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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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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Sample College Admission Essays
Applying to college can be very exciting, but also require a lot of dedication, research, and hard work. One key piece of your application that should be given plenty of time and attention is the college admission essay. Before you write your first draft read our sample essays to get a few tips on writing your perfect admission essay.
This section contains five examples of good college essays.
College Essay Sample One
College essay sample two, college essay sample three, college essay sample four, college essay sample five.
State University and I possess a common vision. I, like State University, constantly work to explore the limits of nature by exceeding expectations. Long an amateur scientist, it was this drive that brought me to the University of Texas for its Student Science Training Program in 2013. Up to that point science had been my private past time, one I had yet to explore on anyone else’s terms. My time at UT, however, changed that. Participating for the first time in a full-length research experiment at that level, I felt more alive, more engaged, than I ever had before. Learning the complex dynamics between electromagnetic induction and optics in an attempt to solve one of the holy grails of physics, gravitational-waves, I could not have been more pleased. Thus vindicated, my desire to further formalize my love of science brings me to State University. Thanks to this experience, I know now better than ever that State University is my future, because through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion for science and engineering.
In addition to just science, I am drawn to State University for other reasons. I strive to work with the diverse group of people that State University wholeheartedly accommodates – and who also share my mindset. They, like me, are there because State University respects the value of diversity. I know from personal experience that in order to achieve the trust, honesty, and success that State University values, new people are needed to create a respectful environment for these values. I feel that my background as an American Sikh will provide an innovative perspective in the university’s search for knowledge while helping it to develop a basis for future success. And that, truly, is the greatest success I can imagine.
This emphasis on diversity can also be found in the variety of specialized departments found at State University. On top of its growing cultural and ethnic diversity, State University is becoming a master at creating a niche for every student. However, this does not isolate students by forcing them to work with only those individuals who follow their specific discipline. Instead, it is the seamless interaction between facilities that allows each department, from engineering to programming, to create a real learning environment that profoundly mimics the real world. Thus, State University is not just the perfect place for me, it is the only place for me. Indeed, having the intellectual keenness to absorb every ounce of knowledge presented through my time in the IB program, I know that I can contribute to State University as it continues to cultivate a scholarly climate that encourages intellectual curiosity.
At the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at State University, I will be able to do just that. In a department where education and research are intermixed, I can continue to follow the path that towards scientific excellence. Long-mesmerized by hobbies like my work with the FIRST Robotics team, I believe State University would be the best choice to continue to nurture my love for electrical and computer engineering. I have only scratched the surface in this ever evolving field but know that the technological potential is limitless. Likewise, I feel that my time at State University would make my potential similarly limitless.
This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of science. Where others see the engineering, experimentation, and presentation of science as a chore, I only see excitement. Even as a child I constantly sought it out, first on television with Bill Nye and The Mythbusters, then later in person in every museum exhibit I could find. Science in all its forms fascinated me, but science projects in particular were a category all to themselves. To me, science projects were a special joy that only grew with time. In fact, it was this continued fascination for hands-on science that brought me years later to the sauna that is the University of Alabama in mid-June. Participating in the Student Science Training Program and working in their lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Just the thought of participating in a project at this level of scientific rigor made me forget that this was supposed to be my summer break and I spent the first day eagerly examining every piece of equipment.
Even at first, when the whole research group sat there doing rote calculations and others felt like they were staring down the barrel of defeated purpose, I remained enthusiastic. Time and time again I reminded myself of that famous phrase "great effort leads to great rewards," and sure enough, soon my aspirations began to be met. This shift in attitude also coincided with a shift in location: from the computer desk to the laser lab. It was finally time to get my hands dirty.
Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.
In the end, although the days were long and hard, my work that summer filled me with pride. That pride has confirmed and reinvigorated my love for science. I felt more alive, more engaged, in that lab than I have anywhere else, and I am committed to returning. I have always dreamed of science but since that summer, since my experiment, I have dreamed only of the future. To me, medical science is the future and through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion. After all, to follow your passion is, literally, a dream come true.
In addition to its use of clear, demonstrative language, there is one thing that makes this an effective essay: focus. Indeed, notice that, although the question is broad, the answer is narrow. This is crucial. It can be easy to wax poetic on a topic and, in the process, take on too much. Instead, by highlighting one specific aspect of his personality, the author is able to give the reader a taste of his who he is without overwhelming him or simply reproducing his résumé. This emphasis gives the reader the opportunity to learn who the writer is on his terms and makes it a truly compelling application essay.
The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
I come from a small, economically depressed town in Northern Wisconson. Many people in this former mining town do not graduate high school and for them college is an idealistic concept, not a reality. Neither of my parents attended college. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant environment permeated my mind, and yet I knew I had to graduate high school; I had to get out. Although most of my friends and family did not understand my ambitions, I knew I wanted to make a difference and used their doubt as motivation to press through. Four days after I graduated high school, I joined the U.S. Army.
The 4 years I spent in the Army cultivated a deep-seated passion for serving society. While in the Army, I had the great honor to serve with several men and women who, like me, fought to make a difference in the world. During my tour of duty, I witnessed several shipmates suffer from various mental aliments. Driven by a commitment to serve and a desire to understand the foundations of psychological illness, I decided to return to school to study psychology.
In order to pay for school and continue being active in the community, I enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard as a Medic. Due to the increased deployment schedule and demands placed on all branches of the military after September 11, my attendance in school has necessarily come second to my commitment to the military. There are various semesters where, due to this demand, I attended school less than full time. Despite taking a long time and the difficulty in carving separate time for school with such occupational requirements, I remained persistent aiming towards attending school as my schedule would allow. My military commitment ends this July and will no longer complicate my academic pursuits.
In college, as I became more politically engaged, my interest began to gravitate more towards political science. The interest in serving and understanding people has never changed, yet I realized I could make a greater difference doing something for which I have a deeper passion, political science. Pursuing dual degrees in both Psychology and Political Science, I was provided an opportunity to complete a thesis in Psychology with Dr. Sheryl Carol a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Texas (UT) This fall I will complete an additional thesis as a McNair Scholar with Dr. Ken Chambers, Associate Professor in Latin American studies in the UT Political Science Department.
As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.
This fall I will embark on writing an additional honors thesis in political science. While the precise topic of my thesis is undecided, I am particularly interested in Mexico and its development towards a more democratic government. Minoring in Spanish, I have read various pieces of literature from Mexico and have come to respect Mexico and Latin American culture and society. I look forward to conducting this research as it will have a more qualitative tilt than my thesis in psychology, therefore granting an additional understanding of research methodology.
My present decision to switch from social psychology to political science is further related to a study abroad course sponsored by the European Union with Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UT. Professor Mitchell obtained a grant to take a class of students to Belgium in order to study the EU. This course revealed a direct correlation between what I had studied in the classroom with the real world. After spending several weeks studying the EU, its history and present movement towards integration, the class flew to Brussels where we met with officials and proceeded to learn firsthand how the EU functioned.
My interest in attending the University of Rochester in particular, relates to my first semester at OU and the opportunity to take an introductory course in statistics with the now retired Dr. Larry Miller. Through the combination of a genuine appreciation and knack for statistics and with his encouragement, I proceeded to take his advanced statistics class as well as the first graduate level statistics course at OU. I continued my statistical training by completing the second graduate statistics course on model comparisons with Dr. Roger Johnson, a Professor in the Psychology Department. The model comparison course was not only the most challenging course I have taken as an undergraduate, but the most important. As the sole undergraduate in the course and only college algebra under my belt, I felt quite intimidated. Yet, the rigors of the class compelled me to expand my thinking and learn to overcome any insecurities and deficits in my education. The effort paid off as I earned not only an ‘A’ in the course, but also won the T.O.P.S. (Top Outstanding Psychology Student) award in statistics. This award is given to the top undergraduate student with a demonstrated history of success in statistics.
My statistical training in psychology orientates me toward a more quantitative graduate experience. Due to the University of Rochester’s reputation for an extensive use of statistics in political science research, I would make a good addition to your fall class. While attending the University of Rochester, I would like to study international relations or comparative politics while in graduate school. I find the research of Dr.’s Hein Goemans and Gretchen Helmke intriguing and would like the opportunity to learn more about it through the Graduate Visitation program.
Participation in the University of Rochester’s Graduate School Visitation Program would allow me to learn more about the Department of Political Science to further see if my interests align with those in the department. Additionally, my attendance would allow the Political Science department to make a more accurate determination on how well I would fit in to the program than from solely my graduate school application. Attending the University of Rochester with its focus on quantitative training, would not only allow me to utilize the skills and knowledge I gained as an undergraduate, but also would expand this foundation to better prepare me to conduct research in a manner I find fascinating.
From attending S.E.R.E. (Survival/POW training) in the military and making it through a model comparisons course as an undergraduate, I have rarely shied away from a challenge. I thrive on difficult tasks as I enjoy systematically developing solutions to problems. Attending the University of Rochester would more than likely prove a challenge, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would not only succeed but enable me to offer a unique set of experiences to fellow members of the incoming graduate class.
My handwriting didn’t become jittery until the third round. The number of competitors in the Midwest Spelling Bee had dropped from 100 to the thirty-some who remained after two waves of preliminaries, a group I was awed to be in. The third round would likely be the last one carried out with pencil and paper. A sole word stood between me and the oral competition to follow. My nerves soared at the thought that a mere handful of syllables from the pronouncer’s mouth would offer me a chance to compete in the apex of orthography: the regional bee finals. Yet, when I heard the word “Wagner,” the degree of my confusion was only rivaled by that of my disappointment upon elimination.
My approach to academic success in middle school consisted of rote memorization and stodgy study habits. Fortunately for my sanity and social life, I have since discovered that learning derived from experience can introduce an invaluable layer of reality to otherwise useless knowledge. My hinge moment came near the end of eighth grade when I was stumped by “Wagner” and its ensuing definition: “a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas.” To my credit, the phonetic vocalization of Wagner is something like “BAHG-nur,” with the ever ambiguous bee/vee sound. But, an error is an error, and my misspelling of the word earned me a disheartening dismissal from the Midwest Spelling Bee. I immediately resolved to learn about the man whose name was responsible for cheapening my years of poring over vocabulary lists and etymology guides. Upon learning that Richard Wagner was one of the most prolific opera composers in history, I had to investigate. Along my inquisitive quest, I encountered two newfound passions: opera music and the pursuit of stimulating information.
I am an unabashed classical music aficionado. My enthusiasm came gradually over years of imposed piano lessons that eventually became voluntary as my interest in the activity piqued. I came to sense the profound communion with notes on a page arising from tinkering out the same rhythms and melodies that were manuscripts by musical geniuses centuries ago. However, because I could not perform it, I never thought to explore opera. Without my keen interest in Wagner, I may have never encountered the awe-inspiring blend of visual and musical mastery that constitutes his interpretation of the genre. Opera swiftly captured my eye and ear for insightful art. For instance, in his landmark opera, Tristan und Isolde, Wagner unleashed a then-revolutionary tonal system which paved the way for twentieth century classical music. As I unearthed the beauty of opera, my awareness of all the remarkable, groundbreaking themes of Wagner’s productions became embodied by the word “Wagner.” In this striking moment, I could not help but feel the value of connecting my learning to purposeful interaction.
Fueled by my frustration with the outcome of the bee, I searched for the source of my failure. In uncovering the works of Wagner, I gleaned a sense of the vast droves of information that can lie behind a seemingly simple word. I suddenly became aware of my incapacity to seek out the surprising insights that the world might have been waiting to reveal. Thanks to a reevaluation triggered by a failure, I garnered a new appreciation for experiential learning. Since my underwhelming performance nearly four years ago, I have become well versed in the mysterious, gritty art of inquiry. Rather than perceiving my environment to be a sterile list of terms with a neat pronunciation guide to boot, I am now eager to take in the uncommon wisdoms of everything from the innovative operatic tropes of Wagner to the fickle nature of bees—both the pollinating insects and their manmade homonyms.
The exclusiveness portrayed in Mean Girls led me to expect that high school would consist of like-minded cliques. Rather, in high school I found that a single commonality can unite a seemingly random sampling of people. Through marching band, this idea was embodied in a desire to perform music. UChicago’s community is similarly bonded by a serious passion for learning which satisfies my desire to become a thoughtful citizen of tomorrow.
The hierarchy of authority in marching band is one I have come to love, and not only because I achieved the top student position in it as a drum major. In that role, I watched younger members hone their skills in an effort to contribute to the collective performance. The value of a uniform training followed by opportunities to lead is exemplified by the ambitious and talented student leaders produced. At UChicago, The Core serves a comparable purpose in preparing students for exhaustive academic exploration. I am enticed by the intensive inquiry and groundbreaking research that students partake in. Yet, I appreciate the benefit of undergoing the rigorous Core first. UChicago emphasizes experiential learning, even in the College, which appeals to my desire to collaborate with other brilliant learners. When I visited campus, two specific encounters struck me. Initially, the Institute of Politics attracted me with its hands-on approach to policy issues through programs like Student Civic Engagement projects. Even more alluring was the Politics & Policy class I sat in on. Following a lecture on bureaucracy that may have droned over the heads of less inspired students, I was surrounded by a hubbub of engaged thinkers convening through discussion. UChicago’s intellectual atmosphere is animated by the common thirst for knowledge that characterizes every student.
Through marching band, I discovered a passion for influencing others. My dream is that by drawing from UChicago’s empowering community, my drive will transfer to pertinent global issues like human rights in the Middle East. UChicago is my ideal learning environment, for as Wayne Booth stated while he was Dean of the College, UChicago empowers tomorrow’s intellectual leaders to “see through the guff.” During high school, I have grown from an uncertain ninth grader into the capable leader I am today, leaving me optimistic for how I may develop in the next four years.
A travel through my room reveals almost everything about me. The walls are splashed with two tones of eye-burning pink, fairies dance across the vibrant wallpaper sprinkled with sparkles, a white-washed dresser covered in knick-knacks, and an overflowing toy box fit perfectly in this Technicolor dream room.
In one corner of my room, a paint-by-numbers portrait that my grandfather created in a World War II hospital silently tells its story. My grandfather, an Italian barber, raised six children in Bayonne, NJ with my grandmother. My grandparents worked hard to deliver the most American of promises – that your kids will have a better standard of living than you. In that regard, my mother, who put herself through college to become an engineer, made good, affording to give me my own room, a luxury she never knew.
The next corner of my room contains a nondescript desk and laptop, the same as anyone’s room. Who would guess that this desk is also the launching pad of myYearbook.com, a 1.6 million member social networking site that I created? Layers of spec sheets, Post-Its, and emails form a sea of productivity that I find comforting. Scribbled telephone numbers and names remind me of deals I did and didn’t do, reporters who did and didn’t write on me, and technology worries I never stop trying to resolve. Half-drunk coke cans tell the tale of a dozen all-nighters, and someone who is at her most creative at night.
The desk is not all business though. My calculus and economics texts bookend my laptop, and a bouquet of dead flowers from my boyfriend rest in peace on my shelf, revealing a morbid sentimentality. Although the flowers have long died and the water completely evaporated, the card and its words “Jeg synes a du er fantastik og du er det beste ting i mit verden,” are the only reason the flowers never made it to the garbage. In Danish, the sentence translates to, “I think you are fantastic, and you are the best thing in my world.” Ever since I started dating him, I have been learning more and more about his Danish culture, and I plan to go to Denmark twice this year.
The third corner holds my well-worn, folded-up gymnastics floor beam and barely used grips. Unlike many gymnasts though, I prefer not to wear the grips on bars because they make it harder to feel the bar. I started gymnastics when I was five, and since then my hands have earned their calluses, and I am proud of them. You won’t find me moisturizing my hands except to keep them from splitting on the bars.
In the last corner hangs a painting I bought while organizing an online Tsunami Aid Art Project. It was my first significant project online and helped give me a sense of the power of the Internet to connect people. As part of the artist community WetCanvas.com, myself and two other members organized a tsunami-related art project with all proceeds donated to charity. We raised $10,000 in funds, and had about 100 pieces of work donated from artists in nine countries.
Sadly, I know this will not always be my room. The pink fairies will give way to adult- sized possessions and responsibilities. The knick-knacks will break, and the sanctuary of my childhood will soon seem so childish. But, for now, I will embrace the pink, the fairies, and the simplicity of life in my mom’s house. I will look forward to the possibilities of creating another space, as uniquely my own as this one, and as uniquely a part of my past as this room will always be.
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Essays That Worked
The essays are a place to show us who you are and who you’ll be in our community.
It’s a chance to add depth to something that is important to you and tell the admissions committee more about your background or goals. Below you’ll find selected examples of essays that “worked,” as nominated by our admissions committee. In each of these essays, students were able to share stories from their everyday lives to reveal something about their character, values, and life that aligned with the culture and values at Hopkins.
Hear from the Class of 2025
These selections represent just a few examples of essays we found impressive and helpful during the past admissions cycle. We hope these essays inspire you as you prepare to compose your own personal statements. The most important thing to remember is to be original as you share your own story, thoughts, and ideas with us.
Rozanne’s essay showcases how pursuing a new hobby, crochet, is analogous to her larger efforts to find her passions. She’s able to reflect that, while both processes may seem messy and confusing at first, putting in the requisite effort and time leads to greater and more meaningful outcomes.
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
Samuel’s essay is a reflection on pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone which is not only an important life lesson but also something that Hopkins students do every day. Our students push the boundaries of discovery, are faced with challenges in and out of the classroom, and pursue newfound passions.
Red Over Black
Many students want to share about an important person or family member in their life in their college essays. The challenge with this is making sure that the essay is still about the applicant, not just the important person. Elizabeth does a great job of incorporating that important person, her grandmother, while still keeping the focus on herself, what she learned from that specific moment, how that impacted her life.
Dante’s essay makes it clear to the reader that he is very curious and has many interests by showing more than telling. He thoughtfully connects the lessons he’s learned from chess to his performance on the soccer field and does a great job of focusing on what he learned as opposed to a blow-by-blow recount of the entire chess match or soccer game.
Left and Right Don't Exist
Stella begins this essay by discussing her experience learning to fly. This anecdote, however, is less about the act itself as it is what the experience taught her in regards to perspective and points of view. She’s then able to connect these takeaways to another aspect of her life – her love of journalism.
In Dayann’s essay, we learn a few things about him. First, he loves to participate. Despite his insistence that he cannot dance, we see him dancing throughout his essay. Second, he realizes that he can in fact dance, but needs to work with others to bring out the best in himself, and in the group. And third, he then is able to connect this to his future.
More essays that worked
We share essays from previously admitted students—along with feedback from our admissions committee—so you can understand what made them effective and how to start crafting your own.
Our interactive workshops—on topics like the college search process and essay preparation—will help you build your strongest application when you’re ready to apply.
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College Essay Examples: The Best 32 Examples in
Plus top tips for writing a killer college admission essay.
Checking out college essay examples is a great way of preparing yourself for writing your own. Whether you’re aiming to get into your local college or looking to attend an Ivy League school , your college essay is a key component of your application.
In this blog, we have 32 awesome college essay examples from some of the top universities in the world, including Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, UPenn, Yale, and more! Plus, you will learn how to craft an outstanding college essay step by step, so that your own personality and experiences will really shine. This is the same exact proven strategies our college essay advisors share with our own students in our much sought-after college admissions consulting program . We're not holding back. So let's dive in!
Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .
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Article Contents 57 min read
Sample college essay (harvard):.
Prompt: The Harvard College Honor code declares that we "hold honesty as the foundation of our community." As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty. (650 words)
"I sit in a hot SUV winding it’s way over a bumpy African road, a scarf protecting my nose and mouth as dust streams in through the window. Returning from a teaching session with the Maasai women, the other students' excited chatter dances around me as they discuss our invitation to the Maasai coming of age ceremony. The ceremony centres on the circumcision of pubescent males and females; often performed with a sharp rock and no anesthetic. It is a rite of passage for the Maasai. My stomach is a tight knot, picturing the children we met today and imagining the painful procedure they will soon undergo. The other students, excited about the feast and intricate costumes, hope that accepting the invitation will strengthen our bond with the community. I, however, am weighed down by a profound sense of unease when it comes to the main attraction, the circumcisions. Further, the leader of the organization is absent; should she not be consulted? Do I go along with the group, and participate in something that I am morally opposed to? Or do something about it?
For me, the strength of a person’s character is defined by their ability to act on their values and stand up for what they believe in. Having strong moral values only becomes a powerful agent of change when one is willing to follow through on them with action. Situations, such as this one, where I feel a sinking sensation deep in my gut, help to cue me to conflicts with my own values, prompting me to gather more information, thus taking the first step towards informed action.
Want to learn the 7 most important and easy ways to make your college essay stand out? Check out this video:
A personal statement essay or a college admissions essay is the part of your college application that allows the admissions committee to get a stronger sense of who you are as a candidate. As our sample above shows, it is usually written in response to a prompt provided by the school; it is important to pay attention to and answer the prompt, as it demonstrates what the school is hoping to learn about you. Most personal statements tend to range from 250 words to 650 words in length. The structure of your essay will follow the structure of an academic paper, with an introduction, main body, and a conclusion.
Your essay will reveal both your hard and soft skills to the admissions committee. From a technical angle, it will showcase your writing skills in terms of organization, clarity, narrative ability, and spelling and grammar. In terms of content, a compelling personal statement should tell a story that reveals something about your personality and what formative experiences you have had in your life. Remember, the admissions committee is not only seeking academically strong candidates for their school – they want to find students who will also be a good fit for the culture and values of their institution. The personal statement essay is your chance to show the committee why you are the best all-around candidate for admission. Since the personal statement essay reveals so much about you as an applicant, crafting an outstanding essay is crucial!
While this task may seem challenging, we are here to guide you through the writing process and the strategies you should apply each step of the way.
Writing a strong college essay requires significant time and effort. The best way to ensure success is to be properly prepared before you even begin to write:
Set aside enough time . Ideally, you should set aside 6-8 weeks for writing your essay. While this may seem like a long time for a short essay, it is important to remember that a good essay will require multiple drafts. The more time you give yourself to write and rewrite, the stronger your essay will be. Giving yourself more time also reduces the amount of stress you will feel while writing, as you will be able to pace yourself throughout the process instead of scrambling to write it at the last minute! Remember, many US colleges have rolling admissions , so you want to prepare your essay for when the application opens.
Familiarize yourself with the culture of the school . The prompt for your essay may reveal something about the culture of the school and the program to which you are applying. But you should also conduct your own research. Get a sense of a school’s culture and values by reading their mission statement, media releases, or even checking out the articles in the online university newspaper or alumni magazine. Check their social media and see what kind of presence they have online. The more familiar you become with the school’s culture and values, the more insight you will have into what sort of personal qualities and experiences the committee might value in its students. If you ever need any help with brainstorming or researching consider getting professional help from college admissions consulting services.
Read and re-read your essay prompt . Read each prompt at least 2-3 times and jot down each part of the question. Take time to think about each question and let it sink in, to make sure that your essay will actually address all components of the prompt. Nothing will get your essay thrown out faster than not answering the prompt, so you need to make sure that your essay is on topic! Remember that you can use similar themes for your college admissions interview questions , so this is the perfect time to brainstorm!
Make a list of the qualities and experiences you would like to highlight. Because of the word limit, your personal statement can’t be a lengthy list of every character trait you have or everything you’ve ever done. A strong essay is selective in terms of content. Make a list of important things you might wish to share in your statement, and go over your list carefully. Think about:
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Next, dig a little deeper, thinking about what you learned from each experience and how it shaped you as a person. Tease out the experiences that best address the prompt, while showcasing your strongest qualities and most positive character traits.
Create an outline or some rough notes . Before you begin to write the essay, try to sketch out its structure. Jotting down your ideas for the introduction, main body, and conclusion is both a useful warm-up exercise and a reassuring reference for you as you begin to write your first draft:
- Ask yourself what your thesis will be: “What am I trying to demonstrate with the essay?” Remember, your essay must answer the prompt, so think of a way of phrasing your thesis that would accomplish this. For example “My dedication to community service and life-long learning have shaped my desire to attend the social work undergraduate program at [University], where I hope to expand on my knowledge and acquire skills that can help me make a positive change in my community…”
- Based on your potential thesis, craft your “roadmap” statement: “Here are the main points I will use to illustrate my thesis . . . ”
- Plan out the main body section by deciding what the focus or theme of each part will be. For example: “I will begin by discussing how my background taught me the value of community. Then I will discuss this formative experience I had while doing volunteering in my community. Then I will discuss what I learned about community from that experience, and why it matters to me as a person.”
How to Structure Your College Essay
Great content requires a solid structure to really shine:
Start your conclusion with a transition sentence, and then tie together the themes of your essay with a strong finish. While your introduction serves as a first impression for your reader, your conclusion is the final thought or insight that should leave your reader wanting to get to know you better. You can use your conclusion to emphasize what your formative experiences have taught you, and how they continue to shape and inspire you as a person as you move into the next stage of your life. For example: \u201cAlthough being a member of a community isn\u2019t always easy, my experiences have taught me that helping others is also a gift to ourselves \u2013 perhaps solitude isn\u2019t the \u2018best society\u2019 after all.\u201d ","label":"Conclusion","title":"Conclusion"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>
Tips for Effective Essay Writing
No matter what the prompt is, here are some tips and strategies that are essential for effective writing in any essay:
- Do not plagiarize . Your essay needs to be an honest representation of your abilities. It also needs to tell your story, not someone else’s. Copying someone else’s essay violates the rules of academic integrity. Always make sure that you are writing about your own experiences in your own words.
- Say it with feeling . Choose topics that you are passionate about – if you aren’t enthusiastic about what you’re sharing, then your audience won’t be excited to read what you have to say, either. Write about how situations made you feel, what you learned from your experiences and how it will serve you in the future. An essay written on a topic that you are passionate about will have a more genuine voice and will make for a more compelling and memorable read. Be sure to avoid clichés like “I know how to think outside of the box” that will sound impersonal and uninspired, and instead express yourself in your own unique and meaningful way. The personal statement essay is your one chance to showcase your personality and character, so let your natural voice shine through!
- Show, don’t tell. It is important to always give examples and use specific experiences to illustrate what you wish your reader to know about you, instead of merely summarizing or listing facts about yourself. Your experiences are stories, and when you tell your story in a well-organized and vivid way, it makes it easier for the reader to stay engaged and remember afterwards what you have shared with them. For example, simply stating, “I have a strong sense of community” can sound like an empty claim. Showing your reader how and why you have a sense of community is both far more memorable and far more effective in offering proof for what you’re saying (e.g. sharing an experience about working in a soup kitchen, and what it taught you about community).
- Always respect the word limit . If your essay is over the word limit set by the school, you will appear to either not care about the rules in place or to have failed to pay attention to them. Either way, you will damage your standing as an applicant! Check your word counts to make sure you are within the proper range. If you have written too much, edit your work to make it shorter. Clear and succinct writing will create a good impression, so being under the word limit is acceptable as long as you have answered the prompt and effectively conveyed your experiences.
- Proofread. As mentioned above, your personal statement essay reveals a lot about your writing skills to the admissions committee. A compelling personal narrative can still end up undermined or muddled by poor spelling, grammar, and confusing syntax. Don’t let typos and grammatical errors let your essay down! You need to commit to proofreading your essay multiple times at each stage of the process, to make sure it is clearly and correctly written. Additionally, get someone else to proofread it too! Ask your proofreader if you addressed the prompt effectively, if your essay makes sense, and if your message is clear. Ask them for their impression of the person writing the essay. How would they describe this person? Does that match with what you were trying to convey? What did they think of the tone of your essay? Ask a good teacher, a counselor, or another professional to go over your draft. However, choose your proofreader with care: if you let too many people read it, you may end up with too many conflicting suggestions and opinions. Ideally, your proofreader should be someone you trust, and who can provide you with honest feedback on the content and grammar of your essay. Be sure to share the essay prompt with your reader so that he or she can tell you whether you have answered the prompt effectively.
- Read that prompt one last time! It’s an excellent idea to go back and re-read the prompt one last time after you’ve completed the final draft of your personal statement essay. This way, you’ll be absolutely sure that you have responded to the prompt effectively. Double-checking before submission also ensures that you did not go too far off-topic in any way during the multiple re-writes you’ll have to do in perfecting your admission essay.
31 More College Essay Examples
Click here to view sample college essay #1, click here to view sample college essay #2, click here to view sample college essay #3.
School: Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Prompt: What is your "thing"? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours? (650 words)
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m bent over my computer screen. In front of me is one of the photographs I intend to submit for the Charles Lewin Digital Photo Essay Competition. It is a silhouette shot of a tall, smiling woman – my mother – framed against the backdrop of a gorgeous red sunset. Though I’d used the whip-pan technique to give the photo the same dynamic, inspiring, whirlwind energy I associate with my mother, it’s not quite right. I’ve been fiddling with the white balance and color pallet for hours, trying to capture the perfect amount of luminosity in my mother’s eyes. At that moment, my mother herself comes in, asking why I’m up so late on a school night. When I show her the picture, her eyes light up in exactly the way I’ve captured in the photo. That photo essay, capturing the beauty of three generations of women in my family, went on to win me first place in the competition. And yet the moment that I shall carry with me forever is the one from 4 a.m. that night. The moment when my mother’s eyes lit up in joy and wonder as she understood exactly what I was trying to say through my photography. In that moment, I knew for sure that I’d be chasing this feeling for the rest of my life.
Though that moment cemented my love for photography, I’ve been playing around with a camera since I was 5 years old, when my father first introduced me to his favorite hobby. I was a shy, quiet kid and photography allowed me to experience the world and communicate my feelings like I never could before. Most of our weekends were spent taking pictures, from micro nature photography on our camping trips to event photography for every community event. Even back then, I was constantly asking questions about why one picture looks better than another. I credit my father for helping me develop my photographic “eye”. The training of those early years helped me develop my sense of aesthetic placements, framing, and positioning.
To this day, I am obsessed with learning about the technical side of photography. I have a natural analytical bent of mind that exists along-side my artistic vision; and so, I gravitate towards understanding exactly how aperture, depth of field, shutter speed, exposure, composition, and white balance can be used as a tool of artistic control in photography. My favorite way to unwind is to read books and online articles about photography and techniques I’m currently obsessed with. I also love experimenting with different styles of photography. Though art photography is my passion, I spent a couple of years as the staff photographer for my high school newspaper. This foray into the journalistic arena helped to broaden my horizons and consider the social impact of photography.
Lately, I’ve become passionately interested in the philosophy and psychology of photography. There are two books that inspired this journey - “The Art of Photography” by Bruce Barnbaum and “Studio Anywhere” by Nick Fancher. These books led me to think deeply about the artistic merit and social impact of photography and inspired me to sign up as a volunteer photographer at the local community center. I remember when an older lady, a little self-conscious about her appearance, asked me to take a photo of her in her evening dress at a fund-raising event. When I showed her the photo I took, her expression transformed from anxiety and discomfort to pride and confidence, just like my mother on that fateful Tuesday night. That’s another moment of joy I’ll carry with me forever.
Alfred Stieglitz once said - “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” Every photographer has a vision of their own reality and the greatest joy I feel is when I successfully communicate this philosophy using my work. (648 words)
College Essay Example #5
School: Cornell College of Arts and Sciences
Prompt: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (650 words)
Growing up, I was your average troublesome kid. I rarely turned in homework on time, I frequently landed in detention, and I preferred video games to any other activity. This was me until the age of 14 – and that was when it all changed, thanks to Mr. Robert Brown. I was placed in Mr. Brown’s English Literature class in freshman year. Mr. Brown believed that every student could become interested in English Literature, given the right bait, and for me the bait was science fiction novels. He identified my nascent inclination towards science-based, fantasy worlds, based on my interest in video games, and handed me some choice works by Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, and Frank Herbert. In a matter of days, I was hooked.
Looking back, I can appreciate how deeply transformative that period of my life was. Science fiction fulfilled all of my natural inclinations towards an exploration of imagination and wonder within the limits of a rule-bounded world. At the same time, it awoke in me a deep and abiding interest in larger questions of philosophy, sociology, technology, and ethics. I had a new-found love for not only English Literature, but also Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Math and my overall grades improved tremendously. I often took up projects for extra credit just so I could explore a particular new topic I was obsessed with. Specifically, I loved to take up parallel projects in different classes since I loved exploring two different sides of the same essential question. For instance, in my sophomore year, I wrote a paper on Darwinian Evolution in Mid-Century American Fiction for my English Literature class, while also working on an extra-credit class presentation on the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for Biology. This kind of dual-natured exploration of topics is something I want to pursue throughout my life.
Over time, my interest in the fictional explorations of socio-scientific questions expanded to the real world. In particular, I developed an interest in biotechnology innovations such as gene-therapy, drug engineering, and agricultural biotechnology and I even started a YouTube channel to provide commentary on the latest scientific news. My scientific interests led me to real-world activism in my junior year when a biotechnology company came to our town to offer “free” genetic sequencing for the population. I organized an informational campaign highlighting their lax privacy and data protection terms. Thanks to our efforts, the company revised their terms to ensure greater privacy for the genetic information of all participants.
This experience sparked my interest in medical ethics as a career and I am now actively seeking an education that will allow me to pursue both the scientific and philosophical questions related to technology, society, and ethical limitations. I believe the Science & Technology Studies major at the Cornell College of Arts and Sciences offers a unique opportunity to pursue the holistic, balanced education I seek.
Though I know what I eventually want to major in, it is also particularly important to me to continue building my knowledge base in both humanities and sciences, before declaring my major. The holistic, balanced curriculum at your school allows me this freedom. At Cornell, I will have the chance to acquire philosophy AND biology mentors, interact with students who have varying subject matter interests, and complete an independent research study in any topic of my choosing.
It’s strange to think that just a few years ago, I cared about nothing more than my League of Legends avatar and Minecraft cohorts! And yet, that love for video games was the first step in my journey towards finding answers to the greatest socio-philosophical and scientific questions of our times. I hope Cornell College of Arts and Science can be the next step in that journey. (623)
College Essay Example #6
School: Princeton University
Prompt: 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? (250 words)
As captain of my high school basketball team, I have led my team to many hard-earned victories and a few crushing losses. Yet the most difficult moment of my football career took place off the field. It was the morning after our last game of the season, when Tyler, one of my classmates, approached me to ask for a favor. He said that a group he was a part of called the Hands-On organization were planning a new campaign that they’d love my support with, as captain of the football team – a campaign to request a different school mascot. You see, our school team was called the “Lincoln Indians” and our mascot was a stereotypical representation of an Indian. In our small town located in rural Montana, this has never even been recognized as an issue and initially, I, too, didn’t comprehend why it might be one. Tyler took the time to explain to me how it made him feel to see his identity masqueraded as a costume. It was a revelation to me to learn how traumatized he felt at every game. It was a brief conversation which made me re-think a lot of things I had taken for granted; ultimately, I was enlightened and humbled. Thanks to Tyler’s efforts, we have a new team mascot. As for me, I am now a member of the Hands-On organization myself, and I want to continue to use my voice to create awareness around the issues affecting minorities in our country. (250)
College Essay Example #7
School: Princeton University
Prompt: Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250 words)
I was 14 when I met Jennifer at the local Literacy Volunteers and Advocates (LVA) chapter. At this time, I was going through the basic motions of volunteering without truly understanding the impact or significance of what I was doing. Jennifer was an immigrant from Mexico and attended my computer literacy class at LVA. She was one of the few new immigrants who could speak English fluently, and so she served as the unofficial translator at our LVA center. Once, I asked her if she didn’t find it annoying to always have to leave her own tasks and go running off to translate for other people. She told me that for her, it was a privilege to be able to do this for others and the biggest annoyances were the authority figures who displayed impatience, discrimination, and cruelty towards immigrants. Her words had a lasting impact on me and from that moment, I saw so many instances of inequity, cruelty, and injustice that I had not even registered before. At the same time, I recognized the potential I had to make a real difference in people’s lives. I decided to take on a full-time Spanish tutor and in a couple of years, I was near-fluent in Spanish. My life’s goal is to continue practicing my Spanish language skills through my undergraduate education and to eventually enact provisions in politics and society to counter the language barrier that so many immigrants face. (241)
College Essay Example #8
School: Stanford University
Prompt: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)
I have always enjoyed my English Literature classes and Mrs. Sutherland’s junior year Lit class was no different. Our assigned reading was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was my first Austen novel, and in fact, it was the first classic novel I had read from that historical period. I knew I’d enjoy the romantic story of the novel; what I didn’t expect was how the social structure of the novel would grip me as I deep-dived into it for our class. When Mrs. Sutherland gave us the freedom to write our English Lit finals paper about any topic, I chose to write about the social fabric of the Regency era. I was fascinated by how the Regency-era economic and military events formed the backdrop for Jane Austen’s social realism. This paper sparked my interest in social history as a field of study, and subsequently, I read as many books as I could about the social, cultural, and economic history of England. Each new topic I read about made me reflect on how social mores and day-to-day social rituals are formed as a result of the major economic, military, and business events of the time. That one semester of English Literature introduced me to a whole new world of learning, questioning, and debating, and eventually helped me define what I wish to study in college. Thank you Mrs. Sutherland! (230)
College Essay Example #9
School: Stanford University
Prompt: Virtually all of Stanford's undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better. (100-250 words)
Dear future roommate,
The number one thing you should know about me is that I live in a state of organized chaos, both in my mind and outside it. For example, I love learning about new topics and my favorite way to learn is to read as much as I can while drinking copious cups of tea. Prepare to often see large piles of books about my latest hyper-obsession lying around!
Yes, I still like checking physical books out of the library rather than downloading digital copies – that’s another one of my quirks. While I’m open to learning and I enjoy new experiences, I also like the comfort and stability of tradition. In fact, I am also a very traditional student. For me, learning is not just about classes and homework and assignments. I like to bring my learning home with me, and to talk about topics that sparked my interest with my friends.
For example, yesterday in AP Biology, we learned about invasive species and their impact on ecology. This got me thinking about how human beings could, in our current form, be considered an invasive species, and I later had an interesting conversation with my friend about whether natural corrections could already be occurring in response.
Along with my piles of books, you can expect me to bring home many ideas, experiences, and speculations to discuss with you, maybe over a cup of tea! (236)
College Essay Example #10
Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?(100-250 words)
I am a passionate advocate for universal healthcare and specifically, equitable, and non-discriminatory access to healthcare for people of all communities. One of my goals in pursuing an education in medicine combined with public health policy is to take tangible actions towards my beliefs.
Growing up, my family and I never considered “going to the hospital” an option. My parents both had minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Without health insurance, without coverage, healthcare was, to us, a luxury. If we were seriously injured or ill, we would call on “unofficial” doctors – a friendly nurse, a local vet, or the knowledgeable pharmacist who lived above us. I remember when I was 12, my mother, who at the time had an undiagnosed diabetic condition, went into insulin shock, and almost died. Riding to the hospital in the ambulance, I could see that even in that moment, my father couldn’t purely worry about his wife’s life; he also had to worry about the medical bills he’d be stuck with, even if she lived.
My mother survived, and so did our family, but the suffering of that time still lives with me. It informs my desire to be the best possible doctor I can be, serving communities that need my help. And it’s why my greatest ambition is to one day be in a position to implement effective policies that address the imbalances in our healthcare system. (234)
College Essay Example #11
School: Harvard University
Prompt: The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.
What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission? (650 words max)
The phrase “citizen-leader” is important to distinguish from conventional ideas about leadership. Rather than leading by trying to single oneself out among peers, I believe that real leadership comes through effecting palpable change in the lives of those around you. Effective leaders don’t stand apart from their communities, but rather strive to become as deeply rooted within them as possible. A real leader is first and foremost a citizen, a peer, and a support for those around them.
My sense of leadership has been shaped by my father, whose nearly 25 years in public education have positively impacted hundreds of students. Each year he would come home on the last day of a school year with dozens of cards and gifts, from both current students graduating and former students who stopped by to thank him sometimes years after being his students. He was a leader—someone who helped others learn to find themselves, rather than direct their actions or words through conventional authority. I’ve come to believe that power it is the ability to encourage people to evolve, and that sustained, successful leadership is measured only by the success and wellbeing of the people around you.
As a result of this understanding, I’ve maintained an active presence in my high school’s peer tutoring program throughout my junior and senior years. Since I also hope to become a teacher, this has provided important experience that helped me better understand the kind of communication and time management skills needed to help people overcome their educational obstacles, specifically regarding their writing skills. The Academic Resource Center’s Peer Tutoring program at Harvard is one of the central ways in which I’d like to help lead my fellow students toward a better understanding not only of rhetoric and composition, but of the world in general.
Coaching in sports is another mode of leadership that I hope to maintain at Harvard. Powerlifting has had a major place in my extracurricular life during high school and I was thrilled to learn that Harvard boasts a competitive powerlifting club. This goes back to the metric of encouraging success and wellbeing of others — the powerlifting club presents an opportunity in which I can further develop these skills along with my fellow barbell enthusiasts. I’ve found strength sport environments to be really egalitarian and accessible, with a continual emphasis on collaboration and mutual support that’s unique among team sports. The path to becoming a more effective leader comes from forging bonds and developing skills alongside other people, so that eventually your ability to lead follows naturally from the experience and abilities you’ve honed over years of work. By lifting up oneself and others, we eventually pass a threshold into becoming beacons of knowledge, exemplars of ethical and effective action, and citizen-leaders.
This all further galvanizes my desire to teach following my time at Harvard. I feel incredibly fortunate that my current passions in writing and powerlifting will provide opportunities in which I can further develop my leadership skills in a way that will improve my ability to teach them to others. I will strive to continue being a supportive peer and collaborator which is an important foundation for becoming a true leader and educator. Harvard is in every sense the best possible environment for continuing this evolution and encouraging it in my fellow students as well. (556 words)
School: University of Pennsylvania
Prompt: How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)
Realizing how infinitely fascinating biology could be is a memory steeped in the peculiar odor of formaldehyde. My tiny hand, 9 years old and perpetually snack-sticky enough to leave fingerprints on the glass, reached out and lightly rested on the jar holding what I then called “monster hands”. In reality, this was an impeccably preserved pair of hands from a gout sufferer, one of the thousands of wet specimens in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, a place I didn’t know existed prior to my first visit but have not forgotten since.
Though the sight was unusual, I wasn’t scared by this display at all. My parents have since told me that I was overcome with fascination in that moment, genuinely transfixed by what surrounded me. My now-hazy recollection is one of wonder, and a feeling I couldn’t quite describe at the time but now understand to be empathy. “Was he sore?” I asked my parents. My mother laughed and my father calmly tried to explain, in toddler terms, just how much pain this person suffered.
This planted a seed that has since matured into a profound appreciation for the complexity of living systems. And, in more somber terms, a sensitivity to how these systems can short-circuit and create a domino effect of dysfunction that results in everything from uric acid crystals in knuckles to conjoined twins. I’ve since tempered my childhood fascination with more extreme medical conditions, but I can still see, feel, and smell that room in the Mutter. Strange as it may be, my lifelong obsession with medicine and biology comes out of this oddity-packed room, its vaguely astringent air, and impossibly large intestine sitting halfway up the stairs.
Penn’s Musculoskeletal Center is therefore one of the biggest reasons for my application for admission. The center’s current research in both ossification disorders and tissue engineering is incredibly exciting to me, and while I know participation in high-level research is quite limited for undergraduates, nothing would make me happier than to contribute to the MC’s singular work in some small way. Even more generally, the strength of Penn’s biology department will provide an incredible launching pad for more specialized work in medicine following graduation. (363 words)
College Essay Example #13
Prompt: At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classroom, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community. (150-200 words)
In addition to my academic interests, music will be my main means of exploring Penn’s community. Growing up in a small town of just 600 people meant that my high school was perpetually underfunded and unable to support any music programs. Penn’s symphony orchestra and jazz combos would be my first opportunity to utilize years of private lessons and practice I’ve undertaken since early childhood. Moreover, working with such a renowned orchestra will be my first commitment to musical performance outside of small community ensembles. This would enable a previously underdeveloped part of who I am to bloom in the company of incredibly talented musicians and directors.
Shifting from very introverted, isolated artistic practice to genuine collaboration and community would be a massive evolution for me as both a musician and a person. I would look forward to unbottling the energy I've built up playing along to Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane over the last ten years, energizing and encouraging my fellow musicians and adding a unique perspective as someone who's new to—but very grateful for—larger ensemble performance. (178 words)
College Essay Example #14
School: Yale University
Prompt: Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words or fewer)
Art is always a snapshot of a given cultural and artistic moment, but the physicality of this information in pottery has always fascinated me and encouraged me to be both a voracious researcher and experimenter in my own creative practice Pottery is rightly considered an art, but its underpinnings in chemistry are what have attracted me to this practice and kept me engaged with it over the years. Glazes in particular are endlessly complex, rife with history and a sense of cross-cultural collaboration. In a sense, something as simple as the type of cobalt luster on a Hispano-Moresque plate contains centuries of history, telling stories of resource availability, migration, commerce, and even theology. Yet all of this information must be unlocked through understanding a piece's chemical underpinnings, and specifically the nearly infinite variations in fluxes and ensuing chemical interactions that have shaped—or more accurately, colored—earthenware and stoneware art throughout history.
Yale’s Chemistry BS/MS program will be a demanding course of study, but a big part of my extracurricular and personal development involvement throughout it will remain in the molecular magic of pottery. Much the same way surgeons often engage in very dexterity-dependent arts in their downtime, I look forward to continuing my personal explorations in art-oriented chemistry while further developing my academic proficiencies in the science itself. (217 words)
College Essay Example #15
School: Yale University
Prompt: Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international significance. Discuss an issue that is important to you and how your college experience could help you address it. (250 words or fewer)
Being called “short stack” is probably common for a lot of 5 year-olds, and it certainly didn’t bother me throughout my kindergarten year. But just a few years later, I came to understand that I was not only significantly shorter than my friends but was in fact growing at a much slower pace.
I had grown up in a so-called “food desert”. As is the case for most families in these areas, mine rarely had enough money to afford what scarce high-nutrient food we did have access to. This experience has shaped a big part of not only my sense of self but of my desire to pursue a career in policy analysis to help prevent other kids from having food insufficiencies. Legislation around food and specifically its insufficient supply in poorer areas would therefore be a central focus in my individual research in Yale’s Urban Studies program, as well as my graduate and professional work thereafter.
I feel extremely strongly that I have an ethical duty to utilize the privilege afforded to me by an education at Yale to help other kids grow up happier, healthier, and in more self-sufficient communities. (192 words)
College Essay Example #16
School: Columbia University
Prompt: Columbia students take an active role in improving their community, whether in their residence hall, classes or throughout New York City. Their actions, small or large, work to positively impact the lives of others. Share one contribution that you have made to your family, school, friend group or another community that surrounds you. (200 words or fewer)
The biggest impact I’ve had on my friends and peers was small enough to fit in a shoebox. It started simply: one day in 8th grade, a friend forgot to pack any money, so the rest of us pitched in to buy her lunch. The next day she wanted to pay us back, but I suggested we just stash the $5 in case any of us forget our lunch money in the future. After a few weeks of saving our spare change, we had enough to move our cache to a small shoebox, which then became our friend group’s bank. This caught on quickly, and by ninth grade we began to maintain a class-wide “shoebox bank,” available to anyone who needed lunch money or a few dollars for anything else.
By the end of high school, this grew into a formal “leave what you can / take what you need” policy that allowed us to donate $400 to our city’s food bank at the end of the year. I couldn’t have done this alone, and so one of the most important things I learned from the success of our shoebox was that a good idea needs community support to succeed. (200 words)
College Essay Example #17
Prompt: Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? (200 words or fewer)
Columbia has long been my magnetic North in the world of American literature. I was an early reader, and became interested in poetry, first the romantics and transcendentalists, then the beats. Tracing the biographies of figures like Kerouac and Ginsburg more recently, I began to realize that they and many other writers whose work had found its way to me spontaneously came with the common thread of Columbia.
My own poetic practice has therefore been deeply informed by the textures and philosophical milieus which stem from Columbia, and a big part of my desire to matriculate. Professor Arsić’s book On Leaving was especially transformative, awakening me to a fuller sense of the interrelatedness of so many American writers like Emerson, and galvanizing beyond any doubt the sense that literary studies was my calling. And on a more concrete level, the resources of both the Burke and Butler libraries would play a central part in my proposed thesis, allowing me to fully enmesh my own academic work with the history that has shaped it. (173 words)
College Essay Example #18
Prompt: Please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)
My first visit to a planetarium at the age of 10 infected me with a specific obsession: infinity. The idea of an ever-expanding universe was so thrilling and puzzling to me that I couldn’t shake trying to understand it.
For months after my first trip to the Hayden planetarium, I pondered infinity, barely understanding the word itself. This matured into a lasting fascination with number and number theory specifically, and by the time I was in high school I was committed to following this path of knowledge without reservation. The history of number theory formed a prominent part of my elective work as an undergrad, during which I undertook both bibliographic and technical research on Cantor's paradox and "actual infinity" in relation to his lifelong mysticism.
My commitment to mathematics has grown and become much more specialized since my early bedazzlement by cosmology, but the experience of seeing mathematics as a way of thinking beyond conventional scales and frameworks has remained a central part of my love for the discipline ever since. A life spent exploring the outermost reaches of number and logic has been and still is my deepest desire. (191 words)
College Essay Example #19
School: Stanford University
Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (Max 250 words)
Cold water splashed my exposed calves as I helped pull the rubber dingy safely to shore. I kept thinking about the line of a poem by Warshan Shire: “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” I noted that there were more than 15 small children in the boat. My family and I had been vacationing on a Greek island when we heard cries coming from the sea. We rushed to help and with the aid of locals, we pulled the boat to shore. Luckily everyone survived. A few of those on the boat spoke English; they explained that they were refugees and had fled conflict in Syria. Until that point in my life the concept of a refugee was opaque. Now I understood in a visceral way what it meant to flee one’s country.
Since this trip one year ago, I have devoted most of my extracurricular hours to a local NGO that helps to resettle refugees. I have convinced many friends to join me as a “buddy” to incoming refugees. We teach each other about our cultures by cooking together, sharing stories, and exploring nature. The more I learn about other cultures, the more I realize that I have much more to learn. What I now know is that is my duty to advocate for those who do not have the power to advocate for themselves and to fight for the rights of those at home and abroad. (248 words)
College Essay Example #20
School: Tulane University
Prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.
My arms began to shake as the bag filled up. Soon it became almost too heavy to manage. Finally, the massive Leatherback Sea Turtle had finished laying her eggs and my team and I could move them to a nursery we had prepared. I was in Costa Rica for an AP class in Tropical Ecology and we were tasked with saving these eggs from poachers. We brought the eggs to safety and when we returned two months later, we were able to watch as hundreds of baby sea turtles hatched and made it out to sea.
This experience was particularly formative for me. I learned two important lessons. The first is the importance of environmental stewardship. Due to trawling, harvesting for consumption, light pollution and other human factors, many sea turtles are now critically endangered. It will be left to my generation to continue the fight to preserve the natural world. I also learned how inequality can contribute to environmental degradation. The poachers, for example, were working-class families who sold the eggs as aphrodisiacs for $USD 1-2 in order to survive. When I heard this, I had to act. By saving the eggs, we may have unintentionally denyied these families their means of survival. I therefore, asked my school program if we could brainstorm a solution that would help both the turtles and the locals. We decided to buy their handicrafts at a higher price, to sell back at home. We also established a yearly fundraiser. To date we have helped transition 10 local families from relying on turtle eggs, to selling handmade items. Through this new partnership with the community, we have also established a cultural exchange, in which a few of our youth spend one month in Costa Rica each year while their youth come to the United States. I hope that this will continue to flourish in the years to come.
With privilege comes responsibility: those of us who have grown up in wealthy societies have largely benefitted from an unequal global system. I believe that it is my duty to use this privilege to help both the world’s human and non-human inhabitants.
Common App Essays
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? (600 words)
I had not lived long, but at that moment, I was sure this was the worst day of my life. I was only eleven years old, and I had to listen to a doctor tell my mother that I would have to inject myself every day for the rest of my life. Being diagnosed with Type I diabetes felt almost like a death sentence; my life changed in an instant, and I was terrified of not being able to cope with a chronic disease and afraid that I would never get to be a normal child. Little did I know that this condition would later on allow me to give back to my community through my volunteering initiatives and would make me want to pursue a career where I could help others.
The impact that my disease had on my family was profound. We all had to learn to adjust to a new reality, and I went from having a normal life, to having to mature in a matter of weeks. I knew that it was up to me to make this work, but I felt lost and did not know how to deal with this immense responsibility of managing a new diet, an insulin shot four times a day, and my emotions. After a few days, the initial shock was replaced by denial, then came anger, and little by little, I later gained acceptance. By exercising determination and courage, I decided that even though my disease was now a part of my life, I would not let it dictate who I was or what I could become. I was resolute to do great things.
Besides the discipline and resilience that I had to muster to live my life as a diabetic, I realized that some things in life are better dealt with by having a support system. With this in mind, I looked for volunteering positions where I could share my experience with others and listen to their own struggles. After I got involved in different initiatives, I decided to organize a support group in high school for students who were dealing with difficult situations and just needed someone to talk to. The group was so successful that I was invited to other schools to talk about what we did and about the difference we made in our members’ lives by just listening to one another. Today, we have more than twenty volunteers, and our meeting times have doubled since we started. Additionally, this group has been a platform for other initiatives that I have helped launch such as fundraising campaigns and mental health events. I do this as I keep looking for ways to get involved in my community and create spaces for people to support one another in difficult times.
We all have challenges in life. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease at such a young age was devastating for me and my family. However, form this experience I have learned that being disciplined is the key to living a healthy life and that being compassionate is the first step to helping those who need it. When I see how many people have been benefitted from our group, I look back and remember being a scared eleven-year-old, and I feel proud of what I have become. What felt like a death sentence at first turned into a way of supporting others in my community proving that the lessons we take from the obstacles we encounter can, in fact, be fundamental to later success.
College Essay Example #22
School: Brown University
Prompt: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it. (250 words)
Looking through the eyepiece of a microscope, I was amazed to see the individual cells of a sea urchin embryo. In my high school cell and molecular biology class, we were studying the cell cycle and we had the opportunity to harvest embryos from sea urchins to view under the microscope. I had used a microscope before, but only to look at prepared slides containing preserved tissue samples. This was my first time viewing a live sample that I had prepared myself. This experience opened my eyes to the wonders of cell biology and how our scientific world has been expanded with the technology of microscopes. I knew that I wanted to continue to incorporate microscopes into my own learning and to learn as much as I could about cells and their inner workings. With Brown’s Open Curriculum, I am excited to broadly study biology while also diving deeply into the world of cell biology. The excitement I felt when looking through the microscope at a sea urchin embryo is one that I look to bring with me to Brown as my classmates and I embark on expanding our academic horizons and building the foundation needed to be successful in our future scientific careers.
College Essay Example #23
Prompt: Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)
When I was a child, I was upset to learn that my parents had decided we would be moving houses. I did not want to leave the place I had called home for the past thirteen years, the place where I had friends and happy childhood memories. Since this period in my life, I have moved several times and now when I think of home, the first thought that comes to mind is my parents. I realized that home is not a specific place; it is the people that surround you that make you feel at home. This perspective allows me to travel to new places and embark on new adventures with the understanding that I can make any place feel like home. The key is building friendships and relationships with those around you so a place does not feel foreign but rather a place in which you feel supported. As I join your community, I look forward to establishing these relationships as my peers and I build a new home at Brown University.
College Essay Example #24
School: Cornell University
Prompt: What is your "thing"? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours? (maximum of 650 words)
“Bam!” These were the energized words of Emeril Lagasse as he added a touch of parmesan cheese to perfectly top off the dish he had just cooked on live television. Growing up, my sisters and I became hooked on watching chefs like Emeril cook on The Food Network. I never liked mushrooms and despised when my parents included them as we sat down to eat dinner together each night. My parents said that if I did not like it, I could cook dinner myself. I had been watching cooking shows, so I decided to try my hand at cooking our family meals. My parents were thrilled to have someone else making dinner for the night and I was ecstatic to be put in the decision making seat for what we would be eating for dinner. Over the years, I continue to cook with my family as a way to grow closer together and I also cook by myself as a form of stress relief. As I chop vegetables, I get lost in the repetitive nature of the task and it becomes a form of meditation for me; something for my mind to focus on that allows me to forget about the troubles of the day. While my love for cooking stemmed from a desire to not have to eat mushrooms with dinner, it has grown into one of my favorite hobbies. At Cornell, I know I will meet a wide range of people and even the typical college student that does not know now to cook and relies on a microwave, pop tarts, and ramen to get through arduous study sessions. I hope to bring my hobby of cooking to Cornell where I can use it to make it through my own stressful hurdles but also to build relationships with my new classmates who may be missing a home-cooked meal.
College Essay Example #25
Prompt: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Staring down at my scuffed Converse Chuck Taylors, I distinctly remember the feeling of heat rising in my cheeks. Somehow, I had landed myself in the principal’s office at the beginning of the school year in tenth grade. I blame it on the growth spurt I experienced the summer before that had single-handedly taken half of my wardrobe out of commission. The polka dot dress skimmed the tops of my knees on the first day of high school was now, apparently, so short that it would “distract the young men” in class. Though I respected the rules at my school, I was infuriated, embarrassed, and confused about being made to feel as though I had done something morally wrong as a result of my height making my skirt length criminally deficient. After sheepishly explaining the situation to my mom, I was relieved to find her just as angry about the school’s actions, and even more relieved when she supported my desire to challenge them.
Challenging the school’s actions ended up being a little more, well, challenging than I thought. Growing up in a conservative area, my defiance was met with disdain and whispers in the hallway about not knowing my place. Thankfully, however, not all of my peers were so resistant to change. After weeks of emails campaigning the student government’s faculty advisor, I was finally permitted to make a presentation about the sexism inherent in the school’s dress code before the student government representatives, who grew excited about the potential to change school policy for the better. Collaborating with each grade’s representative, we organized a school-wide awareness-raising campaign to engender support for our initiative. At after-school sports practices, band rehearsals, and art club meetings, I pleaded with my peers to realize how antiquated these restrictions on girls’ dress were. It was a blatant sexualization of minors’ bodies at best and spread the message that male students were not responsible for their actions when faced with such temptations as exposed kneecaps and bare shoulders. I knew that our school could do better.
Finally, after months of work, my team of advocates and I obtained 1,000 student signatures and 2,000 parent signatures supporting an initiative to reconsider my school’s dress code through a gender equity lens. I distinctly remember the heat rising in my cheeks as I stepped up to the podium to address the school board, but this time they were flushed with excitement and pride, not shame or embarrassment. Though I did abide by my mother’s censorship of my wardrobe that time—admittedly, scuffed Chuck Taylors did not reflect the gravity of that event—I was so proud to be advocating for gender equity in my school and saving so many of my female peers the trouble of disciplinary action for their bodies being seen. The results of the reconsideration are not yet in, but I learned the power of using my voice for positive social change – something I look forward to continuing in college.
College Essay Example #26
Prompt: 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?
Nothing compares to the feeling of the first pass of a pigment-soaked brush on a clean canvas. The first slice into a beautifully iced birthday cake or the powerful print of a first footstep in snow may come close, but I can never lose myself in a sugary confection or icy landscape the way I can when standing at my easel. The thrill I felt as a small child when finger painting never left me, though my technique may have improved a bit.
Technique aside, the value of self-expression through artistic endeavor has only grown for me as I mature. Many find cathartic release through journaling or sharing their thoughts with others in conversation, but I feel most connected to my feelings and the world when I put paint brush to canvas. Not all sentiments can be captured in words, which is where art takes over for me. Just as a piece of music can engender poignant emotions in its listener, a piece of art can make a person feel seen in a large and often lonely world. Nobody knew this better than my middle school art teacher Mrs. Williams. She often let me stay in the studio after school to put continuous rounds of final touches on my latest masterpiece, knowing that sometimes my piece did not need those additional strokes, but my soul did. A true artist herself, Mrs. Williams understood how art could tell a story and that sometimes the artist’s need to tell their story in color and shape was more important than the finished product. Over the years following middle school, I visited Mrs. Williams every once in a while and each time was always like no time had passed. We would set our easels side by side and paint, sometimes chatting a bit, but often sitting in comfortable silence as we watched colors blend and form new hues with the flick of a paint brush.
In the middle of my junior year of high school, I received the tragic news that Mrs. Williams had suffered a massive heart attack and passed. Devastated and trying to make sense of the first death I had ever experienced, I turned to my mother for advice. “Well, how would you deal with this if Mrs. Williams were here?” she asked me. Of course. I should have known that was the answer to working through my grief. Grabbing my easel and a stool, I set up on the front porch where I could see the sun filtering through the oak leaves in green and yellow shards of glass, smiled at the memory of Mrs. Williams, and began to paint.
Prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
I think by the time we graduate high school, we all fall into the trap of thinking we know ourselves pretty well by now. The truth is, we are only just discovering who we are. And at that point in our lives, we are entering into an incredible period of self-discovery and personal growth. I know I am no exception, and my post-high school years have included some of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Last year was my first opportunity to travel abroad. For someone who rarely strayed more than 100 miles from where they grew up, this was a pretty intimidating choice, but I was excited to travel, to learn about another place and people. For this unique experience, I chose to travel to Japan; a country so unlike my own, I was both excited and worried. Excited for the opportunity, but worried because I speak no Japanese and had never left home before. I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself.
After first arriving, everything seemed to be going well, and I had few problems getting around. The locals were friendly and spoke enough English that I had no troubles. Aside from learning to adapt to a new culture, I had no qualms. That is, until I decided to take a bus trip, by myself, into a rural area of the country to do some sightseeing.
I was traveling alone, and all the other bus passengers spoke little English. After we arrived at our destination, I got off the bus and toured around, taking photos and enjoying some lunch. Unfortunately, when I went to catch the bus back to the city, I discovered it was gone. And from what I could gather at the bus stop, there would be no more buses running until the following week, since it was the weekend. Now that I was in a smaller village, there were virtually no English speakers, but I managed to communicate in the limited Japanese I’d learned.
Basically, there were no options for transport back to the city. I could walk down a mountainside throughout the night, or I could wait until Monday to catch the next bus back. Through some creative communication, I managed to get a place to stay for the weekend. The village didn’t have an official inn, but the owner of the restaurant where I’d eaten lunch was kind enough to rent me her vacant upstairs room for the two days. Even with her limited English and my poor Japanese, we found a way to make it work. She was even nice enough to invite me to eat with her family that night, and give me some suggestions for a hike the next day. When I got on the bus to leave on Monday morning, she waved me goodbye and sent me off with a homemade meal for the journey.
Although the setback I experience seemed at first to confirm my fears that I wouldn’t be able to get myself out of a jam, I still managed to sort the problem out, with some help from a kind woman.
If anything, this experience taught me that I am still learning and still growing. It also showed me that I am much more adaptable and resourceful than I give myself credit for. By being open to new experiences and expanding horizons, I can allow myself to expand, too.
My trip taught me some invaluable things about myself, and definitely changed my perspective of who I am. It also taught me the importance of planning ahead and having a backup travel plan!
College Essay Example #28
From the time I was in grade school, I thought I was destined to become a scientist. Specifically, I wanted to become a marine biologist. Other students in my class would change their minds from week to week, switching their ideal future careers from doctor to astronaut to musician, never settling on anything and always exploring new possibilities. But I was stuck on marine biology. I was obsessed. Every weekend, I asked to visit the local aquarium.
I imagine my parents were quite pleased with my choice of interest, as they were both scientists themselves. My mother is a molecular biologist, and my father is a neuroscientist and professor. They encouraged my love of science, from bringing me to the aquarium to teaching me to snorkel and scuba dive as I grew up.
In high school, I excelled in the sciences and received high grades. Every academic performance was another step towards my goal of becoming a marine biologist, of being admitted to a good school and focusing on science. But somewhere along the way, my love for science was changed. Not diluted, or split, but evolved into something more. Through science, I discovered a love for art. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this love began, but it was somewhere in the cool, bluish space of the aquarium observation room. Having spent so many hours there, observing the hundreds of different species, studying their patterns, it’s easy to forget that I used to draw sketches of them.
I dug through some old boxes, and as often happens when you’re looking through childhood memories, I found something unexpected. Sketchbooks, crammed full of sketches, diagrams and notes of my favourite aquatic species. There were sketches from things I’d seen while scuba diving or visiting the aquarium—fish with colourful stripes and waving fins, coral with intricate patterns and shapes. I was surprised at the details I’d put into the drawings. After showing them to some friends and receiving positive reviews, a friend of mine convinced me to show my drawings in an art show. I’d never considered art as something other than a tool I used in my scientific studies. It never occurred to me that there was an intersection between art and science. An undeniable connection. How could two disciplines, seemingly opposites, come together seamlessly?
The scientist in me was intrigued that there was an existing relationship between the two I had yet to discover. So, I took my friend’s advice and let them arrange an art show for me. I selected my best pieces drawn in pencil. Then I went back to visit my favorite aquarium. I brought my tools with me, and I commenced my experiment.
For hours, I sat on the benches, drawing sketches, scribbling notes on color differentiation, environment and behaviour. Taking my new sketches home, I started experimenting with an entirely new medium: paint. With some help from my friend, I began learning the techniques and methods to create fully colorful paintings of my favorite marine creatures. The results were surprising and stunning.
By the end of a few weeks, I had dozens of pencil sketches and half a dozen smaller paintings. I’d seen how I could develop an eye for color, and use it to capture the exact hues of the creatures I observed. Or how to translate the natural movement of coral and their incredible patterns into flecks of paint. The realism I could create with a few simple things was astounding. I nervously displayed my artwork and waited for my first art exhibition.
The exhibition was a great success, and I even sold some of my paintings. The most notable part of my experience was how it changed my idea of myself. It was surprising and delightful to discover that my passion for science could be expressed so creatively. And that art could understand and capture the beauty of science.
College Essay Example #29
Prompt: 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?
I would not say that I am a very grateful person, but recently I experienced something that made me believe cultivating more gratitude in my life is a good thing. For a long time, I’ve believed that some people are talented and others are not, and that’s just the way things are. And when you have a talent for something, you should use it and deserve to be recognized for it.
As a talented dancer, I hold this mindset deeply ingrained, I think. Dance has always been natural to me. It comes easy and I know I excel at it. I’ve never failed to impress my teachers. Except for my latest dance teacher. Ms. Martins is a new addition to my dance club, and she is known for being strict and having high standards, like many dance teachers. As I have high standards myself, I expected we would get along just fine.
To my surprise, we did not. Every class, she would provide who I considered to be weaker students with plenty of encouragement. For me, she had only critiques. One of her favorite comments was that I wasn’t pushing myself far enough. Of course, this attitude aggravated me and created some resentment.
I finally confronted her when she passed me over for a lead spot in the club’s upcoming production. I asked her why she wouldn’t put her best student in the lead role. Her reply shocked me. She said that while I may be her best student, I wasn’t her strongest. When I asked what she meant, she remarked that I would never grow as a dancer if I kept coasting on my natural talent and stopped challenging myself.
Determined to prove her wrong, I promised to challenge myself. At the next internal club showcase, I performed a difficult dance in front of my classmates and the faculty, including Ms. Martins. She complimented me on my performance but remarked that I hadn’t truly challenged myself. She suggested I try a dance I wasn’t familiar with or try dancing in a new discipline to see if I could translate my skills across dance styles.
With renewed vigor, I did as she suggested, and attended a class on hip-hop, instead of my specialty of ballet. Ballet is considered extremely rigorous, despite its appearance, but I learned in a hip-hop class, it takes more than talent to succeed. I had never struggled so much in my life to perform a dance properly. Being the stubborn sort of person I am, I didn’t throw in the towel and instead went back for another class, then another.
The next time I had the chance to perform in front of Ms. Martins, I chose a hip-hop routine. It was far from my best dance performance, but it felt surprisingly satisfying to see her smile in the audience. I was even more surprised to hear her say that she was impressed after my performance.
What was even more baffling to me was that I felt a surge of gratitude for Ms. Martins for convincing me to push my boundaries and work outside my discipline. When I was able to learn a new style, it gave me a sense of satisfaction that I could still excel outside my preference. When I performed my next ballet routine and found I’d even incorporated some of the lessons I’d learned in hip-hop class into my ballet, I couldn’t believe it, but I wanted to thank Ms. Martins for what she did.
Without her, I might never have pushed my boundaries. I might never have discovered that I could go beyond my best performance. Her push for me to challenge myself has made me realize that its important to keep challenging myself and growing in my skill. That I had grown complacent, and it was in fact affecting my passion for dance. Somehow though, my gratitude to my teacher has reignited the spark of passion for dance and encouraged me to never grow complacent again.
College Essay Example #30
I have always been fascinated with the evolution of storytelling. It ties together some of my favorite topics and various disciplines, including history, writing, culture, literature and humanities. I admit, it can be a bit of a dry subject matter to hear about. When was the last time you attended a lecture on the history of the development of human language and writing systems? But it is endlessly incredible to me that we have so much knowledge on this subject, and that storytelling can tell us so much about our collective history. Storytelling is a subject I could happily go on about for hours without noticing the time passing.
There are simply so many sub-topics there for discussion and things to learn. Storytelling fascinates me because I think it truly is the one thing that connects each and every human: in the past, present and future. At its core, storytelling is just the sharing of experience. A way to say, I was here, I lived, I experienced things just as you have. It’s no surprise to me that humans have been diligently recording and passing down their stories since the dawn of time, preserving them in whatever way they can, from paintings on cave walls all the way to self-published ebooks.
When I want to learn more about this subject, and I always do, there’s no shortage of places to look. There are thousands of academic articles on the subject, detailing the history and evolution of writing, language, culture, human history, and storytelling. And those are all well and good. Growing up, one of my favourite sources was National Geographic. I loved to read, and so an article or two to expand my knowledge was always welcome. There is so much literature to choose from on this subject it’s awe-inspiring.
But perhaps my favorite way to expand my knowledge and understanding of storytelling is through other people. Listening to their personal stories is so humbling. I particularly enjoy reading projects like Humans of New York. Hearing these small, personal stories and seeing the connections between them reminds me that stories are really the fabric of humanity; billions of tiny threads woven together to create a masterpiece.
I truly think there is nothing quite like storytelling; it is a gift unto itself. It’s something so seemingly simple, that ripples across countless lives and times.
College Essay Example #31
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.
Many of the differences between people are on the outside. Visible. Like a lot of others who were considered “different”, I knew it about myself from an early age. But my differences weren’t on the outside, and I never had a way to explain them until recently. Being neurodivergent is still a misunderstood concept, and it applies to so many various conditions that it can be difficult to categorize. For me, though, it encapsulates that feeling I’ve always had of being different.
Being a neurodivergent person has meaning to me because it has affected so much of my life, in good ways and bad. But it has taught me many life lessons, too, that I don’t think neurotypical people experience often. As a child, without a way to communicate my way of thinking and experiencing the world, I was given a few different labels. Some people thought I was a gifted child, because I loved to read and I had an excellent memory. Others called me a problem, accused me of not paying attention or listening. A standout incident for me, and that many others can relate to, I think, is when my sixth grade English teacher forbade me from reading the books I chose during class free reading time. She thought it was unfair of me to read what she considered too advanced. I had brought a well-loved copy of Lord of the Rings with me to class, but since it was well above the reading level of my classmates, it was banned by my teacher. At that time, I couldn’t understand being punished for doing something I loved, and didn’t have the communication skills to express my frustration to her. Instead, I felt forced to sit in sullen silence during class reading time, deliberately choosing not to read the approved sixth-grade reading level books and being labeled as having a problem with authority.
These sorts of judgments made my scholastic life tricky, but my way of processing things made social interactions awkward for me, too. Plenty of kids struggle with these things, but not all of us were able to explain why—and that was the worst part. Not having an explanation for being the way you are and being told all these negative things about yourself with no other alternative to believe. In sixth grade, I didn’t have the tools to explain that I was just doing what I loved, and that with the option taken away from me, I didn’t have an outlet for my feelings of frustration.
My experiences were a sort of blessing in disguise as I’ve grown older, though. Because I’ve had to develop myself. To work on myself, specifically my social skills and communication style. And I’ve had to learn how to turn my differences and my supposed weaknesses into strengths in ways others don’t. I’ve practiced turning my bluntness into clarity. My apparent aloofness into level-headedness and coolness under pressure.
I’ve discovered ways to fit into the world in a way that works for me. It’s given me not only my sense of identity, but my assurance in myself and invaluable soft skills like empathy, self-management, self-discipline, and collaboration. Being a neurodivergent person has also allowed me to develop my creative, innovative mind, to see the world through different lens. My perspective is unique, and it’s opened my eyes to possibilities that others don’t see.
My identity as a neurodivergent person and my background are incredibly meaningful to my past and to my future. I think the world needs more people like me, who see and experience things a bit differently. And I know the self-discovery I’ve gone through with this process is a solid foundation on which to build my future.
Yes, your college admission essays are important. Although the committee can evaluate your academic abilities based on your grades and test scores, the essay is your chance to present a full, unique story of your experiences. While many students have great marks and scores, the essay is usually the weak link in many students’ applications. You must work hard to create an essay that will make your application stand out.
Each school will have specific instructions regarding the length of the essay, but the range is usually between 250 and 650 words. You need to review the instructions and the word limit carefully before you begin to write.
Writing a strong essay requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Ideally, you should plan on spending 6-8 weeks writing and rewriting your essay. Always remember that a truly effective essay will require multiple drafts!
The essay prompts are typically very open-ended. You can choose to write about any topic you like as long as it directly relates to the prompt. Remember, you must answer the prompt, do not ignore it! As I already said, essay prompts are open to interpretation, so try to be original. Instead of writing about common topics like a sports victory or a difficult test, brainstorm unique ideas for your college essay. Rather than playing it safe, take your chance to be unique and unforgettable.
Your essay is your chance to be personable, real, and honest. Discuss what shaped you and your world view, or what concerns you about humanity’s future, or discuss a painter or a filmmaker who changed your life. Do not be afraid to explore different topics. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions committee member, wouldn’t you want to read something exciting, new, and different?
Give yourself ample amount of time to prepare your essay. It might take you weeks or even months to shape it into a great paper. Give yourself at least 8 weeks to prepare your submission.
First, make sure you have set aside enough time for your personal essay (6-8 weeks). Then, take some time to familiarize yourself with the culture and values of your school and program of choice, to get a general sense of what sort of person they would value having has a student. Read and re-read the essay prompt several times to ensure that you understand what they expect you to address in your essay. Make a list of qualities and experiences that you may wish to include in your essay. Review your list of experiences carefully to narrow them down to the most significant ones. Once you know which experiences you wish to feature in your essay, brainstorm how you would like to tell your story. Create an outline or some notes sketching out what each section of your essay should cover, and keep it close by for reference while writing.
It might be a good idea for someone to review your essay. Do not let too many people read it, as too many reviews could make your essay into a melting pot of ideas and opinions. Ideally, your reader is someone you trust and who can provide you with honest feedback on the content and grammar of your essay.
Remember, this is your story. Instead of writing about topics often used in college essays, reflect on your own unique experiences and choose something that will intrigue and interest the admissions committee. You might not think that your life and experiences are very interesting, but you are wrong. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at your life objectively – dig deep and give yourself time to brainstorm a variety of options.
Your essay will feature an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Good organization is essential in creating a compelling, logical narrative for your reader to follow, so always pay close attention to your essay’s structure. Your introduction should open with an attention-grabbing sentence that captures your reader’s interest and helps to reveal or foreshadow what your essay will be about. Your main body highlights the formative experience (or 2-3 experiences) that you wish to share, and what you learned from that experience. Your conclusion ties your essay together and should leave your reader with an interesting and memorable final thought, which will leave your reader wanting to learn more about you.
Some colleges may ask you to submit a curriculum vitae, or a CV. This is not a requirement for all schools, but most colleges have some kind of variation of the CV. For example, UC schools ask their applicants to fill out an activities list.
*Please note that our sample essays are the property of BeMo Academic Consulting, and should not be re-used for any purpose. Admissions committees regularly check for plagiarism from online sources.
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Good Post! Amazing tips to me. I also want to study abroad. I have to improve my English. Every night I usually use duolingo to learn more, except for class hours, apkdownload is a reasonable choice for old android users like me. I will try very hard, to study abroad, open my eyes
BeMo Academic Consulting
Hello Jonathan! Thanks for your comment! Good luck!
I think this was a really good articile, I was able to learn a lot for my class!
Hello Sussy! Thanks for your comment.
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20 Essays That Worked: Ultimate List of College Essay Examples (2023)
Today I'm going to show you 20 essays that worked that will help inspire you and start you on your way to writing your own successful essays.
In this post, I've included:
- Personal Statement examples
- Supplemental essay examples
- University of California essays
- Links to hundreds more essay examples
If you're looking for college essay examples, you've found the right place.
Let's get started.
Writing your college essays can be challenging.
And in 2023, with many schools dropping test scores from their application, your college essays are one of the most important parts of your application if you want to get accepted.
That means there's a whole lot more opportunity for students without the best SAT or ACT scores to boost their chances of admission by writing outstanding essays.
20 of My Favorite Essays That Worked
One of the best ways to write your own successful essays is to read and learn from past essays that worked.
Here's 20 of our favorite college essays examples. From Personal Statement examples to "Why this college?" supplements, find any type of essay you're looking for.
I've chosen these examples because they represent almost every type of essay you'll need to write.
Plus, they are all high-quality examples that have an authentic voice , one of the most important parts of a great essay.
Table of Contents
Personal statement essay examples.
- 1. The Itch
- 2. Paint Dance
- 3. Football Manager
- 4. Restaurant Job
Additional Personal Statement Examples
Additional Common App Essay Examples
University of California Essay Examples
- 5. Summer Counselor
- 6. Teaching Talent
- 7. Linguistics
- 8. Linguistics Society
- 9. New Perspectives
Supplemental Essay Examples
- 10. Fermat's Last Theorem
- 11. Bug Fixing
- 12. Why UPenn?
- 13. Story of My Name
- 14. Ideal College Community
- 15. Why Computer Science
- 16. Volunteering at Hospital
- 17. Why Carnegie Mellon
- 18. Why NYU?
- 19. Moving Places
- 20. Double Major
Ready to get inspired to write the next great admissions essays?
Let's jump right in.
Part 1: Personal Statements That Stand Out
Your Personal Statement essay is arguably the most important essay you'll write.
Since it's sent to every college you apply to, you need to carefully choose how you use your 650 words.
In this section, I'll show you several examples of successful Common App essays accepted into the most selective colleges.
Let’s dive right in.
Most students write their personal statement essay on their Common Application.
That's why it's called your Common App essay .
If you're having trouble starting your essay, be sure to check out some Common App inspiration .
Here are some of the best Common App essay examples that have gotten students into top colleges.
Below are some of our favorite personal statement essay examples from the Ivy League and other top-20 colleges.
College Essay Example #1: The Itch
This Common App personal statement was accepted into Stanford University .
Common App Prompt #7: 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. (250-650 words)
For my entire life, I have had the itch: the itch to understand.
As a kid I was obsessed with a universe I knew nothing about. In elementary school, my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums for kids. Like the Pythagoreans who had marveled at the perfect ratios of musical notes, I was enamored with the mathematical symmetries of fulcrums. The book inflamed my itch but I had no means to scratch it.
I was raised a San Francisco Hippie by musicians and artists. I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words I used. Without guidance from any scientific role models, I never learned what it meant to do science, let alone differentiate science from science-fiction. As a kid, it was obvious to me a flying car was equally as plausible as a man on the moon. When my parents told me my design for a helium filled broomstick would not fly , they could not explain why, they just knew it wouldn’t. My curiosity went unrewarded and I learned to silence my scientific mind to avoid the torture of my inability to scratch the itch.
Then, in Sophomore year , I met Kikki. Before Kikki, “passion” was an intangible vocab term I had memorized. Ever since she lost her best friend to cancer in middle school, she had been using her pain to fuel her passion for fighting cancer. When you spoke to her about oncology , her eyes lit up, she bounced like a child, her voice raised an octave. She emanated raw, overwhelming passion.
I wanted it. I was enviously watching another person scratch an itch I couldn’t.
I was so desperate to feel the way Kikki did that I faked feeling passionate ; AP Physics 1 with Mr. Prothro had sparked my old Pythagorean wonder in mathematics so I latched on to physics as my new passion and whenever I talked about it, I made my eyes light up, made myself bounce like a child, purposefully raised my voice an octave.
Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.
Without prompting, my eyes would light up, my heart would swell, and my mind would clear. One night, I was so exhilarated to start that night's problem set that I jumped out of my seat. I forgot to sit back down. I spent that night bent over at my desk, occasionally straightening out, walking around and visualising problems in my head. Five whiteboards now cover my walls and every night, I do my homework standing up.
Once learning became my passion, my life changed. Old concepts gained new beauty, the blues became a powerful medium of expression. Mathematics became a language rather than a subject. I rocketed from the kid who cried in class while learning about negative numbers to one of two juniors in an 800-person class to skip directly into AP Physics C and AP Calculus BC. I founded [School] Physics Club, which became one of the largest clubs in the school. Over the summer at Stanford, I earned perfect marks in Ordinary Differential Equations, Energy Resources, an Introduction to MATLAB, and an environmental seminar, all the while completing the Summer Environment and Water Studies Intensive. Now in my senior year, I am earning my AS in Mathematics and Physics at the City College of San Francisco.
As I enter college, the applicability of my field of physics offers me a broad array of high-impact careers. Given that by 2050, 17% of Bangladesh's land will be underwater displacing twenty million people , I have settled on energy resources engineering.
All of this is natural progression from one development - I learned to scratch my itch.
Why This Essay Works:
- Unique Central Metaphor This essay is all based upon the metaphor of "the itch" representing a desire to understand the world. By using a central theme, such as a metaphor, you can create a thread of ideas that run throughout your essay. If you want to use a metaphor, make sure it clearly relates to the idea you're trying to express, rather than choosing one just because it is a creative or unique approach. In this case, there is perhaps no better metaphor than "the itch" which would capture their main idea, so it works well.
- Specific Language And Tangible Examples Instead of "telling" their ideas, this essay does a lot of fantastic "showing" through specific anecdotes. Sentences like "I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words..." capture a lot about the author's character and background without having to say it outright. By showing the reader, you allow them to draw their own conclusions rather than just having to accept what you're telling them. Using specific language also creates a more vibrant and interesting essay. Rather than saying "I loved learning as a kid," this student shows it using a concrete example: "my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums".
- Shows Interaction With Others Writing about other people in your essay can be a great way to tell things about yourself. Known as a literary "foil," by describing other people you can show your own values without stating them plainly. In this essay, the author shows their value (of being passionate about learning) by first recognizing that value in somebody else, "Kikki" in this case. By writing about people in your life, you can also create a sense of humility and humanity. Nobody is an "island," meaning that everyone is influenced by those around us. Showing how you draw inspiration, values, or lessons from others will show more about your character than simply telling admissions would.
- Lists Activities, But Connects Them In general, listing activities in your essay is a bad strategy, because it is repetitive of your activities list and comes across boring. However, this essay manages to list their activities in the 3rd-to-last paragraph by connecting them to a central idea: how their newfound passion for learning sparked all these new engagements. Listing activities can be okay, but only if they have a clear purpose in doing so. In this case, the purpose is to show how these activities are representative of their new passion for learning. But the purpose for listing activities could also be to show a specific value, provide examples for your idea, demonstrate your new perspective, etc.
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College Essay Example #2: Paint Dance
This Common App personal statement was accepted into Williams College .
Common App Prompt #2: 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)
“And you thought you could paint,” whispered the indistinguishable mass of colors in front of me, which was meant to represent a window. I looked down at the paint-stained printed image that I held with my trembling hand and back again to the unsuccessful attempts I had made to capture it on the canvas. My eyes scanned the wet paint avidly, attempting to find a solution to a problem I didn’t, couldn’t, solve. The more I looked at it, the more my mind wandered, focusing on the imperfections and confusion that the task of creating my first oil painting caused. Thoughts dashed through my brain like bullets, creating a knot of insecurity so tight that all of the pressure seemed to accumulate until I couldn’t hold it any longer. The pressure exploded, followed by several fat tears that spurted from my eyes. “Why would you do something you’re clearly not good at?” yelled my thoughts. I dropped my paintbrush on the floor, the paint splattering around me along with my tears.
I had never encountered anything like the painting that lay in front of me. My little projects were generally characterized by the quick learning of new skills, after which I would easily succeed at achieving in the activity. Never had I struggled solving math problems, never had my words faltered while conjuring up a last minute essay. It was this previous success and my ability to learn things quickly that made this encounter with a challenge so difficult. When looking at an obstacle in the eyes, I was a coward. I was unable to face difficulty in the fear that I’d be unable to succeed. I turned around and walked away, the smell of wet paint fading along with the determination my eyes had once held.
The colors would remain alone for the next few weeks, calling to me from the corner of my bedroom where they lay, discarded. It was not until that cloudy Sunday afternoon, common during rainy season, when the voices would finally reach my ears and guide my hands back to the paintbrush. It would take, however, 3 weeks and the development of a new friendship.
I met Mirjana through an exchange programme between my school and a school hidden amongst the mountains of Panama, which aimed at providing a better education to teens from poor areas. She was pretty and soft-spoken, with white teeth and sparkling, brown eyes. She liked to read, and we hit it off right away. Her stay with us was filled with laughter and discussions about latin-american novelists, and it was amongst these that we grew to become the best of friends. Mirjana told me about her hobbies, her friends from back home, her dreams, but most of all, her fears.
We spent long afternoons in bed, the soft breeze outside creating twists in our hair as it crawled through the window and listened to our conversations , the rain’s silent messenger during April. Mirjana told me about her fear of not being able to provide for her family and her homesickness while being at boarding school. It was during these conversations about fear that I began to look back at my painting attempts. Fear, that little whisper on the back of my ear, the fear of failure, had stopped me in my tracks when I had encountered a setback.
Our conversations during these calm afternoons continued, and my thoughts about the fear of failure intensified. Why was failure so scary to me? Why was I afraid of something I had not yet encountered? These thoughts would reach a climax that cloudy Sunday afternoon, where my hands would find the paintbrush and dip it into the creamy mixture of oil paint. And although I did learn how to paint, my biggest achievement was learning how to push fear out of the way to let the water flow and the paint dance.
- Compelling Writing Style This student uses figurative language, particularly personification, which makes their writing more engaging. Rather simply telling a story plainly, implementing aspects of creative writing such as metaphors, personification, and symbolism, can engage the reader in your story.
- Shows Vulnerability This essay deals with their struggles—particularly in overcoming fear of failure while painting. By showcasing your challenges, you not only create a more relatable persona, but it makes your successes far more impactful. Everyone has struggles, and reflecting upon those challenges is what will help you convey self-growth.
What Could Be Improved:
- Lacks Reflection Although this student reflects on the concept of fear, they don't go much deeper than surface-level reflections. This essay does pose some interesting questions, like "Why was I afraid of something I had not yet encountered?" but these questions are cut short and not satisfyingly explored. Admissions officers are impressed with genuine, deep reflection. To get there, you need to push past surface-level takeaways and try taking your ideas always one step further.
- Too Repetitive "Fear" is a central theme of this essay, but the main idea of overcoming fear is repeated excessively, without adding new ideas. It is important that your essay "goes somewhere" and doesn't stay stuck at the surface of your ideas. You want to go deep into your ideas, which means avoiding repetition at all costs, and only referencing a previous idea if you're adding something new: a new perspective, context, nuance, broader application, etc.
- Improve your essays in minutes, not hours
- Based on hundreds of accepted essays.
- Easy and actionable strategies
College Essay Example #3: Football Manager
This Common App personal statement was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania .
Common App Prompt #1: 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)
When I watched the Patriots and Falcons play in the Super Bowl in February of [Date] , I had no idea that the next time I watched a football game I would be on the sidelines, right in the middle of all the action. However, that’s exactly what happened, and my experience as a football manager is not one that I will ever forget.
At the end of my junior year, the head football coach, Coach Cotter (who was also my AP Government teacher), asked me if I wanted to be a manager for the football team. He told me I would have to be at all the practices and games during the summer and throughout the school year. He made a compelling offer, but I turned him down because I didn't think I would have enough time during the summer with my classes, work, and vacation. One of my friends, however, took him up on his offer. In the middle of July, after hearing her talk about how much she enjoyed it, I asked her if she thought I would be able to join. After we spent a little bit talking about it , she asked if I wanted to go with her and see what it was like. I agreed, and I loved it. I asked Coach Cotter if he would mind if I joined, and I can still hear him saying, "Absolutely, the more the merrier!" in my head. The weeks of practice that followed, and then eventually the long Friday nights, proved to be an unforgettable experience.
The job of a football manager does not sound glamorous. Being at football practice for six hours every day during the summer and then three hours after school, surrounded by 47 sweaty football players and seven coaches who are constantly shouting is not how I planned to spend my summer and the fall of my senior year. But there was no way for me to know that this experience would teach me valuable lessons about life, regarding teamwork, hard work, and discipline.
In late July it was evident that some of the players were new and unsure of what to do. I watched as day after day the upperclassmen helped them learn their positions and become better players. This demonstration of teamwork impressed me, because instead of laughing at the younger players for not knowing what to do, they helped them become the best players they could be to make the team stronger. Once, three of our seniors got in trouble for some off field activities, and they had to sit out the first game, along with losing their helmet stickers that are given out for exceptional performances. I witnessed the effect that the consequences had on these players, and I heard one of our coaches after we lost the game tell them “Now you see how the consequences of your actions affected the entire team. Don't ever underestimate your importance to this team.” After that game, I saw the hard work that those boys put in to earn back their reputations and their helmet stickers. They taught me that even if I make mistakes, I will always learn from them no matter how much hard work it takes.
We managers go by many names: watergirls, team managers, hydration specialists. But none of these monikers can capture the rush of emotion I feel after a hard fought game, or the feeling of connectedness that comes every time we celebrate as a team after a victory, ringing our bell and blasting “Party in the USA.” My sense of school spirit has never been stronger. Throughout the summer, the three hours after school, and the seven hours I spend on game days with the players, I have learned lessons and developed relationships that I will never forget.
- Shows Sense of Humor This essay has lighthearted moments in it, such as recognizing how being a football manager "does not sound glamorous" and how "we managers go by many names: watergirls..." Using moments of humor can be appropriate for contrasting with moments of serious reflection. Being lighthearted also shows a sense of personality and that you are able to take things with stride.
- Surface-Level Ideas The reflections in this essay are far too generic overall and ultimately lack meaning because they are unspecific. Using buzzwords like "hard work" and "valuable lessons" comes off as unoriginal, so avoid using them at all costs. Your reflections need to be specific to you to be most meaningful. If you could (in theory) pluck out sentences from your essay and drop them into another student's essay, then chances are those sentences are not very insightful. Your ideas should be only have been able to been written by you: specific to your experiences, personal in nature, and show deep reflection.
- Vague And Impersonal Writing Although this essay uses the topic of "being a football manager," by the end of the essay it isn't clear what that role even constitutes. Avoid over-relying on other people or other's ideas when writing your essay. That is, most of the reflections in this essay are based on what the author witnessed the football team doing, rather than what they experienced for themselves in their role. Focus on your own experiences first, and be as specific and tangible as possible when describing your ideas. Rather than saying "hard work," show that hard work through an anecdote.
- Unnecessary Storytelling More important than your stories is the "So what?" behind them. Avoid writing stories that don't have a clear purpose besides "setting the scene." Although most fiction writing describes people and places as exposition, for your essays you want to avoid that unless it specifically contributes to your main point. In this essay, the first two paragraphs are almost entirely unnecessary, as the point of them can be captured in one sentence: "I joined to be a football manager one summer." The details of how that happened aren't necessary because they aren't reflected upon.
- Don't Preface Your Ideas In typical academic writing, we're taught to "tell them what you're going to tell them" before telling them. But for college essays, every word is highly valuable. Avoid prefacing your statements and preparing the reader for them. Instead of saying "XYZ would prove to be an unforgettable experience," just dive right into the experience itself. Think of admissions officers as "being in a rush," and give them what they want: your interesting ideas and experiences.
College Essay Example #4: Restaurant Job
This Common App personal statement is an accepted Tulane essay .
Common App Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (250-650 words)
Piano Man plays on repeat in Used To Be’s Island Eatery, a high-volume bar and restaurant in the town of [Location] on the Jersey shore. Balding men and blonde women sway to the song as they sit on the wooden barstools, chatting and laughing about their lives.
From my hostess stand I can see it all. To my left is the restaurant portion of the building. It is dimly lit but there is enough light to see the customers’ expressions, from the time I seat them until their plates have been cleared. It’s fascinating to watch how much people change from the time they approach me at the stand , hungry and impatient, to when they are smiling and telling me to have a good night, plucking a mint from the silver bowl as they leave.
I’ve learned that the demeanors of the staff shape the mood of the restaurant. When the waitresses have come from the beach and have plans with their friends later that night, there is a sense of calmness and ease among the staff and the customers. On the other hand, when one waitress trudges in fifteen minutes late on a rainy afternoon and recites her endless list of the day’s unfortunate experiences, the entire mood drops. I’ve discovered that restaurants are all about putting on a happy face, even if you’re secretly envisioning hurling a rude customer's plate across the restaurant like a frisbee and watching ravioli spray across the room.
My dad has always told me to be positive, but I never really understood how truly meaningful that was until I started working as a host. I’ve learned that positivity and friendliness are crucial to making any situation more enjoyable, and especially in making stressful ones more bearable. So, even if I have eighteen reservations and a dozen takeout orders to handle, I plant a smile on my face and ask the elderly couple that walks in the door how they are doing. What I’ve discovered is that when they smile back at me and ask me about myself, it brightens my mood, and I end up having a simple and sweet conversation with complete strangers. Their kindness is uplifting, and I love hearing about a couple’s recent vacation, or talking and laughing with the father of a baby who just tried to eat a lemon.
I was anxious about starting my first job. However, I quickly found that hosting not only suited my strengths, but also taught me more about myself and how others behave in stressful environments. Hosting requires perception, observation and organization, qualities that play to my strengths. While the waitresses are distracted taking orders or bringing food, I’m the one who watches over the entire restaurant, making sure that tables are cleaned and little kids have paper and crayons. On the other hand, this job also taught me that sometimes I need to keep my mouth shut and deal with issues on my own, even if it means defusing an uncomfortable conversation with a customer who has had too much to drink. This response is generally counterintuitive to what I’ve been taught in school, which is to speak up and seek help from peers or teachers. In this business, one is often told to “figure it out yourself” or “just fix it”. Initially this was challenging, but I soon discovered that it taught me to have faith in myself and be more independent.
I absolutely loved this job. I discovered how much I enjoy working with and learning from other people. Hosting taught me the value of being totally engaged and fully present, which allowed me to commit myself to the people and environment around me. This job took me out of my comfort zone, but I have no doubt that what I learned will help me in every stage of my life , including when I go back next summer.
- Uses Anecdotes to Show Ideas Rather than "telling," it's important to always back up your points by "showing." This means using anecdotes, examples, and specific references to help the reader come to the same conclusion as you. Anybody can "tell" things, but by showing them you are giving proof, which makes your points more convincing and compelling.
- Reflects On Lessons An effective strategy for having interesting ideas is to reflect upon what you've learned as the result of an activity or experience. Lessons are important because they show self-growth, which admissions officers are looking for. It can also be a good idea to compare and contrast your lessons with other areas of your life. For example, how do your lessons from an extracurricular activity differ or translate over to your academics? Or vice versa?
- Lacks Deep Reflection One of the most common "mistakes" in essays is to not go deeper into your ideas. Most students gravitate towards surface-level ideas, which can be a good starting point, but should ideally be taken further. Admissions officers have read thousands of essays, so it's important that your ideas are unique, specific to you, and interesting. To get to those "deeper" ideas, keep asking yourself questions. For example, if you start with the idea of "positivity is key for this job," then keep asking yourself "Why?" Repeat that process many times and think critically, and eventually you'll come to more interesting and compelling ideas.
- Unnecessary Descriptions Avoid writing like fiction books, which have lots of descriptions that build a world or environment. Instead, only describe the things that matter to your main point. Since you have a limited number of words to use, it is vital that each sentence has a clear purpose. In this essay, many descriptions are ultimately unnecessary to their main point. Does it matter that "balding men and blonde women sway to the song as they sit on the wooden barstools"? No, and this only distracts from what is ultimately more valuable: your ideas and reflections.
Want to read more Common App essay examples?
If you're looking for more outstanding Common App essays, check out our Common App guide with examples.
For more, check out our list of top personal statement examples .
Part 2: UC Personal Insight Questions
Your UC essays are more important in 2022, now that UC's have dropped SAT and ACT scores from your application.
And if you're looking to write great UC essays, the best place to start is by learning from essays that worked in the past.
If you're looking for tons of UC essay examples, you're in the right place.
Every student applying to University of California must write four Personal Insight Questions. Each short essay must be fewer than 350 words each.
Check out our guides and examples for UCLA essays and UC Berkeley essays .
Within those posts, you'll be able to read dozens of the best UC Personal Insight Questions.
College Essay Example #5: Summer Counselor
This essay was accepted into UCLA .
Prompt #1: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words max)
Each summer for the last eight years, I have attended a four-week residential summer camp on Orcas Island, first as a camper and more recently as a staff member. As a counselor-in- training last summer, my role shifted from one centred around my own enjoyment to one catering to the fulfilment of others. I welcomed this change of pace gladly, as the ability to positively impact the next generation of campers in a similar way to how my own counselors impacted mine thrilled me.
At first, I was unconvinced that I was being the role model I had envisaged of myself, as I was daunted by my new responsibility as staff. However, my uncertainty dissipated when one of the campers I had worked closely with in the sailing classes I taught wrote me a heartfelt letter towards the end of the session claiming that spending time with me had been one of the highlights of his summer. This small affirmation struck me deeply, and I was incentivised to continue putting all my energy into hopefully similarly affecting as many others as I could.
One of the most challenging parts of the summer was when I acted as an assistant counselor to a group of six 2nd-grade boys for a week, living with and supervising them for the whole time. I recall one particular moment when all six started yelling over the minor grievance of whose turn it was to take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen that meal. I tried diffusing the situation peacefully but, in the end, it required a firmer stance to get them to calm down. It was tough for me to take a harder line with them, but it was a valuable lesson that being assertive, yet still kind, is an effective method for future situations.
I cannot wait to apply for a full counselor position next summer, as each year I learn more from camp about what it is to be a compassionate leader, a convincing role model, and a team player.
- Specific Example : For UC essays, it's important to directly and clearly answer the prompt. This student does a good job of using a specific moment that clearly answers the prompt.
- Honest About Challenges : You don't have to present yourself as a perfect human being. Instead, by showing your flaws and challenges, it makes you more relatable. This student does that well by admitting: "I was unconvinced that I was being the role model I had envisaged of myself."
What They Might Change:
- Give More Details : In addition to stating "...it required a firmer stance to get them to calm down," it's better to show this. How did you act in that moment? How can you illustrate that assertiveness, without just stating it?
College Essay Example #6: Teaching Talent
Prompt #3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)
My greatest talent is teaching. I love the opportunity to help others and seeing them develop and improve as a result of my input is always so rewarding.
My principle teaching outlet is as a diving coach. My favourite part about this job is that it is so dynamic, and each session is different. Some days the divers are in a great mood, dive impressively, and will jest with you nonstop which, being extroverted, fills me with energy and is a genuinely enjoyable evening. These sessions are so easy to coach as you can present yourself as a friend to the divers and deepen the trust that exists between you. However, other nights the kids are tired and unenthusiastic and coaching becomes far more challenging. I have to be stricter with them while simultaneously finding ways to motivate them, such as introducing little competitions or rewards for training hard. Over time, I have gotten much more confident at adjusting my coaching attitude towards the signals I pick up from the divers and it has made my job significantly easier.
This year, I have taken on the additional responsibility of leading the Learn to Dive squad, the largest group of divers at my club. At first, it was tough for me to adjust to my new role as it entailed more work with other coaches, helping them to develop their own coaching ability and monitoring the progression of their divers, as well as with kids of my own. However, I have grown to love this new element of my job, despite the challenge of instructing coaches older than myself, as it has forced me to develop my teaching ability in new ways. I have had to analyse my own teaching methods in order to explain them to other coaches and this both helped them to understand how to improve, but also allowed me to refine and develop how I coach my own divers.
Teaching is such an important part of my life because it allows me to learn and increase my own knowledge while making a positive impact on others.
College Essay Example #7: Linguistics
This Personal Insight Question essay was accepted into UCLA among others.
Prompt #6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (350 words max)
While reading Tolkien's The Silmarillion , I was struck by the elegance of the Elvish script he included. Upon further research, I discovered that he had created an entire language – Quenya – to accompany the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The idea that a language could be crafted and cultivated like a piece of art was both illuminating and inspiring to me. I had heard of Esperanto previously, but I believe Tolkien wasn’t trying to change the world with his creation. His goal was simply to create a language for the pleasure of it, and to enrich his storytelling and worldbuilding.
The revelation that language could be more than just a tool for communication triggered a love for linguistics that persists to this day. I voraciously tore through reference grammars and college textbooks alike, including An Introduction to Historical Linguistics by Lyle Campbell.
I even tried to emulate Tolkien and create a language of my own. Whether at school taking classes in Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek, or at home studying the phonology of Brazilian Portuguese on my own, languages excited and motivated me to learn more. I was awarded the Arthur Beatty award for outstanding linguist in the year as a result of my dedication to the language program at school.
Watching Game of Thrones reintroduced me to conlanging in the form of Dothraki and rekindled my interest, prompting me to write my IB extended essay on the historical etymology of Spanish. It was a challenging project, but I loved every minute of my research. While my friends were lamenting their boredom at poring over endless journals on topics they didn’t enjoy, I was studying a subject for which I am truly passionate. I hope to continue my study of language in university, and one of my goals in life is to be trilingual. I have no doubt that languages will continue to inspire me throughout life, and I hope to be able to share some of this passion with others along the way.
College Essay Example #8: Linguistics Society
Here's another UCLA essay that worked.
Prompt #7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)
Throughout my time at school, I have tried to share my passions and interests with others in various ways.
With the help of a friend, I reinvigorated and reinvented the school linguistics society, transforming it from a dull discussion of past exam questions to a seminar-style session where I have presented and analysed various interesting aspects of language. We have covered topics ranging from phonetics to historical sound change, and it has attracted a loyal troop of linguists who relish the weekly meetings almost as much as I do.
I have also channelled my passion for teaching into volunteering as a Spanish teacher at another local elementary school. Leading a class of thirty students can be a challenge, mainly as that many students are often hard to control. Nevertheless, I have planned and carried out lessons there each week for the last three years and have learnt a lot from it. I have found that as my confidence has grown, so the students have started to listen to and respect me more. They gain more from the lessons, as is evident from their progress at the end of each semester, and my enjoyment and fulfilment has risen. I am glad to have had a positive impact on their learning, and that I have been able to teach a subject that genuinely interests me.
Finally, I was appointed as a school prefect for senior year. In this role, I have been involved with a number of charity initiatives, such as organising bake sales and sponsored sporting events to raise money for the Make a Wish foundation, as well as various pastoral activities such as mentoring incoming freshman and guiding prospective parents around the campus. I love being a prefect as it allows me to give something back to the school that has been a huge part of my life for the last several years. I hope my legacy is that students feel more comfortable and confident in the school environment, and that they are inspired to become leaders as I have been to give back to the community in turn.
College Essay Example #9: New Perspectives
This essay was accepted into UC Berkeley .
Seconds after our teacher announced our project groups I heard the familiar, pitchy voice of the most irritating person in the class yell my name. Just like my worst nightmare, I had been put in a group to work with Eva; the annoying girl who had a weird obsession with horses. At that moment, I knew that it was going to be the longest project of my life.
Eva was extremely difficult to work with; she would always interrupt me, stubbornly stuck to what she wanted, and did not listen to a thing I said. Two weeks of tension and no progress flew by until one day during class, Eva went on another ramble about her horses.
Although I wasn't ready to hear her talk about horses again, I let her continue. What was another rant about horses turned into a conversation about the mental disorders Eva faced and how she relied on horse riding as therapy. After that conversation, our progress took a complete 180. I was eager to learn more, and we finished the project with more purpose and meaning. My perspective changed entirely.
I was moved by Eva’s passion for horse riding and encouraged her to start a club on campus where she could share her passion with others. Beyond this project, I helped Eva defend her riding center during city council meetings because it was on the verge of being shut down. In exchange, working with Eva taught me how to be more open-minded, more patient, more understanding; values of which I personally lacked my entire life. I began to cooperate with people with a more accepting and considerate mentality, understanding that people work in different ways.
I’m glad I chose to work through the project with Eva because I grew as a leader in a way that I would have never expected. I know I could have easily done the project by myself, but instead, I worked through our disagreements and bickering. Sharing this experience with Eva unearthed my ability to lead using patience and understanding, which are now essential assets to my leadership capabilities.
Part 3: Supplemental Essay Examples
Many top colleges require students to supplemental essays.
Each school may ask different prompts or none at all. And often your answers will be more specific and directly about the school.
In this section, you'll find supplemental essay examples from top universities. I've included a variety of prompts to cover common supplemental prompts, from "Why this college?" to major and area of study questions
Let's jump into the essays.
In addition to the your personal statement or statement of purpose (SOP), many colleges also require supplements.
These supplemental essays are often specific to the school and ask you to answer a specific question, such as "Why this college?" or "Why this major?"
In this section, you'll find supplemental essay examples from top universities. I've included a variety of prompts to cover common supplemental prompts that you may encounter.
College Essay Example #10: Fermat's Last Theorem
This supplemental essay was accepted into Cornell University .
Prompt: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in. (250-650 words)
I was thirteen sitting in my eighth grade geometry class, when I first heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem. We were discussing Pythagorean triples, whole number solutions to the Pythagorean Theorem, and conversation arose about the possibility of solving for exponents larger than two. What about three, four, or five? Eventually, this led to the teacher saying, “This is called Fermat’s Last Theorem. You won’t learn about it until you are much older.” With a dismissal like that, I naturally spent the whole night researching it instead of reading A Separate Peace for English. My fascination for this theorem was two-fold. The theorem is a seemingly simple concept, while on the other hand, it is notorious for being one of the most difficult proofs in all of mathematics. Fermat, himself, claimed he knew how to prove it, but promptly died leaving no evidence to back up his assertion. For over three and a half centuries, mathematicians were stumped by a seemingly impossible problem. Until it wasn’t.
Fermat’s Last Theorem was the impossible math proof, but overtime, collective mathematical knowledge grew. In 1993, British mathematician Andrew Wiles combined others’ theorems and conjectures to show that Fermat’s Last Theorem was a special case of semi-elliptical curves and that the theorem was a modular form. As a result, Fermat’s Last Theorem was proven to be correct. Consequently, once the mathematical community reviewed Wiles’ proof, it was widely agreed that Fermat could not have proven the theorem, because the general mathematical understanding in 1637 was not developed enough yet. Though the story of its eventual solution is exhilarating, to me, this episode underscores a more important lesson that is as true in science and engineering as it is in mathematics: it is not through individual genius, but collective effort and exploration that impossible problems become solvable.
Impossibilities surround us in the world. Here’s my impossibility— developing a solution to the global management of heart disease. Every year, millions die of cardiovascular complications, but nobody has a large-scale solution. My father’s death opened my eyes to the limited treatment options for cardiovascular disease, in that medicine can diagnose the disease, but current preventative measures are inefficient, as it is still the leading cause of death in America. Like Fermat’s Last Theorem, however, this problem does not have to remain unsolvable. Biomedical engineering applications enable us to foresee biological and physiological phenomena, and conceive system-oriented solutions to problems that have previously been treated symptomatically. I aspire to find new ways to track the growth of arterial plaque and blood clots throughout the body to better maintain blood flow, reducing, maybe someday eliminating, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and strokes.
I see Cornell as my next step towards accomplishing this aspiration. My brother, Matt, went to Cornell Engineering for his B.S. ( [Date] ) and M.S. ( [Date] ), and his accomplishments are what initially drew me to the College of Engineering. He was a member of the DARPA Robotics team that built an autonomous vehicle. Cornell’s theoretical approach to systems allowed him to find new ways of visualizing the world when solving problems. Although my brother and I have differing interests, I see through him how a Cornell education fosters a mindset not just to improve the status quo, but to reimagine it.
Cornell researchers are already pioneering the future of cardiovascular engineering, where professors and students are researching “heart-assist technology” to discover better solutions to pediatric heart problems. That project is already seeking answers to many of the questions that motivate me, and I’m excited about the prospect of joining the effort. The college’s theoretical approach combined with its project teams offers a way for students like me to not just learn how to build things, but to understand the conceptual principles underlying each problem. With this two-pronged method, Cornell Engineering will allow me to solve my personal Fermat’s Last Theorem of developing better methods to combat heart disease.
- Specific Ways They'd Be Involved For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to show ways you imagine being involved on campus. This student does a great job of showing that they've done their research about Cornell, by connecting their passion for studying heart disease to specific initiatives already taking place on campus. Try researching what events, research, or programs are being conducted. By referencing those specifics, you can create convincing reasons of why this school is fit for you.
- Introduces a Problem, Potential Solutions When discussing your intended area of study, one effective strategy is to identify a problem that you see. This problem can be in the field itself, your community, or the world. Then, you can connect this problem to yourself by showing how you'd want to help solve it. Don't try to tackle it entirely yourself, but show how you'd "take bites" out of this larger problem. It is also important that you identify potential solutions to the problem. You definitely don't (and shouldn't) have all the answers, but what do you see as potential steps for combatting the issue?
- Jargon and "Nerdy" Language Using technical language, such as referencing "semi-elliptical curves" and "modular form" in this essay, will help show your in-depth knowledge and passion. Don't be afraid to use technical jargon like this, and don't worry if admissions officers may not know all the terms. As long as they have context and knowing the terminology isn't critical to understanding your point, including "nerdy" language will make your essay more engaging and demonstrate your intelligence.
- Shows Personal Connections If you have personal connections to the school you're applying to (such as legacy, family members who work there, students or faculty you're close with), it can be a good idea to reference those connections. Showing personal connections to the school makes admissions think, "They're already practically one of us!" Just make sure that these connections aren't contrived: only write about them if you have a clear purpose within your essay for introducing them. In this essay, the student references their brother who attended Cornell, but does so in a way that naturally ties into the rest of their reasons for "why Cornell."
College Essay Example #11: Bug Fixing
Here's another Cornell essay that worked .
Prompt: Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests? (650 words max)
Since seventh grade, I’ve been obsessed with making others smile. That year was tough on my 12-year-old, bewildered self. It was the first time I’d struggled through anything major in my life. Someone important in my life passed away. Several relationships were beaten up and broken down. My once-straight-A grades took a turn for the worse as the magnet school experience bore down upon me. And ever since I was forced to be that one kid who cried through lunch with her head down on the table, I decided to make sure nobody else would have to be that kid.
I’ve tried everything to hear someone’s laugh, from biting sarcasm to the pain of a bad pun. But when I think about when my friends and I are laughing the most, it’s all together, in a call at midnight. We’re playing computer games and listening to silly music and laughing at the expense of each other as we die at the hands of the enemy team in the most ridiculous ways.
I started playing League of Legends late last year. It was a way for me to feel strong and unstoppable when I felt powerless in reality. The gameplay was what initially hooked me, but everything else about the game was equally, if not more, fascinating. The design of the maps, champions, and skins. The precise animations and detail in every interaction. The engrossing theme songs and background music, especially ones like Aurelion Sol’s intro (highly recommend, by the way; it’s a beautifully written, insistent orchestral piece) . The concept of worldbuilding and forever expanding upon the backstories of over a hundred characters and their universe. The way gaming brings all sorts of people together and lets them really laugh.
I once read a throwback article, called “Total Recall, or: That Time We Disabled Ranked,” that was written by product managers, designers, and producers. It covered an intensive bug that forced the company to work nearly 28 hours straight in order to restore the game and discussed the processes behind bugfixing. It was this article that truly incensed my interest in game design.
When reading about the majors and programs that Cornell provides, I felt a rare yet very real spark of excitement for college and my future. I’d heard of the notoriety of the Computer Science major at Cornell, but the option to follow the major within the School of Arts and Sciences eased my mind. As a right-brained student, I’ve always felt the struggle to succeed academically, especially within maths and sciences, while still pursuing my artistic interests. The BA CS major gives the ability to major in what I want to do while also getting exposure to a larger breadth of courses in other schools. I believe that Cornell will be able to reconcile my passions and style of learning by providing an environment in which I can thrive.
But what caught my eye the most was the specific game design minor that I could pursue alongside a major in computer science. It seems pretty unique to the school and is exactly what I’ve been wanting from a prospective school. Through this route , I’d be able to further my current understanding of programming and learn how to apply this to the world of design and animation. I’d be worlds closer to not only bringing my ideas to life, but also bringing the same happiness, excitement, and immersion that I feel to other gamers like me.
Gaming is what brings a smile to my face, as it does to millions of other people around the globe. I want my efforts to inspire happiness and infectious laughter to reach the world by doing what I love. And now, it truly feels as though Cornell has given me a real chance at being able to make someone smile by doing what they love.
College Essay Example #12: Why UPenn
If you enjoyed the UPenn Common App essay , here's a supplement that was also accepted into the University of Pennsylvania .
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 max)
When I first started seriously thinking about college during sophomore year, I didn’t want to go anywhere outside of Ohio. I thought I would be too far away from home. But the more mail I received from different colleges, the more I realized that some of my best opportunities were going to come from outside of my comfort zone, from outside of Ohio. One pamphlet from the University of Pennsylvania in particular caught my eye, and although I was a bit skeptical at first, as I did my research I realized that the University of Pennsylvania is a top tier university that holds many unique opportunities for its students.
One of the first things I noticed when I began to research Penn was their emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. This appealed to me because I have never been interested in only one subject. The fact that a third of my classes would be taken outside of the Wharton School tells me that I will be able to explore a variety of classes in virtually any subject. For example, although I do not want to major in it, I have always been interested in computer coding. Hopefully I will able able to take some introductory level computer programming or coding classes at Penn even though it is not directly related to finance, my potential concentration. I am also excited about the availability of foreign languages at the University of Pennsylvania. I started learning French in eighth grade, and since my school only offers four years of French, I wasn’t able to take it my senior year , and I really miss it. I also started learning Portuguese during high school because I want to travel to Brazil one day. I want to continue learning both of these languages at the University of Pennsylvania. I am very excited about the opportunities that the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies will give me at Penn.
Another aspect of Penn that I found fascinating was their different programs regarding political science. At one point, I wanted to major in political science. But when I took an Introduction to Global Politics class at the Ohio State University during the summer before my senior year, I didn’t know if I could honestly see myself studying that for four years. However, during my time researching political science at Penn, I found out about an amazing program that I could participate in: Penn in Washington. Political science is currently my second choice major, and if I decide that’s what I want to major in, it would be with a concentration in American Politics , so the Penn in Washington program would be perfect for me to find an internship and learn about how the different parts of government work together in the heart of America’s government. However, if I choose not to major in political science, I would still be interested in the American Public Policy minor , which is offered through the political science department in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, which is where I will possibly be pursuing a degree in finance. Penn seems to match perfectly with what I want to study in college. I am really excited for the opportunities that the University of Pennsylvania will give me. From the interdisciplinary studies to the foreign languages and political science programs, I will have plenty of chances to explore my diverse interests here at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Honest And Likable Tone This essay does a great job of conveying a thoughtful and candid applicant. Their phrasing, although verbose in some places, comes across genuine because the author walks you through how they learned about the school, what they're looking for in a school, and why the school would offer those specific things. Phrases like "I didn't know if I could honestly see myself studying that" are conversational and natural-sounding, which help create a sincere tone.
- References And Connects Specific Opportunities By referencing specific programs, like "Penn in Washington" as well as various minors and concentrations, it is clear this student has done their research about the school. One of the most important aspects for a "Why Us" essay is to find specific and unique opportunities and name them in your essay. These could be things like specific professors and their work, campus and its location, interesting classes, unique internship/study-abroad/job programs, special events, and many more. The key is referencing things that are entirely unique to the school and not many other schools too. Avoid broad terms like "renowned faculty" or "interdisciplinary studies" because virtually all colleges offer things like this, and these are some of the most over-used and artificial reasons used in "Why Us" essays.
- Overly Wordy and Repetitive This essay has many moments of repetition that are unnecessary. In general, avoid repeating your ideas and when editing, ask yourself of each sentence: does this add something distinctly new and important to my essay? There are two common mistakes that often create repetition: prefacing your ideas and summarizing your ideas. Unlike academic writing, you don't need to "prepare" the reader for what you're going to say, and you don't need to conclude it with a summary. By doing so, you only create unnecessary repetition and take up words which could otherwise be used to include new specific details or ideas.
- Needs More Unique Reasons "Why" This essay spends nearly half of its words explaining the "interdisciplinary" opportunities at UPenn. However, this reason is quite superficial and not at all unique to Penn, as almost all colleges offer some sort of interdisciplinary study (i.e. combining your interests or studying multiple fields). Talking about "interdisciplinary study" is one of the most common reasons students use in their "Why Us" essay, and it often comes across as generic and unoriginal. Instead, look for offerings that no other (or very few other) schools provide. Narrow down your reasons "why" to make them more specific to the school, even if they are smaller scale. You can mention things like "interdisciplinary studies" or "diverse student body" briefly as a reason why, but don't make them one of your primary reasons why, unless you have something particularly unique about it.
College Essay Example #13: Story of My Name
This interesting essay is a Dartmouth essay that was admitted. Enjoy!
Prompt: The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself. (250-300 words)
My name is Eoin Hourihane and my entire life, no one has ever pronounced my name correctly. My genealogy is Irish and my name is spelled this way because every male in the Hourihane family, for the past seven generations, has been named John. Since my older brother's name is John, my dad decided to honor his heritage, which gives me my dual citizenship, and name me the old Gaelic for John: Eoin.
I am the youngest of six which brings with it the never-ending comparisons, teasing, and constant bickering; add to that being small for my age until the age of twelve, and you can imagine my household. We have all been raised to be independent, to love nature (except Princess Ali), and to work our hardest at everything we do.
I have always loved math, playing hockey (ice or floor), matzah ball soup, the Beatles and Queen. As a kid, I was into Percy Jackson and a series of books with titles that all ended in “-ology,” the churros at the hockey rink in Jamestown, Bang party snaps, t-shirts by Tobuscus, and my two stuffed cats - one with a mortarboard, and the other with a Star of David on its front left paw. I have dreamt of being a biomedical engineer and creating a glass eye that can see, knowing the intricacies of the human body and its responses to environmental and internal stimuli, and performing surgery on the brain.
I have celebrated Chanukah and Christmas, honoring my Jewish mother and my Catholic father, but not truly affiliating with either. I am a liberal thinker who follows current events closely, and I am eager to explore the world outside of Buffalo, NY, participate in an academic environment that will challenge me, and live among a community of learners.
College Essay Example #14: Ideal College Community
This supplement was accepted into Columbia University .
Prompt: List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words max)
Filled with activity around the clock. A place to come home to.
Trying to get past locked doors (literal and metaphorical).
Offering intellectual freedom and curiosity, without forcing specialization. Accommodating students who are unwilling to wait to make a difference. Willing to look critically at itself.
Socially conscious and politically active.
Never taking its eye off the national or global stage.
Buzzing with so much life it flows beyond the campus into the outside world.
So much life that sometimes it intimidates, that it yearns for more hours in the day. With too many options to choose from, Too much to do in four years.
Filled with clever eyes that see new ideas in the lessons of history.
Diverse of origin, of culture, of opinion, of religion, of personality, Diverse like an international center of thought and ideas and passions. An urban wonderland.
Supporting of extraordinary ambitions.
College Essay Example #15: Why Computer Science
This essay was accepted into Columbia University . To read more exceptional Columbia essays, be sure to check out our list for more Columbia essay examples .
Prompt: For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words max)
Studying computer science gives me the opportunity to be in a field that evolves so quickly I can always be on the forefront and do cutting-edge work. This summer at an ad-tech company, I moved the data science team’s analysis programs to a novel cluster-computing engine (Kubernetes), which can manage and distribute tasks across thousands of computers at once. Kubernetes is so new that barely any information has circulated about it. Because of this novelty, I was able to publish the first existing documentation of a data science pipeline in Kubernetes.
Computer science can also automate the manual drudgery of life. For example: to manage my clubs, I’ve written a program that checks for emails from members with excuses for missing meetings and automatically logs their absences.
Since computers have become the platform for every science, coding allows me to contribute to numerous fields. When I started at Einstein College of Medicine last year, I knew nothing about computational biology. Our project showed me that basic programming was all I needed to find fascinating results in the mostly unstudied mountains of genomic data.
As a person, I’m drawn to seemingly impossible challenges, in particular, the quest to teach machines and create mechanical consciousness. When I started taking online courses in AI, I became fascinated by the gradient descent method in machine learning. The method casts complex input data (e.g. photos) as thousand-dimensional surfaces and attempts to descend to the lowest points (minima) of those surfaces. It works best on data with underlying patterns, like pictures of human faces. This indicates that, in some way, the very nature of what a ‘face’ is, what unique structure is shared by nearly all faces, is found in the minima that AI models descend towards. My dream is to do foundational artificial intelligence research.
College Essay Example #16: Volunteering at Hospital
This essay was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . Want to read more UNC essay examples? Check out our list of the best UNC essays for this year.
Prompt: We hope you’ll share with us the activities that you’ve found especially worthwhile. We also hope you won’t feel compelled to tell us everything you’ve ever done or, worse yet, to do things that mean little to you just because you think we expect them.
Low-profile pursuits can be just as meaningful as ones that draw more attention, and fewer activities can be just as good, and sometimes even better, than more activities. For example, although starting a new club can be a great experience and helpful to others, so can caring for siblings, parents, or grandparents, working outside the home to put food on the table, or being a good and caring friend.
For these reasons, although we’re glad to receive complete résumés, we don’t require or encourage them. Instead, if you choose to submit something that goes beyond what you’re providing through your Common Application, keep it brief; focus less on including everything and more on choosing and explaining the things that have meant the most to you; and upload it here. (650 words max)
Everywhere I looked, I saw a sea of white coats and scrubs; there was constant beeping of the heart monitors, and the smell of disinfectant was strong.
There I stood - a diminutive, awkward high school kid - lacking in experience and confidence, ready to begin volunteering at Vidant Medical Center. Perhaps the very same qualities that made me nervous were what put patients at ease. Many patients, especially younger ones who were uncomfortable speaking with medical professionals, seemed much more comfortable in my presence. I have learned this quality is how I have been able to make a difference - by connecting with many of the younger patients who were nervous just like me. I’ll always remember the two eight-year-old brothers who were waiting as their father got an MRI.
In some ways, they were also like me - they loved sports, and had an interest in math and science. As they were waiting, we talked about everything, from who they thought would win the NBA championship title to me giving them tips on how to remember their multiplication tables. This interaction put them at ease and kept them from becoming restless.
Every time I step into the hospital, I strive to connect with people. I find that I am able to make a difference not strictly due to my tasks of escorting and discharging patients but because of connection and rapport that I establish with them.
My initial nervousness about whether or not I would be able to assist sick and injured patients soon gave way to relief and gratification as I learned that I was indeed able to help them, by bringing a smile to those I escort, discharge, or deliver meals . I’ve met people I might never have met otherwise, and we’ve shared our thoughts and talked about our experiences. I have come to look forward to their company, who, despite their conditions, are still able to smile every day and enjoy engaging in conversation with me - and vice versa.
Even when volunteering in areas of the hospital where I’m not in contact with patients as often, such as doing food preparation, I always make sure to visit the patients I escort after my shift, to talk to them and uplift their spirits. Volunteering at a hospital reminds me every day how fortunate I am to be in good health and of the rewards of helping those who aren’t. While my job as a volunteer at the hospital may not result in the discovery of a cure for cancer, I am happy to have had an opportunity to contribute to improving the experiences of the children and young adults coping with their hospital stays.
College Essay Example #17: Why Carnegie Mellon
This essay was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University . Want to read more essays that worked for CMU? Check out our list of Carnegie Mellon essays that worked .
Prompt: Why Carnegie Mellon? (650 words max)
As a child who hid behind her parents and never uttered a word whenever strangers were near, I was no stranger to people deeming me shy. As I got older, however, I found my voice more comfortably through music, through art, and through writing .
Playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto in the Kennedy Center , for instance, unleashed a swell of emotions through the intricate art of storytelling with my violin. I was drawn to writing stories and sharing ideas with my peers, starting my editor career in fifth grade. Five years later, I co-founded my high school’s literary magazine, Muses, which provides a platform for all voices while fostering connections among students.
I was twelve years old when a HTML class through John Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program introduced me to a modern language of communication: computers and the Internet. Falling in love with coding and website design, I utilized my newfound knowledge to design a website for my National History Day project, which won the school competition. In high school, I joined programming club, took the rigorous computer science classes, and designed Muses’ website. This year, I created a conceptual online boutique store, which won first place in Maryland Future Business Leader Association’s E-business competitive event.
In the summer of [Date] , I interned in a NCI melanoma research lab. This experience completed changed how I viewed the importance of technology to modern communication. We had obtained genotypes from thousands of melanoma patients and controls, but a new question arose: how could we extract the useful information from a massive data file , akin to finding a needle in a haystack ? Under the guidance of a bioinformatician, I performed an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome to identify the risk loci that might affect patient survival.
Catering to the needs of the scientists, I wrote an app by R code that organizes and manages melanoma genotype information; extracting the information of a particular genotype and its association with melanoma was now a couple clicks away . From this work, I learned how to translate large data into solutions, while using the correct data format and data structure. I realized that modern technology not only helps us communicate more efficiently, but also provides a system upon which we can solve global problems.
With a strong background in computer science and communications, I hope to incorporate both into a future career of building data systems, conducting research, and consulting for organizations that serve underrepresented citizens.
One project I want to tackle is the modification of social media algorithms so that media created by minorities and/or for minorities will appear on users’ radars. The algorithm would analyze the user’s demographics and deliver news relevant to those traits, such as discoveries about Asian health issues showing up on Asian users’ feeds. Carnegie Mellon’s encouragement of interdisciplinary studies under the Information Systems major would allow me to accomplish this and so much more. As someone who attacks calculus and creative writing with equal enthusiasm , IS’ objective of providing students with a broad background in the humanities and sciences is very appealing. As someone who learned to work as a team in a research lab, CMU’s emphasis on collaboration and student innovation would push me to further improve my teamwork and problem-solving skills.
In particular, I hope to take advantage of CMU’s Technology Consulting in the Global Community program , receiving guidance from both CMU’s renowned faculty and international technology experts. To that end, the Social and Decision Sciences major, my second choice, would also prepare me to utilize similar decision-making and analysis skills to solve social problems.
We live in a world where communication through technology connects communities across the globe, more so than ever before. The future of exploration and innovation requires us to develop efficient ways of communication - we need a combination of scientific expertise and knowledge grounded in the humanities to accurately convey ideas, solve problems and make the planet a better home for us all. An education at Carnegie Mellon would propel me in this endeavor.
- Specific Details Showing Knowledge Specific details and anecdotes will almost always be more compelling than less specific ones. In this essay, the student does a great job of including specific, "nerdy" details, such as "an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome." These details demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of an area and make your essay more engaging.
- Addresses Bigger Picture This essay does a fantastic job of addressing real-world problems and emphasizing the "bigger picture" impact of their studies. Rather than just explaining what they want to study, this student explains how their education will help them have an impact on the world. Make an argument for what problems you see in the world and how you could potentially help solve them.
- References School-Specific Offerings For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to reference unique aspects to the school. Almost all colleges have strong academics, great faculty, etc. So instead of referencing those points, reference what makes the school unique and different. In this essay, the student talks about "CMU's Technology Consulting in the Global Community" program, which is both highly specific to CMU and relevant to their own interests.
- Don't Just List Accomplishments In general, you should avoid simply listing your achievements. This student has many remarkable activities and experiences, but it comes across less interesting because the first half of the essay is simply describing these accomplishments.
- Talk About Campus Culture or Mission For "Why Us?" essays, it is also a good idea to reference the values the school represents. Each school has a different "culture" and type of student body, and admissions wants to know how you will fit in.
College Essay Example #18: Why NYU?
This essay was accepted into New York University . Writing your NYU essays doesn't have to be stressful if you get inspired by these examples.
Prompt: Why NYU?
We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand - Why NYU? (400 words max)
Living in a suburb my whole life, I've always felt as if I lived in a two-dimensional plane. I can go left, right, forward, and backward.
In a suburb, however, it is nearly impossible to get any meaningful altitude. Upon visiting New York City during the summer before my senior year, however, I found myself gazing up at the skyscrapers soaring high above me. I've always loved the views mountains and buildings; both from above and below. I also have spent time studying Mandarin, and Shanghai would offer a unique opportunity to further my linguistic studies while engaging in cultural immersion.
Beyond settings, NYU has the capacity and the resources available for me to engage in research in quantum computation. Playing video games got me into math and science beyond just playing with my calculator as a baby. There were practical applications of the numbers, and I wanted to understand how it all worked in order to get the best equipment and maximize ammo efficiency. I would watch "Mythbusters" and try to come up with my own hypothesis and see if it matched their conclusion.
In 8th grade, I figured out that I loved science along with math, but I didn't exactly know what science I loved. At the time I was in "physical science" and I did enjoy the class a lot, but I always thought of physics as "speed distance time" triangles which were no fun at all. I was convinced to take AP Physics in my junior year with my friends, and I loved it. It was almost every week we would learn something that completely altered my perception of the universe.
Once I learned about quantum physics and how it basically destroys our understanding of everything, I knew I wanted to pursue it further, and be at the forefront of quantum research.
At NYU, not only can I take courses to learn about the subject, but I can also participate in research through the "Center for Quantum Phenomena". Taking advanced courses and conducting research in a new setting, such as New York or Shanghai, can offer me a new perspective and a breath of fresh air. Conversely, I can help over NYU a new perspective on critical thinking and problem-solving. I chose to apply to NYU because NYU is fit for me, and I am fit for NYU.
College Essay Example #19: Moving Places
This essay was accepted into Pomona College . Check out this Pomona supplement that worked.
Prompt: For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way. (650 words max)
Inside every bedroom is the Swiss Army knife of the sleeping world: blankets. You can take them with you anywhere and they always come in handy. My blankets are dark blue with square tribal patterns, knitted from the finest pima cotton by Peruvian artisans. I fluff them up for a soft snuggle, throw them over myself to deter the monsters under the bed , or use them as a ShamWow for tears. Yet they also helped me overcome the biggest obstacle—the moving target— in my life.
I’ve moved within and between countries ten times. I’ve changed schools so often that I’ve never been in a classroom for more than two years. I have felt loneliness and isolation , while my classmates had playdates and tea parties in a language I struggled to speak. Nothing was mine, not in school where local kids decorated their lockers, not in our rented house where everything belonged to the landlord, and not in the bedroom I slept in, where furniture and wall colors constantly switched from cream to light tan to stale beige.
The only thing that followed me from house to house were my two blankets.
As I started middle school, I began to resent moving. I took my anger out on my parents , despising them for ripping me away from newly made friends, the eighth-grade boyfriend who held my hand and gifted me Godiva chocolates, and the bedroom overlooking the Via Paloma, whose bare, white walls and street noises were beginning to feel familiar. I had no safe space or anchor to rely on when new cultures and languages overwhelmed me.
As I finished middle school, my dark blue blankets were brimming with tears of anger and frustration. One night I rolled myself up into a pitiful cocoon of ill-thoughts and sadness, closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply. The scent of clean cotton swirled inside my lungs, relaxing me. Memories morphed: The spacious apartment in the Andes mountains of Venezuela, the cozy cabin in the hills of Peru, and the lush single story homes in Palm Beach and Miami. Each stop carried its own memories like a distinctive aroma. I remembered the first hike along the Andean mountains in Caracas, sliding down the sand dunes in Lima, and savoring deep fried Oreos at the South Florida Fair. A nostalgic smile formed on my face as I continued to remember.
In retrospect, moving was my passport to exciting new ideas, tastes, and hobbies. I lived through vastly different cultures, and over the course of my country-hopping journey, I blended them to create a unique lifestyle of arroz con pollo, salsa, and Costco bulk shopping. I was exposed to new angles on belief and opinions, which opened my eyes to the diverse perspectives of the world. Changes of place, language and altitude have gifted me with an open-minded and thoughtful nature.
My blankets have followed me to every new home, to every new bedroom. They were my emotional anchors when I felt adrift, they were my safe harbors. They reminded me that it’s not important to own everything around you to feel in control of your own life. It’s okay for things to change, as long as you hang on to your values. The battle between bare white and dark blue has shaped me into a person that can accept and adapt to unfamiliar situations.
I’ll haul my weathered blankets to new adventures and apartments, hopefully to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the gritty streets of East LA. Wherever I go, I can count on them to wrap me in their familiar arms, making the undiscovered feel like home.
- Connects to School Subtly In supplements where they aren't specifically asking you to write about the school, it can still be a good idea to connect to the school subtly. In this prompt, Pomona isn't asking for "Why Pomona," but the author still manages to imply their interest in the school by referencing Pomona's location near the "San Gabriel Mountains" and "East L.A." This is a subtle way of making the essay feel targeted for Pomona specifically, rather than this essay being reused for other schools, without answering the prompt in a way they aren't looking for.
- Unique Metaphor And Symbolism This essay starts off with a strong metaphor, comparing a "Swiss Army knife" to blankets, which implies the many uses of blankets. This is a captivating hook because it is creative and makes sense when thought about, but isn't something immediately obvious. Throughout the essay, "blankets" become a symbol of being able to adapt to new locations and environments. By using "blankets" as a common thread through the essay, it makes their writing about various locations still feel connected. Even though the prompt is asking for "a location," this manages to work because "blankets" becomes the unifying symbol that ties together multiple locations.
- Over-Emphasizes Their Privilege By describing the luxurious-sounding places they've traveled, this essay could come across as privileged. Although coming from privilege isn't necessarily a bad thing for applying to colleges, emphasizing that privilege (especially nonchalantly) could come across as "entitled." This essay doesn't necessarily come across that way, but over-emphasizing your privilege could come across as not recognizing that privilege or "out of touch" with others who may come from less privilege. Instead, it may be better to acknowledge your privilege and show gratitude—emphasizing how those opportunities have allowed you to make a positive impact on others.
College Essay Example #20: Double Major
Here's another liberal arts essay that worked, again for Pomona College .
Prompt: Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or undecided!) that you have listed. (250 words max)
I’m sitting backstage at my first international piano competition, anxiously awaiting my turn to perform. Unconsciously, I massage my right wrist, still recovering from a recent injury. The young man beside me feels my nervousness and starts a conversation.
As we whisper, I notice him rub his hands together uncomfortably. “What’s wrong?” I ask, quickly leaving my own wrist alone. He suppresses a nervous laugh, then quietly details the long and unsuccessful surgery that shattered his dream of becoming a professional musician. His hands were permanently damaged.
“Alessandra Fang,” the judges call. I stand up, walk to the main stage and look back to see him encourage me with a stiff, crooked thumbs-up. As my fingers dance on the keys, I observe the fragile muscles and ligaments under my skin.
I realize in that moment that it is not in a massive concert hall where I wanted to change people’s lives, but on a smaller stage: an operating room. As an artist who has had her share of painful, music-related injuries, my goal is to become a musician’s physician, and blend my greatest two passions so that I might bring relief to those around me, while understanding their musical and anatomical plight.
I wish to pursue both Biology and Music programs at Pomona College. I want to become a hand surgeon while still developing my artistry on the piano. After all, surgery also has its own cadence, complexity and composition.
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With the number of applicants to top schools skyrocketing, it’s becoming more and more difficult for students to get accepted. To stand out from the crowd, you'll need to write interesting essays.
In this article and on our site, we've compiled hundreds of successful college essay examples so that you can see how other students got accepted and learn exactly what to do in order to help make your application a success too.
In this post you can learn from successful essays from Ivy League universities and other top schools like:
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Writing a successful college admissions essay can be tough, so we've put together some example essays below to provide with some inspiration of your own.
Please do not plagiarise sentences or whole parts of these essays - they are only intended as guidelines and you can jeopardise your application if you're discovered to have copied your essay from the web.
College Essay Example #1
Honestly, I have had a pretty easy life. I have never really gone without something I absolutely needed, and I have always attended good schools and lived in safe neighborhoods. My parents raised me in a loving home, told me I was smart, and tried to help me be successful. But almost everyone else I knew seemed to have those same things, and I never really gave the benefits of my life much thought. Instead, I mostly coasted – focusing on playing sports, hanging out with my friends, and having fun. It was not until my sophomore year of high school that I started to understand what my parents had been trying to teach me. My brother graduated from high school at the same time I finished my freshman year. I watched as he and his friends went off to college – all but his best friend, Jim. Jim was a big dreamer, talker, and “coaster” – like me. Jim had not spent much time studying in high school and could only get into community college. When we talked, he did not seem down about going to community college and my initial thought was that it was no big deal. However, a month or two into the next fall semester I noticed that Jim was still coming by the high school frequently, spending most of his time hanging out with younger teenagers, and trying to relive his “glory days.” He was not the happy guy I had known and it became all too clear that Jim was not prepared to take the next steps in his life. That spring my parents announced it was time for me to get a job. I found a position at a local bakery and made decent money for being sixteen – it was OK, for a job. My boss was a nice, local guy in his early forties. He was fun to talk with and had great stories about when he was a teenager. But as I got to know him, underneath the “cool” exterior, I soon realized he was not happy. His life had not turned out the way he had hoped, and he seemed lost and still looking for direction – he reminded me of Jim. I personally do not think everyone needs to go to college to have a successful life, but everyone does need purpose and direction – both of which I did not have. I began to worry what my life would become if I did not find them, and I decided I needed to make a change. I asked my parents if I could get a tutor, asked for help from my teachers, and began getting involved in school clubs. My parents were a little shocked and my history teacher, in particular, all but rolled her eyes the first time I asked for help preparing for a test – I think she thought I was trying to “work the system.” I did not change overnight, but I continued to make significant progress. My grades went from mostly “Cs,” with a few “Bs,” my first two years in high school to mostly “Bs,” with a few “As,” by the end of my junior year. My history teacher even asked me to become her teacher’s assistant during a free period in my senior year class schedule, and the first semester of my senior year I made the all “A” honor roll. I will never forget the look of pride and relief on my mother’s face. While it may have taken me longer than others, I have learned the value of hard work and the importance of having purpose and direction in my life. I am very excited to take the next steps and hope to have the opportunity to continue my journey at your university.
College Essay Example #2
While I have never seen myself as a rebel, I am not a conformist and have never felt comfortable being labeled. I like to sew, scrapbook, and wear pink, but I also like to hike through the woods, get dirty, and build things with tools. When I turned fifteen, I looked for something different and unique that would be fun, challenging, and give me a sense of accomplishment. I found it in Search and Rescue. In King County, Washington youth over the age of fifteen are allowed to join the county Search and Rescue team if they complete a set of grueling trainings and pass a series of tests. New recruits spend multiple weekends hiking, camping, doing physical fitness, and learning general wilderness survival and navigation skills. Classes of recruits are usually eighty to ninety percent boys and my year was no exception. My last test was a two-day navigation course in which we were required to traverse a large mountainous area using maps and compasses. At the end of each task, we recorded how many feet we were away from the intended location and our total variation for all tasks could not exceed 300 feet. The course took us through swamps, thickets, and other obstacles, and we had to successfully navigate each type of terrain. At one point, we carried our fifty pound packs over our heads as we walked through water up to our armpits, but my group of three girls would not be outdone by the boys. The last few miles were the hardest. As we prepared for the final hike back to base camp, we were met by a truck of rangers. They told us we could stop, but if we got in the truck we would not pass and would not be permitted to join the team. We hiked the last few miles with our 50 pound packs on our backs, our cloths soaked, our feet covered in blisters, and snow starting to fall – all the time with the truck following closely behind. Our souls and wills seemed to go numb, and there was a constant temptation to give in, but we would not let each other quit. When we finally reached base camp and tallied our scores, we had stayed under the 300 feet threshold and were the only girls admitted to the program that year. It was an amazing feeling. Similarly, I will never forget the first time I saw a dead body. We were asked to search for a mentally disabled man that had disappeared nearly a year before, but was never found. His family needed closure, and we were tasked with searching an area not far from his house that had very dense vegetation. My team members and I lined up about 10 feet from each other and began hacking away at the shrubs, vines, and tall grass. After many hours, I discovered the body in my section. The skeleton and decaying remains were clothed in the man’s t-shirt and boxer shorts – and his hat was not far away. This scene, combined with the looks of both sorrow and relief on the faces of the man’s family, changed me. I gained perspective on both the value and reality of life and was proud to be part of such a great organization that had truly made a difference for this family.
Through my experiences in Search and Rescue, I have learned to persevere and gained a new level of empathy for others. In addition, I have a better perspective on life and am filled with a desire to choose activities that will have a positive impact on those around me. These lessons and experiences have become part of who I am, and I look forward to building upon them as I embark on my next great adventure.
College Essay Example #3
Ever since I was young, I’ve never been able to put down a good book. It’s a bit of a cliché to refer to yourself as a bookworm, but for all intents and purposes, I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm. When I was younger my mum used to read to me, so reading has always been an established part of my routine. When the first Harry Potter book came out, my mind was blown. I became absorbed into this fictional world, and was addicted to the escapism. This was the beginning of a life long appreciation of English Literature.
I first new I wanted to study English at university when I studied Wuthering Heights in class at high school. I was fascinated with how Heathcliff was portrayed as some kind of monster with redeemable features. I found myself in awe at this conflicted and tortured character that Bronte had created, and mused whether he was beyond redemption. I hadn’t read a book that had encapsulated such a dilemma before. I was hungry to get my hands on as many books as possible, and after reading some other classics like Of Mice and Men and In Cold Blood, our English class studied the plays Top Girls and The Doll House. At this point, my appreciation for literature reached new heights, as these were the first overtly political works that resonated with me. I was entranced by the ways these plays advanced the idea of Feminism. I wanted to read more, and I wanted to write more on what I’d read. I decided that I wanted to write as a career.
I knew I had to study at US University when I saw the shear diversity of your English course, and the overall climate of diversity that embodies your institution. I’m eager to read books from a broad range of authors from lots of different backgrounds and I find it motivating to see that this is a core part of your curriculum. I love literature, and I’m that I can bring that passion into my lectures and seminars. I’ve always been the first person to contribute when I have an opinion! I’d be interested to expose myself to authors I am not too familiar with and I’d be very interested in taking your extensive course on Charles Dickens to learn more about this literary great.
Outside of my high school work, I’ve found myself enjoying books written by authors such as Naomi wolf and Germaine Greer. Books like the Female Eunuch have inspired me to read more Feminist books, and have encouraged me to become further involved in local activism. I’ve volunteered for a number of women’s organizations, most recently I worked with women’s aid to help to fundraise for a domestic violence awareness event. I helped to research and write parts of a leaflet on domestic violence, which gave me a lot of confidence in my writing and made me feel good about contributing my abilities to an important cause. I’d like to build on this experience by helping to create some other fundraising events on campus, and potentially by joining the University Feminist society.
In addition to reading, I spend most of my time writing on my political blog. I write on a number of topics, but most commonly I write on Feminism as this is the subject I find most interesting. I’m currently planning to release an eBook in the near future called Myths about the Patriarchy. Throughout the course of writing this content, I’ve enjoyed communicating my opinions with my readership and would like to continue this for a career. A degree at US University would enable me to gain some solid academic credentials and enable me to pursue writing as a career. My passion for reading and writing has meant that becoming a full-time writer is the only thing I can imagine myself doing. Studying English Literature would be a good starting point to turn this lifelong dream into a reality.
College Essay Example #4
Ever since I was young, I’ve always been singing along to the radio. Whether it’s a catchy pop song, or an alternative masterpiece, I just can’t help but find myself moving to the music. It was no surprise that when I first picked up the guitar at 11 years old, I couldn’t put it down. I loved the process of learning to play all these little tunes that I heard and hummed before. The process of physically playing music, lead me to appreciate music in a whole different way. As soon as I could, I rushed to start a band, and after around 6 months of playing I played my first concert. Truthfully, we weren’t very good, but I loved the feeling of playing music in front of other people, so much so that I decided I wanted to pursue performing music as a career.
Ever since then, I’ve been throwing myself at any gig I can find. My attitude to music has always been to learn by doing, and I’ll be sure to continue my passion for performing by becoming active in the campus music scene. On that note, I would definitely be interesting in becoming involved within the local area music scene as well. As a player, I started off on alternative music, but not I am much more motivated by the spontaneity of Jazz music. Every day when I wake up I go downstairs and have a quick jam along to a few backing tracks. To me, putting hours into my instrument isn’t work and I’m always thinking about music in one way or another. By Enrolling at Berklee School of Music, I’d be well placed to cope with the demands of staying on track with my learning. If I have a performance coming up I will not be shy of spending 8 hours a day practicing. I remember how proud I felt when I finally learnt how to play the advance piece Eugene’s Trick Bag by Steve Vai, and am prepared to throw myself at any more demanding performance pieces that come my way. It would be an honor study at an institution that’s had Steve Vai as Alumni.
Outside of my schoolwork, I’ve been very eager to learn all I can about the instrument and have been giving guitar lessons for the past two years. I have become very confident explaining the basic CAGED chord system, and teaching students the Major, Minor, Blues and Pentatonic scales. Not only has teaching improved my own knowledge of the instrument, it has also been incredibly rewarding. I have enjoyed helping students who have struggle with the basics to be able to play songs like Green day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends and Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child o’ Mine. I know that it is rare for professional musicians to sustain themselves on performing alone, so I’d love to be able to teach along side performing. A degree of Berklee school of music will be evidence of my ability to teach not only the practice of playing guitar, but the theory that goes behind it.
For a long time, I’ve known that perfoming music is what I want to pursue as a career and I can see that UC Berklee will give me everything I need to become an established part of the professional music scene. Not only will formalized study benefit the standard of my performance but it will also take my theoretical understanding to the next level. In order to fulfill my aspiration to be a professional musician, I can see no other institution that offers the shear brilliance of UC Berklee.
College Essay Example #5
Ever since I read Frank Ryan’s book Virolution, I’ve been captivated by the idea of understanding what’s around me on a higher level. Ryan took the common ways that viruses were interpreted, such as natural evils and annoyances and turned them on their head. Ryan’s argument that viruses had a role in forcing evolution forward by encouraging animals to adapt was a completely new idea to me. The premise that we as humans evolve with viruses, presented viruses as somewhat useful, which was a completely new idea to me. After reading the book I became fascinated by the processes of life’s smallest organisms. I wanted to understand what they did, and how they were doing it. Virolution was my first insight into the shear variety and depth of the field of Biology. Outside of the narrow scope of the high school curriculum, there was a whole new world out there.
Since I read Ryan’s book by happenstance, I delved deeper into any similar books that I could get my hands on. Naturally I found myself reaching for Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene before taking a look at Darwin’s classic The Origins of the Species. These books taught me that I was missing a lot of what was under my nose. I have since decided that I want to pursue biology as a career, and after my degree I will be enrolling to do a PHD. A degree from US University will provide me with a strong set of academic credentials. It’s very important to me, to be part of a committed and active research institution as this is what I want to pursue as a career. By going to an institution with such a commitment to cutting edge research, I will be well placed to make my transition to the academic world myself.
In terms of practical experience with Biology, I have been fortunate enough to complete a work placement at the Baker Laboratory in Washington. My placement as Baker helped me to develop my day-to-day understanding of Laboratory practices and what the working day of a Biologist is like. The staff at Baker Laboratory commented on my commitment to learning, my enthusiasm, and my initiative. I found that I learnt a lot during my short time there, so I can only imagine what I’d learn over years of working at such an institution. I would find nothing more fulfilling than being able to contribute to the academic community full-time.
Outside of my studies and my passion for biology, I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering at the local animal sanctuary. I enjoy helping out with the animals there and aiding the general conservation attempts of the charity. Generally, we tended to smaller animals like badgers and raccoons but sometimes we got larger animals to look after like deer, which have been injured out in the wild. For me, helping to look after a wounded deer and helping her return to the wild was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Naturally, I found it very refreshing to see your institutions commitment to ethical and sustainable research practices.
One day, I would like the opportunity to contribute to academic journals of the future so that I can influence generations of the future to go into the sciences. My work experience and my volunteering efforts have shown me that the study of the natural world is something very important to me, and although I haven’t narrowed down on a specific field of Biology yet, I am confident that I can find this out throughout the course of my degree.
College Essay Example #6
Ever since I learnt about the Crusades in History at school, I’ve known History is the subject for me. Learning about how western Christendom ushered to defense of the holy land and occupied the surrounding areas seemed strangely reminiscent of western interventionism following the Iraq war. To me this was one of those places where History seemed to repeat itself. Since first becoming enamored with the Crusades my passion for History has steadily grown outwards. Today, I’m always expanding my knowledge of History wherever I can. Just recently, I’ve been getting to grips with Russia, reading Richard Pipes’ Russia Under the Old Regime.
As an individual, I’ve always been interested in the Leopold Von Ranke-esque perception of History, where the historian aims to understand history whilst leaving contemporary prejudices at the door. US University’s course on the Second World War, and the peri-centric approach mentioned within the course details, where students will study the lesser powers in World War II suggest that this is an institution committed to inclusion and diversity of history. I’ve always been fascinated with History in terms of hearing from groups/nations who aren’t the typical capitalist superpowers presented to us by mainline historical scholarship.
My interest in studying history comes both as a result of interest, and as a stepping-stone into a career in Journalism. A History degree would act as evidence of my ability to research and disseminate information into a concise and compelling format. Ever since high school I’ve wanted to pursue a career where I can engage with ideas. Indeed, I would be well place to communicate with others in lectures and seminars as I have read enough over time to become quite fluent at presenting information and arguing a point.
After completing a work experience placement at a local newspaper recently I have known that Journalism was the career for me. As part of my experience, I had the opportunity to shadow one of the local journalists, helping to source research for articles through a mixture of online and print based sources. It was my responsibility to ensure that what was written down was accurate and to organize this data so that it could be included within an article. I even got the chance to ghost write on a couple of smaller pieces. Personally, I found this experience to be incredibly rewarding, and with a History degree from US University, I’ll be well placed to enter into a career in Journalism.
Outside of my schoolwork, I’m always staying active, whether its playing basketball with friends or going to the gym, I’m always pushing myself. When I’m not at school or out moving about I’m at home reading. If I’m not holding a book I’ll be on YouTube watching political commentary or debates to unwind (well, most of the time!). I thrive off absorbing ideas from new books. My favorite book would have to be The Prince by Machiavelli. I found the way that Machiavelli eschews traditional morality in favor of tyrannical pragmatism to be very interesting and disturbing. Famously, Machiavelli suggests it is ‘better to be feared than loved’, and I find it interesting how his recommendation of ‘fear’ as a tool of rule would leave him admired by later dictators like Mussolini. I’d be very interested in learning more about Machiavelli and tackling his work as part of the University’s Renaissance module. Exposing myself to these unorthodox political ideas is part of what has made me want to go into political journalism, to engage with ideas that others have put out there, and to critique them.
College Essay Example #7
Since I was a child, I’ve always been competitive. Whilst other kids were out playing football, I was in the boxing gym working hard. I’ve always enjoyed football, but for me there was a whole new level of pressure and competition in Boxing that you didn’t get by playing team sports. I’ve found it immensely rewarding to push myself to the limit. As I grew older at high school I began to look for an avenue that I could make a real career out of, and by chance I stumbled upon an old episode of the TV show Law and Order. I found the idea of being a lawyer and being judged on your performance to be incredibly interesting.
To me, being a lawyer meant working in a meritocratic environment where you are rewarded on your performance. I’ve always had the tenacity to hold strong under pressure, and have the innate ability to thrive in high-pressure environments. With my schoolwork, I’ve always done well because of my dedication to just putting my head down and working hard. At Harvard Law School, I’m going to be the one putting in the hours to get the grades I want. I’m comfortable with throwing myself into a routine, and ensuring that my reading gets done.
I’m driven to study at Harvard because it’s the most prolific law school in the world. Harvard Law School has become synonymous with the study of law across the world, and for good reason. As an elite academic institution, Harvard Law School has the capacity not just to forge careers, but also to forge illustrious careers. I am confident that I am of the character, ability, and intestinal fortitude to thrive in such an environment. For me this is an opportunity to stand out from my peers and to create the life that I want to live. A degree from Harvard Law School will place the keys of my future in law well within my own hands.
Recently, I completed a work experience placement shadowing a lawyer, and have had the opportunity to sit and observe a number of trials. I’ve become familiar with the day-to-day running’s of a law firm, and as part of the role I was responsible for assisting the Lawyer with his research and double-checking documents. I saw that being a Lawyer was a lot of work, but this did not deter me, as I’ve always been a hard worker. Whilst others have been finishing their school day and going home, I’ve been going straight to work at a bar. When others finish up their lectures for the day to go home, I’ll be the one getting work done at the library before starting a 6-hour shift. I’ve always been a firm believer that you get out of life what you put in, and I’m always putting in 100%. Amongst my studies and my work, I’ll definitely be checking out the boxing society, and with aim to compete later in my first year.
With my commitment to working hard, I will be well placed within the culture of Harvard Law School. Work as a Lawyer will be incredibly demanding and time consuming, and I intend to put myself through the paces throughout the duration of the degree so that I’ll be able to hit the ground running when I land my first role as a lawyer. Most importantly of all, I’m willing to fail in order to learn. If I don’t get the grade I want on an assignment, I’m not going to start to crumble under pressure, I’m going to take the feedback on the chin and get back in the library to get the grades I want.
College Essay Example #8
While I like to read, play soccer, be in the outdoors, and hang out with my friends, my passion is music. It started when as a 7 year olds and has blossomed into something I would have never expected. I have learned how to work hard and about victory and defeat. Music has led me on many adventures, helped me find my identity, and shaped who I am today.
One of my first significant experiences as a musician came in the sixth grade. My school did not offer band classes until middle school, but by that age I had been studying a few years with a private instructor and was a member of a community youth orchestra. When I arrived at school, I quickly discovered that I was one of the best musicians in my grade and was given the opportunity to join three bands: the sixth grade band, the seventh grade band, and the jazz band (which was normally limited to seventh and eighth graders).
I reluctantly performed a short trumpet solo during our first performance before the student body. I worked hard on the piece and it went well, but what I remember most was that when I walked down the halls after the concert other sixth graders congratulated me. I did not know many of them, but they told me how “cool” it was that I played with the jazz band. While it may sound vein, this experience allowed me at a young and impressionable age to embrace who I am and gave me self-confidence, pride, and a sense of identity.
That spring I also auditioned for two all-district bands with the best seventh and eighth graders in the county (even though I was only in sixth grade). The experience did not go as well – I was nervous and did a terrible job. I was devastated, but soon realized that if I truly wanted to be great I had to dedicate myself to working harder and learning to handle stress better. I have drawn on these lessons many times in high school. I joined the marching and jazz bands, and made multiple all-district and all-state bands. In addition, when faced with peer pressure or when it would have been easy to question who I am, I was better able to be steadfast and grounded than many of my peers.
My greatest musical achievement happened at the end of my junior year when I participated in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. I stopped working afterschool my last two quarters and doubled my practice time to prepare for the audition. I remembered what I learned going as far back as sixth grade and gave one of the best performances of my life. I then spent a few weeks in New York with a group of students from around the country studying music with an impressive cast of professional musicians. We worked ten to twelve hour days and learned to push our lungs to new levels.
On the last night before we left for a tour in Latin America, we had a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The venue was filed with our parents, a few political and sports celebrities, and many others dressed in their finest. At the end of the concert, as we finished the last note, the entire crowd erupted in applause. I looked into the eyes of my fellow musicians and we shared a moment of pride and accomplishment. I knew in my heart that all my hard work had been worth it and this is what I was meant to do.
College Essay Example #9
I was that “that” teenager who told his parents at the end of high school that he needed to “find himself” and who received a collective eye roll from every adult in a 5 mile radius. I did not know who I was or what I wanted, but I knew I was not ready to go to college. I also knew that I did not want to be one of those “spoiled rich kids” that sat home playing video games and partying on the weekends. Instead, I took the $2000 I had saved up from my afterschool job; bought a backpack, tent, and sleeping bag; and had an adventure that has forever changed my life and prepared me to go to college.
I left the house with the goal of circling the globe over the next year, working along the way to make enough money to eat and travel to my next city. I worked about a dozen jobs, from cleaning out horse stalls in Argentina to fast food in the Philippines. The reality is that, up to that point, I had never really understood the value of money or had to work to survive. I lived in Greece for two months working for a fisherman mending and cleaning his fishing nets. At the end of the day, he would inspect my work and if it was satisfactory I would get paid – if it was not, I was not paid that day. It did not take me long to figure out how to take pride in my work.
I faced dangers that I had never experienced at home. In São Paulo, Brazil, one of my temporary travel companions was robbed at gunpoint while I was chased down the street. In the same city, the children would not go to school during periods of heightened gang violence out of fear for their safety. It was difficult to then be asked by those same kids about my school experiences and why I had chosen to leave home.
Most of all, I learned that most people are generally the same. Regardless of region, economic class, skin color, religion, or gender most people are just trying to do the best they can to navigate their challenges with dignity and give their children more than they have. Towards the end of my journey, I stayed a few weeks in France with a family friend. We talked frequently about what I had seen and observed over the prior months, and I shared this hypothesis with the father. To my surprise, he opened up to me about the struggles he faced raising his children. While he did not to have to worry about whether his kids had enough food to eat, his concerns were just as sincere and real, and I saw in him much of what I had seen in others. While this may not be profound to some, it was for me particularly in light of the negativity and demonization that seems to dominate so much of the public discourse in the United States.
I did not walk away from my year-long adventure with a clear roadmap for my entire life. I do not know for sure what I am going to major in or what will be my final career choose. But I did gain perspective on what the world is really like and my place in it; I learned how to work hard and the dignity that comes from doing so; and I learned how lucky I truly am and the type of life I want to provide for my kids.
I am grateful for the experiences I had and am now better prepared to move forward into adulthood. I hope to have the opportunity to start my next great adventure at your university.
College Essay Example #10
My parent’s favorite television show is a political drama called The West Wing that that went off the air about 10 years ago. Growing up, I frequently walked into a room to find them watching old episodes and, in one such episode, the President of the United States closed a discussion with a group of college students by counseling: “decisions are made by those who show up.” The quote stuck with me, but it was not until recently that I came to understand what it meant.
I will be honest – I initially joined Key Club International, a service organization, because I thought it would look good on a college application. As part of my membership, I was required to complete at least fifty hours of service. I decided the easiest way to complete the requirement was to set up a regular volunteer project and so I agreed to work at the local soup kitchen every other Saturday morning. For the first year, I went on my designated mornings, helped out, and went home, but I began to notice that other student volunteers frequently missed their allotted time and left the facility understaffed.
I could tell this really bothered the Director of the program and it took away from her ability to serve the soup kitchen’s clients. Innocently, I mentioned to the Director that more students may show up on time if she sent them a reminder via text message. She thought it was a good idea and asked if I would mind sending out the messages next week, and so I did. The response was positive and more of the students arrived on time for their shifts.
Over the next few months, the Director continued to ask me questions about how best to engage student volunteers. I helped her set up accounts on various social media platforms, create better internal volunteer tracking charts, and plan a presentation she could make at local schools to recruit volunteers and increase awareness. The Director asked me to join her at one of the presentations and, while I was nervous, I enjoyed sharing my positive experiences with the other students.
At the end of my junior year, the Director was asked to make a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors about the student outreach program and what had made it so successful. She brought me with her and asked that I give part of the presentation. I received a very warm reception from the Board and, at the end, the Chairwoman pulled me aside and asked if I would join a county commission on hunger and poverty. She explained that the Board was struggling to find new solutions to the growing issues facing underprivileged children in the county. I was honored to accept and have since spent a few hours a month at the county offices working on the commission. It has gone so well that both the Chairwoman and the Director offered to write me letters of recommendation to college.
The reality is that I am not more talented than my fellow students. I do not have some great technical knowledge, I am not particularly outgoing, and I am not a great public speaker. But I was willing to show up and help. By doing so, what was meant to be a simple volunteer project two times a month developed into a great adventure where I have met many fantastic people, done things most teenagers never consider possible, and had lots of fun.
I look forward to taking what I have learned with me as I go to college. I hope to have many opportunities to provide service and improve myself, and I am excited to see what adventures the next 4 years bring.
For more tips and advice on applying to college in the U.S, please see:
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- How to write a college essay
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- Admissions tests
- Fees & funding
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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Links to Full College Essay Examples
Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.
Common App Essay Samples
Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:
1. 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. 2. 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? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. 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? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. 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?
7. 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.
Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 145 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts.
- 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025
- 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
- 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
- 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
- 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007
These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).
- 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
- 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
- 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
- 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
- 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
- 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020
- 8 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2019
- 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2018
- 6 Common Application essays
Essay Examples Published by Other Websites
- 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia
Other Sample College Essays
Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.
- 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020
- 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
- 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out
- 10 Harvard essays from 2022
- 10 Harvard essays from 2021
- 10 Harvard essays from 2018
- 6 essays from admitted MIT students
- 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018
- 9 "Why Tufts?" short essays
- 6 "Let Your Life Speak" essays
- 5 Tufts essays that worked, plus video commentary from Tufts Admissions
Books of College Essays
If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.
College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.
50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .
50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.
Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.
Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked
I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.
Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)
I had never broken into a car before.
We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.
Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.
"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"
"Why me?" I thought.
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.
Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.
But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.
Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"
The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.
Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.
What Makes This Essay Tick?
It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!
An Opening Line That Draws You In
In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).
Great, Detailed Opening Story
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.
It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.
Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.
Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight
Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.
Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."
Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.
"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.
Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice
My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.
Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."
The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.
The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.
This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.
What Could This Essay Do Even Better?
Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?
Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.
Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.
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Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)
My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.
Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.
Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.
I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.
In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).
I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.
A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.
It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.
Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.
One Clear Governing Metaphor
This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.
But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:
This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.
Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:
While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.
An Engaging, Individual Voice
This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.
Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).
My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.
I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.
Renner gives a great example of h ow to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.
Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!
For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:
Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.
Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.
Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.
Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.
In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.
The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.
All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.
Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.
#3: Start Early, Revise Often
Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.
Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!
For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .
Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .
Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.
Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.
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