While the personal essay has to be personal, a reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it. One of my favorites from when I worked in admissions at Duke University started out, “My car and I are a lot alike.” The writer then described a car that smelled like wet dog and went from 0 to 60 in, well, it never quite got to 60.
As you can see above, a few schools ask simply, “Tell us something about yourself,” but most have a more specific prompt. Still, many questions are pretty similar to each other and can be grouped into three general types. In this section, we'll break down each type of college essay question to see why colleges ask about it and how you can respond effectively.
Scholarship Search Insider features advice and information on how prospective college students can find scholarships and pay for college. Student Loan Hero, an organization that helps student loan borrowers manage their debt and provides financial advice, including on scholarships, is the current contributor. Previous contributors included GoodCall.com, Scholarships.com, College Greenlight and Cappex.com. Got a question? Email scholarshipsearchinsider@usnews.com.
Collaborative endeavors are the proving grounds for Murphy’s Law: everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The shredded beef, which was supposed to be tender, was still hard as a rock after an hour on the stove. With our unseasoned cooking minds, all ideas were valid. Put more salt in? Sure. Cook it at a higher temperature? Go for it. Collaboration requires people to be receptive. It demands an open mind. All ideas deserve consideration.
Answer: Since you only have 650 words to express the intangible parts of yourself, we always recommend using as much of the word limit as possible. If you’re well below that limit, it’s worth asking yourself why your personal statement is so short. Check it against the outlines we’ve worked through in this post. Have you used your five-paragraph essay fully? Has your essay demonstrated change over time, or personal growth? Perhaps you’ve told a story but forgotten to reflect on it. The important thing is to ensure that you’ve fully inhabited each ‘element’ of the successful Common App Essay, as noted in this guide. Doing so will bring you close to the sensible word limit.

Before joining a group of small private liberal arts institutions that had to close its doors due to financial pressures and falling enrollment, Newbury College encouraged students from defunct Mount Ida College to transfer over. The hope was that the addition of students to Newbury's campus would be enough to allow the school to continue its educational mission. Unfortunately, Newbury has announced it will have to shut-down operations next spring and some students who recently arrived from Mount Ida feel "twice betrayed." [...]

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.
A killer first sentence. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don’t take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don’t want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!
Your moment has arrived. Share with us the moments or experiences that have led you to apply to Babson College (500 words maximum).We invite you to submit your answer in either essay OR video format. If you choose to submit a video, please limit your response to a 1-minute video, which can be submitted via a shared link to YouTube or another video hosting website.

Put a little pizazz in your essays by using different fonts, adding color, including foreign characters or by embedding media—links, pictures or illustrations. And how does this happen? Look for opportunities to upload essays onto applications as PDFs. It’s not always possible, but when it is, you will not only have complete control over the ‘look’ of your essay but you will also potentially enrich the content of your work.
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"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why the story you tell is so meaningful. 
“Had you asked me the same question one year ago, my answer would have been vastly different to the one I will give today. In the summer of 2012, with my first year of medical school completed, I embarked upon my last official summer vacation with two things in mind: a basketball tournament in Dallas and one in Atlanta. My closest friends and I had been playing in tournaments for the past 10 summers, and it was a sacred bond forged together in the name of competition. However, two weeks before our first tournament, I became instantly and overwhelmingly short of breath. Having been born to Korean immigrant parents, I was raised to utilize the hospital in emergency cases only, and I knew this was such a case. A few scans later, doctors discovered numerous pulmonary emboli (PE), caused by a subclavian deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and just like that, I was lying in a bed of a major hospital for a life threatening condition.
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).

Colleges and other types of organizations often award scholarships to students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and also have financial need. Letters written for this type of program should emphasize outstanding academic accomplishment in terms of grades and financial need, as well as extracurricular activities and community involvement.
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
Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.

The Megan Meier Foundation is seeking St. Charles high school seniors that have made a positive impact regarding issues of bullying and cyberbullying in their own school and community. Applicants must be currently enrolled as a full-time student, either within his or her high school or through an approved college program; reside in St. Charles County; have a minimum 3.0 GPA and passionately [...] More
Once you’ve selected a range of academic materials, it’s high-time to study and analyze the information. Look up for any specialized terms you aren’t acquainted with. Another important aspect is the way in which you organize your paper. For instance, the format of a book review isn’t the same as the structure for an essay on English literature. In fact, each essay has a range of requirements regarding the format. Don’t forget to pay attention to the approach and style you embrace. Not acknowledging the importance of these factors will decrease your grade, and you should avoid that.
Make a list of experiences that have been important to you. These do not have to be dramatic, tragic, traumatic, or prove that you changed the world, though they can be any of those. Perhaps a particular summer that mattered a lot? Or an experience with friend or family member who shaped you—it could be a specific day spent with them, or a weekend, a summer, a year?
In conclusion, my HOSA experience helped provide me with improvements in leadership, communication, and team work skills.  As I move onto college each of these skills will help me in defining my goals, establishing lasting friendships and relationships, and working with others for common goals for the betterment of our local, state, and national health communities.  I am confident that all of these qualities that I have learned and practiced through HOSA will contribute to my success in every aspect of my future!”

My first HOSA conference as the Historian was the International Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida in June 2017.  Over 2,500 students came together to learn from five outstanding healthcare professionals. Topics included exploring healthcare careers, changes in healthcare, and medical innovations needed in the industry.  I had the opportunity to have an active role in facilitating and participating in workshops and meetings for HOSA members. The goal of these workshops and meetings was to develop practical leadership skills, effective communication skills with people of all ages, and to understand the importance of encouraging individual and group achievements.  Exceptional qualities that I plan on using in my career.

"Selby Scholars" are undergraduate students with exceptional potential who embrace Mr. and Mrs. Selby's values of leadership and service. Like all of our funding, this scholarship program is only available to residents of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte or DeSoto counties. Applicants must be either a graduating senior or a graduating Associate degree students from any state college in the four [...] More


The William Vatavuk Scholarship will be awarded to a deserving high school senior who currently attends an accredited North Carolina high school and plans on attending a two- or four-year college or university. Students must be a high school senior who has a minimum 3.0 GPA. Three written essays of 400-600 words each are also required; essay prompts can be found on the scholarship application. [...] More

Don’t be afraid to dig deep and talk about something that may feel vulnerable. Try to conclude with an example of how the failure improved the way you deal with similar situations now. It can be uncomfortable for anyone to admit they’re less-than-great at something, but that honesty can be refreshing, especially if you tell your story in an authentic, relatable way.


“I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence.”
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Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author’s world, and for how it connects to the author’s emotional life.
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!

Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.
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Essay Prompt: The Rainbow Scholarship is awarded to a deserving LGBTQ student who aims to participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program. If you would like to be considered, please explain why you would be a strong candidate for the Rainbow Scholarship. What will this scholarship enable you to achieve for yourself and your LGBTQ community?
Lastly, the “good” doctor understands that as our patients are human, so are we. This means we will make mistakes, some of which can result in life-threatening consequences. With that said, the “good” doctor practices humility and honesty, apologizing and sharing as much information with patients as possible. Although no one strives to make mistakes, they will happen, and how one reacts to them is a distinguishing feature of the “good” doctor (II).
The Ron and Cora Lee Children of Law Enforcement Officers scholarships are open to high school seniors seeking a full-time post-secondary education at an accredited college or university with at least a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) or equivalent, and who have a parent / guardian that is currently employed by, or entitled to a vested pension from a law enforcement agency, and personally has, or [...] More
The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is awarding scholarships to outstanding Middle Tennessee* students pursuing a degree in business, criminal justice, information technology, or a law-related major. One scholarship, the Donna Crutcher Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $2,500, one scholarship in the amount of $2,000, one scholarship in the amount of [...] More
The David Womack Memorial West Virginia LGBT Scholarship is available to any gay or lesbian undergraduate student who is a resident of West Virginia. The essay should be no more than five (5) 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 information or to apply, please visit [...] More
Having a few extra pairs of eyes to read your essay is one of the best forms of college admission essay help. Ask your proofreaders to specifically look for grammar and spelling errors. Your assistants can also make suggestions on the content, such as identifying areas that need more detail or pointing out where you’ve written too much. Parents and teachers are good candidates for this task, but you can also make use of a college consultant for an experienced proofreader with specialized knowledge of the admissions process.
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