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.
A good essay topic can relate, as much as possible, to a particular anecdote, story, or even scene. Let’s say Josh found himself writing about his siblings—his older brother who just left for college, and his little sister who he’s spent more time with since his brother left. His essay shouldn’t start, “I love my little sister,” but “I remember the first time my younger sister and I connected. It was July, and our older brother had just gone to college, leaving the two of us alone at home together for the first time.”

Kim and her business partner, Susan Knoppow, founded Wow in 2009 as a full-service company that specializes in personal statement and supplemental essay coaching services to students applying to college, graduate school, and beyond. The company also provides professional essay coaching to educational consultants and strategic communications and writing services to businesses and nonprofit organizations. Kim and Susan are co-authors of a popular e-book for anyone who works with students applying to college: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents ($9.99 on Amazon.com).

The way you answer the college essay prompt is key to your success. It’s your opportunity to shine, to offer admission readers some understanding into who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and activities. That’s why you need to figure out exactly what you want admission officers to know about you before you pick an essay topic and before you write that first draft.


“When I was seventeen years old, my father lost his battle with kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. As long as I shall live, I do not believe that I will ever forget the first moment I saw my father’s once vibrant face in that cold and unforgiving casket. I won’t forget his lifeless and defeated hands, or how his pale lips would never utter another joke or speak to his grandchildren. Even though the day of his funeral was undoubtedly the worst day of my life, I wish I could relive it just to be with him one more time. Since that moment, I have felt as if all of my grief and longing resides underneath my skin with nothing to relieve the pressure. On September 8th, 2016, I lost my voice of reason, my confidant, my cheerleader, and my best friend.

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Two (2) Two Men and a Truck Moving Up With Education scholarships are offered each year to any graduating senior who attends the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. The first is a renewable $1,000 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who will pursue a degree in education. The second is a renewable $500 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who is entering a technical [...] More

Award Amount: $1,000 The Love Your Career Scholarship is available to students attending an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words describing at least three steps that you plan to take in the next year to start a path towards having a career that you love in order to qualify for this award. Topics may include: What are your passions that could be turned into a career? What are some ideas you have for a business based on things that you love and are skilled at? You must also interview a professional in your chosen field that has at least three years of experience. Learn more about the Love Your Career Scholarship.
To address a question like this, you need a topic that has real stakes—that is, something that you genuinely struggled with. Even though it can seem as though you should only discuss positive experiences and feelings in your college essay (you want to impress your readers with how awesome you are!), unwavering positivity actually hurts your essay because it makes you seem fake.
Explain the car connection better. The essay begins and ends with Bridget's enjoying a car ride, but this doesn't seem to be related either to the Fixer-Upper idea or to her passion for working with special-needs students. It would be great to either connect this into the essay more, or to take it out altogether and create more space for something else.
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My search for the answer began quite unintentionally. When I was initially recommended to serve on the Youth Council my junior year of high school, my perspective on civic engagement was one of apathy and a complete lack of interest. I couldn’t understand how my passion for the medical field had any correlation with serving as a representative for the students at my school and actively engaging within the political sphere. I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a physician, and I was perfectly content embracing the safety net of my introverted textbook world.
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.
Through traveling abroad in Prague, I give myself to a new perspective and open myself up to influence. I want to use my experience to create films that will convince others to do the same—as a representative of the LGBTQ community, I want to send the message of acceptance and tolerance to the world, from the screens of Mezipatra in Prague to my conservative parents’ television sets.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
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.
Tips to consider: Feel free to address anything you want the Office of Admissions to know about your academic record so that we can consider this information when we review your application. You can discuss your academic work, class rank, GPA, individual course grades, test scores, and/or the classes that you took or the classes that were available to you. You can also describe how special circumstances and/or your school, community, and family environments impacted your high school performance.
It can be hard to identify weak sentences and awkward phrasing when you’ve been looking at your own writing for a long time. This clever app acts as a second set of eyes for your editing process. Just paste your text onto the page and it will highlight run-on sentences, common errors, phrases written in passive voice, and adverbs. You can also format your text directly in the app. So handy!
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.
Bill Cowden was a private pilot, commercial airline pilot and airshow performer who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47 in an airshow performance. It is in this spirit and in the loving memory of Bill Cowden that his family established this scholarship so aspiring pilots who lack the financial resources to pursue advanced pilot training will be able to fulfill their dreams. One scholarship [...] More

A few years earlier, my family of nine had been evicted from the home we had been living in for the past ten years. With nowhere else to go, we moved into our church’s back room for three months, where I shamefully tried to hide our toothbrushes and extra shoes from other church members. Right then I made a commitment to my family to contribute financially in whatever way I could. My sacrifice translated to a closer bond with my siblings and deeper conversations with my parents, helping me understand the true meaning of a unified family and the valuable part I play in that.
Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief. The answer to the final question about the "outcome" of your challenge need not be a success story. Sometimes in retrospection, we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.
For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students. I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.

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.
My class of twenty-six has shown me the benefits of a collaborative rather than a competitive environment, especially the impact that camaraderie with my peers has on our collective learning experience. Each student has an inspiring level of passion and motivation that made me excited to learn, work on projects, and participate in discussions both in and out of the classroom. I used my education to gain skills and open doors for myself such as an internship at my local hospital. I gained confidence in my abilities to communicate with individuals from strangers my age to practicing professionals. I was thinking longer and harder than I ever had before to solve individual problems and large-scale challenges. In all honesty, I was having fun.
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The Association of Iron and Steel offers scholarships to students majoring in the following programs: metallurgy, materials science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, industrial engineering, environmental science/engineering, and computer science. The list of the different named scholarships and their specific eligibility requirements can be found at the [...] More
For Peterfriend, one essay that stood out came from a student who taught skiing to a disabled and nonverbal child. He wrote about how they communicated, and how he felt when he got to see the child ski down his first slope. He wrote that he didn’t realize how much joy he could receive by helping someone else. The story reflected compassion and self-growth.
As Ramya’s original first draft moved on, it stumbled into a very Common Error #4: the curious case of the missing lesson. Initially, Ramya’s penultimate paragraph offered a kind of ode to Dee's instead of showing the admissions committee that she has a bigger Life Takeaway from her time spent supporting her team—a problem we could see would happen as soon as we noticed the sentiment of “Thanks Dee's’” occupying the place that should have been reserved for a billboard paragraph. Returning to the outline, or making the outline partway through, would remedy that.
The Apprentice Ecologist Open Space Scholarship is open to middle school, high school, or undergraduate college/university students (ages 13-21) who participate in or lead an environmental stewardship project for the benefit of any lands managed or co-managed by the Open Space Division. In order to apply, you must write an essay about your project and what it meant to you (750-1,500 words) and [...] More

           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.
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This prompt is difficult to answer because most high schoolers haven’t participated in the types of iconoclastic protests against societal ills that lend themselves to an awe-inspiring response. A more tenable alternative here could be to discuss a time that you went against social norms, whether it was by becoming friends with someone who seemed like an outcast or by proudly showing off a geeky passion.


The Amateur Trapshooting Association offers scholarships to its members enrolled in the AIM Program. Only shooters who excel in Trapshooting and have achieved a somewhat high level of success should apply for the scholarship. Only shooters who have an average of 90 percent or higher are eligible to participate. Average will be comprised of all ATA registered targets shot across all disciplines [...] More

A Place for Mom is proud to offer a scholarship to university students interested in the fields of aging and gerontology. As North America's largest senior living referral service, we know the importance of supporting the training and education of our future senior care leaders. This scholarship will be awarded to a citizen or a permanent resident of the United States or Canada (excluding Quebec) [...] More
It was in the halls of my first high school, International Studies Charter High School, that I realized the enormity of what I had lost. Where my peers retained their cultural identities and language, I had almost lost mine. It was there, I learned to embrace a part of me that was virtually buried inside, as I was encouraged to be more open: speaking Creole with my Haitian math teacher and peers. As a senior, I now volunteer weekly helping Haitian ESOL students with their homework. I am both a teacher and a student in that small classroom as I help them with their homework, and, in return, they help me in perfecting my use of Creole. They are my daily reminder of what unites us as Haitians—our ability to triumph in the face of adversity.

Award Amount: $1,000 The Blades of Green Scholarship Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students. You must be pursuing education in environmental studies or related fields and submit a 350 to 500 word letter of intent describing your career path, passion for your intended field and what inspired your pursuit of your field in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the Blades of Grass Green Scholarship Fund.
“In five years I will have a four-year degree in Industrial & Innovative Design and a year of work experience under my belt with a design firm. My degree will provide me with the skills, tools, and technology necessary to digitally design. Communication and interpersonal skills will also be part of my educational foundation as interaction with clients will be an essential part of my job. There are several avenues I could pursue with my degree, but my passion lies in residential architectural design. I will be working in a position where I will be talking to clients, drawing out their dreams in a house, designing it, watching it come to life before my eyes, and seeing them move in, making that space their own. As I gain knowledge and expertise, I envision myself  volunteering for an organization like Habitats for Humanity which provide housing for those in need of a place to call home.”
The Officer Chad Spicer Heroes Scholarship was created in memory of Georgetown, DE police officer Chad Spicer, killed in the line of duty on September 1, 2009. To honor Officer Spicer and his commitment to the community, the Heroes Scholarship seeks to bring awareness to other heroes in our own hometowns. The scholarship is open to high school seniors from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and [...] More
Colleges will sometimes also have a place to offer additional information or context about hardships you might have faced during high school. This is another place you could consider explaining or adding context for bad grades or the like. Even here, it’s important to not simply state, “I had bad grades but improved them.” A better explanation provides context and explains what specifically helped you turn things around, for example: “During my freshman year, as my parents went through a difficult divorce, I became distracted and stressed, and my grades suffered as a result. I was able to work with my teachers over the summer after my freshman year, however, and attended summer school to make up for weak performance. My family also repaired itself after a few years and time in family therapy. Though I regret my poor grades from ninth grade, I am proud that I was able to improve quickly as a sophomore, and that I developed both stronger study habits and tactics for dealing with emotional stress as a result.” The second answer is specific and also demonstrates maturity gained thanks to a difficult period.
It is important that the problem you choose is linked to your life and world in a meaningful way. The whole purpose of this exercise is to reveal something valuable about yourself to admissions, so be sure to link the problem you highlight to your passions, actions, or aspirations. And don’t forget to detail at least a few steps you would/could take to solve your chosen quandary. While the prompts don’t really matter in the initial conception phases of an essay (as you now know), once you’ve settled into your prompt of choice, following instructions to the fullest and answering all parts of each question are critical.
The Common App’s Prompt #1 is the Old Faithful of essay questions. It’s been around for years and offers all the flexibility an applicant could ask for from a prompt, with just enough direction to get those creative fountains flowing. Focus on the key words, “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent,” and use them as launch points for your brainstorming. What about your history, personality, hobbies, or accomplishments might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer? It can be something as small as seeing an episode of a television show (are you living life in the Upside Down?) or as large as the struggle of moving to a foreign country (especially if you had to leave behind grandma’s cooking). The most important thing to consider for this prompt is that your subject and/or perspective is dynamic and specific to you and who you are and no one else.

RULES TO IGNORE In English class, you may have to follow a list of rules your teacher says are necessary for good grammar: Don’t use contractions. No sentence fragments. It’s imperative to always avoid split infinitives. Ending on a preposition is the sort of English up with which teachers will not put. And don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but” or “because.” Pick up a good book. You’ll see that the best authors ignore these fussy, fusty rules.

Although there is no single thing we are hoping to find out about you, the essay can help you “come to life” and often becomes a way for us to understand your story. Remember, we aren’t looking for perfection. We are looking for the human being behind the roster of activities and grades. Think of the essay as an opportunity rather than an ordeal. Don't psych yourself out by thinking the essay has to do all the heavy lifting in your application. It is only one part in our holistic review that allows us to construct an interesting Oberlin community.
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.
Summer is underway but the fall school semester is peaking over the horizon. Or, if you’re one of those unlucky students attending summer school, you’re right in the thick of it. Either way, there’s a good chance you have to write an essay. And let’s face it: Writing isn’t everyone’s strength. If you struggle with writing, or if you simply don’t like writing, essays can be a source of considerable stress and frustration.

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Since I will be studying for an entire year in Prague, I will have the opportunity to attend the annual Mezipatra, an international film festival in November that screens around a hundred top-ranking films on lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer themes. I feel really connected to going to this event because I crave being in an environment of like-minded people who strive to do that same thing I want to: balance the images of people typically portrayed through cliché and stereotype.
By now you know exactly what you will write about and how you want to tell the story. So hop on a computer and get to it. Try to just let yourself bang out a rough draft without going back to change anything. Then go back and revise, revise, revise. Before you know it, you will have told the story you outlined—and reached the necessary word count—and you will be happy you spent all that time preparing!
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This fund was established in 1996 by the NM Manufactured Housing Association to provide scholarship awards to New Mexico graduating high school seniors residing in a manufactured home. Applicant must live in a mobile/manufactured home, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, attend a 2 or 4-year non-profit public educational institution full-time and write an essay describing their career goals.For more [...] More
Tips to consider: Leadership can be demonstrated by positions you hold as an officer in a club or organization, but other types of leadership are important too. Leaders can emerge in various situations at any given time, including outside of the school experience. Please share a brief description of the type of leadership qualities you possess, from school and non-school related experiences, including demonstrations of leadership in your job, your community, or within your family responsibilities, and then share how you hope to demonstrate leadership as a member of our campus community.
Applicants must be the child, stepchild, spouse, or grandchild, or other DoD recognized dependent of a graduate of NAVSCOLEOD. NAVSCOLEOD graduates are not eligible for scholarship awards. Active Duty personnel are not eligible for scholarship awards. Military academy students are not eligible to receive EODMF Scholarships. Students may apply in case they are not accepted or decide not to attend [...] More
“I could not believe my eyes. Before me were fifteen massive jugs of Martinelli’s cider, needing to be consumed by my family of nine in just three days. My mother, the science volunteer for my second grade class, needed the bottles for a science project. As my mother came in biweekly to do hands-on projects with the students, I became immersed in science. My class, and myself, marveled at the sights before us. Our lessons were filled with sucking eggs into bottles, dissecting owls’ poop, and even completing a circuit using wires attached to a student’s capped front teeth. The possibilities for amazement were endless.
The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles. Prizes and scholarships can be awarded at the Post, District, state and national level. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or [...] More
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Your college essay should reflect your authentic speaking voice, but that doesn’t mean that you can write it like a lengthy text message. There’s simply no excuse for any major grammatical or spelling errors on your essay. After you’ve completed your essay, go over it with a fine-toothed comb to look for any technical errors. A second pair of eyes can be essential; sometimes, writers are blind to their own mistakes. If you and your helper can’t agree on the proper grammar for a particular phrase, rewrite the phrase to avoid the thorny issue. Also take the time to read your essay aloud; certain phrases may sound fine in your head, but hearing them spoken can highlight awkward phrasing or unclear wording.
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