You might be familiar with The Common Application, Common App for short, which serves as a single application that over seven-hundred colleges, including every Ivy League school (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton) and Stanford, share. The Common App allows you to fill out things like your name, demographics, extracurricular activities, and more, just once for every school that uses it. It is also where you’ll encounter “The Common App Essay,” otherwise known as your personal statement (PS), which is what this guide will focus on.
At 13, I was an ordinary teenage girl. I had my favorite movie stars, my secret crushes, and I probably ate too much chocolate. School mattered very little to me and learning even less. I worried about getting good grades in school but only to please my parents. My happy life consisted of sweet treats and even sweeter thoughts, an endless array of bite-sized banality. All that changed the summer of my 13th year, the year my older sister went away to college.

Kevin Ladd is the chief operating officer and vice president of Scholarships.com, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid information resources online. The organization also formed RightStudent about five years ago, a company that has built relationships with colleges and universities across the U.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact with prospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. Follow Scholarships.com on Twitter and Facebook.


If you’ve spent your summer freewriting and then carefully selecting the right essay topic, you’re now in a strong place to start writing—ideally at the end of July or early August. (Remember that if you are applying early action or early decision to schools your deadline will come at the start of November, whereas regular decision applications will generally have December and January deadlines.) We can’t emphasize enough the importance of this organized pre-work, though—it’s incredibly frustrating for a student to write an entire draft and then find that it’s just “falling flat” or “doesn’t sound like them” or “is cliché.” Using the criteria we’ve already set out, though, you can avoid that scary feeling of having done a lot of work that you’ve got to shelve.
The Daniel J. Kimber Scholarship Program has been established in memory of Daniel Jarrod Kimber, a valued employee of Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union. This scholarship is to provide senior level students with a portion of the funds needed to attend college. Scholarships will be awarded based on high school academic achievement, school/community involvement and submission of an [...] More
Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one who paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. A self-admitted Phys. Ed. addict, I volunteered to help out with the Adapted PE class. On my first day, I learned that it was for developmentally-disabled students. To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn't had too much interaction with special needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself around them. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping out in APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program. I love working with the students and watching them progress.

Every year, the college application process seems to get more complex, and more intense. If you’re a student, you might be reviewing rumors and horror stories about that classmate of yours with perfect grades and a 1500 SAT score who somehow got rejected from every Ivy League school. If you’re a parent, you might be afraid of how much the college admissions system has changed and grown more competitive since you were your kids’ age, or perhaps you never had to navigate this system at all.
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Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like "to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills," and use details that show your interests: "I'm an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation." Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.
Scholarship Search Insider features advice and information on how prospective college students can find scholarships and pay for college. Student Loan Hero, an organization that helps student loan borrowers manage their debt and provides financial advice, including on scholarships, is the current contributor. Previous contributors included GoodCall.com, Scholarships.com, College Greenlight and Cappex.com. Got a question? Email scholarshipsearchinsider@usnews.com.
The Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholarship Program enables community college students of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement to complete their baccalaureate degrees at the University of Washington, Seattle Campus. Martin Scholars are encouraged to join the Honors Departmental Program at the UW and, depending on their choice of major, are eligible to graduate with departmental or [...] More

Your grammar and usage do not have to be perfect. However, your essay should be polished and free of conspicuous errors, such as typos and spelling mistakes. In addition to having reviewers spot any issues with clarity and readability, Southwestern University Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services Christine Bowman suggests, “print out your essay, and read it aloud to make sure you have not missed any key words or punctuation. Sometimes we type faster than our thoughts get onto the page.” Seeing your essay printed in hard copy can help you see what you might miss on screen; reading it aloud can help you “hear” errors that your eyes might skip.
“Having worked in children’s education for years, I’m enthralled by child psychology. From shaping my Kumon students’ work ethic through positive reinforcement to employing associative learning to help my church students anchor their understanding of scripture, I have become experienced in using my knowledge of psychological concepts to help children manifest their cognitive and social abilities. Based on my experience working and bonding with youth, I want to be able to integrate psychological concepts into my future work as a pediatrician to develop supportive and insightful relationships with my patients.
Sometimes an unconventional essay can capture Admissions Officers’ attention and move them in a profound way; other times, the concept can fly completely over their heads. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources. As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.
The purpose of our scholarship program is to provide support to individuals that are legal residents of the United States of America, under the age of 25, who have been diagnosed with or treated for cancer, a chronic, or life threatening debilitating disease within the past five years. Applicant must write an essay on how their diagnosis has impacted their life and their future goals.
Award Amount: 2 Awards of $1,000 The College Scholarship is available to students enrolled at an accredited high school, college or university. You must have a minimum 2.8 GPA and submit a 500-700 word essay to qualify for this award. The essay should detail how you are driven to innovate, how you plan to influence progress on any level in any space or how you have already affected positive change with creative thinking. Learn more about the College Scholarship.
One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event (whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage) that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation. In the case of religious topics, however, be sure to not get carried away with details, and focus on the nature of your personal growth and new understanding — know your audience.
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AAA South Jersey is sponsoring its annual essay contest for local high school seniors, with the grand prize being a $5,000 scholarship toward a two-or-four year accredited educational institution. The contest is open to all high school seniors attending school in Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester or Salem counties. Entry forms are available at AAA South Jersey offices in Voorhees, Sewell, Logan [...] More
When developing a topic that reveals something new, find a way to frame the story or idea that shows a slice of your life or the event. Be descriptive and give details that appeal to the senses – taste, touch, smell, etc. When writing about a meaningful experience or event, you don’t have to give a long timeline of events. Instead, give the reader the piece of the puzzle that conveys your message.

Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things.

With 100 words, you can only focus on one or two elements of your life. Think about your biggest selling points – the things that show you are the ideal candidate. Start by introducing yourself and your educational status. Then jump into the main topic of the essay. You may not have room to mention how the scholarship will help your education. Instead, mention how your education can help your career. The other information will be implied.
Students should think about everything from more traditional obstacles they have had to overcome to the small predicaments that have inspired them to think about what they really value. Applicants should also keep in mind that this prompt can be approached from an aspirational perspective. In other words: you don’t have to simply choose from problems you’ve already solved. Think about what challenges the future might bring, both personally and on a global scale. How might you be part of meaningful progress and problem-solving moving forward?
I was a late reader and had difficulties with spelling, but I didn’t realize that as my mom let me progress at my own pace and never compared me to others. I had plenty of opportunities to be a child and learn through play during the early years and to explore and follow my interests, which often centered around horses and animals. The freedom to pursue my interests is how my passion for architectural design also began as I got a little older. In the early years, my mom would dictate for me and allow me to answer questions orally while my written expression and spelling developed. My mom was a firm believer in “better late than never,” when it came to reading and learning. This method worked well for me. I learned much later that I had dyslexia, and I believe if I had started off in public school I would have been frustrated and realized I was struggling more than the other children. My love for learning very well may have been hampered.
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.
As you’re iterating, try Tip #7: Read your drafts aloud so that you can tell when things feel stiff or weak; this should sound like you. Reading aloud can help you catch things like Common Error #5: tonal errors—sounding too formal or too glib/casual. Ramya never suffered from either of these problems; she sounded like herself even in early drafts. But many students feel that they either have to sound formal to the point of stuffiness (“On a Sunday afternoon, my father would pick me up from my room and take me down to the kitchen, whereupon we would adjourn to Dee’s Sports bar…”) or “authentically young” to the point of disrespecting the reader (“On Sundays my dad’s like, let’s go to Dee’s Sports Bar, and I go okay so I come on down and we get going...”) When you’re staring at the blinking cursor until your eyes cross, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps, and to write in a voice that isn’t yours. When you read aloud, you can catch it. Tip #8: The right essay-voice is the most polished version of your speaking-voice. You shouldn’t sound like you swallowed a Thesaurus, but you should sound a little more formal than your text messages to your friends would.
Sometimes an unconventional essay can capture Admissions Officers’ attention and move them in a profound way; other times, the concept can fly completely over their heads. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources. As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.

The Sophie and Hans Scholl Memorial Scholarship is open to all Nevada public high school seniors. The scholarship is for Nevada high school seniors wishing to study political science, German language or a German-related field. Students who also wish to enroll in a university in Germany are eligible to apply. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information or to apply, please visit the [...] More
With the financial stability that my part-time jobs provided my mother could stay home to raise seven children, my learning-disabled older sister could attend college, my younger sister could go on a mission trip to Korea, and my twin siblings could compete in national math competitions. I’ve seen that even as a high school student, I have so much potential to impact my family and beyond -- how one small act can go a long way.
This award annually recognizes star qualities in a male high school senior or college student who competes in the sport of bowling. Star qualities include distinguished certified bowling performance on the local, regional, state and national levels, academic achievement and extracurricular and civic involvement. The award winner receives a $6,000 scholarship.
It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.
While it's important to be thoughtful and mature, you don't want your college application essay to be too heavy. Try to lighten up the essay with a clever metaphor, a well-placed witticism, or a little self-deprecating humor. But don't overdo it. The essay that is filled with bad puns or off-color jokes will often end up in the rejection pile. Also, humor isn't a substitute for substance. Your primary task is to answer the essay prompt thoughtfully; the smile you bring to your reader's lips is just a bonus (and a tear can sometimes be effective too). Many students have been rejected for failing to take the prompt seriously and writing essays that end up being more foolish than clever.

College application essays are meant to help college admissions officers get to know students outside of the information already available on the college application, and can provide some context into students’ interests, goals, and motivations. Supplements are also a great way to help students demonstrate their informed interest. While some quirky college application essay prompts might seem weird and irrelevant, students have the chance to get creative and revel something about themselves that can’t be found anywhere else in the application.
In this essay, choose a time that you were able to listen to experiences and perspectives contrary to yours with respect and maturity. Demonstrate that you are able to zoom out from your personal worldview and learn from those you may disagree with. This can not only give colleges an idea of your ability to engage in difficult ideological debates, but also your character and humility.
WIFLE Foundation, Inc. and Women in Federal Law Enforcement, Inc. (both known as WIFLE) are organizations with a goal to achieve gender equity within federal law enforcement through the recruitment, retention, and promotion of qualified women. WIFLE offers several scholarships to talented individuals to meet the demands in the field of law enforcement and to foster the professional development of [...] More
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2. Billboard/nutgraph/thesis paragraph: in the magazine world, they call the second paragraph in a piece the “billboard paragraph” because it broadcasts—loud as on a billboard—what the piece is about. Newspapers call the same thing a nutgraph, and academic papers would refer to your thesis statement. All these point to one thing: this is where you shout, HEY! THIS IS WHAT MY ESSAY IS ABOUT! This is where you meld the scene and characters of paragraph 1 with the thematic concerns you’ll address for the rest of the essay. For Ramya, it goes something like this: Dee's is where I learned to be loyal—to my team, the Patriots, from across the country—but also to my father, to my friends, and to myself. Ramya’s essay is going to focus on loyalty: a big theme, one that would sound terribly weak if she introduced it in the first line or even paragraph, but one that is surprising and interesting here because she’s juxtaposed it against a unique setting and seemingly light fare—sports at a bar. (Ramya has, at some point, assured the admissions committee that she’s not drinking in this bar!)
The Academic Merit Scholarship is open to both ABA and non-ABA Members. To be eligible, candidates will have completed, at a minimum, their first year of an accredited university (4-year university/college or junior college); must have a declared major or course of study relevant to the transportation, travel and tourism industry; must possess a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher.
The Watts Humanitarian Scholarship Fund offers a $500 a year award plus laptops to recognize graduating seniors with potential for service and leadership. We believe these qualities are essential to leading a balanced life and would like to aid students who choose to pursue philanthropic endeavors. The WHSF Board of Directors named this scholarship in honor of the late Demetrick C. Watts I, a [...] More
Unfortunately, my story is not one of a kind. There are countless children in America who are put on mind-altering medications that do not adequately address their needs. I cannot help all of those children, but I can provide a better alternative for the ones in my area. Through proper education, funded by financial aid, I can learn about psychological evaluations and provide the most accurate diagnoses possible.
Even though most college applications only have a suggested minimum of 250 words and no established limit, it is imperative that students realize that every admissions officer has a large pile of essays to read on a daily basis. Since he or she normally expects to spend fewer than five minutes reading through your writing, it is recommended that your essay has fewer than 700 words total to avoid straining their patience. Instead of trying to cover everything in your essay, be concise and coherent when giving the committee a snapshot of your autobiography.
South Coast Water District awards scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who live in the District's service area in coastal south Orange County, California. College-bound high-school seniors who live in the South Coast Water District service area which includes the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, Monarch Beach, South Laguna (south of Nyes Place), areas of north San [...] More
The Pride Foundation offers more than 50 different scholarships though there is only one application to complete. Scholarships are available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight-ally (straight and supportive of LGBT issues) students as well as students from LGBT families. Students must either be residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington (but may study [...] More
The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.
The Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to up to three Michigan students whose ideals and goals reflect those of the Senator. Graduates of Michigan high schools or community colleges planning to attend Lake Superior State University are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA as of their current year of study and demonstrate an interest in public service, as [...] More
Homeschooling laid a firm foundation; my values are firmly rooted. My work ethics are strong. I can stand on my own two feet and function independently. I have the skills to manage both my education and my personal life outside of my home. I have the skills necessary to be a successful college student and to pursue a higher level of learning. I give much of this credit to the experience I received as a homeschooled student early on in my formative years.”
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.
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Sometimes, I only sleep 4 hours as I wake up and rush out the door in order to make it on time to 6am tutoring. Having to manage my schoolwork and home responsibilities has been difficult but I've managed to maintain high academic achievement by managing my time correctly and being persistent. If I truly want something, I need to go after it, and I will get it done. Sometimes being tired isn't an option.
The Student Opportunity Scholarship program serves Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) college students by providing need-based aid for sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are full-time, first-degree students attending accredited institutions in the United States. Student Opportunity Scholarship applicants will explore who God created them to be in a series of essay questions intended for students to [...] More
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The obvious answer is "Whichever scholarship is worth the most money" but only assuming you haven’t put things off for too long. If it is February of your senior year in high school, see which ones still have deadlines you can make – there should still be plenty. It is imperative that you respect deadlines and get your scholarship applications and/or essays in on time. Put those with the closest due date at the top of your list and don’t bother with one if you aren’t confident you truly qualify or don't stand a good chance of winning. Once you have finished the ones that are "slam dunks," you may still have time to go back and apply to the ones in the "maybe" category. If you start early enough (think October of your senior year), you will definitely be giving yourself an advantage. You might not be able to get an application for all of them yet but the rules and requirements of some great scholarships may be available. You can use these to get an early start on your application or to get a feel for what scholarship providers will be looking for. Start early and time won’t be an issue. You will be able to base priority strictly on the largest amount of money being offered and on confidence in your ability to win a scholarship. Good luck!
Winners of the Health Careers Scholarship Program demonstrate a strong motivation to pursue a health care career, academic excellence, a dedication to community service and a need for financial support of their education. The program is open to higher education students entering their junior and senior years of full-time undergraduate study in the coming fall. This program is not open to [...] More
Answer: Since you only have 650 words to express the intangible parts of yourself, we always recommend using as much of the word limit as possible. If you’re well below that limit, it’s worth asking yourself why your personal statement is so short. Check it against the outlines we’ve worked through in this post. Have you used your five-paragraph essay fully? Has your essay demonstrated change over time, or personal growth? Perhaps you’ve told a story but forgotten to reflect on it. The important thing is to ensure that you’ve fully inhabited each ‘element’ of the successful Common App Essay, as noted in this guide. Doing so will bring you close to the sensible word limit.
Technique #2: invented terminology. The second technique is the way Bridget coins her own terms, carrying them through the whole essay. It would be easy enough to simply describe the people she imagined in childhood as helpers or assistants, and to simply say that as a child she wanted to rule the world. Instead, she invents the capitalized (and thus official-sounding) titles “Fixer-Upper” and “Emperor of the World,” making these childish conceits at once charming and iconic. What's also key is that the titles feed into the central metaphor of the essay, which keeps them from sounding like strange quirks that don’t go anywhere.
There is only one recipe for admission essay writing that never fails: share a compelling personal experience that shows how you’re ready to build your future in this school. You can always lean into how you have always been of fan of the school sports team, or it’s been a family tradition to attend this school. Most schools love nostalgia and personal connections to their university.

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.


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 Connor Porter Memorial Scholarship was created in 2013 through a generous donation from Connor's family members. Connor passed away on July 26, 2012 in a plane crash with his father, Pat, and another friend shortly after winning bronze in the Division III foil event at the Summer Nationals in Anaheim. Connor had many friends in the fencing world and was well known for his sportsmanship and [...] More

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.
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