The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. The essay length limit stands at 650 words (the minimum is 250 words), and students will need to choose from the seven options below. The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.
I remember in ninth grade thinking how cool it’d be to be on yearbook. Yearbook kids knew which classes everyone was in, they knew which kids were into what extracurricular, and perhaps most importantly, they knew everyone at school. From freshmen to seniors to faculty, yearbook gave them a connection to everyone. Yearbook kids radiated serene confidence in themselves and their work. At my school, that’s how it is: yearbook is a mini-company of 20.
The first time when the comparison between magical fixer-upper’s and the future disability specialist is made is when Bridget turns her metaphor onto herself. The essay emphasizes the importance of the moment through repetition (two sentences structured similarly, both starting with the word “maybe”) and the use of a very short sentence: “Maybe it could be me.”
In this article, I’ll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 13 different schools. Finally, I’ll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 125 full essays and essay excerpts, this article will be a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!
Youth Council isn’t something most students with a passion in practicing medicine chose to participate in, and it certainly wasn’t something I thought would have such an immense impact on the way I view patient care. As a patient’s ultimate advocate, a physician must look beyond hospital gowns and IV tubes and see the world through the eyes of another. Rather than treat diseases, a physician must choose to treat a person instead, ensuring compassionate care is provided to all. While I know that throughout my academic career I will take countless classes that will teach me everything from stoichiometry to cellular respiration, I refuse to take the knowledge I learn and simply place it on a flashcard to memorize. I will use it to help those whom I must be an advocate for: my patients.
We talked a lot about whether Josh would do best avoiding writing about piano—it’s the main thing on his resumé and sometimes it can be good to show things off-resumé, as Ramya and Anita plan to. Josh did some writing about his relationship with his sister and his brother, and that might find a home in the secondary essays. But it became clear that Josh has an obsessive, if not always positive, relationship with piano, and so there’s something there.
Another way to get critical distance from your essay is to get criticism. And I don’t mean a slash-and-burn review like you might get from an unreasonable reality-TV competition judge. I’m talking about constructive feedback from trusted friends, family, or mentors. Southwestern University Assistant Director of Admission Rebecca Rother recommends having two people review your essay. The first should be someone “who knows you super well, such as a parent, best friend, close teacher, etc. They will be able to see the essence of you in the story you’ve chosen.” The second reader should be “someone who doesn’t know you as well,” such as “a teacher you haven’t had for a few years, a friend of the family, the librarian at the local library, etc. This will be the person who makes sure that you aren’t missing key details to your story.” Often, the college-application essay is so personal that you can forget that your reader, the admission officer, is practically a stranger and may not recognize the people and places you mention in your essay, so your second reader can help you clarify those unfamiliar references.
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?
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.
This fund was created through an estate gift from William J. Blair. Scholarships provide assistance to graduating seniors and families from any Fort Collins high school who are unable to pay for a college or vocational school education. Applicant must be a graduating senior, attending a post-secondary college or vocational school, and rank in the upper 50% of the graduating class. An essay is [...] More
My first HOSA conference as the Historian was the International Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida in June 2017. Over 2,500 students came together to learn from five outstanding healthcare professionals. Topics included exploring healthcare careers, changes in healthcare, and medical innovations needed in the industry. I had the opportunity to have an active role in facilitating and participating in workshops and meetings for HOSA members. The goal of these workshops and meetings was to develop practical leadership skills, effective communication skills with people of all ages, and to understand the importance of encouraging individual and group achievements. Exceptional qualities that I plan on using in my career.
Additionally, abuse can hurt people physically, mentally, and financially. Physical abuse results in injuries that cost money in order to be fixed. Many remain in or return to an abusive relationship because they lack the financial resources to live on their own. Also, children who grow up around domestic violence are 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually abused than the national average. In short, abuse can have various effects on those involved.
The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to you know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and what matters to you.
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.
The Edmund F. Maxwell Foundation believes it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of high-achieving students. The Maxwell Foundation is offering financial aid for freshmen starting a four-year private college program during the upcoming academic year. The scholarship is renewable for four years. Students who plan to pursue a four-year degree at an accredited private college or [...] More
The Gerald M. Crane Memorial Music Scholarship Fund was established in 1997 by caring people who wish to honor Mr. Crane's devotion to the musical arts and his commitment to music education. The scholarships provide high school music students in the West Michigan area with a cash award ranging from to further pursue their musical endeavors. Applicants may seek a scholarship for a variety of [...] More
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.
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.
That said, a response to this prompt can be incisive and deeply personal, as it was for a student who stood up to her parents’ old-fashioned outlook on feminism. Applicants who can articulate their thoughts and feelings while showcasing malleability and willingness to thoughtfully consider the ideas of others will likely stand out as valuable additions to any campus. If this prompt jumps out at you because you have a very specific story to tell or opinion to voice, run with it!
This will also give you time to craft an outline, which can help your essay stay concise and on target. Think of two or three main points you want to make in response to the essay question, add some supporting information under each of them, and consider a sentence or two of introduction and conclusion. Before you know it, you'll have built the structure and thesis of your essay, and you won't have to rush to write it.
She’s only got 650 words. Which leads us to Tip #1: Take refuge in the anecdote, in the specific, in the particular: everything gets easier if you choose something specific. Many writers—of college essays and other media—get stressed out, believing that they must convey their entire selves in an essay. This just isn’t possible to do in the capsule of space that is your Common App personal statement. And, it will ironically accomplish the opposite—it’ll cause your essay to look shapeless and meandering, therefore communicating very little about you. If you instead use an individual story as a stand-in for something larger, or for something else, your essay becomes a kind of parable or lesson that educates your reader both about you and, hopefully, about a part of the world they’ve never previously considered.
We are pleased to share the 2017-2018 Common Application essay prompts with you. The changes you see below reflect the feedback of 108 Common App member colleges and more than 5,000 other Common App constituents, as well as consultation with our advisory committees and Board of Directors. Students represented the single largest share of constituent survey respondents (59%), followed by school counselors (23%), and teachers (11%).
Common App essays are not traditional five-paragraph essays. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Now, think about the first declarative sentence Ramya makes in that initial draft: “I have always been loyal to the Patriots.” Tip #2: Struggling to define your thesis statement? Look for your first declarative statement! Ramya’s essay can’t be about her perpetual loyalty to the Patriots—that won’t be enough. But the fact that her prose naturally settled on that as its first short, sharp sentence tells us that she’s making a statement she probably believes in. Loyalty now becomes really important as a theme. Common Error #2: Hiding your thesis statement or burying it too low. Since we know that loyalty will have something to do with Ramya’s thesis statement, we now know we want it to arrive at the end of the first paragraph or at the start of the first.
In 50 words: ... Please give us a hint about what makes you, YOU: a personality quirk, an unexpected interest, an unusual hobby or pursuit, how your earned your nickname, your most embarrassing moment, your wildest dream, the title of your autobiography, why your friends think you’re funny, what you’re doing to get into the Guinness Book of Records, your latest invention?
“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.
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.
In 500 words: Keeping in mind that there are many ways to think about “justice” and a “just society”, what would YOU personally require of a society in order for YOU to consider it “just”? It might be helpful to explain what you believe is “just” or “justice” but please don’t incorporate a dictionary definition in your essay. Take a little risk, and have fun.
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.
This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award at a Model UN conference, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.
Oberlin requires a general personal essay as well as a short essay (250 words) responding to the question, “How did your interest in Oberlin develop and what aspects of our college community most excite you?” For your personal essay, you may choose from the Common Application or Coalition Application essay prompts listed below, or write on the topic of your choice.
1.) Showing before telling gives your reader a chance to interpret the meaning of your images before you do. Why is this good? It provides a little suspense. Also, it engages the reader’s imagination. Take another look at the images in the second to last paragraph: my college diploma... a miniature map with numerous red stickers pinpointing locations all over the world... frames and borders without photographs... (Note that it's all "show.")
Once you write a first draft, put it in a drawer for a week. Taking some time away from it will allow you to come back to it with fresh eyes. Then, try to read your essay from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. Would they be able to understand the story? Do you explain clearly what you learned? Does your intro grab the reader's attention?
It may be only 500 words — or sometimes only 100-250 words — but the admissions essay(s) portion of a college application can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. How you write your personal essay shows the admissions committee why you are different from other applicants. It provides information about you that test scores, grades, and extracurricular pursuits just cannot.
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.
Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author’s world, and for how it connects to the author’s emotional life.
There are various subjects students popularly pursue in college and university: Literature, Law, Nursing, Marketing, Education, Psychology, Economics, Philosophy, Science, Mathematics, Physics, and many more. Each subject is unique with its distinctive requirements. Also, the assignments in each are diverse themselves: they can be term papers, persuasive or critical essays, research papers, book reports, reviews or analytical papers. Writing is a complex skill and tough to maneuver and master, without the right kind of support and system, studying strategies and academic resources. It also is probable but not always possible that an economics undergrad student has a good command on English grammar or can produce an immaculately written paper on the cultural values of Victorian Era, or Thomas Hardy’s Tess. The educational demands and expectations of today’s students, especially in STEM, are high and diverse.
Secondary or supplemental essays: these are the essays that schools can choose to have you fill out on top of the core Common App Essay. They might invite you to talk more about an extracurricular activity on your resumé, or to reflect on a quote from a famous alumna/alumnus of the college and share your thoughts. They’re wide-ranging, and we’ll be covering them in an upcoming guide!
Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund is offering a $500.00 Pagan College Scholarship for a rising high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate. All applicants must live in Michigan. Applicants must be 17 years of age or older, have a current GPA of 2.85 or higher, be Pagan, and currently accepted in a full time course of study in any accredited four-year college or university. Applicants must [...] More
Candice's Sickle Cell Fund, Inc. has been established to raise awareness among the public concerning sickle cell disease. Our goal is to help alleviate the financial pressures of college-bound students in the Tri-State Area (NY/NJ/CT)with sickle cell disease by providing three scholarships annually in the amount of $1500 ($750 presented in September, and $750 presented in January).
Since 2001, a major focus of SWE-LV has been to distribute scholarships for high school senior women who intend to major in engineering at their respective college or university. Scholarship funds are provided by area businesses and all of the work for administration of the program is provided by SWE volunteers. Evaluation is based on academic achievement, extracurricular and leadership [...] More
Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).
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.
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Before you begin to write, brainstorm some ideas. Most likely, the university gave you a prompt or a choice of prompts to write about. Take your time to carefully consider each prompt. If you feel yourself drawn to a particular prompt, think about why you’re being drawn to it. Reflect on your life to find any personal anecdotes that work well with that prompt.