Also, every year we create free guides on “How to Write X School’s Essays” for the top 100 schools. In these guides, we give you tips and tricks on how to approach each prompt. As such, our prompt database below also contains a link to each school's Essay Breakdown. If a school doesn’t have an Essay Breakdown yet, sign up on the sidebar to get alerted when new posts for the schools you care about are live.
In this article, I’ll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 13 different schools. Finally, I’ll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 125 full essays and essay excerpts, this article will be a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!
This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!
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).
In 200–400 words, you’ll be asked to describe your academic and career plans and any special interest (for example, undergraduate research, academic interests, leadership opportunities, etc.) that you are eager to pursue as an undergraduate at IU. Also, if you encountered any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles in pursuit of your education, share those experiences and how you overcame them.
In an ideal world, you can start writing and planning for your college essays the summer before your senior year. But many students have prior commitments that make following a six-month (June-December) timeline difficult. So here are a few adjusted timelines that can allow you to take advantage of the brainstorming and freewriting process even if you don’t have the full six-month window.
If you have no idea where to start when trying to win a scholarship, you may feel reassured after looking at a few sample essays. They can spur good ideas that might help you outline your work, choose which of your topics is most fitting, and find a writing style that makes you feel comfortable. No matter what approach you take, get at least one other person you trust to review your essay before sending it in. Make revisions as needed and proofread carefully before submitting your scholarship application packet.
And if you ever participated in a situation in tandem with adults and found some success (i.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional circles. However, avoid sounding morally superior (as if you’re the only person who went against this convention, or that you’re better than your peers for doing so).
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
I’ve danced ballet since I when I was seven-years-old. But, even after almost eight years, I could still barely extend my legs as high as my peers nor could do as many pirouettes as them. My flexibility was incredibly subpar and I easily wore out my Pointe shoes, making them unwearable after a couple of months. Where the average lifespans of my peers’ pointe shoes extended into months, mine could barely last ten classes. I was the weakling of my class at Ballet Etudes, and I was too absorbed in my insecurities to do anything to better myself to become the dancer I aspired to be.

It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores . However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities , to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.
All Common App essays must show your personality, identity, and aspirations, as well as spark discussions on interests, character, values, and community. The goal for any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic image and sense of yourself on the reader. When you’re writing and hit a mental block, don’t hesitate to refer back to the Core Four questions a good Common App essay must answer, and always check whether or not the ideas in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to convey about yourself.
The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund sponsors a scholarly writing contest for grades K-12. The theme for the essay is "What Does The Second Amendment Mean to You?" Essays will be judged in two categories: Senior (grades 9-12) and junior (grades 8 and below), with separate cash prizes awarded to the winners in each category. First place cash prizes are $1,000, $600 for second place, $200 for third [...] More
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
My dad and I have a typical father-daughter relationship; I get mad when he doesn’t let me go out, he gets mad when I neglect responsibility. But in the year since we began staking out the bar, we’ve gotten so much closer. On the rides to and from, we talked about everything from school to politics to pop culture. And we talk about sports as equals. My best friend once told me that neither she nor her dad were willing to make the extra effort to find common ground. And I realized how lucky I was: sports offers my dad and me an inexhaustible topic that we can always turn to.

The Jill M. Balboni Memorial Scholarship is dedicated to the memory of Jill Marie Balboni who lost her life long battle with cystic fibrosis in July 2013 at the age of 36. Jill was a lover of life and lover of learning. Jill received her Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D and still managed to enjoy every day with a smile while spending time with her family and friends between her time in the Tri-Delta [...] More
Time4Writing offers a comprehensive eight-week writing course, but they also offer free articles that walk you through all the basics of writing like attention-grabbing introductions, sentence structure and types of paragraphs. It’ll even develop your typing skills. If you want to go hard, go ahead and take the eight-week course—but if you’re looking for some quick tips, their free articles are great.
It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
Every evening at precisely 6:30 p.m., my family and I unfailingly gather in our living room in anticipation of Pat Sajak’s cheerful announcement: “It’s time to spin the wheel!” And the game is afoot, our banter punctuated by the potential of either big rewards or even bigger bankruptcies: “She has to know that word—my goodness, why is she buying a vowel?!”
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.
The value of education is something that I have understood since a very young age. Neither of my parents had an opportunity to attend college, and faced many struggles in their personal and professional lives because of this. They made a commitment early in my life to do everything within their power to instill in me a love of learning and an understanding of the importance of hard work and dedication.
Colleges will sometimes also have a place to offer additional information or context about hardships you might have faced during high school. This is another place you could consider explaining or adding context for bad grades or the like. Even here, it’s important to not simply state, “I had bad grades but improved them.” A better explanation provides context and explains what specifically helped you turn things around, for example: “During my freshman year, as my parents went through a difficult divorce, I became distracted and stressed, and my grades suffered as a result. I was able to work with my teachers over the summer after my freshman year, however, and attended summer school to make up for weak performance. My family also repaired itself after a few years and time in family therapy. Though I regret my poor grades from ninth grade, I am proud that I was able to improve quickly as a sophomore, and that I developed both stronger study habits and tactics for dealing with emotional stress as a result.” The second answer is specific and also demonstrates maturity gained thanks to a difficult period.
The Gratiot County Community Foundation, incorporated in 1992, is a vehicle for receiving charitable gifts that will remain forever in Gratiot County. As a non-profit corporation, we are classified as a public charity under the Internal Revenue Code, making donors eligible for federal tax deductions and a State of Michigan tax credit. Gifts to the Foundation may be in cash, real estate, [...] More
Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup. My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
Our mission is to unite the people engaged exclusively or partially in traffic duties of the various commercial and transportation interests of Baltimore and the vicinity in a program of education. To qualify, a completed application is to be submitted along with a 250-word essay on your career path and any interests in the field of logistics and transportation as well as how this scholarship [...] More
While it's important to be thoughtful and mature, you don't want your college application essay to be too heavy. Try to lighten up the essay with a clever metaphor, a well-placed witticism, or a little self-deprecating humor. But don't overdo it. The essay that is filled with bad puns or off-color jokes will often end up in the rejection pile. Also, humor isn't a substitute for substance. Your primary task is to answer the essay prompt thoughtfully; the smile you bring to your reader's lips is just a bonus (and a tear can sometimes be effective too). Many students have been rejected for failing to take the prompt seriously and writing essays that end up being more foolish than clever.
Although there is no single thing we are hoping to find out about you, the essay can help you “come to life” and often becomes a way for us to understand your story. Remember, we aren’t looking for perfection. We are looking for the human being behind the roster of activities and grades. Think of the essay as an opportunity rather than an ordeal. Don't psych yourself out by thinking the essay has to do all the heavy lifting in your application. It is only one part in our holistic review that allows us to construct an interesting Oberlin community.
Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: DO NOT TRESPASS: Boar Traps Ahead. (Two summers ago, my five year old cousin, who insisted on joining the ranks, had wandered off-course during the battle; we found him at the bottom of a 20 ft deep pit with a deep gash in his forehead and shirt soaked in blood) “Hey, stop!” I shouted, heart pounding. “STOP!” My mind froze. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?
My mother and my father wept after they closed the shop. Seeing the business as a failure, my mom commenced her packing that night; returning to Vietnam seemed inevitable. The next business day, however, sales increased ten-fold. More and more customers came each successive day. My mom’s tears turned into—well, more tears, but they were tears of joy. My mother unpacked a bag each night. Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Ravine Grocery. My parents work, work, work to keep the shelves stocked and the customers coming. The grocery store holds a special place in my heart: it is the catalyst for my success. So when the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store. Although the opportunities that my parents and I pursued are different, our journey is essentially the same: we walk a road paved with uncertainty and doubt with the prospect of success fortified by our hearts and our hands.”
You may not be thrilled at the prospect of spending the summer before your senior year on college applications. But getting going in June after your junior year and committing to a few exercises over the summer will be like spring training for summer athletes. By the time you get to August, when you’re drafting your Common App Essay and your secondary essays in full, you will be warmed up, and much of the hardest work—that is, the reflection, figuring out what you want to say—will be done for you.
Interests – Interest are basically synonymous to activities, but slightly broader (you could say that interests encompass activities); participation in an interest is often less organized than in an activity. For instance, you might consider cross country an activity, but cooking an interest. Writing about an interest is a way to highlight passions that may not come across in the rest of your application. If you’re a wrestler for example, writing about your interest in stand-up comedy would be a refreshing addition to your application. You should also feel free to use this topic to show what an important activity on your application really means to you. Keep in mind, however, that many schools will ask you to describe one of your activities in their supplemental essays (usually about 250 words), so choose strategically—you don’t want to write twice on the same thing.
Once you press the “order now” button, a pop-up menu will appear where you can fill a small description of your project. Once the project is posted, writers can see the details and bid if they are up to the task. Before giving any work, it is recommended to view the writer’s profile and see how many stars he has. Once everything is settled, you will be billed, and the writer will start working on it. The final paper will then be delivered to you, and if you like it, you can approve it.
This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.
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