Throughout this guide, we’re going to refer to a few example essays. Some of these are made up but others are closely based on essays we have worked with students on over the past ten-plus years—and these students successfully met their admissions goals, including getting into multiple Ivy League and other top-tier schools. Let’s meet our students now!

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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.
Augustana College invites graduating high school seniors who possess strong records of academic achievement and have demonstrated exceptional leadership to their school and community to participate in the Distinguished Scholars Competition, the college's most prestigious scholarship event. Scholarship awards range from $60,000 to full tuition over four years.
To enter the PARC Essay Scholarship Contest, eligible students must write an original essay of 500 words or less responding to the following question about the North and Middle Fork American River canyons located upstream of Folsom Reservoir, in the Auburn State Recreation Area: Why is the American River and its canyons important to me and what is my vision for improving the Auburn State [...] More

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This remains one of the most challenging prompts of the Common App’s selection, even though it has become slightly friendlier with the addition of the option to discuss a time you questioned an idea instead of challenged one. This prompt requires a student to speak passionately about beliefs and ideology, which are often onerous subjects that can be difficult to mold into compact stories. It can be one of the hardest questions to steer in a positive, productive direction without traveling into preachy, overly didactic territory. This is also a more precarious prompt than most in that students need to carefully assess the risks of espousing beliefs that might be polarizing for the readers of their applications.
I was an avid reader early on, devouring book after book. From the Magic Treehouse series to the too real 1984, the distressing The Bell Jar, and Tagore’s quaint short stories, I accumulated an ocean of new words, some real (epitome, effervescence, apricity), and others fully fictitious (doubleplusgood), and collected all my favorites in a little journal, my Panoply of Words.
However, don’t rely on templates too strongly. The template is there as an aid to your creativity, not a restriction. Use the sample college admission essay template as a scaffolding to build the rest of your essay around, rather than a fence to keep your thoughts contained. College admissions officers see hundreds of essays every year, and you do yourself no favors if you adhere slavishly to a template that the officers have seen before. Depart from the sample essay for college admission whenever you feel that it would improve your essay.
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