According to a report from the College Board, an applicant’s grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores are the top factors, but all universities believed the essay to be of considerable importance in determining the most qualified students. In fact, a compelling and well-written essay can also tip the scales when all else is equal between competing applicants. Therefore, read on to find the top college application essay tips to help you compose an exceptional essay that will stand out to the admissions committee.
In college, as I became more politically engaged, my interest began to gravitate more towards political science. The interest in serving and understanding people has never changed, yet I realized I could make a greater difference doing something for which I have a deeper passion, political science. Pursuing dual degrees in both Psychology and Political Science, I was provided an opportunity to complete a thesis in Psychology with Dr. Sheryl Carol a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Texas (UT) This fall I will complete an additional thesis as a McNair Scholar with Dr. Ken Chambers, Associate Professor in Latin American studies in the UT Political Science Department.

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.
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.
Your grammar and usage do not have to be perfect. However, your essay should be polished and free of conspicuous errors, such as typos and spelling mistakes. In addition to having reviewers spot any issues with clarity and readability, Southwestern University Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services Christine Bowman suggests, “print out your essay, and read it aloud to make sure you have not missed any key words or punctuation. Sometimes we type faster than our thoughts get onto the page.” Seeing your essay printed in hard copy can help you see what you might miss on screen; reading it aloud can help you “hear” errors that your eyes might skip.
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).
This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The "what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn't an afterthought—it's a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.
Throughout this guide, we’re going to refer to a few example essays. Some of these are made up but others are closely based on essays we have worked with students on over the past ten-plus years—and these students successfully met their admissions goals, including getting into multiple Ivy League and other top-tier schools. Let’s meet our students now!
I look at the ticking, white clock: it’s eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levi’s, and last week’s Statistics homework. Having prepared my work space, I pull out the big, blue box and select two 12 by 12 crème sheets of paper. The layouts of the pages are already imprinted in my mind, so I simply draw them on scratch paper. Now I can really begin.
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
Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund is offering a $500.00 Pagan College Scholarship for a rising high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate. All applicants must live in Michigan. Applicants must be 17 years of age or older, have a current GPA of 2.85 or higher, be Pagan, and currently accepted in a full time course of study in any accredited four-year college or university. Applicants must [...] More
The CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship is for African-American or black students with majors in the visual arts including, but not limited to, architecture, ceramics, drawing, fashion, graphic design, illustration, interior design, painting, photography, sketching, video production and other decorative arts. Students must be currently/planning to be enrolled in the upcoming academic year as a [...] More
Ultimately, however, I would like to grow into someone who is loved and remembered by people who aren’t my immediate family members and my friends. I do not wish to be glorified, but I want to be more than a nonentity in this big, vast world. I hope that if I can inspire the change that I want to make, I can leave a legacy that continues to influence and shape the landscape that follows me. After coming to the epiphany that if I died today, nothing would change except for the lives of those extremely close to me, I find myself unwilling to be just another Jane Doe. I want to leave a part of myself behind, whether it is a building or a popular hashtag, that is meaningful and permanent once I die.

There are a few different kinds of loyalty. Loyalty to a team, to an establishment, to other people—even to oneself. Sitting in that bar over the last year, I feel like I’ve glimpsed them all. As a Boston-born girl, my loyalty to the Patriots seems natural—even if it’s not so common for a teenage Indian-American-Californian girl to be as much of a sports junkie as I am. But I’ve seen that loyalty tested plenty of times. I’m completely invested in the Pats; I’ve been known to be giddy when they win, and tearful when they lose. However, finding a true home to watch Patriots games in California isn’t easy. So I owe Dee's Sports Bar a surprising amount. By the end of the season, the staff knew what we wanted to eat, and where we wanted to sit, so the sports bar felt like a second home.
The Martin Luther King School Dream Foundation was organized to provide scholarships for students who received high school diplomas or GED's no earlier than spring 1999; had a minimum two years' attendance at Martin Luther King Elementary School; have been accepted into a program at any accredited post-secondary school; have written an essay about their career and future dreams, and can document [...] More
The Dr. Abdulmunim A. Shakir ISNA Scholarship Program was established because of the strong belief in the value of education by Dr. Shakir. He dedicated himself to education and specifically to working with inner city youth, introducing students to Islam and the Arabic language. He was a true leader and arranged for this scholarship fund to be established to support freshman students in their [...] More
Youth Council isn’t something most students with a passion in practicing medicine chose to participate in, and it certainly wasn’t something I thought would have such an immense impact on the way I view patient care. As a patient’s ultimate advocate, a physician must look beyond hospital gowns and IV tubes and see the world through the eyes of another. Rather than treat diseases, a physician must choose to treat a person instead, ensuring compassionate care is provided to all. While I know that throughout my academic career I will take countless classes that will teach me everything from stoichiometry to cellular respiration, I refuse to take the knowledge I learn and simply place it on a flashcard to memorize. I will use it to help those whom I must be an advocate for: my patients.
If you’re applying to 10 colleges and wait until two weeks before applications are due, you’re going to have a lot of writing to complete in a very short amount of time. Waiting until the last minute leads to stress and rushed essays that don’t accurately convey students’ messages. Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, revise, and get feedback on your essays.
While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.
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ANS Incoming Freshman Scholarships are awarded to graduating high-school seniors who have enrolled, full-time, in college courses and are pursuing a degree in nuclear engineering or have the intent to purse a degree in nuclear engineering. ANS will give a maximum of four Incoming Freshman Scholarships annually. The scholarships will be awarded based on an applicant's high school academic [...] More
I didn’t really understand my community until I was forced to see it from the outside; sort of like when you see a picture of yourself someone else took that you weren’t aware of. It took a 3,000 mile flight for me to gain a different perspective of the world, of my world. When I landed in Maine it was nothing like the place I called home. There was no traffic, there were lots of trees, and absolutely no spanish to be heard anywhere. I missed my people, my home, and my community the most as I saw the ways in which other communities fostered creativity, advocacy, and community involvement.
WIFLE Foundation, Inc. and Women in Federal Law Enforcement, Inc. (both known as WIFLE) are organizations with a goal to achieve gender equity within federal law enforcement through the recruitment, retention, and promotion of qualified women. WIFLE offers several scholarships to talented individuals to meet the demands in the field of law enforcement and to foster the professional development of [...] More
- First and foremost when looking at an essay, you're going to be looking things like, their ability to write well and their appropriation for college. But we're also using that information to kind of see things like, their resilience and their love of learning and their intellectual curiosity. - I always tell a student, you know, if you had the chance to come meet with the admissions committee and present yourself in person, would you want to do it? And without fail students say, yeah I'd love to have that opportunity. And when I ask why? They say because if they were able to get know the admissions committee, the admissions committee would want to admit because they would know them and they would get to know what their about and what makes them unique and special. - The essay is really neat in that it's one of the only places in the application where they have complete control. Where they can write about the things that they've been involved in and things that they've done. - One piece of advice I would give to every student is to ask someone who know's them a little bit, to read their essay and to tell them what impressions they have of you after reading the essay. - I think the essays that work best are actually quite simple. I think students get really caught up in thinking that this essay has to emcompass your entire life and it has to be groundbreaking and, you know, publishable quality. And that's a lot to ask of a high school student. So I always advice students to stick to the simple things that you know. And the essays that stand out the most in my mind are about simple, simple things, very everyday topics. - I have seen some amazing essays about things like students walking their dog, or even their bus ride to school. - I think our hope is that if a student were to drop the essay on the floor of their high school and someone were to pick it up. It didn't have your name on it. That they'd say for sure, oh I know that is so and so's essay, because it speaks so much about your voice and your experiences and your perspective. - I think my favorite essay that I've ever read came from a student in the midwest. And he wrote about working at a fast food restaurant. And he wrote about how people were treating him as they went through the drive through. And how he was treating them back. He called himself an undercover anthropologist, which admittedly was a little nerdy in a Brown sort of way. But I liked his essay because, I was able to see what he was seeing and feel what he was feeling. So for the purposes of the application, where we as admish officers are trying to get to know the applicant, that's a great essay.

In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to be Emperor of the World. While I sat in the car and watched the miles pass by, I developed the plan for my empire. I reasoned that, for the world to run smoothly, it would have to look presentable. I would assign people, aptly named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that needed fixing. That old man down the street with chipping paint on his house would have a fresh coat in no time. The boy who accidentally tossed his Frisbee onto the roof of the school would get it back. The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother managed to hit every single day on the way to school would be filled-in. It made perfect sense! All the people that didn't have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like a ten-year-old FDR.
The baby sitter, the house keeper, the driver, it's taken my dad 10+ years of night shifts to attain financial stability, and become an asset to his workplace. He's been one of the millions of people who has been laid off in the last couple of decades and has had to start over multiple times. But each time he's re-built himself with more resilience. I've grown up living in section 8 housing because my parents often found themselves living paycheck to paycheck, not by choice, but by circumstance. They've endured bankruptcy over credit card debt, have never owned a home, or been given access to resources that allow them to save. Every time we've readapted, we get struck by a new change. I currently live in Manchester Square, a ghost town, byproduct of the Los Angeles Airport expansion project. The 16 steps I have always known, soon to be demolished. My neighbors are empty lots, enclosed by fences. Homeless people’s pitch tents, under the roar of airplanes. My home is soon to become an accommodation to an airport, soon to be nonexistent. Knowing that my family has to relocate as I'm applying to college makes me feel a tad guilty, because of my lack of resources, I fear it will become a barrier into my transition to college. My parents finances are not a secret, I know their struggles as I hear about them day after day. My parents now deal with the burden of relocating, no longer having subsidized housing and again, struck by yet another need to readjust and reassemble. Relocating a family of 5 in an area plagued by gentrification of stadiums and demolition is no simple task as rent prices are as high as mortgages. It's odd they don't want me to stress or have it become my problem but I know it is, and I want to do whatever I can to help.
My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.
Oxbow's Nebraska High School Senior Scholarship is for graduating high seniors in Nebraska with a strong interest in pursuing a career in the companion animal industry. To qualify, you must submit a 300-500 word essay explaining why you want to pursue a career in the pet industry or in the field of animal health. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's website. [...] More
WIFLE Foundation, Inc. and Women in Federal Law Enforcement, Inc. (both known as WIFLE) are organizations with a goal to achieve gender equity within federal law enforcement through the recruitment, retention, and promotion of qualified women. WIFLE offers several scholarships to talented individuals to meet the demands in the field of law enforcement and to foster the professional development of [...] More
Spellcheck won’t catch every spelling or grammatical error! Take the time to read over all your essays carefully and keep an eye out for things like “out” when you meant to say “our” and other common typos. Have a parent or counselor read over the essay, too, to catch any errors you might have missed. Spelling and grammar errors can take away from an otherwise stellar essay – so be mindful.
For this essay, try finding a part of your identity that will set you apart and highlight the unique perspective you will bring to the university. Try to avoid writing an essay that a school will most likely get a million different times — for example, an essay about your talent playing a sport or your early love of learning. Think about an aspect of your personality, family or upbringing that is truly special.

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In French, there is no difference between “conscience” and “consciousness.” In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.
Cancer, as powerful and invincible as it may seem, is a mere fraction of a person’s life. It’s easy to forget when one’s mind and body are so weak and vulnerable. I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
Now, taking your chosen topic, it’s time to outline it. Outlining works great for some people as a pre-writing tactic, and we always recommend it. For others, it can be harder than simply getting down to writing. If you’re really struggling to outline and would rather just follow the pen to a first draft, that’s fine, but do yourself a favor and make outlining your second draft step. At some point, everyone needs an outline, but it’s your call when to do it. Let’s follow this through with Ramya’s essay on the Patriots. The model we’ll use for this essay is a five-paragraph, anecdote-driven essay.
Overall, this prompt is what we at College Essay Advisors call a “choose-your-own-adventure” prompt. It has historically served as a fabulous catch-all for subjects that don’t fit within the confines of the other prompt options. A recent addition to the Common App’s prompt selection now offers even more freedom to applicants (more on that later), but students should still think of Prompt #1 as a topic of immense choice, reeled in by a few helpful guidelines.
A lot is working here! It’s short, clear, and leads us to—Tip #3: define your terms. Ramya wants to talk about an abstract concept—loyalty. Many young writers wish to reflect on things like charity, service, leadership, loyalty, friendship, kindness, morality, etc—these are big topics. But Ramya isn’t just talking about loyalty, a word which could mean many different things to many different people. She’s defined loyalty for the purposes of this essay, which means now we are playing in her house.
The college application process has a logic to it—and it’s one you, the applicant, can both navigate and trust. All those essays, all those forms, all those questions? They’re about getting you in touch with the most authentic and vibrant version of yourself. In fact, if tackled with intelligence, reflection, and organization, the college process can actually offer you a chance to make the admissions process about you as a person, rather than about a distant name on a screen.
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Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.
Answer: Your essay can draw on whatever moves you, regardless of when the anecdote, event, or inciting incident you’re writing about occurred. However, what matters most, in terms of timeline, is that you show your readers how the event not only influences you now but will continue to inflect your thinking about yourself and the world as the years roll on.
Before you begin to write, brainstorm some ideas. Most likely, the university gave you a prompt or a choice of prompts to write about. Take your time to carefully consider each prompt. If you feel yourself drawn to a particular prompt, think about why you’re being drawn to it. Reflect on your life to find any personal anecdotes that work well with that prompt.
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