Student #4: Michael: Michael lives in a small coastal town and attends a big public high school. After school he has a job scooping ice cream, and though he’s not expected to contribute to his family’s income, he doesn’t have much time for clubs or sports, which aren’t very important at his school. He generally likes chemistry, but he isn’t sure what he wants to do with that. He doesn’t want to be pre-med, and he can’t imagine being a chemist, so he’s undecided about what to major in.
For example, if you’re passionate about cooking or baking, you could use specific details by explaining, in depth, the intricate attention and artistry necessary to make a dish or dessert. You can delve into why certain spices or garnishes are superior in different situations, how flavors blend well together and can be mixed creatively, or even the chemistry differences between steaming, searing, and grilling.
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.
This question was reworded in 2017-18 admissions cycle, and the current language is a huge improvement. The prompt use to talk about transitioning from childhood to adulthood, but the new language about a "period of personal growth" is a much better articulation of how we actually learn and mature (no single event makes us adults). Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). This prompt is an excellent choice if you want to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the "hero" essay—admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season-winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play (see the list of bad essay topics for more about this issue). These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.
For this situation, if you made a poor decision, focus on the way you would change it. On the other hand, if you made a good decision, focus on what influenced you to make that decision and how it has changed you. You might think you have to pick an example where you took a risk, but your essay could be more memorable if you choose a candid example of when you chose to play it safe. 
There are a few different kinds of loyalty. Loyalty to a team, to an establishment, to other people—even to oneself. Sitting in that bar over the last year, I feel like I’ve glimpsed them all. As a Boston-born girl, my loyalty to the Patriots seems natural—even if it’s not so common for a teenage Indian-American-Californian girl to be as much of a sports junkie as I am. But I’ve seen that loyalty tested plenty of times. I’m completely invested in the Pats; I’ve been known to be giddy when they win, and tearful when they lose. However, finding a true home to watch Patriots games in California isn’t easy. So I owe Dee's Sports Bar a surprising amount. By the end of the season, the staff knew what we wanted to eat, and where we wanted to sit, so the sports bar felt like a second home.

2. The Patterned/Iterative Essay: This module is a little more advanced. Let’s take Josh's essay about piano playing. He might want to open with a scene of him playing piano on stage, but that’s a little obvious. The essay he’s going to write is actually about practice, and learning to stop making mistakes. So what if he started each paragraph with a different mini-moment of him playing piano and making a mistake? Paragraph 1: My first time erring on stage—I am six, and I’m playing Chopsticks. Then he’ll introduce the theme of the essay. Paragraph #2: My second time messing up—I am thirteen, and… etc. Then the natural place to end it is the time he almost messes up but doesn’t, which shows us how he’s grown overtime.
For many high school seniors, it can be maddeningly frustrating to choose the “right” Common App essay topic because the options are so broad. Take a look at the seven available essay prompts for the 2018-19 Common App. (These prompts are unchanged from the 2017-18 application season.) As we noted in a previous blog post, prompt number 7 actually grants students permission to write their own essay question and respond to it. How open-ended can you get?

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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.
The class quickly degenerated into anarchy. I spent the first twenty minutes watching as elbows sent pencils overboard and handmade tattoos crawled up arms. With chaos mounting, I was paralyzed by the inability to speak. I forced myself to listen, as their conversations progressed to artistic ideas: Spiderman ornaments, Batman Christmas cards, ninja star origami. I expected a stir of artistic energy as their art took shape, but all I heard was the crinkling of paper and scattering of markers as ideas never became reality.  
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Project Sleep's Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship is the first-ever national narcolepsy scholarship program to support students with narcolepsy while also fostering awareness in high school and college settings. Applicant must be a high school senior who will attend a four-year university starting in the fall and must have a signed letter from an accredited sleep specialist or neurologist with [...] More
The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2011 State of College Admission report found that while grades, strength of curriculum and admission test scores are the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities believe the essay to be of considerable or moderate importance in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.
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.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child because I had trouble focusing in school. My doctor prescribed medication to improve my symptoms, but all it did was make me numb to the world around me. I couldn’t think or process emotions, and most of the time, I had no emotions at all. I went through this for several years until my parents finally decided to get a second opinion.
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Keep in mind that the personal statement alone won’t be enough to get you in—your grades and test scores are still the most important factors in your application. That being said, a stellar essay can help bring a borderline applicant over the top or give an excellent but not extraordinary student the opportunity to stand out in a competitive applicant pool.
Every evening at precisely 6:30 p.m., my family and I unfailingly gather in our living room in anticipation of Pat Sajak’s cheerful announcement: “It’s time to spin the wheel!” And the game is afoot, our banter punctuated by the potential of either big rewards or even bigger bankruptcies: “She has to know that word—my goodness, why is she buying a vowel?!”
“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.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2011 State of College Admission report found that while grades, strength of curriculum and admission test scores are the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities believe the essay to be of considerable or moderate importance in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.

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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.
“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.
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.
Before you dive (or cannonball!) into our pool of essay advice, we’d like to leave you with one last little secret: the prompts are not actually as important as you think they are. In fact, in our instructional writing course and private advising, we encourage applicants to root around for their most meaningful stories first and consider the prompts later. This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here. For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: The prompts don’t really matter. What matters is the story you want to tell. (And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run.) We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story (or two or twelve!) to communicate to admissions. All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it. So take a peek at what the 2018-19 application has in store for you, absorb what these prompts are really asking, and then forget about them (really!) as you explore the endless possibilities.
Colleges and other types of organizations often award scholarships to students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and also have financial need. Letters written for this type of program should emphasize outstanding academic accomplishment in terms of grades and financial need, as well as extracurricular activities and community involvement.
Imagine you’ve struck a deal with the Dean of Admissions himself, Dean Nondorf. It goes as follows: you’re guaranteed admission to the University of Chicago regardless of any circumstances that arise. This bond is grounded on the condition that you’ll obtain a blank, 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, and draw, write, sketch, shade, stencil, paint etc., anything and everything you want on it; your only limitations will be the boundaries of both sides on the single page. Now the catch… your submission, for the rest of your life, will always be the first thing anyone you meet for the first time will see. Whether it’s at a job interview, a blind date, arrival at your first Humanities class, before you even say, “hey,” they’ll already have seen your page, and formulated that first impression. Show us your page. What’s on it, and why? If your piece is largely or exclusively visual, please make sure to share a creator's accompanying statement of at least 300 words, which we will happily allow to be on its own, separate page.    
Things to consider:  Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can’t get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.
Even a personal statement can have a thesis. It’s important to remember that, though your ending can be somewhat ambiguous—something we’ll discuss more later—your set-up should give the reader a clear sense of where we’re headed. It doesn’t have to be obvious, and you can delay the thesis for a paragraph or two (as this writer does), but at some point in the first 100 words or so, we need to know we’re in good hands. We need to trust that this is going to be worth our time.
IAPMO formed the foundation - the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) - to help provide safe access to clean water and sanitation systems. How would you promote the IWSH projects and what slogan would you use do to so? Students must be a current high school senior; or enrolled or accepted as a full-time student in an accredited technical school, community college, trade [...] More
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!
2. The Patterned/Iterative Essay: This module is a little more advanced. Let’s take Josh's essay about piano playing. He might want to open with a scene of him playing piano on stage, but that’s a little obvious. The essay he’s going to write is actually about practice, and learning to stop making mistakes. So what if he started each paragraph with a different mini-moment of him playing piano and making a mistake? Paragraph 1: My first time erring on stage—I am six, and I’m playing Chopsticks. Then he’ll introduce the theme of the essay. Paragraph #2: My second time messing up—I am thirteen, and… etc. Then the natural place to end it is the time he almost messes up but doesn’t, which shows us how he’s grown overtime.

In order to qualify to apply for the Ashley Soulé Conroy Study Abroad Scholarship, applicant must be a U.S. citizen who is enrolled as an undergraduate in a U.S. 4-year college or university. Applicants must also have at least 30 hours of completed undergraduate credit by the time of the study abroad term’s start date and intend to study abroad in a program that is outside of the U.S. and be [...] More
But wait. There is one big rule. Be humble. Don’t try so hard to sound adult, or beyond your years, that you end up coming across as a know-it-all. It’s better to show the admissions committee that you are capable of finding and making meaning through the experiences you’ve had as a young person, no matter how small or limited they may seem to you. If you’ll let us wax philosophical for a moment: that ability to make meaning from something that isn’t pompous or dramatic—and to do so without being aggrandizing—is the stuff of great art. So you’re in a good tradition if you stick to humility and take a deliberate and honest approach to your essays.
“If you can’t live off of it, it is useless.” My parents were talking about ice skating: my passion. I started skating as a ten-year-old in Spain, admiring how difficulty and grace intertwine to create beautiful programs, but no one imagined I would still be on the ice seven years and one country later. Even more unimaginable was the thought that ice skating might become one of the most useful parts of my life.
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.
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