Using words in your essay that you don’t typically use in your daily conversations can sound awkward and forced. Words have nuance to them, and simply inserting a word from the thesaurus is a great way to destroy that nuance. Thesaurus abuse is a lazy and easily spotted trick, and seasoned admissions officers will see right through it. If you feel that you’re overusing a particular word, think of alternatives on your own without consulting a thesaurus; using words that you’re familiar with will help you avoid misusing them.
A killer first sentence. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don’t take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don’t want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!
Writing the college essay takes time and effort, and you should feel accomplished. When you submit your essay, remember to include your name, contact information, and ID number if your college provided one, especially if you send it to a general admission e-mail account. Nothing is worse than trying to match an application essay with no name (or, worse, an e-mail address such as email@example.com) to a file. Make sure to keep copies of what you sent to which schools and when—and follow up on them! Be certain the college or university you are applying to received your essay. You don’t want all that hard work to go to waste!
The AAF-Greater Evansville awards scholarships to deserving high school and/or college students yearly in April. Over the past 40 years, AAF-Greater Evansville has distributed over $153,000 in scholarship awards. To be eligible, students must plan to pursue a career in advertising, marketing, public relations or graphic design. The application deadline varies yearly, but is typically in early [...] More
The Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing seeks to nurture talent in mystery writing - in fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting. The scholarship is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. Membership in Mystery Writers of America is not required to apply. The McCloy Scholarship is intended for serious aspiring mystery writers who wish to improve their writing [...] More
After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.
College application essay prompts are written with this goal in mind. Admissions officers want to give you the chance to share your interests, aspirations, and views on the world, so most prompts ask about how your experiences have shaped you or what you're excited about studying or doing in college. I've collected a ton of examples below and provided some analysis to help you begin planning and crafting your own essays.
Being part of a minority is very conflicting for me as I feel both empowered as a part of a Haitian minority community but also disconnected from my non-immigrant peers. Coming from a background of poverty in Haiti, I knew that, even at a very young age, I had to be a good student in order to succeed. This work ethic--found throughout my Haitian community--has been very beneficial in my life as we all came here to pave ourselves a better future. As my mom held two jobs, went to college, and was temporarily homeless just to secure me a better future, I feel invigorated to be part of such an indefatigable community. And, it is because of this strong work ethic, central to my community’s core values, that I am now the salutatorian of a class of 679 students.
Most universities acknowledge that the admission essay-while only one component in the application package-is the best opportunity for acquainting the admissions officer with the student. The admission essay can help explain academic discrepancies, share stories that don't fit inside checked boxes, and answer peculiar questions. Our experienced writers have seen the ways in which admissions essays have changed over the years. We stay abreast of trends in college admissions and pay attention to what universities are looking for in a candidate.
The scholarship application process for essay scholarships is much the same as for other scholarship opportunities—you need to fill out the scholarship application, gather all your materials, double-check that you've met all requirements, and then submit your completed application packet before the deadline. With essay scholarships, especially, you should start this process early and leave yourself plenty of time to formulate an effective strategy and write a brilliant entry. Make sure you closely follow instructions and go through the entire writing process, from brainstorming to outlining to editing. If you really want to win essay scholarships, you can't just throw your response together in 30 minutes and send it on its way. While this strategy may have worked for you in English class, chances are $5,000 wasn't riding on whether you got an A on any of your papers. Take your time writing and revising. If you plan far enough ahead, you'll be able to get plenty of feedback from your family, friends, and teachers, as well. The more people who see your essay, the better it will be. Outside help goes beyond proofreading. If possible, ask for advice on the content of your essay, as well as the style and the flow. All of these are important factors in writing effective scholarship essays.
Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 word limit)
Lisa Laine Miller, began her journey as an artist struggling to make ends meet. Unbelievably, two of her high school art teachers personally contributed to her first college courses and the inspiration for the future Tenfold Initiative was born. Through this, we were inspired to create The Tenfold Initiative to honor the dedicated teachers and mentors in our lives. Particularly, Lisa's own high [...] More
You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
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.
Also, every year we create free guides on “How to Write X School’s Essays” for the top 100 schools. In these guides, we give you tips and tricks on how to approach each prompt. As such, our prompt database below also contains a link to each school's Essay Breakdown. If a school doesn’t have an Essay Breakdown yet, sign up on the sidebar to get alerted when new posts for the schools you care about are live.
The Mae & Mary Scholarship Fund's mission is to financially assist and to empower young people to experience their unlimited potential through education. We are a charitable educational organization dedicated to the advancement of African Americans pursuing careers in medical and healthcare related fields. Applicants must be African American, graduating high school seniors who plan on attending a [...] More
While a postsecondary degree or credential has become indispensable for entry into professional careers and the middle class, the cost of college continues to increase. Student Veterans of America is proud to partner with Rockwell Collins to award three $2,500 scholarships to student veterans that are interested in pursuing a STEM degree path. This scholarship will not only build a diverse talent [...] More
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.
Writing scholarship essays that satisfy the requirements of a different scholarship to which you may be applying may not be as difficult as you think. In fact, you may be able to write just one or two such essays that you can submit to several different scholarship providers. Most of the scholarship providers have websites and many use them to post previous winning submissions. Read these essays for inspiration. Take a cue from their grammar, sentence structure, the way they addressed the subject, etc. Get a feel for what scholarship providers generally seem to want in an essay and then give it to them. If you have difficulty with spelling and/or grammar, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from teachers, parents and friends. They might be able to provide you with valuable pointers.
“I wake up to the sounds of chickadees singing outside my bedroom window and the delicious smell of breakfast cooking downstairs. A feeling of contentment washes over me as I slip out of bed and into my slippers. I saunter downstairs and sit at the kitchen bar as I rub the sleepy dirt from my eyes and wait to taste my mom’s delicious cooking. I love my laid back mornings. No alarms are jolting me out of a deep sleep followed by a mad rush to get ready and catch a bus like the other children in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, my story is not one of a kind. There are countless children in America who are put on mind-altering medications that do not adequately address their needs. I cannot help all of those children, but I can provide a better alternative for the ones in my area. Through proper education, funded by financial aid, I can learn about psychological evaluations and provide the most accurate diagnoses possible.
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.
Some admission officers pore over your application; others spend only minutes reading your documents. Whatever your reader’s process, you need to grab their attention. And a snore-mongering list of extracurriculars is not the way to hook your audience. As Southwestern University Associate Director of Admission Dana Marchant suggests, “Do not reiterate all the activities and involvement you have completed during your high school year. Focus on one experience and the skill it has taught you. It may be very big (e.g., being adopted) or small (e.g., a jarring conversation at an after-school club meeting), but focus on the life lessons you learned from that experience. Some of the best essays I have read have been about a simple experience, but students have been able to put me in that moment with them and then expounded on how it changed them.”
There are a number of ways to approach freewriting, and all of them are meant to keep you limber, loose, and free. You want to sound authentic in your essay—which means stiffening up under pressure, as many students do, trying to sound formal, more stereotypically “adult” or “learned.” The more you can sound like you while freewriting, the stronger position you’ll be in when it comes to drafting the personal statement.
The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund sponsors a scholarly writing contest for grades K-12. The theme for the essay is "What Does The Second Amendment Mean to You?" Essays will be judged in two categories: Senior (grades 9-12) and junior (grades 8 and below), with separate cash prizes awarded to the winners in each category. First place cash prizes are $1,000, $600 for second place, $200 for third [...] More
The Harry S. Chandler Memorial Scholarship is to be used by a high school graduate from Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Clark, Marion, Columbia, Umatilla, or Coos counties in Oregon. Applicants are asked to submit a 2-page essay addressing the meaning of diversity, how diversity has influenced your life so far, the role that diversity will play in achieving your educational goals and/or the [...] More
Tzu Chi USA Scholars is a scholarship program funded by Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation to recognize and provide financial assistance to outstanding college-bound high school graduates and continuing undergraduate students in selected areas of the United States. Tzu Chi USA Scholars are selected on the basis of their financial need, academic achievement, and community involvement. Each Scholar will [...] More
Now, taking your chosen topic, it’s time to outline it. Outlining works great for some people as a pre-writing tactic, and we always recommend it. For others, it can be harder than simply getting down to writing. If you’re really struggling to outline and would rather just follow the pen to a first draft, that’s fine, but do yourself a favor and make outlining your second draft step. At some point, everyone needs an outline, but it’s your call when to do it. Let’s follow this through with Ramya’s essay on the Patriots. The model we’ll use for this essay is a five-paragraph, anecdote-driven essay.
Since I was five, my parents pushed me to value education because they were born in Vietnam and had limited education. Because of this disadvantage, I learned to take everything I do seriously and to put in all of my effort to complete tasks such as becoming the founder of my school’s Badminton Club in my sophomore year and Red Cross Club this year. Before creating these clubs, I created a vision for these clubs so I can organize my responsibilities better as a leader. The more involved I became, the more I learned as a leader and as a person. As a leader, I carried the same behavior I portrayed towards my younger cousins and sibling. My family members stressed the importance of being a good influence; as I adapted this behavior, I utilized this in my leadership positions. I learned to become a good role model by teaching my younger family members proper manners and guiding them in their academics so that they can do well. In school, I guide my peers in organizing team uniform designs and in networking with a nonprofit organization for service events.
The Jewel Continuum Foundation Scholarship is a $500 scholarship that will be awarded based on the completion of the current essay topic and the unanimous selection of the review committee. Verification of enrollment in a two-year or four-year institution is required to receive this scholarship. Verification of enrollment includes: an official letter of acceptance from the college or university, [...] More
While in college, I hope to impact my own learning experience and that of the student body around me by taking an active listening approach. Rather than sink back to my high school mindset that purely focused on soaking in knowledge and regurgitating it for grades, I plan to adopt a posture of employing my listening abilities to curate and act upon a stronger understanding of the lives and perspectives of my campus. Whether it be reciprocating the advice I receive in my summer transition program to my future roommates or finding campus opportunities best fit for my classmates while in conversation with upperclassmen, I believe that I will be able to positively impact both my own individual growth and the intellectual development of others by harnessing my observations and parlaying them into new opportunities, connections, and insights for others.
Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
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
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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
To me, personal stuff is the information you usually keep to yourself, or your closest friends and family. So it can be challenging, even painful, to dig up and share. Try anyway. When you open up about your feelings—especially in response to a low point—you are more likely to connect with your reader(s). Why? Because we've all been there. So don't overlook those moments or experiences that were awkward, uncomfortable or even embarrassing. Weirdly, including painful memories (and what you learned from them!) usually helps a personal statement meet the goals of a college application essay—you come across as humble, accessible, likable (this is HUGE!), and mature. Chances are, you also shared a mini-story that was interesting, entertaining and memorable.
Fast forward a few months, and I am lying in a similar bed to treat the underlying cause of the sublclavian DVT: a first rib removal. There is little that can adequately prepare someone physically, emotionally or spiritually to undergo surgery; and my thoughts continued to race in the days following. In addition to the expected physical pain, isolation, fear and frustration were a few of the emotions I experienced in the four day ordeal. The procedure went according to plan thanks to a skilled surgeon and his team, but the attributes that made the doctor “good” went far beyond his ability to operate.
Balancing talking about your experiences and traits with describing what excites you about the school can be tricky, but it's vital that you touch on both. If you don't talk about yourself, you're missing your chance to give the admissions committee a sense of who you are and how you would fit in to their community. And if you don't discuss the school itself, you risk coming off as uninterested. So make sure to do both!
With upwards of 25 or more essays to write for a balanced college list of 10-12 schools, it’s tempting for students to repurpose essays across applications if the prompts are similar. While students can use the same main essay on the Common App for multiple schools, we always recommend that students tailor their supplemental essays to the individual colleges. Telling Harvard why you want to attend Columbia is a quick way to end up in the “no” pile. Take the time to write original responses to all the prompts. It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end.