This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.

Germinal woke me up from my slumber. I began to see the world around me, to look at it with new eyes. I always thought things like poverty, greed and injustice happened elsewhere, to people that more or less deserved it. But the more I read about Etienne, Catherine, and the Vandame mine, the more I began to realize the universal nature of suffering. This is part of what makes Zola's novel a great work of art. It has the power to change the way you think while also being beautiful. I realized that there were actually striking miners in my own state. I then became an avid reader of newspapers and current events. I held a bake sale outside my school for the families of the miners. I didn't raise that much money but it felt good to at least to be doing something.
There is one thing to remember before you start writing that essay: it’s your chance to shine and make a first impression. While that fact creates some pressure, it also gives you an opportunity to explore the format in a unique way. The tips below not only will help you land that spot at your dream school but also give you useful tools for your future college classes.

While International Student is specifically a site providing information for international students, their Student Essay Writing Center has a handful of detailed, actionable articles that guide you through the processes of writing different types of essays. They also have a collection of sample essays that you can use as a helpful guide for how your essay should be structured—but remember, don’t plagiarize!

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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.

I have done much better academically in college than I ever did in high school. That’s because there is no routine to the experience. Every week, I have new projects to complete, tests to study for, and activities to try. I have been involved with the campus Crime Stoppers organization all three years of college, and I was elected president for the upcoming term. This lets me work closely with law enforcement to supplement my college education and further my career.  
Even though the prompt allows you to explore more academic and intellectual topics, it is important not to get carried away with esoteric details. Be careful you don’t go overboard with an intensely intricate discussion about particle physics; geeking out a bit and validating your passion, however, is encouraged. Bottom line, the topic you choose for this prompt should, like every topic, highlight your personality, identity, and how you think about the world.

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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.
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