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.


For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students. I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.
3. A wider relevance or a ‘lesson.’ Your essay doesn’t have to demonstrate that you underwent some great metamorphosis or epiphany as a child or teenager, but does your possible topic have a takeaway to work with? You’re looking for something that you can put in your pocket and carry into the future, and in an impressive and ideal world, something that the reader of the essay can say: “wow, I like that way of thinking, and I might even return to that one day.”

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Don’t let unusual college application essay and short answer prompts intimidate you. This is a chance to get creative so take some time to think about what you want to convey with your essays or short answer questions. If you need any help with the college application process, contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for seniors and younger high school students!
One of the major challenges for many students about applying to college is knowing that they are full of passion and potential energy which hasn’t yet been converted into kinetic energy. That can make trying to communicate who you are as well as who you hope to become a daunting task. You might worry about sounding generic or not sounding like yourself or not sounding “smart” or “wise” enough.
You might be familiar with The Common Application, Common App for short, which serves as a single application that over seven-hundred colleges, including every Ivy League school (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton) and Stanford, share. The Common App allows you to fill out things like your name, demographics, extracurricular activities, and more, just once for every school that uses it. It is also where you’ll encounter “The Common App Essay,” otherwise known as your personal statement (PS), which is what this guide will focus on.
You may have heard of Yale University – it’s a private Ivy League research university in Connecticut? It’s also the alma mater of five U.S. presidents, among countless other scholars. With a retention rate of 99 percent, we’re guessing most students don’t answer, “Going to Yale,” as what they've changed their minds about. Perhaps which side of a legal issue you fall on would be a safer answer, especially since Yale Law School is the most selective within the United States. Learn more about Yale University.

The essay is your megaphone — your view of the world and your ambitions. It’s not just a resume or a regurgitation of everything you’ve done. It needs to tell a story with passion, using personal, entertaining anecdotes that showcase your character, your interests, your values, your life experiences, your views of the world, your ambitions and even your sense of humor.


The Pride Foundation offers more than 50 different scholarships though there is only one application to complete. Scholarships are available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight-ally (straight and supportive of LGBT issues) students as well as students from LGBT families. Students must either be residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington (but may study [...] More
Watching live sporting events has been the most popular reason for watching TV for decades. With the advent of easy-to-use DVR technology in the 1990's, and then it's wide-spread adoption over the last fifteen years, sports remain one of the few types of programming that are consistently watched live versus recorded. Using psychological and sociological principles, attempt to understand and [...] More
The Caruso Affiliated Spirit of American Youth Scholarship will be awarded to two graduating high school seniors who attend a public or private school in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. Qualifying students will exhibit academic potential, provide examples of how they've contributed to the betterment of their communities, and complete an essay based on how they would invest in their [...] More

The Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship is a renewable scholarship that awards up to $25,000 dollars annually to deserving African-American college sophomores. Students who are interested in applying for the scholarship must have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, be a business or STEM (Science, technology, engineering and/or math) major that can be applied to the automotive industry, [...] More
This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.
1) That the world is ruled by underwear. There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world. In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.

The essay is not so hard once you start putting ideas down. It lets you express things that don’t appear elsewhere on your application. We hope that you’ll plunge into it, thoughtfully develop your ideas, be honest, and let us hear your voice. Tell us who you are by writing about topics or in a style that reveals your personality, character, or sense of the world.


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           Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body  lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.
Before reading the prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. One way to construct a high-level idea would be to delve into a passion and focus on how you interact with the concept or activity. For example, using “creative writing” as a high-level idea, one could stress their love of world-building, conveying complex emotions, and depicting character interactions, emphasizing how writing stems from real-life experiences.
“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.

What values did you grow up holding dear? Are they the same ones today? Tell the story of the first time you learned about these values—say, a morning at Sunday School or a conversation with a grandparent. If they’ve changed, tell the story of the moment (as best you can place it) when they changed—say, in a classroom, in a conversation with a friend, etc.
Then, it clicked. I could fulfill my duty as a teacher by cultivating the artistic visions I heard.  I didn’t need to employ bubbly enthusiasm or commanding words. Rather, I could listen, and use my observation to empower their artistic expression. Slowly, I worked to tailor to each fantasy-infused idea, with Pinterest, bubble cuts, and mounds of tape to aid me. As class ended with an assortment of festive superhero projects, I saw a glimpse of the impact that I could make by responding to my observations.  
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.
Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.
As an alternative, this prompt gives you the opportunity to address a more ambitious, hypothetical problem you would like to solve. For example, you could address the logistical and legal problems of high-speed rail in the United States, the complex environmental and economic problems of using fossil fuels, or even the ethical dilemma of creating A.I. As long as you are creative and refrain from choosing a cliché topic like “curing cancer,” addressing a hypothetical problem can result in a strong essay. Be careful to frame your hypothetical problem clearly, explain why it is a problem, outline the important points, and explain your steps to create a solution.

The Wynetta A. Frazier Sister-to-Sister Scholarship was created to provide financial assistance to mature African American women in their pursuit of post-secondary education. An applicant must be a returning student, whose education was interrupted by family responsibilities or other personal demands and is now ready to complete college or one who is entering college for the first time because of [...] More


Frozen in disbelief, the chicken tries to make sense of her harsh words. It replays the incident in its head. “All the food, the nice soft hay, the flawless red barn--maybe all of this isn’t worth giving up. Maybe Mother Hen is right. She just wants to protect me from losing it all.” The chicken replays the incident again. “But it was a baby. What if it was hers? She still wouldn’t care. She’s being selfish; all she cares about is this perfect life.” A final replay, and the chicken realizes and accepts that Mother Hen knows, has known, that the man is doing something wrong; yet she has yielded to the cruelty for her own comfort. A fissure in the chicken’s unawareness, a plan begins to hatch. The chicken knows it must escape; it has to get to the other side.
Another guy wrote about making kimchi with his mom. They would go into the garage and talk, really talk: “Once my mom said to me in a thick Korean accent, ‘Every time you have sex, I want you to make sure and use a condo.’ I instantly burst into laughter and said, ‘Mom, that could get kind of expensive!’ ” A girl wrote about her feminist mother’s decision to get breast implants.
It would be dishonest to say everything went smoothly. I thought the dough should be thick. One team member thought it should be thin. The other thought our circles were squares. A fundamental truth about collaboration is that it’s never uncontentious. Everyone has their own expectations about how things should be done. Everyone wants a project to go their way. Collaboration requires observing the differences between the collaborators and finding a way to synthesize everyone’s contributions into a solution that is mutually agreeable.
The Iranian Scholarship Foundation (ISF) provides scholarships to students of Iranian descent in the United States who demonstrate exceptional academic promise, significant financial need and a dedication to community service. We believe that the future of the global Iranian community rests in the hands of our younger generation and the Iranian Scholarship Foundation is committed to providing the [...] More
The Better Business Bureau Foundation of Delaware recognizes college-bound seniors who personify high ethics as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic history. Two (2) $2,500 scholarships will be awarded on behalf of the scholarship recipient to an accredited college or university. Students will be required to submit an essay that answers the [...] More
Write one personal essay for all the schools to which you apply via the Common App. This essay is important, as it provides you with an excellent opportunity to reflect and to communicate to colleges what they should know about you. As you will have only one major essay to write, we hope it will represent your best efforts. Write your Common Application essay in essay format, with a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 650 words.
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

"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.

Participating in the 2013 Women’s World Banking Global Meeting in Amman, Jordan gives me access to invaluable resources that will help me achieve this goal. I hope to find mentors from a roomful of inspiring, experiences leaders who will offer me their guidance. Also, meeting accomplished women from other countries means access to new ideas and unique perspectives. And if I am lucky, I may even come across individuals who can provide financial support to jumpstart my financial literacy program for Hispanic women. Lastly, I will tell my idea to everyone I meet in Jordan, a baby step to help Hispanic women rise from poverty.

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Balancing talking about your experiences and traits with describing what excites you about the school can be tricky, but it's vital that you touch on both. If you don't talk about yourself, you're missing your chance to give the admissions committee a sense of who you are and how you would fit in to their community. And if you don't discuss the school itself, you risk coming off as uninterested. So make sure to do both!
This fund was created through an estate gift from William J. Blair. Scholarships provide assistance to graduating seniors and families from any Fort Collins high school who are unable to pay for a college or vocational school education. Applicant must be a graduating senior, attending a post-secondary college or vocational school, and rank in the upper 50% of the graduating class. An essay is [...] More
From the way my mentors and I began working two hours earlier than required to meet deadlines, I learned that engineering is the commitment of long hours. From the respect and humility embodied within our team, I learned the value of unity at the workplace. Like my own family at home, our unity and communal commitment to working led to excellent results for everyone and a closer connection within the group.
Don’t let unusual college application essay and short answer prompts intimidate you. This is a chance to get creative so take some time to think about what you want to convey with your essays or short answer questions. If you need any help with the college application process, contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for seniors and younger high school students!
4. The Mini-Odyssey Essay: The last classic and powerful module is the good old problem-driven essay. In this type of essay, our hero (you, the writer) meets a challenge in the first paragraph and then the essay is devoted to showing us how it is solved. Let’s say Michael wanted to write not about learning to surf from his grandfather but about learning when his grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There’s a lot of narration that will be required for Michael to tell us about losing his grandfather—it’s too much to cram into the first paragraph. So Michael might distribute the narration chronologically, showing us first the bad news [the problem]—then zooming out to reflect; then showing us how he faced it [addressing the challenge], probably failing to adequately face it perfectly the first time, and then eventually facing it successfully [the solution].

Tzu Chi USA Scholars is a scholarship program funded by Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation to recognize and provide financial assistance to outstanding college-bound high school graduates and continuing undergraduate students in selected areas of the United States. Tzu Chi USA Scholars are selected on the basis of their financial need, academic achievement, and community involvement. Each Scholar will [...] More

Skidmore College and UAlbany have already made good on their New Year's resolution by banning all smoking and tobacco use throughout campus, including outdoor areas, effective January 1. Skidmore partnered with the Living Tobacco-Free Initiative, a program of the Health Promotion Center of Glens Falls Hospital, which encourages community members to resolve major health and economic implications of tobacco use and will provide the college with information, resources, and examples about planning, implementing and sustaining a tobacco-free campus policy. [...]
A good essay topic can relate, as much as possible, to a particular anecdote, story, or even scene. Let’s say Josh found himself writing about his siblings—his older brother who just left for college, and his little sister who he’s spent more time with since his brother left. His essay shouldn’t start, “I love my little sister,” but “I remember the first time my younger sister and I connected. It was July, and our older brother had just gone to college, leaving the two of us alone at home together for the first time.”
Finally, avoid clichés like adages, sayings, and quotes that do not bring value to your essay. Examples include phrases like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (it’s also important to know that sayings like these are often seriously misquoted—Gandhi did not actually utter these words) and lavish claims like “it was the greatest experience of my life.”
Answer: Many students have the instinct to explain themselves, including any failings or perceived failings, while writing their applications. There are a number of ways you can offer the admissions committee context for something you think went ‘wrong’ in high school, whether that’s low grades, imperfect attendance, or something else. Your recommenders might have a chance to write something about it in their letters, if they were in a position to see you during or after the rough period. You can also write about something going wrong in your personal statement if it has narrative energy; that is to say—if it would make a good essay regardless of whether or not it explained away a failing, go ahead and write about it. An example might be an essay that discussed a student’s home life, say their parents’ difficult divorce during their freshman year. If the student had something introspective to say about the divorce, she might add a line or two that explains that her grades suffered during the incident, but she’d want to conclude the essay by not only showing how she righted things in the years after, but also how what she learned from the difficult period will influence her in the future.

Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.


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.”
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Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well. Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome.
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)
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.
Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalk cracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I'm doing so from the driver's seat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperor of the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride imaginings. Or do they? I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man in an orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a deep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.
Sponsored by the Marine Corps Gazette, the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest is open to all Marines on active duty and to members of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve. The contest honors the essay that proposes and argues for a new and better way of "doing business" in the Marine Corps. Learn more information about the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest.
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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.
Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.
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