Answer: This is totally normal! But feeling that you have more to say than you can fit is often a result of insufficient paring-down—that is, you probably haven’t chosen the right specific prompt to get your personal statement into particular, small territory. That’s the key: your job is to find the right question to answer, using all the prewriting tips and tricks and exercises we’ve outlined here. With the right question, you can use your Common App Essay as a window into who you are, rather than feeling burdened by the belief that you must communicate your ‘whole self’ in your application. You can’t box yourself up and hand your soul to the admission committee—but you can use those 650 words to give them some insight into some of the most important parts of you.
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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.


Take a minute and think about the college or university admission officers who will be reading your essay. How will your essay convey your background and what makes you unique? If you had the opportunity to stand in front of an admission committee to share a significant story or important information about yourself, what would you say? The college application essay is your chance to share your personality, goals, influences, challenges, triumphs, life experiences, or lessons learned. Not to mention why you're a good fit for the college or university—and why it's a good fit for you. These are the stories behind the list of activities and leadership roles on your application.   

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I was born in Mexico to two Spanish speakers; thus, Spanish was my first language. We then moved to Spain when I was six, before finally arriving in California around my thirteenth birthday. Each change introduced countless challenges, but the hardest part of moving to America, for me, was learning English. Laminated index cards, color-coded and full of vocabulary, became part of my daily life. As someone who loves to engage in a conversation, it was very hard to feel as if my tongue was cut off. Only at the ice rink could I be myself; the feeling of the cold rink breeze embracing me, the ripping sound of blades touching the ice, even the occasional ice burning my skin as I fell—these were my few constants. I did not need to worry about mispronouncing “axel” as “aksal.” Rather, I just needed to glide and deliver the jump.
The Barnes W. Rose, Jr. and Eva Rose Nickol Scholarship Fund was established in 2003 in memory of Mr. Rose and in honor of Eva. Barnes was a 1951 graduate of Albuquerque High School and a 1957 graduate of West Point. Eva is a longtime New Mexico resident. The fund will award a scholarship to an Albuquerque High School graduate pursuing a bachelor's degree in one of the STEM majors: Science, [...] More
Essay Prompt: Please explain a personal hardship or catastrophic life event that you have experienced. How did you manage to overcome this obstacle? What did you learn and how did you grow from it? This answer is critical to your application as Change a Life Foundation’s vision is to assist individuals who have persevered and overcome a hardship/catastrophic life event.
At Seattle Pacific, we encourage all students to explore or go deeper in Christian faith and to be inspired to make a difference. SPU’s vision means that you can pursue an education that helps you change the world for the better. How does Seattle Pacific’s vision align with your desires for college? How does your own faith perspective or personal story intersect with our vision?
After moving from Berlin to New York at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. During my first weeks in America, I discovered HomeNow, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with HomeNow children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees. It was there that I met Laya, a twelve­-year-­old Iraqi girl. In between games and snacks, Laya would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging. Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself.”
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
The next Youth Council meeting, I asked questions. I gave feedback. I noticed what the students at my school were really struggling with. For the first time, I went to drug prevention assemblies and helped my friends run mental health workshops. The more involved I became in my city’s Youth Council, the more I understood how similar being an advocate for your community is to being an advocate for your patients. When I volunteered at the hospital every week, I started paying attention to more than whether or not my patients wanted ice chips in their water. I learned that Deborah was campaigning for equal opportunity housing in a deeply segregated neighborhood and George was a paramedic who injured his leg carrying an 8-year-old with an allergic reaction to the Emergency Room. I might not have been the doctor who diagnosed them but I was often the one person who saw them as human beings rather than patients.
If you’re like many high school students, you’ve been putting off this part of your application. Maybe it’s because you’re not inspired by the various prompts. Perhaps you’re procrastinating because trying to express your character, personality, worldview, passions, writing skill, and desire to go to a particular school all within just a few hundred words feels overwhelming. Or maybe you’re stressed because you know a lot rides on this part of your application but you don’t consider yourself a strong writer.
Even though most college applications only have a suggested minimum of 250 words and no established limit, it is imperative that students realize that every admissions officer has a large pile of essays to read on a daily basis. Since he or she normally expects to spend fewer than five minutes reading through your writing, it is recommended that your essay has fewer than 700 words total to avoid straining their patience. Instead of trying to cover everything in your essay, be concise and coherent when giving the committee a snapshot of your autobiography.
Two (2) Two Men and a Truck Moving Up With Education scholarships are offered each year to any graduating senior who attends the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. The first is a renewable $1,000 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who will pursue a degree in education. The second is a renewable $500 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who is entering a technical [...] More
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.
The Arkansas Chamber Singers Vocal/Choral Music Scholarship is established with a mission in focus that will encourage and promote the art of choral music. It is expected that students will master the skills and acquire the knowledge that will lead to the highest quality of choral music performance in the state of Arkansas. All applicants for the Arkansas Chamber Singers Vocal/Choral Music [...] More

I learned so much from these games beyond the obvious. I learned how to lose, and win, graciously. I learned to enjoy the process, regardless of the outcome. I learned how to take cues from other people but think on my own, both creatively and strategically. I learned how to cope with failure and turn it into a lesson. I learned that true victory stems from hard work and persistence. And I learned that the strongest and most meaningful relationships are not based on indulgence but on honesty and respect.


Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had lost so much more. Upon my father’s passing, he left us with funeral and medical expenses that his insurance would not cover. Because he did not have any form of life insurance, the financial burden of his death was now the responsibility of my mother and me. Even though my mother works night shifts as a neonatal nurse and her commute is nearly two hours, she was forced to pick up extra shifts to support my family. Though I already had a job and I worked about ten hours a week, I now work anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five hours a week, and I am also a full-time high honor student. Even though the death of my father forced me to realize the importance of cherishing time with my family, I do not see them very often because of our busy schedules. I also sacrificed my social life and the joy that every senior in high school should experience. Instead of football games and homecoming, I had to deal with mourning and the possibility that I would not attend college because of my family’s financial troubles.
CCSD male seniors who are of European descent may apply for the Josef Princ Memorial Scholarship. Applicants must also have a minimum 3.5 GPA, demonstrate financial need and planning to attend an accredited post-secondary college or university majoring in engineering, mathematics or science. Up to four scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each will be awarded. Must write a 400-500 essay on [...] More
From the time I entered kindergarten until my eighth-grade year, I had the privilege of being homeschooled. It was during these formative years that I developed a love of reading and learning. My siblings and I used a literature-based curriculum which made history and other subjects come alive. My favorite part of the school day was our read-aloud books. My mom would sit on the couch, and the four of us would gather around her to see the pictures and hear the stories and then discuss the adventures we just went on. It was so enjoyable that it hardly seemed like school and we would beg for more. The schooled kids I would talk with were all jealous and wished they could be taught at home, too.
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.
Just before 5 pm on Sunday, October 13, 2013, I was sitting in a bar, holding on to a feeling of optimism that was fading fast. But wait—it’s not what you think. I didn’t turn to drink—I turned to the TV screen. The score was 27-23, and the Patriots had missed too many opportunities. With just over a minute left to play, my dad—the man responsible for bringing me, a 15-year-old, to a bar—dejectedly asked me if we should leave. I reminded him a true sports fan never gives up on her team, no matter the situation. And after a miracle of a drive finished with an unforgettable pass into the corner of the endzone by my idol, Tom Brady, a swell of elated cheering and high-fiving from the fans in the bar ensued regardless of whether we had previously known one another. Loyalty brought us all together.
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My name is Sarah, and I spent the better part of my childhood on the wrong medication. I am a survivor of a common problem in clinical psychology – misdiagnosis. From antiquated testing methods to limited education, there are many reasons why professionals provide inaccurate diagnoses. I want to help change that. Therefore, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology so I can open my own psychological testing facility.
A scholarship available to any lesbian or gay undergrad student from the state of Alabama. The scholarship applies to attendance at any institute of higher learning in the United States. The essay should be no more than five pages and discuss the applicant's background, educational history, goals for the future and why the applicant believes he or she should receive the scholarship. For more [...] More
The UO is interested in learning more about you. Write an essay of 650 words or less that shares information that we cannot find elsewhere on your application. Any topic you choose is welcome. Some ideas you might consider include your future ambitions and goals, a special talent, extracurricular activity, or unusual interest that sets you apart from your peers, or a significant experience that influenced your life. If you are applying to the UO's Robert D. Clark Honors College, feel free to resubmit your honors college application essay.

This prompt allows you to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept. One example could be “stars,” in that you could describe stargazing as a child, counting them, recognizing constellations, and then transforming that initial captivation into a deeper appreciation of the cosmos as a whole, spurring a love of astronomy and physics.
In each of these essays, students were able to share stories from their everyday lives to reveal something about their character, values, and life that aligned with the culture and values at Hopkins. An effective essay can be about something as simple as a TV show or school club as long as it tells us something about the writer in a way that’s relevant to our community. We hope these essays inspire you as you prepare to compose your own personal statements. The most important thing to remember is to be original and creative as you share your own story, thoughts, and ideas with us.
Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock.  Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors?  What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?
The Student Opportunity Scholarship program serves Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) college students by providing need-based aid for sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are full-time, first-degree students attending accredited institutions in the United States. Student Opportunity Scholarship applicants will explore who God created them to be in a series of essay questions intended for students to [...] More
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?
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Experts say well-crafted application essays can get an admissions officer to take notice and propel an applicant to the top of the heap. Whether it’s about a life-changing event or a moment as simple as fishing, a compelling essay can reflect a student’s voice and mindset, or provide a glimpse into his or her life that a transcript alone may not convey.
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The purpose of the high school seniors English essay contest is to promote effective writing by, about, and/or for queer youth. The theme of the competition is pink ink: "We write not only about different things; we also write differently" Brecht. The contest is open only to students aged 18 and under who have not yet graduated from high school. You must affirm that you are not a high school [...] More
Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.
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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.

If you’re a skilled writer, a few hundred (or even a thousand) words is no biggie. Students that can easily express themselves through writing flock toward scholarships with interesting essays and the scholarships on this list are just that. All of the below scholarships require an essay entry – some as short as only 250 words – with interesting essay topics that range from safe driving and technology to America heroes and animal activism. To help better organize your scholarship and internship search, please note that the following scholarships for writers are listed according to deadline, with the earliest deadline appearing at the top of the page. Deadlines that vary will appear at the bottom of each list. If you enjoy expressing your opinions through writing, the scholarships on this list await your entries.

Your essay does not have to be focused around a fundamentally serious or groundbreaking issue (see the horror genre example above). What matters most when responding to this prompt is that you have strong convictions about the belief or idea you are trying to convey, and that you examine the personal effects of this ethos on your life and world. For this reason, Prompt #3 can be a great vehicle for showcasing your consideration, persuasive skills, and passions to admissions.
In order to qualify to apply for the Ashley Soulé Conroy Study Abroad Scholarship, applicant must be a U.S. citizen who is enrolled as an undergraduate in a U.S. 4-year college or university. Applicants must also have at least 30 hours of completed undergraduate credit by the time of the study abroad term’s start date and intend to study abroad in a program that is outside of the U.S. and be [...] More
Just before 5 pm on Sunday, October 13, 2013, I was sitting in a bar, holding on to a feeling of optimism that was fading fast. But wait—it’s not what you think. I didn’t turn to drink—I turned to the TV screen. The score was 27-23, and the Patriots had missed too many opportunities. With just over a minute left to play, my dad—the man responsible for bringing me, a 15-year-old, to a bar—dejectedly asked me if we should leave. I reminded him a true sports fan never gives up on her team, no matter the situation. And after a miracle of a drive finished with an unforgettable pass into the corner of the endzone by my idol, Tom Brady, a swell of elated cheering and high-fiving from the fans in the bar ensued regardless of whether we had previously known one another. Loyalty brought us all together.
Though not every school uses the Common App—many state or public schools often have their own systems—the work you do in writing your Common App Essay will serve you in every other component of the process, including non-Common App schools (e.g., University of California [UC] schools) as well as the secondary and supplemental essays that go along with the Common App. (Schools that don’t use Common App may still ask for essays or short answers.)
It’s said that boys learn to be a man from their fathers, that they learn what it means to be a man that has values and can stand up for what’s right. I, however, have found that grit can come from anywhere. When I was in middle school I was overweight and many other boys would call me names, and even after going to administration several times nothing changed and for several years I kept myself at bay because if I had done anything in return I would be no better than those guys who bullied me. I previously had this perception that somebody else would come to my rescue, that somebody else would provide the mental strength to combat the hardships that were sent my way. But as time passed I grew tired of waiting for help that was never going to come so I had to become my own hero. Since making that decision I have been liberated from the labels that previously confined me and I took back control of my own life.
College application essays are meant to help college admissions officers get to know students outside of the information already available on the college application, and can provide some context into students’ interests, goals, and motivations. Supplements are also a great way to help students demonstrate their informed interest. While some quirky college application essay prompts might seem weird and irrelevant, students have the chance to get creative and revel something about themselves that can’t be found anywhere else in the application.

The Educational Scholarship Foundation was founded in 2005 by the California Association of Collectors (CAC). The scholarship requires a simple one-page application and essay on "The Importance of Establishing and Maintaining Good Credit During Your College Years". The scholarship is awarded to California high school seniors for their use as full-time students at any accredited college, [...] More

You may have heard the phrase “holistic” admissions thrown around—many universities follow this model, which means they don’t necessarily have an ACT or SAT cutoff score, nor do they require a certain number of AP/IB/Honors courses. Instead, they’re trying to get to know candidates as humans. Admissions officers are people—people who would be horribly bored if their job came down just to numbers, statistics, cutoffs, and counting up your AP and SAT and ACT scores.
For Peterfriend, one essay that stood out came from a student who taught skiing to a disabled and nonverbal child. He wrote about how they communicated, and how he felt when he got to see the child ski down his first slope. He wrote that he didn’t realize how much joy he could receive by helping someone else. The story reflected compassion and self-growth.

We would like to award one undergraduate student affected by cancer with a $2,000 scholarship for the coming academic year. The scholarship is for any undergraduate student who has been affected by cancer in any way (be it themselves, a friend, a family member, a teacher, etc.) and they must also be attending their undergraduate in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, [...] More
Identity – this can mean racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, or simply one’s place within a specific community (even communities as unique as, say, players of World of Warcraft). With the topic of racial identity, it’s important to remember the audience (college admissions counselors often lean progressive politically), so this might not be the best place to make sweeping claims about today’s state of race relations. However, reflecting on how your culture has shaped your experiences can make for a compelling essay. Alternatively, focusing on a dominant personality trait can also make for a compelling theme. For example, if you’re extremely outgoing, you could explain how your adventurousness has allowed you to learn from a diverse group of friends and the random situations you find yourself in. One important thing to note: the topic of identity can easily lack originality if you cover a common experience such as feeling divided between cultures, or coming out. If such experiences are integral to who you are, you should still write about them, but be sure to show us your unique introspection and reflection.
Internal Auditor Magazine, the world's leading publication covering the internal audit profession, is offering six (6) scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who write the most informative and intuitive essays on internal audit subjects, as judged by The IIA's Publications Advisory Committee. Once the student winners are announced, we will publish the winning essay on our website. [...] More

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
Even though most college applications only have a suggested minimum of 250 words and no established limit, it is imperative that students realize that every admissions officer has a large pile of essays to read on a daily basis. Since he or she normally expects to spend fewer than five minutes reading through your writing, it is recommended that your essay has fewer than 700 words total to avoid straining their patience. Instead of trying to cover everything in your essay, be concise and coherent when giving the committee a snapshot of your autobiography.
The Gerald M. Crane Memorial Music Scholarship Fund was established in 1997 by caring people who wish to honor Mr. Crane's devotion to the musical arts and his commitment to music education. The scholarships provide high school music students in the West Michigan area with a cash award ranging from to further pursue their musical endeavors. Applicants may seek a scholarship for a variety of [...] More
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.
Also, keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something important to you that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.
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What does it mean to be an advocate? I didn’t find the answer in any sort of textbook. Not the anatomy textbook that lay across the foot of my bed, filled with Post-Its and half-drawn diagrams. Nor the chemistry textbook that sat on top of it, covered in streaks of blue highlighter. Not even Principles of Biology, overflowing with illegible notes and loose worksheets, had the answer. Yet, in a few years, I will be promising to do just that: be the ultimate advocate for my patients.
3. Be an individual. In writing the essay, ask yourself, "How can I distinguish myself from those thousands of others applying to College X whom I don't know—and even the ones I do know?" It's not in your activities or interests. If you're going straight from high school to college, you're just a teenager, doing teenage things. It is your mind and how it works that are distinctive. How do you think? Sure, that's hard to explain, but that's the key to the whole exercise.
In September 2017 I participated in the HOSA Washington Leadership Conference where 400 officers from all the states learned strategies to improve our leadership skills. These interactive workshops included topics on self-motivation, problem-solving skills, managing others, and professionalism. I collaborated with representatives from many different states in preparation for our meeting with our political leaders both from the House of Representatives and the Senate to discuss with them the value of Career & Technical Education.  We explored and presented evidence regarding the importance of funding for these types of educational opportunities. Upon completion of this conference I reported back to the local Board of Education sharing my experiences and the success of our meetings. Both of these conferences taught me what it takes to be successful in healthcare.
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.
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.
From attending S.E.R.E. (Survival/POW training) in the military and making it through a model comparisons course as an undergraduate, I have rarely shied away from a challenge. I thrive on difficult tasks as I enjoy systematically developing solutions to problems. Attending the University of Rochester would more than likely prove a challenge, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would not only succeed but enable me to offer a unique set of experiences to fellow members of the incoming graduate class.
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