The purpose of the Zale Parry Scholarship is to offer financial support to individuals seeking to advance their knowledge or to enter professional careers in any of the following fields: ocean exploration, diving equipment technology, hyperbaric research, marine conservation. Students must be a certified diver, enrolled in an accredited college or university and demonstrate financial need. For [...] More
What most intrigues me about engineering is not just the math or the technology, but the practical application. It is through engineering that I can fix up my car... and facilitate submarine navigation. Engineering, in fact, is a lifestyle -- instead of lingering over hardships, I work to solve them and learn from them. Whether the challenge is naval defense or family finances or even just a flat tire on my bike before another night shift, I will be solving these problems and will always be looking to keep rolling on.
Be sure to describe the event or experience that caused you to realize the gravity of the problem, the specific actions you took to plan or execute your solution (i.e., call sponsors, raise money, design graphics, speak at events), explain why solving your problem is so critical, and identify the tangible change your solution would bring to people’s lives. For example, if you care deeply about drug education because of a past experience with a friend or family member, you could outline a plan to bring young-adult speakers to your school to positively influence your peers and stress the real dangers of drugs.
I have always been a proponent of students starting to prepare for college as early as possible, not only by striving to excel scholastically but also by learning all they can about completing scholarship applications and acquiring financial aid. Unless you are independently wealthy, a crucial step in the process of getting into the school of your dreams is learning how to win free money. You can begin your freshman year in high school by conducting a free scholarship search at www.scholarships.com and by perusing the site for additional financial aid information. Before you go out in search of loans, you need to realize there is free money out there but a lot of people won’t put in the necessary amount of time and effort required to get it. Creating a well-reasoned, informative and well-written scholarship essay is one of the things you can do to give you the edge you need. The trick is to give your best effort, follow directions to the letter, and be as efficient as possible. Follow the steps below and your time spent completing scholarship applications may pay off:
(DYSON SCHOOL OF APPLIED ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT) Affiliated with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management is unique by design. Explain how our approach to business education is the right fit for you, and how your interests, experiences or goals will contribute to the unique composition of the entering class. (Please limit your response to 650 words.)
So we decide that Ramya is going to write about the Patriots. The question is how she’s going to demonstrate—through her football fandom—that she is a mature and thoughtful person who will be a good member of any college’s community. An Ode to Brady won’t do the trick here—but what will is Ramya’s thoughtful reflection on how spending time watching the Patriots at a sports bar every Sunday with her dad has given her a relationship with her father that most of her friends have never enjoyed with their families.
Not just humor, but the overall tone of your application essay is remarkably important. It's also difficult to get right. When you are asked to write about your accomplishments, those 750 words on how great you are can make you sound like a braggart. Be careful to balance your pride in your achievements with humility and generosity towards others. You also want to avoid sounding like a whiner -- use your essay to show off your skills, not to explain the injustices that lead to your low math score or failure to graduate #1 in your class.
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.
Answer: Your essay can draw on whatever moves you, regardless of when the anecdote, event, or inciting incident you’re writing about occurred. However, what matters most, in terms of timeline, is that you show your readers how the event not only influences you now but will continue to inflect your thinking about yourself and the world as the years roll on.
The Pinnacol Foundation College Scholarship Program ensures that the children of seriously injured and killed Colorado workers have the opportunity to pursue their dreams by continuing their education. Applicants must be the natural child, adopted child, stepchild or full dependent of a worker who was injured or killed in a compensable work-related accident during the course and scope of [...] More
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The scholarship is open nationally to high school seniors who have a hearing loss, which requires the use of hearing aid(s) in their daily life. The purpose of this scholarship is to help students with hearing challenges reach their full potential by giving them the gift of sound. This will further allow the students to build confidence and self-esteem as they prepare to begin their college or [...] More
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.
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I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals. And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter.
My name is Christian Wood. I am a high school senior who will be attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. I am getting a degree in journalism so I can become an online journalist. My goal is to work for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, or another news outlet that has a strong online presence. The internet is already where most people get their news, and the industry will be even bigger by the time I graduate. Getting a degree in journalism with a focus on digital media will set me up for a fulfilling, fast-paced career fit for the future.
It is good to be afraid of cliché—but one of the truisms about clichés is that they become trite because they reiterate feelings we’ve all had. That also means that buried beneath many clichés is some authentic, particular, and personal relationship you have to your topic. If you’re working with a teacher, counselor, or advisor on your statement, they can help you discern whether you’re in cliché territory or whether you’ve bypassed it to a more fruitful realm.
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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.
When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.
Through my experience as a volunteer that communicates a lot with parents, I have learned that the American Dream does not simply belong to first generation students like myself. I have found that our accomplishments are stacked upon the sacrifices of our parents. I used to think that growing up was like the passing of a baton where you’re the next runner and it’s your turn to run your best race, but I now see that this is a team effort, as you expand your horizons your family also gets to experience the benefits. I want to demonstrate to my community that there can be a female, bilingual, Latina doctor. I want to showcase that one's zip code, doesn't determines one's success. One of the most common questions I get at these parent meetings is “what’s better college or university”? This question didn’t make sense to me at first then I realized that parents wanted 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. They want to be able to help but do not know where to begin. As a student ambassador I helped bridge that gap. We often held meetings where we explained to parents within our community what resources were out there and available and what the difference were among the different options for each student. Being the student face for Animo, I’ve learned that I as a student and daughter, can provide assistance to my own community through the knowledge that I have gained. I am the communication that is needed in my community that’s necessary for further successes by using my personal knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations.
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I didn’t really understand my community until I was forced to see it from the outside; sort of like when you see a picture of yourself someone else took that you weren’t aware of. It took a 3,000 mile flight for me to gain a different perspective of the world, of my world. When I landed in Maine it was nothing like the place I called home. There was no traffic, there were lots of trees, and absolutely no spanish to be heard anywhere. I missed my people, my home, and my community the most as I saw the ways in which other communities fostered creativity, advocacy, and community involvement.
My name is Sierra Breault, and I am a junior at Murray State University. I am double-majoring in Criminal Justice and Forensics Science, and I will graduate in 2020 with two bachelor’s degrees. My career goal is in criminal justice so I can put an end to widespread criminal activities. I want to contribute to investigations that take down gang leaders, prevent illegal gun trade, and stop the distribution of illegal drugs.
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
Many scholarships, as you may already know, require an essay. The majority of them will provide an essay subject or subjects and most will only allow a limited number of characters or words per entry. Gather all of these scholarships in one place and compare them. Make a list of the scholarship providers to whom you might safely be able to submit the same essay without hurting your chances of winning. The great thing about scholarship essays is that there is so often overlap in the required subject matter that you can "recycle" them. If you can enter a single essay multiple times, you will cut the amount of time you need to spend applying to each considerably.
The other reason this instance of essay recycling works is because the ApplyTexas and Coalition applications have compatible word limits. In general, you can't reuse a 600-word essay for a prompt with a 250-word limit. Why? Because by the time you've cut out that many words, you'll usually be left with something that either doesn't make much sense or that doesn't show much about you (since you've only left enough of the story to explain what happened).
That day around six o’clock, juvenile combatants appeared in Kyung Mountain for their weekly battle, with cheeks smeared in mud and empty BB guns in their hands. The Korean War game was simple: to kill your opponent you had to shout “pow!” before he did. Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began. My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders.
The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase “you know,” so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father’s strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn’t occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.
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?
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.
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A Clarkston Scholar is a highly-driven student who excels in the classroom, has a focused interest and passion for the life sciences industry and intends to enter the life sciences industry upon graduation. The Clarkston Scholars Program will provide one sophomore attending a four-year college/university undergraduate program in Pennsylvania who is majoring in a life sciences-related field of [...] More
The Americanism Educational Leaders and Pepperdine University Libraries are pleased to announce its annual collegiate essay contest. The mission of AEL is in its strong belief in "American exceptionalism", i.e., that our country is exceptional in the history of the world. All of our programs are meant to encourage students to learn about, understand, and appreciate some aspect of the American [...] More
The class quickly degenerated into anarchy. I spent the first twenty minutes watching as elbows sent pencils overboard and handmade tattoos crawled up arms. With chaos mounting, I was paralyzed by the inability to speak. I forced myself to listen, as their conversations progressed to artistic ideas: Spiderman ornaments, Batman Christmas cards, ninja star origami. I expected a stir of artistic energy as their art took shape, but all I heard was the crinkling of paper and scattering of markers as ideas never became reality.
This program recognizes students with a strong history of community service. Applicants should be a graduating senior with strong community service experience and strong academics from an Albuquerque metro area high school. Applicants must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA, 23 composite ACT and be attending a 2-year or 4-year non-profit or public college/university in the coming fall. For more [...] More
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.
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.
“In five years I will have a four-year degree in Industrial & Innovative Design and a year of work experience under my belt with a design firm. My degree will provide me with the skills, tools, and technology necessary to digitally design. Communication and interpersonal skills will also be part of my educational foundation as interaction with clients will be an essential part of my job. There are several avenues I could pursue with my degree, but my passion lies in residential architectural design. I will be working in a position where I will be talking to clients, drawing out their dreams in a house, designing it, watching it come to life before my eyes, and seeing them move in, making that space their own. As I gain knowledge and expertise, I envision myself volunteering for an organization like Habitats for Humanity which provide housing for those in need of a place to call home.”
Don’t brag about your achievements. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Failure is essayistic gold. Figure out what you’ve learned. Write about that. Be honest and say the hardest things you can. And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.
The Hunt Leadership Scholars Program provides full SMU tuition and fees, less the amount of resident tuition and fees at the leading public university of the student's state of residency. If eligible, a student can be awarded need-based aid in addition to the Hunt Scholarship. For students who have a profound potential for future leadership, we want to make a private education as affordable as a [...] More
Now, I cherish the chance to act based on what I hear. Through teaching at Kumon and church and leading volunteer organizations, I’ve worked to develop and implement my style of listening to benefit others. Listening is a skill that I feel is often under appreciated in leadership. People usually flock to the figure in the center of the room, not the person on the side listening. But from my experience, it’s clear that I can guide others by harnessing my observations to benefit the inspirations and passions of those around me. My college plans are only avenues to further explore this ideology, as I’ll have the unique perspectives of thousands of other students, and professors to listen to.
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.
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.
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My father’s name is not on my birth certificate, but it is MY birth certificate. My origins are not the brightest but I was given a life that is mine to live and because “Life is made of two dates and a dash..” I have to “...Make most of the dash.” I am not going to live forever but if I were to leave this world today I would feel content with the person I see in the mirror.
One part of creating the best products is bringing a diverse group of people together. To bring more gender diversity to the technology industry, we are pleased to invite applications for the inaugural Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship. The Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship recognizes outstanding undergraduate female students anywhere in the world who are studying [...] More
This prompt is allows you to express what you want to express if it doesn’t align directly with the other prompts. While this prompt is very open-ended, it doesn’t mean you can adapt any essay you’ve written and think it will suffice. Always refer back to the Strategy section of this article and make sure the topic and essay of your choice addresses the Core Four questions necessary for a good Common App essay.
The National Corn Growers Association and BASF Corporation will award five $1,000 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in an agriculture-related field. Recipients and a parent or guardian will enjoy travel and lodging to attend the Commodity Classic in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be recognized at the NCGA Banquet and have the opportunity to learn more about modern [...] More
I talked about my community every chance I got, writing a public backlash to Donald Trump and reading out to the group of parents to show them my unique struggle. The election of Donald Trump has forced me to come to terms with the harsh realities of this world. The lack of respect he has for women, minority groups, and factual evidence are alarming. This presidency makes me want to prove wrong all of his perceptions of people like me, the poor, the immigrant, the woman. I left people in awe, leaving me empowered. I had people come up to me and explain that they can relate to my poem about not fitting in, being Mexican American and not feeling like you can consider yourself American or Mexican because you’re both. I emphasized that I, like many others, am in between and we have the same platform that anyone else does to succeed. I explained that many of us, hold this pressure of first generation children of immigrants to prove that we are the proof that our parents sacrifices of restarting in a new country was worth it. I was the visible representation of a first generation child of immigrants, branching out into a new environment despite where I had come from and shocking everyone with my prosperity.
I know the difficulty that latinos face in this day and age I can envision assisting other young latinos achieving their dreams. I believe the most valuable thing in this world is opportunity because sometimes all it takes for someone to be successful is a chance to do so. Consequently I would like to be part of that chance that can foster the growth of future success.
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.
“Since I opened the first page of the book titled “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” I have realized how to write a scholarship essay to win a day. I realized the true essence of being a journalist. Despite my attitude to writing, I had some doubts regarding the future career because my parents did not treat the profession of the writer as something successful. I will explain why I am the one who deserves a scholarship at Yale University.”
The most obvious things make great topics. What do I mean? Colleges want to learn about who you are, what you value and how you will contribute to their community. I had two students write about their vehicles—one wrote about the experience of purchasing their used truck and one wrote about how her car is an extension of who she is. We learned about their responsibility, creative thinking, teamwork and resilience in a fun and entertaining way.
But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.
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 goal of these revisions is to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts. They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration. To this end, we will be creating new educational resources to help students both understand and approach the opportunities the essay presents for them.
If you haven’t experienced a “big” failure, another angle to take would be to discuss smaller, repeated failures that are either linked or similar thematically. For example, if you used to stutter or get nervous in large social groups, you could discuss the steps you took to find a solution. Even if you don’t have a massive foundational challenge to write about, a recurring challenge can translate to a powerful essay topic, especially if the steps you took to overcome this repeated failure help expose your character.
The Judy Shankle Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior who is planning on pursuing a college degree in any Engineering or Computer discipline. In order to be considered for this scholarship, the applicant must be a senior currently attending Graves County High School in Mayfield, KY. This scholarship will be awarded based on answers to two essay questions related to the [...] More
The Khyentse Foundation has developed the KF Translation Studies Scholarship to support students in advanced degree programs in translation studies and Buddhist philosophy with the expressed purpose of training the translators of the future. Students must be currently enrolled in a program of translation studies or Buddhist philosophy and are on track to become translators or are currently [...] More
Most people prefer reading a good story over anything else. So... tell a great story in your essay. Worry less about providing as many details about you as possible and more about captivating the reader's attention inside of a great narrative. I read a great essay this year where an applicant walked me through the steps of meditation and how your body responds to it. Loved it. (Yes, I'll admit I'm a predisposed meditation fan.)
Skidmore College and UAlbany have already made good on their New Year's resolution by banning all smoking and tobacco use throughout campus, including outdoor areas, effective January 1. Skidmore partnered with the Living Tobacco-Free Initiative, a program of the Health Promotion Center of Glens Falls Hospital, which encourages community members to resolve major health and economic implications of tobacco use and will provide the college with information, resources, and examples about planning, implementing and sustaining a tobacco-free campus policy. [...]
Design something creative that illustrates your passion for your specific creative field. This can be done in absolutely any medium (drawing, painting, animation, digital media, film, etc.). Submit an essay that explains this piece of work. Also, make sure to express why you should receive this scholarship and any financial hardship that you may be going through. It can be as long as you want and [...] More
Kim is a recognized national expert on the college application essay and speaks to high school and parent groups about the role of the college essay within the competitive admission world. Kim is also a frequent guest speaker at industry conferences, and has planned and moderated expert panel discussions on the college essay with admission professionals from the nation’s top universities. Kim conducts monthly webinars for parents and represents Wow during webinars and interactive social media events (Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts, etc.) sponsored by community service organizations, test prep organizations, and financial aid companies.
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The popular "topic of your choice" option had been removed from the Common Application between 2013 and 2016, but it returned again with the 2017-18 admissions cycle. Use this option if you have a story to share that doesn't quite fit into any of the options above. However, the first six topics are extremely broad with a lot of flexibility, so make sure your topic really can't be identified with one of them. Also, don't equate "topic of your choice" with a license to write a comedy routine or poem (you can submit such things via the "Additional Info" option). Essays written for this prompt still need to have substance and tell your reader something about you. Cleverness is fine, but don't be clever at the expense of meaningful content.
Applicants submitting the Coalition Application: Please choose one of the topics above and respond in 300 words or fewer. In addition to writing on your chosen topic, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created that is meaningful to you and relates to your essay. Above your essay, include a one-sentence description of what you have submitted.
Your writing should provide a context within which the reader learns about who you are and what has brought you to this stage in your life. Try to tie your account into how this has made you develop as a person, friend, family member or leader (or any role in your life that is important to you). You may also want to make a connection to how this has inspired some part of your educational journey or your future aspirations.
To address a question like this, you need a topic that has real stakes—that is, something that you genuinely struggled with. Even though it can seem as though you should only discuss positive experiences and feelings in your college essay (you want to impress your readers with how awesome you are!), unwavering positivity actually hurts your essay because it makes you seem fake.
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.
Before you dive (or cannonball!) into our pool of essay advice, we’d like to leave you with one last little secret: the prompts are not actually as important as you think they are. In fact, in our instructional writing course and private advising, we encourage applicants to root around for their most meaningful stories first and consider the prompts later. This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here. For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: The prompts don’t really matter. What matters is the story you want to tell. (And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run.) We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story (or two or twelve!) to communicate to admissions. All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it. So take a peek at what the 2018-19 application has in store for you, absorb what these prompts are really asking, and then forget about them (really!) as you explore the endless possibilities.
After 8th grade, I moved to Georgia. I soon discovered that my freshman year would be my new high school’s inaugural year. Since there were students coming in from 5 different schools, there was no real sense of “normal”. I panicked. If there was no normal, how could I be unique? I realized that I had spent so much energy going against the grain that I had no idea what my true interests were. It was time to find out. I joined the basketball team, performed in the school musical, and enrolled in chorus, all of which were firsts for me. I did whatever I thought would make me happy. And it paid off. I was no longer socially awkward. In fact, because I was involved in so many unrelated activities, I was socially flexible. I had finally become my own person.”
Most people don’t outline. And even after outlining, many people fail to follow their outline. It’s natural that you’ll want to stray here or there, towards or away from the initial plan, but below are a few common errors that people make when they either don’t outline or ditch the guiding hand of their outline. As we go through some of these errors, we’ll also make a list of a few general tips and tricks for managing some of the toughest parts of your essay, including time, scene, epiphany, change, character, and more.
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.
“I think he looks beautiful,” my oldest brother Ethan chimes in. At that moment, I wish I could have hugged Ethan. No, not because he was defending my brother-in-law (who actually isn’t gay, as my uncle was suggesting), but because Ethan was defending me. My uncle has no idea that I recognized earlier this past year that heterosexuality wasn’t meeting all of my needs for intimacy with other people and that I’ve come to define myself as queer. It all started when I took a hard look at how my upbringing in Miami had taught me that the only way that boys are supposed to connect with others is by having sex with “beautiful” girls – that intimacy with other guys or “ugly” girls isn’t as meaningful.
Each graf was 45 words long and contained substantively the same information (applicant has wanted to be a librarian since she was a young girl). But they are extraordinarily different essays, most strikingly because the former is generic where the latter is specific. It was a real thing, which happened to a real person, told simply. There is nothing better than that.
When brainstorming this particular essay, a tip would be to use a web diagram, placing the topic in the middle and thinking about branching characteristics, themes, or concepts related to the topic that are directly engaging and captivating to you. In doing so, you’ll be able to gauge the depth of the topic and whether it will suffice for this prompt.
The first question focuses on your personality traits — who you are. The second question targets your progression throughout high school (an arc or journey). The third question is more difficult to grasp, but it involves showing why your personality traits, methods of thinking, areas of interest, and tangible skills form a unique combination. The fourth question is a concluding point that can be answered simply, normally in the conclusion paragraph, i.e., “Running matters to me” or “Ethical fashion matters to me.”
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)
This option was entirely new in 2017, and it's a wonderfully broad prompt. In essence, it's asking you to identify and discuss something that enthralls you. The question gives you an opportunity to identify something that kicks your brain into high gear, reflect on why it is so stimulating, and reveal your process for digging deeper into something that you are passionate about. Note that the central words here—"topic, idea, or concept"—all have rather academic connotations. While you may lose track of time when running or playing football, sports are probably not the best choice for this particular question.
Perhaps you are a brilliant writer, or maybe you're just going for the most efficient way to rack up the college scholarship money. Either way, you’ve decided that the key to funding your education lies in winning scholarship essay contests. Essay scholarships are awarded in numerous fields to students of varied backgrounds. Some essay scholarships have requirements in addition to the essay, such as GPA or financial need, whereas others are judged solely on the merit of the writing submitted. No matter what the criteria are, essay scholarships are a great way to use those writing skills you’ve been practicing to help pay for school.
After graduating, I will apply for work as a dispatcher in a state organization, such as the Office of Drug Control Policy or the Department of Criminal Investigation. While my ultimate goal is to work as a forensic analyst or crime scene investigator, those positions usually only go to people within the organization. Dispatch is the most direct option for career entry, giving me the best chance to pursue my dream career.
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.