Some colleges ask for a personal statement, and others provide a choice of topics, or prompts, for a student to write about. The Common Application, which students can use for more than 700 colleges, gives a choice of seven essay prompts this year that include recounting a challenge, setback or failure and what was learned from the experience; a time when the student questioned or challenged a belief or idea; and a problem the student would like to solve.
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As you’re iterating, try Tip #7: Read your drafts aloud so that you can tell when things feel stiff or weak; this should sound like you. Reading aloud can help you catch things like Common Error #5: tonal errors—sounding too formal or too glib/casual. Ramya never suffered from either of these problems; she sounded like herself even in early drafts. But many students feel that they either have to sound formal to the point of stuffiness (“On a Sunday afternoon, my father would pick me up from my room and take me down to the kitchen, whereupon we would adjourn to Dee’s Sports bar…”) or “authentically young” to the point of disrespecting the reader (“On Sundays my dad’s like, let’s go to Dee’s Sports Bar, and I go okay so I come on down and we get going...”) When you’re staring at the blinking cursor until your eyes cross, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps, and to write in a voice that isn’t yours. When you read aloud, you can catch it. Tip #8: The right essay-voice is the most polished version of your speaking-voice. You shouldn’t sound like you swallowed a Thesaurus, but you should sound a little more formal than your text messages to your friends would.
2. Follow the directions of the prompt: As with many things in life, here, too, it is critical to follow directions and answer the question or address the topic presented to you. If you don't have sufficient knowledge to do so intelligently or aren't confident in your ability to do so, research the topic or talk to friends and family about it to perhaps get some inspiration.
However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades. As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.   

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The Texas Wildlife Association Foundation (TWAF) and the San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Inc. (SALE) have joined forces to offer five Natural Resource-Excellence in Education Scholarships in the fall. The scholarships will be awarded to five freshmen at Texas universities who are majoring in natural resource related field such as agricultural science, wildlife science, forestry, range science, [...] More
Some instruments are built to make multiple notes, like a piano. A saxophone on the other hand doesn’t play chords but single notes through one vibrating reed. However, I discovered that you can play multiple notes simultaneously on the saxophone. While practicing a concert D-flat scale, I messed up a fingering for a low B-flat, and my instrument produced a strange noise with two notes. My band teacher got very excited and exclaimed, “Hey, you just played a polyphonic note!” I like it when accidents lead to discovering new ideas.

Eligible applicants must be U.S. residents applying to a post-secondary/vocational institution or already enrolled at a college or vocational school. Applicant has a confirmed diagnosis of RA or JRA/JIA, or has a parent with such a diagnosis and will be required to submit an application form and a written paper in response to an essay prompt. Previous RPF Scholarship winners are not eligible. For [...] More
In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens. This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. I learned about the different mechanisms and cells that our bodies use in order to fight off pathogens. My desire to major in biology in college has been stimulated by my fascination with the human body, its processes, and the desire to find a way to help people with allergies. I hope that one day I can find a way to stop allergic reactions or at least lessen the symptoms, so that children and adults don’t have to feel the same fear and bitterness that I felt.
The WIIT Charitable Trust scholarship program is designed to provide financial assistance to further educational objectives of women who are interested in international development, international relations, international trade, international economics, or international business. A completed application includes a 3-5 page essay. Female students must be currently enrolled at an accredited U.S. [...] More
Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief. The answer to the final question about the "outcome" of your challenge need not be a success story. Sometimes in retrospection, we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.
Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.
In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no fewer than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event, or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.

While being able to write about whatever you wish sounds great in theory, some students find—especially at the beginning of the brainstorming process—that they are debilitated by the “topic of your choice” option because it offers too much choice. If that is the case, fear not! Use some of the other prompts as starting points for your brainstorming and free writing journeys. Begin keeping a diary (now!) and jot down subjects, events, and memories as they float to the surface. Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.


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.  

At 13, I was an ordinary teenage girl. I had my favorite movie stars, my secret crushes, and I probably ate too much chocolate. School mattered very little to me and learning even less. I worried about getting good grades in school but only to please my parents. My happy life consisted of sweet treats and even sweeter thoughts, an endless array of bite-sized banality. All that changed the summer of my 13th year, the year my older sister went away to college.
Award Amount: $1,000 The Blades of Green Scholarship Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students. You must be pursuing education in environmental studies or related fields and submit a 350 to 500 word letter of intent describing your career path, passion for your intended field and what inspired your pursuit of your field in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the Blades of Grass Green Scholarship Fund.
Winners of the Health Careers Scholarship Program demonstrate a strong motivation to pursue a health care career, academic excellence, a dedication to community service and a need for financial support of their education. The program is open to higher education students entering their junior and senior years of full-time undergraduate study in the coming fall. This program is not open to [...] More
Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

The Sophie and Hans Scholl Memorial Scholarship is open to all Nevada public high school seniors. The scholarship is for Nevada high school seniors wishing to study political science, German language or a German-related field. Students who also wish to enroll in a university in Germany are eligible to apply. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information or to apply, please visit the [...] More

The Apprentice Ecologist Open Space Scholarship is open to middle school, high school, or undergraduate college/university students (ages 13-21) who participate in or lead an environmental stewardship project for the benefit of any lands managed or co-managed by the Open Space Division. In order to apply, you must write an essay about your project and what it meant to you (750-1,500 words) and [...] More
The moment you realize that you need help writing an essay, you’ll acknowledge that your time is limited. Although you might have started working on the assignment, once you notice that you have no idea how to start and what is expected of you, you begin worrying. First and foremost, a student’s timetable is cramped with more than one academic tasks. In fact, the likelihood is that you have numerous responsibilities, such as written papers, oral presentations, exams, and many others. In this situation, you may find it difficult to set aside multiple hours for writing an essay.
The Carl R. Morris Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship offered to Calhoun County students who are committed to education and community, and currently attend, or are planning to attend, either Alderson-Broaddus College, Glenville State College or West Virginia University. The student must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
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?
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.
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The SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund is dedicated to fostering the next generation of automotive aftermarket industry leaders and innovators. Scholarship awards range from $2,000-$3,000, with $5,000 going to the top student. Assistance is available for career paths in the automotive industry in accounting, engineering, race car driver/crew, administration
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The George Washington University encourages students to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Thus, civil discourse is a key characteristic of our community. Describe a time when you engaged others in meaningful dialogue around an issue that was important to you. Did this exchange create change, new perspectives, or deeper relationships?
We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand – Why NYU? (400 word maximum)
The Sophie and Hans Scholl Memorial Scholarship is open to all Nevada public high school seniors. The scholarship is for Nevada high school seniors wishing to study political science, German language or a German-related field. Students who also wish to enroll in a university in Germany are eligible to apply. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information or to apply, please visit the [...] More
Faith Hope and Love Jesus, Inc. is excited to offer an annual college scholarship. This will be the easiest 500 words or more essay to write in the world. Why? Because it can be on any topic or subject. You decide. That's right. We figure if you're going to write, you'll enjoy it more if it's something you want to write about. Please submit a letter from your doctor documenting a history of a [...] More

Our Incight Scholarship Program is a long-term commitment to students with disabilities entering and attending college. It functions to help reduce the barriers of education advancement and completion by providing the necessary skills for youth with disabilities. We believe that this will enable young people to become self-supporting participants in their communities. Scholarship recipients are [...] More
Professional associations frequently set up scholarship funds to provide educational expense assistance to people preparing for careers in the field they represent. Letters written for this type of program should emphasize a commitment to success in the profession with examples to illustrate, as well as information on how the funds will benefit the applicant.
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
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.
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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

Award Amount: $1,000 The Blades of Green Scholarship Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students. You must be pursuing education in environmental studies or related fields and submit a 350 to 500 word letter of intent describing your career path, passion for your intended field and what inspired your pursuit of your field in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the Blades of Grass Green Scholarship Fund.
The City of Houston invites Houston area high school seniors at both public and private schools to participate in the annual Public Service Recognition Week Essay Contest. Seniors can earn up to $2,000 for college, gain a deeper understanding of the local government and learn about the broad range of career options serving the residents of Houston. Essay contest participants are asked to choose a [...] More
Things to consider:  Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can’t get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.
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.)
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1. Anecdote and specificity. As you saw in the prompts above, we’re big advocates of beginning with a particular story or anecdote. This is NOT the only way to start an essay, but it’s a classic one. Journalists call this a “lede”—it’s a hook that brings the reader into a wider topic. Your essay will always go beyond the anecdote, but an anecdote offers a reader an easy, smooth way into your personal statement.
After proudly looking at each detail, I turn to the next page, which I’ve labeled: AND BEYOND. Unlike the previous one, this page is not cluttered or crowded. There is my college diploma with the major listed as International Relations; however, the name of the school is obscure. A miniature map covers nearly half of the paper with numerous red stickers pinpointing locations all over the world, but I cannot recognize the countries’ names. The remainder of the page is a series of frames and borders with simple captions underneath. Without the photographs, the descriptions are cryptic.

I then decided to run for one of the seven Distinguished Representative positions for all of Ohio.  This was an intense process! I was required to first take a test over HOSA rules, regulations, and guidelines.  I was then asked to set goals for the organization and give a speech regarding my goal ideas in front of several hundred people, the current state delegates and officer team.  The final step was a vote by the current state delegates and officer team. I was successfully elected as Historian and my HOSA experience was in full swing.


The Telegraph Herald Scholastic Journalist Awards are presented to high school seniors studying within the Telegraph Herald's circulation area (roughly a 50-mile radius of Dubuque, Iowa). Applicants must be active in the editorial aspect (news, web, sports, features, photo and art/graphics) of newspapers and submit portfolios demonstrating experience, talent, and leadership in newspaper [...] More
I have encountered an emotional barrier making it difficult to manage my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities. I have had to deal with being viciously raped by a peer during my sophomore year, resulting in severe depression. I am no longer allowed to be alone for a long period of time, as I’ve attempted to commit suicide twice, but I do not regard those as true attempts to end my life. I just wanted someone to know how I felt and how much I needed help. My past has only made me more resilient, as I choose to prove to myself and those around me that I am more than the barriers I’ve encountered–but overcome.
Our Incight Scholarship Program is a long-term commitment to students with disabilities entering and attending college. It functions to help reduce the barriers of education advancement and completion by providing the necessary skills for youth with disabilities. We believe that this will enable young people to become self-supporting participants in their communities. Scholarship recipients are [...] More
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?
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.
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?!”
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