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!
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.

Writers are supposed to show, not tell. Simply asserting that you have what the university is looking for is not convincing; anyone could make the same claim as plausibly as you if you don’t back up your claims with evidence. Stating that you believe in integrity, for example, is an easy claim that’s made by thousands of politicians and used car salespeople every year. If you want to demonstrate your integrity, share a story that illustrates how you passed up an opportunity to exploit an advantage that was unfairly gained. Claiming that you have good study habits is another empty claim. Detailing the exact study habits that have helped you succeed in school, backed up with the GPA on your application, carries much more weight.
What makes this essay fun to read is that Bridget takes a child’s idea of a world made better through quasi-magical helpers and turns it into a metaphor for the author’s future aspirations. It helps that the metaphor is a very clear one: people who work with students with disabilities are making the world better one abstract fix at a time, just like imaginary Fixer-Uppers would make the world better one concrete physical fix at a time.

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While abroad, I’ll visit the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. The Hollywood Reporter puts FAMU at the top of the list of best film schools in Europe. I put it at the top of my list of prospective graduate schools because it was the center of Czech filmmakers’ during communist rule in the 1960s. FAMU was where rebellious film makers broke the bonds of censorship by creating films that depicted the perspectives of marginalized people. I want to do the same thing today. I ask: What can the Czechoslovak New Wave filmmakers and their struggle for social equality teach me about making films that will help to free the LGBTQ members in my own community? I will find my answers here:


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High school seniors residing in Shelby County (Ohio) and attending a school in Shelby County (Ohio) who will be a first-generation student (neither parent has a bachelor's degree or higher). You must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and will be enrolling as a full-time student in an accredited college or university in the coming academic year. The required essay cannot exceed 500 words. For more [...] More
My statistical training in psychology orientates me toward a more quantitative graduate experience. Due to the University of Rochester’s reputation for an extensive use of statistics in political science research, I would make a good addition to your fall class. While attending the University of Rochester, I would like to study international relations or comparative politics while in graduate school. I find the research of Dr.’s Hein Goemans and Gretchen Helmke intriguing and would like the opportunity to learn more about it through the Graduate Visitation program.
The way you answer the college essay prompt is key to your success. It’s your opportunity to shine, to offer admission readers some understanding into who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and activities. That’s why you need to figure out exactly what you want admission officers to know about you before you pick an essay topic and before you write that first draft.
What makes this essay fun to read is that Bridget takes a child’s idea of a world made better through quasi-magical helpers and turns it into a metaphor for the author’s future aspirations. It helps that the metaphor is a very clear one: people who work with students with disabilities are making the world better one abstract fix at a time, just like imaginary Fixer-Uppers would make the world better one concrete physical fix at a time.
In addition to the essay included with the Common Application and as part of Villanova’s Member Section of the Common Application, Villanova requires that you submit one Villanova Essay (of 250-1000 words per the Common Application guidelines) from the three choices below. This essay is an important part of your application as it provides us with an opportunity to gain more insights into your candidacy.
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
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

All Common App essays must show your personality, identity, and aspirations, as well as spark discussions on interests, character, values, and community. The goal for any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic image and sense of yourself on the reader. When you’re writing and hit a mental block, don’t hesitate to refer back to the Core Four questions a good Common App essay must answer, and always check whether or not the ideas in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to convey about yourself.
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The Caruso Affiliated Spirit of American Youth Scholarship will be awarded to two graduating high school seniors who attend a public or private school in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. Qualifying students will exhibit academic potential, provide examples of how they've contributed to the betterment of their communities, and complete an essay based on how they would invest in their [...] More

Every year, the path to college is paved with more roadblocks. Increasing applications from the U.S. and abroad mean that universities across the country are rewarded with an even more elite pool of candidates. Impeccable grades and test scores alone are no longer enough to set students apart from the crowd. As social media and technology begin to change the landscape of higher education, admissions officers are looking for new ways to get to know potential students. There is still no better way to introduce yourself than through an admission essay.
Sometimes, I only sleep 4 hours as I wake up and rush out the door in order to make it on time to 6am tutoring. Having to manage my schoolwork and home responsibilities has been difficult but I've managed to maintain high academic achievement by managing my time correctly and being persistent. If I truly want something, I need to go after it, and I will get it done. Sometimes being tired isn't an option.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

While abroad, I’ll visit the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. The Hollywood Reporter puts FAMU at the top of the list of best film schools in Europe. I put it at the top of my list of prospective graduate schools because it was the center of Czech filmmakers’ during communist rule in the 1960s. FAMU was where rebellious film makers broke the bonds of censorship by creating films that depicted the perspectives of marginalized people. I want to do the same thing today. I ask: What can the Czechoslovak New Wave filmmakers and their struggle for social equality teach me about making films that will help to free the LGBTQ members in my own community? I will find my answers here:
The Wynetta A. Frazier Sister-to-Sister Scholarship was created to provide financial assistance to mature African American women in their pursuit of post-secondary education. An applicant must be a returning student, whose education was interrupted by family responsibilities or other personal demands and is now ready to complete college or one who is entering college for the first time because of [...] More

One of the most common questions at parent meetings is “what’s better college or university”? This question did not make sense to me, I then realized that parents want to know the difference between community college and a four year. Concepts like financial aid, grants, loans, are all foreign concepts as most of our parents never went to college. As a student ambassador, I help bridge that gap. We often hold meetings where we explained resources available and different options for each student. I have learned, that as a student, I can provide assistance to my own community through my knowledge. I am the communication necessary for further successes, using my personal knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations. My pursuit is to not only go to college but thrive and come back ready and able to help students like myself that have to fight for their seat in the lecture hall.

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It is my life goal to make films that will change the way society see groups of people typically defined by stereotype and cliché. By immersing myself in Prague’s culture through the American Institute of Foreign Study year-long program, I will gain the cinematic and philosophic tools to create films that will help others to better understand the LGBTQ community. I’ve been making movies since I was old enough to hold a camera, but now I’d like to take it a step further.
They took me to someone who specialized in psychological testing for children. Her evaluation showed that I didn’t have ADHD at all, just a combination of dyslexia and dysgraphia (difficulties with reading and writing). She put us in touch with a therapist who helped me learn how to work around my conditions, and my life improved tremendously. I went from being a lifeless student with barely passing grades to an honor roll student full of joy and excitement.
The bar also helped me figure out still another kind of loyalty—to myself. Junior year was an emotional year, full of difficult academics and the inevitable social drama that comes with high school. The bar showed me that I needed to look forward to something comfortable—a place with no drama, no obligations, and a common goal... or at least, a common desperate desire for victory. At the bar, nobody cared what I got on my last math test or which boy was asking my friend to prom. All that matters is the game. This realization isn’t limited to just sports; I figured out that I need a place to be completely myself—with my team and my dad. This included deciding that I only wanted to stay friends with people who make a positive impact on my life. These were such simple revelations, yet they made all the difference.
1. The Specific Experience Essay: This module is one of the most flexible and powerful types of essays. It begins with a scene, memory, or anecdote, and then tells us what that scene, memory, or anecdote continues to mean to the writer. It’s a classic, and should not be underestimated. Michael’s essay about learning to surf with his grandfather will use this structure, but so too will Anita’s about taking a wilderness solo. Anita will use a slightly more subtle version of this, but both essays begin with a scene: “I was eight when my grandfather first took me to the water” “The happiest two hours I have spent were on a boulder jutting into a stream in North Carolina…”
The Charles Shelton Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide educational scholarships to African-American students pursuing a degree in veterinarian medicine or veterinarian technology. Scholarships are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated an interest and commitment to animal welfare. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required, as well as an essay. For more information [...] More

Teachers of Accounting at Two-Year Colleges (TACTYC) is pleased to announce that multiple scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each will be awarded to two-year college graduating students that are pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting at a four-year college during the upcoming academic year. Scholarship awards must be used during the upcoming academic year or be [...] More


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An essay is a piece of writing with a subject assigned (or picked) and your main ideas described. To prepare a good paper, you should fully dedicate yourself to the process from your thesis statement and the first body paragraph to the conclusion. It is a time- and energy-consuming assignment which brings many troubles into the lives of students. A high-quality essay combines a well-structured material, creative writing, proficient use of the language, and diligence from the introductory paragraph topic sentence to the last full stop. Also, you are to interest the reader and represent your competence in a certain issue. You might be good at structuring the content and making it entertaining, but you can make a lot of grammatical mistakes. After all, essay writing is one of the hardest tasks for many students.
While being able to write about whatever you wish sounds great in theory, some students find—especially at the beginning of the brainstorming process—that they are debilitated by the “topic of your choice” option because it offers too much choice. If that is the case, fear not! Use some of the other prompts as starting points for your brainstorming and free writing journeys. Begin keeping a diary (now!) and jot down subjects, events, and memories as they float to the surface. Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.
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.
One of many students’ and parents’ biggest fears is the sheer anonymity of the process. You, the college applicant, have worked hard through high school, earning great grades, expanding your worldview through extracurriculars or jobs, and contributing to your community… and now, it can seem pretty unjust to throw yourself at the mercy of an application system that seems arbitrary, blind to your personality, or even uncaring.

Students should think about everything from more traditional obstacles they have had to overcome to the small predicaments that have inspired them to think about what they really value. Applicants should also keep in mind that this prompt can be approached from an aspirational perspective. In other words: you don’t have to simply choose from problems you’ve already solved. Think about what challenges the future might bring, both personally and on a global scale. How might you be part of meaningful progress and problem-solving moving forward?
“If you can’t live off of it, it is useless.” My parents were talking about ice skating: my passion. I started skating as a ten-year-old in Spain, admiring how difficulty and grace intertwine to create beautiful programs, but no one imagined I would still be on the ice seven years and one country later. Even more unimaginable was the thought that ice skating might become one of the most useful parts of my life.
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The Hildegard Durfee Scholarship was established to enable residents of Windham County to further their education at the graduate level and/or to prepare themselves for career changes that require graduate-level education. In order to apply, you must reside in Windham County (preference given to residents of Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Newfane and Putney); demonstrate [...] More
Reflect on a service activity or other efforts you've undertaken to contribute to your community or communities. Your actions might involve individual service, a group project, or substantial activities to support your family, such as employment or caring for a sick relative. What did you learn about yourself and your community? What did you learn about how society functions more generally?
While many find themselves turned away from the complexity of science, I have found myself mesmerized by it. This difference in opinion has spurred from my upbringings in science, feeling connected to science at an early age. By entering into hands on experiences at an impressionable age, I realized that science was not only for experienced technicians in lab coats, but for anyone.
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.
As a former college admissions officer, I read thousands of essays—good and bad. The essays that made the best impressions on me were the essays that were real. The students did not use fluff, big words, or try to write an essay they thought admission decisions makers wanted to read. The essays that impressed me the most were not academic essays, but personal statements that allowed me to get to know the reader. I was always more likely to admit or advocate for a student who was real and allowed me to get to know them in their essay.
Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function, but have been retained during the process of evolution. In humans, for instance, the appendix is thought to be a vestigial structure. Describe something vestigial (real or imagined) and provide an explanation for its existence.
The SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund is dedicated to fostering the next generation of automotive aftermarket industry leaders and innovators. Scholarship awards range from $2,000-$3,000, with $5,000 going to the top student. Assistance is available for career paths in the automotive industry in accounting, engineering, race car driver/crew, administration
In study after study, patients have reported dissatisfaction with their medical care, not because of lack of knowledge or health outcome, but because their doctors did not show enough warmth in the encounter or listen to the patient’s questions and concerns. There are few times where a patient and their loved ones are more vulnerable and in need of compassion than when dealing with a hospitalization. And for some doctors, a patient may be another item on a checklist, but that patient is someone’s mother or father, son or daughter, sister or brother. My “good” doctor understood this and would often say “If you were my son…” when discussing treatment options, reflecting on the type of care he would want for his family and treating me similarly. Such ideals are rooted in love and compassion for patients, not as clients in the health care system, but as fellow human beings striving to make something of themselves and the world around them (I).

This can be challenging. Like most 16- and 17-year-olds, you and your friends are probably thinking about your future, travel plans, jobs, where you want to live, or just what movie you want to see tonight. You’re probably not reflecting on your life and what it’s meant thus far. (Then again, maybe you are, especially if you’re the journal-keeping type!)
The obvious answer is "Whichever scholarship is worth the most money" but only assuming you haven’t put things off for too long. If it is February of your senior year in high school, see which ones still have deadlines you can make – there should still be plenty. It is imperative that you respect deadlines and get your scholarship applications and/or essays in on time. Put those with the closest due date at the top of your list and don’t bother with one if you aren’t confident you truly qualify or don't stand a good chance of winning. Once you have finished the ones that are "slam dunks," you may still have time to go back and apply to the ones in the "maybe" category. If you start early enough (think October of your senior year), you will definitely be giving yourself an advantage. You might not be able to get an application for all of them yet but the rules and requirements of some great scholarships may be available. You can use these to get an early start on your application or to get a feel for what scholarship providers will be looking for. Start early and time won’t be an issue. You will be able to base priority strictly on the largest amount of money being offered and on confidence in your ability to win a scholarship. Good luck!
It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores . However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities , to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.
People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.
The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
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