I idolized my older sister. She was five years older than me and my link to the shadowy world of adulthood that seemed so out of reach. When she went away, I was devastated. It was a very wet summer that year and one particularly rainy day, I was lying in her empty bed looking at the artifacts she'd left behind, clutching an old sweater. My eyes travelled around the room and came to rest on her bookshelf. For whatever reason, I picked one book up and began thumbing through it. It was Emile Zola's Germinal and it was to change my life forever.
Summer is underway but the fall school semester is peaking over the horizon. Or, if you’re one of those unlucky students attending summer school, you’re right in the thick of it. Either way, there’s a good chance you have to write an essay. And let’s face it: Writing isn’t everyone’s strength. If you struggle with writing, or if you simply don’t like writing, essays can be a source of considerable stress and frustration.

           Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. Band-aid? How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain.
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.
 The joy of reading and learning is just the tip of the iceberg of how I benefited from being taught at home. I got to grow up surrounded by my family, interacting with them, working as a team, and calling my siblings my best friends.  I developed valuable life skills as a result of doing life together. I learned to cook, do laundry, watch younger siblings, plant a garden, clean, and I learned a lot about good health. I learned responsibility, time management, and how to work independently. I became self-motivated and took an interest in my learning.

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!


"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why the story you tell is so meaningful. 
Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

Anna Frutiger will always be remembered for her dedication to her friends and family, her education and her love for serving her community. She graduated from Alma High School in 2005 as a valedictorian of her class and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 2009. Anna had just completed her first year of dental school at [...] More
Nonetheless, you should analyze any prompts you encounter in the same way. Ask yourself why the college is asking that question and what admissions officers are hoping to see—not in terms of specific topics but in terms of general trends and traits. Understanding what admissions officers are hoping to get out of your essay will help you pick a great topic that'll help you exhibit your unique personality and perspective in the most effective way possible.
No matter how well you write your first draft, there’s probably room for improvement. After your initial draft is complete, let it sit for at least a day. With some space between yourself and your initial writing, you’ll be able to view your essay objectively and have better luck finding the flaws. After polishing it up, let it sit again and give it another coat of polish before showing it to your proofreaders. The best college admission essays go through several drafts before they’re finished, so don’t be afraid to rewrite your essay as many times as needed.
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