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!
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.
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The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

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.


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Set aside six minutes each morning, or a few times a week, for the period of time you’re freewriting. Six minutes, that’s it! Put your timer on, put your pen to paper, and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. If you run out of things to write, write “I don’t know I’m bored I don’t know help help I hate writing!” until new words come. What are you going to write about during those six minutes? You can try thinking about those Common App essay prompts—they’re so broad that they should let you in in some way: what’s my obstacle, my identity, the thing I love? Note that Anita isn’t sitting down to write her disquisition on How my life as a mock trial champion makes me prepared to go to law school. Instead, what might come out as she writes by hand is… I remember the rush the first time I stood up at a mock trial tournament. I was wearing a blazer and my mom’s heels and they were so uncomfortable. It was so overheated in the room and I’d drunk way too much Mountain Dew. But why did I love playing this role of attorney? Was it the theater? The chance to finally argue without getting in trouble at the dinner table? If six minutes doesn’t work for you, or if you think you’re not getting in the zone in that amount of time, try doing three pages in your composition notebook instead. Write in big letters and double-space. Let your hand roam free.

The word floccinaucinihilipilification is the act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant or of having no value. It originated in the mid-18th century from the Latin words "floccus," "naucum," "nihilum," and "pilus"—all words meaning “of little use.” Coin your own word using parts from any language you choose, tell us its meaning, and describe the plausible (if only to you) scenarios in which it would be most appropriately used. 
Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well. Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome.

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Hafeez Lakhani of Lakhani Coaching summed up the essay this way: “Every college is like a dinner table. What will make you the most interesting contributor to that dinner table conversation? What will make you help everyone else have a more interesting experience?” A good essay, rich with anecdotes and personality, will answer those questions and stand out from the pile.
           Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body  lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.
Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.
By now you know exactly what you will write about and how you want to tell the story. So hop on a computer and get to it. Try to just let yourself bang out a rough draft without going back to change anything. Then go back and revise, revise, revise. Before you know it, you will have told the story you outlined—and reached the necessary word count—and you will be happy you spent all that time preparing!
“Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here,” is inscribed on one side of Pomona’s College Gates. Dating from 1914, the gates remain a potent symbol today as we welcome every new class of students to enter them together. If you were to inscribe a fourth quality into the gates to describe students who enter Pomona today, which adjective would you choose? What quality would you want your Pomona peers to share, and why?
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
Ultimately, however, I would like to grow into someone who is loved and remembered by people who aren’t my immediate family members and my friends. I do not wish to be glorified, but I want to be more than a nonentity in this big, vast world. I hope that if I can inspire the change that I want to make, I can leave a legacy that continues to influence and shape the landscape that follows me. After coming to the epiphany that if I died today, nothing would change except for the lives of those extremely close to me, I find myself unwilling to be just another Jane Doe. I want to leave a part of myself behind, whether it is a building or a popular hashtag, that is meaningful and permanent once I die.

Whatever you’re into, embrace it. Show your feathers. Let your freak flag fly (within reason, obvs). This prompt is about the pursuit of knowledge and your desire to proactively challenge yourself. Whether you are devouring the classics on your Kindle or nerding out over the perfect cheese for calzone-making, your attachment to a subject may inspire admissions to want to learn more about it…and you.

One of the best ways to write an awesome essay for your college application or admissions personal essay is by learning from real college essay samples that worked. So I've compiled some college essay examples from a variety of student experiences as well as tons of supplemental essay and personal statement topics, like the UChicago short answer questions, the "Why This College" essay, and 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.
The Jill M. Balboni Memorial Scholarship is dedicated to the memory of Jill Marie Balboni who lost her life long battle with cystic fibrosis in July 2013 at the age of 36. Jill was a lover of life and lover of learning. Jill received her Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D and still managed to enjoy every day with a smile while spending time with her family and friends between her time in the Tri-Delta [...] More
"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.
You want to stand out among the rest of the applicants, as well as provide new information that the admission officers do not already know about you. They will know what GPA you have before they start reading the essay as it’s one of the details they get with the application. Mentioning the GPA in your essay will sound like bragging and be uninteresting.
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Despite (or perhaps in light of) all this intellectual and creative freedom, you may find yourself stuck. Don’t worry, one of the most common questions all high schoolers have is, “What should I write my college essay about?” When I help students brainstorm potential essay topics, I usually ask them dozens of questions, hoping to unearth just a single response that will capture the interest of a college admissions officer. For some students, however, the essay prompts themselves can provide a great source of inspiration. If you’re looking for little nudge in the right direction, take our college essay quiz below. Based on your responses to 14 simple questions, we can help you identify which of the seven Common App essay prompts may best allow you to share your story with colleges. Ready to find out which Common App prompt you are?
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) invites all high school students (9th through 12th grades) interested in the American Revolution to participate in the George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest. The contest is open to all students attending home schools, public, parochial, or private high schools in that same grade range.
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On the granite countertop in front of me sat a pile of flour, two sticks of butter, and a bowl of shredded beef, just like the YouTube tutorial showed. My mind contorted itself as I tried figuring out what I was doing. Flanking me were two equally discombobulated partners from my Spanish class. Somehow, some way, the amalgamation of ingredients before us would have to be transformed into Peruvian empanadas.
There’s more that goes into applying to college than what we’ve been able to cover here, including your grades, standardized test scores, and recommendation letters, but your essays are some of the most important materials. They form the cornerstone of the qualitative side of your application. Get these right and your entire application starts from strength. Good luck!
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.

This can’t be stressed enough. The essay is your opportunity to reveal something about yourself that can’t be found anywhere else in your application – use it! Many students use the essay to expound upon activities or interests that are already heavily demonstrated in their application through courses, the activity list, and more. Instead of reinforcing a top activity or interest, instead, write about something that reveals another dimension of your life or personality. If your top activity is swimming, don’t write about the big championship meet. Find something else that reveals something new and that shows you put a lot of thought into your essay. If your study of AP biology conflicts with your religious views, write about that and how you reconciled the two. Dig deep to find a topic that’s meaningful.
This means your essays are not a place to restate what can already be found on your resumé, CV, or Common App Activities Section. They’re also not a place to prove that you’ve had some major epiphany, changed the world, seen the Truth of reality, etc, at eighteen. They can be but do not have to be—by any means—about a major traumatic experience. They can but need not discuss family, identity, race, gender, or class. They are a place to give the admissions committee a chance to see the you that your friends, classmates, teachers, teammates, and family know. We’ve seen students write about the New England Patriots, the poetry of John Keats, their grandparents’ village, their obsession with keeping too many Google Chrome tabs open, how grilling meats represented a rite of passage, and many more topics that range from the super-serious to the lighthearted but still meaningful.
Although you need to be creative while writing your essay, resist the urge to get creative with the facts. Don’t exaggerate your own accomplishments to make yourself look better. You don’t need to lay out a long list of all your shortcomings, but acknowledging weaknesses and misjudgments can demonstrate authenticity and give your legitimate accomplishments greater credibility. Admissions officers don’t expect you to be perfect, so don’t make your essay unbelievable by trying to pretend that you are.
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