in a candidate and show a clear desire to attend that particular university.
As the world’s leading university admissions support company, we at Crimson know how to approach each supplemental essay and maximise your chances of gaining admission to a top university.
If you want to feel confident when submitting your college application essay, get your essay reviewed by us at Crimson. Our experts have assisted students who have gained admission to Harvard , Yale , Princeton , Stanford , Oxford , Cambridge and many other top universities!
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Get help writing your college application essays. Find this year's Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges.
The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool).
2019–20 Common App Essays
Nearly 700 colleges accept the The Common Application , which makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form. If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in 2019, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following prompts:
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure . How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Read More: Get Expert Essay Advice From Former Admissions Officers!
Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
Prompt #1: share your story..
Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school résumé and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.
Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Choose this prompt if you have a relevant—and specific!—experience to recount (and reflect on). A vague essay about a hot button issue doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything useful about YOU.
Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!
Prompt #5: Personal growth.
Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller "aha" moment. Describe the event or accomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth.
Prompt #6: What captivates you?
This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The "what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn't an afterthought—it's a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.
Read More: QUIZ: Test Your College Knowledge!
Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.
More College Essay Topics
Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:
Describe a person you admire.
Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn't need to be convinced they are influential people. Focus on yourself: Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you .
Why do you want to attend this school?
Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like "to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills," and use details that show your interests: "I'm an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation." Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.
Read More: 5 Ways College Application Essays and High School Essays Are Different
What is a book you love?
Your answer should not be a book report. Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?
Again, be honest in answering this question—don't choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn't inspire you.
What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?
Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it's shown you about yourself.
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What Makes a Great College Essay? These application essays show many sides of a person. The key to many of these essays is that they describe a story or an aspect of the student's life in a way that is dynamic: It reflects many of their values, strengths, interests, volunteer work, and life experiences.
"I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
College essay examples from students accepted to Harvard, Stanford, and other elite schools REVIEWING SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLES CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR ODDS OF ACCEPTANCE Responding effectively to college essay prompts is quite different from other essay writing.
Olivia Dunne posted a video to TikTok in paid partnership with Caktus AI. The LSU gymnast is seen using the AI program in the sponsored clip. "However, using AI to produce work that a student ...
What's most important, experts say, is that a college essay is thoughtful and tells a story that offers insight into who a student is as a person. So, no matter what topic students choose,...
What is the College Essay? Our Expert Definition. Most students will use the Common App to apply to U.S. colleges and universities. A smaller number of colleges require students to submit applications through Coalition.. Regardless, both platforms require students to submit a personal statement or essay response as part of their application.
All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it. Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Read the full essays. I got OpenAI's ChatGPT to write some college admissions essays and asked tutors to review them. Two experts said they passed for student essays and may have had a shot at ...
Similarly, high school students may be tempted to use the chatbot to write college application essays. ChatGPT generates usable content that often lacks personality and authenticity. The use of ChatGPT poses ethical and moral dilemmas around plagiarism and cheating. It's just about 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and your 2,000-word essay on ...
Essay 1: Sharing an identity or background through a montage Essay 2: Overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative Essay 3: Showing the influence of an important person or thing Frequently asked questions about college application essays Essay 1: Sharing an identity or background through a montage
While education and arts-related majors ranked low in terms of wages, engineering majors of various types ranked high on the list. Here's a look at the 10 majors with the lowest pay for recent ...
A college essay is a piece of writing that responds to a given prompt, either on the Common App lication, Coalition Application, or on a school's individual application. College essays can range anywhere from 50 to 800 words. There are two main types of college essays: personal statements and supplemental essays.
It's not even to write a good essay per se. It's to write an essay that will get you into the college of your dreams. The application essay examples most often seen in the wild are those that appeal to English-major types: essay collection editors, English teachers, journalists, etc. (Full disclosure: the author is guilty on all counts.)
The college essay is a personal essay that tells an engaging story in 650 words or fewer. It is comparable to memoir or creative nonfiction writing, which relate the author's personal experiences. The college essay is fundamentally personal and creative. It is rich with introspection, reflection, and statements of self-awareness.
College essays about service to others, either at home or abroad, can be moving to read but difficult to effectively write, given the short amount of space students are allotted for a college ...
Essay writing is the most challenging application for your college. They are complicated since they require the very least guidance, and you have to be creative and open-minded. Go through numerous essays written by students and get admitted to the college to get a glimpse of what you need to get involved in your article to get accepted in the ...
Here are a few types writing done at work with tips from Coven about how assignments in college courses can provide that practice: Reports, memos, proposals and plans. Students could be asked to turn in a cover memo with any assignment or write a tweet or LinkedIn post that summarizes the idea and "shows that you've really gotten to the ...
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
Here's the draft essay: Introduction Climate is a complex and dynamic system, regulated by a multitude of interrelated processes, feedback loops, and emergent phenomena. Among these, one of the most fascinating and influential is the role of thunderstorms in regulating temperature. Thunderstorms are not only a spectacular natural
Expository Paper - The Most Common Type of College Essay. An expository paper is a type of academic essay that is used to present a topic or argument to the reader. The paper is usually written ...
The college essay can make or break your application. It's your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students. A standout essay has a few key ingredients: A unique, personal topic A compelling, well-structured narrative A clear, creative writing style
13 College Essay Tips: Key Takeaways for a Great College Essay. To recap, here's our 13 tips for the best college essay ever: College Essay Planning Tips: Create a plan of attack for all of your essays so you can keep track of everything. Start early—at least two months before the due date, if not more. Choose the right prompt and topic for ...
Writing college essays isn't about using flowery or verbose prose. Avoid leaning too heavily on the thesaurus to sound impressive. Choose a natural writing style that's appropriate for the subject matter. Also, avoid stressing about trying to write what you think colleges want to see. Learning how to draft a good essay for college is about ...
Most high school students don't get a lot of experience with creative writing, so the college essay can be especially daunting. Reading examples of successful essays, however, can help you understand what admissions officers are looking for. In this post, we'll share 16 college essay examples of many different topics.
2. Open with a hook. Your opening sentence is one of the most important parts of your essay. It's what you'll use to capture the attention of the reader and give them a reason to read on. The start of your essay is your opportunity to make an impactful first impression, so make your opening a good one.
To get into a top US college, you're going to need more than stellar grades, test scores, common application and extracurricular achievements. You'll have to demonstrate, in your supplemental essays, that you are the kind of mature, driven, interesting person that would thrive at the particular university.
Get help writing your college application essays. Find this year's Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges. The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool).