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!
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This is one of the most common mistakes that students make. In the pursuit to write the perfect essay, many forget to connect it to the original prompt. While the Common Application prompts for the main essay are general enough to allow students to write about whatever they choose, it still needs to be clear how that essay addresses the prompt. The same applies to school-specific essays. Check and double check that a clear connection is made between the topic or lesson of your essay, and the question the prompt is asking.
Our vision is to be the company that best recognizes and serves the needs of international students around the world. We strive to provide students world-class resources to help them investigate and pursue an international education, through relevant content, custom online tools and engaging websites that offer only best in class products and services.
The world I come from consists of underwear, nuclear bombs, and punk rockers. And I love this world. My world is inherently complex, mysterious, and anti-nihilist. I am David Phan, somebody who spends his weekends debating in a three piece suit, other days immersed within the punk rock culture, and some days writing opinionated blogs about underwear.
With the announcement of the essay prompts and the ability for applicants to roll over their Common App account each year, counselors can introduce their juniors to the Common App now to help them start thinking about the application process. For more information, go to Common App Ready, a series of ready-to-use resources, presentations, training videos, and handouts covering everything from account creation through submission. Last year, we expanded this free tool with Spanish language translations. 
Perhaps you are a brilliant writer, or maybe you're just going for the most efficient way to rack up the college scholarship money. Either way, you’ve decided that the key to funding your education lies in winning scholarship essay contests. Essay scholarships are awarded in numerous fields to students of varied backgrounds. Some essay scholarships have requirements in addition to the essay, such as GPA or financial need, whereas others are judged solely on the merit of the writing submitted. No matter what the criteria are, essay scholarships are a great way to use those writing skills you’ve been practicing to help pay for school.
It is my life goal to make films that will change the way society see groups of people typically defined by stereotype and cliché. By immersing myself in Prague’s culture through the American Institute of Foreign Study year-long program, I will gain the cinematic and philosophic tools to create films that will help others to better understand the LGBTQ community. I’ve been making movies since I was old enough to hold a camera, but now I’d like to take it a step further.
The McCorkle's Scholarships are the most prestigious scholarship awards at Catawba. Qualified students will be invited to compete for a full-tuition scholarship on the basis of their high school grade point average, the rigor of their coursework and standardized test scores. To be considered, students must have a weighted GPA of 3.7 or greater, an ACT composite score of 25 (or equivalent SAT), [...] More
Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things.
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.
The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others. This part of the essay is crucial, as you must dedicate sufficient time to not undersell the description of how you grew instead of simply explaining the experience and then saying, “I grew.” This description of how you grew must be specific, in-depth, and it does not have to be simple. Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.

(Remember: Specific anecdotes are your friend when drafting your Common App personal statement. Try to think of a story you often tell people that shows something about you. One of the best pieces of advice we can give you—and something you’ll see reflected in all of the following prompts—is to anchor things in anecdote or story as much as possible.)
Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn’t just uncomfortable or nervous; he “takes a few steps back”—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.
South Coast Water District awards scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who live in the District's service area in coastal south Orange County, California. College-bound high-school seniors who live in the South Coast Water District service area which includes the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, Monarch Beach, South Laguna (south of Nyes Place), areas of north San [...] More

My name is Sarah, and I spent the better part of my childhood on the wrong medication. I am a survivor of a common problem in clinical psychology – misdiagnosis. From antiquated testing methods to limited education, there are many reasons why professionals provide inaccurate diagnoses. I want to help change that. Therefore, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology so I can open my own psychological testing facility.
You want to stand out among the rest of the applicants, as well as provide new information that the admission officers do not already know about you. They will know what GPA you have before they start reading the essay as it’s one of the details they get with the application. Mentioning the GPA in your essay will sound like bragging and be uninteresting.
The Association of Iron and Steel offers scholarships to students majoring in the following programs: metallurgy, materials science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, industrial engineering, environmental science/engineering, and computer science. The list of the different named scholarships and their specific eligibility requirements can be found at the [...] More
In 2015, the city of Melbourne, Australia created a "tree-mail" service, in which all of the trees in the city received an email address so that residents could report any tree-related issues. As an unexpected result, people began to email their favorite trees sweet and occasionally humorous letters. Imagine this has been expanded to any object (tree or otherwise) in the world, and share with us the letter you’d send to your favorite.
When it comes to paying for college, scholarships are the best form of financial aid since they offer students free money that never needs to be repaid. But let’s face it: completing scholarship applications, especially the essays, can feel overwhelming. Not to mention, the essay is arguably the most important part of the application and should take up the majority of your time.
The VIP Women in Technology Scholarship (WITS) program is sponsored by Visionary Integration Professionals (VIP), a leading provider of technology solutions that drive enterprise performance. The WITS program is made available annually to women across the United States. The WITS Program will grant multiple scholarship awards that value up to $2,500.00 per recipient. Applicants must have a minimum [...] More
The National Corn Growers Association and BASF Corporation will award five $1,000 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in an agriculture-related field. Recipients and a parent or guardian will enjoy travel and lodging to attend the Commodity Classic in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be recognized at the NCGA Banquet and have the opportunity to learn more about modern [...] More
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
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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 BWH Group offers a scholarship for women who are pursuing an undergraduate or master's degree and are majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM fields) during the current school year. Applicants must write an essay between 500-800 words on either of the following topics: Tell us about your favorite app and what you like about it, and tell us about a time an app played [...] More
Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here.
Internal Auditor Magazine, the world's leading publication covering the internal audit profession, is offering six (6) scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who write the most informative and intuitive essays on internal audit subjects, as judged by The IIA's Publications Advisory Committee. Once the student winners are announced, we will publish the winning essay on our website. [...] More
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Experiencing science at an early age, I became enthralled with each new experiment, captivated by the chemistry of it all. I watched longingly as my older siblings created their science fair projects. Too young to enter the school science fairs, I took to my family. Force-feeding different animal food to my siblings and parents, I graphed their favorite types. While I was only six, my family has never forgiven me; my “experiments” remain the family joke. Nevertheless, I have progressed from my dog food days, leaving taste tests for DNA gel electrophoresis experiments.
What does it mean to be an advocate? I didn’t find the answer in any sort of textbook. Not the anatomy textbook that lay across the foot of my bed, filled with Post-Its and half-drawn diagrams. Nor the chemistry textbook that sat on top of it, covered in streaks of blue highlighter. Not even Principles of Biology, overflowing with illegible notes and loose worksheets, had the answer. Yet, in a few years, I will be promising to do just that: be the ultimate advocate for my patients.
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 vision is to be the company that best recognizes and serves the needs of international students around the world. We strive to provide students world-class resources to help them investigate and pursue an international education, through relevant content, custom online tools and engaging websites that offer only best in class products and services.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had lost so much more. Upon my father’s passing, he left us with funeral and medical expenses that his insurance would not cover. Because he did not have any form of life insurance, the financial burden of his death was now the responsibility of my mother and me. Even though my mother works night shifts as a neonatal nurse and her commute is nearly two hours, she was forced to pick up extra shifts to support my family. Though I already had a job and I worked about ten hours a week, I now work anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five hours a week, and I am also a full-time high honor student. Even though the death of my father forced me to realize the importance of cherishing time with my family, I do not see them very often because of our busy schedules. I also sacrificed my social life and the joy that every senior in high school should experience. Instead of football games and homecoming, I had to deal with mourning and the possibility that I would not attend college because of my family’s financial troubles.
Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller "aha" moment. Describe the event or ccomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth. 
3. Body paragraph #1: In this paragraph, Ramya will tell us something more about loyalty, and why it matters. She’ll add context. So she will zoom away from Dee's and tell us that throughout high school, she started noticing a lot of her friends getting caught up in social drama, becoming competitive with one another, fighting about romantic situations; set against all this, as well as bullying, depression, and other difficult parts of high school, Ramya’s loyalty to the Patriots and Dee's served as a sanctuary—one of the things that kept her sane.
While many find themselves turned away from the complexity of science, I have found myself mesmerized by it. This difference in opinion has spurred from my upbringings in science, feeling connected to science at an early age. By entering into hands on experiences at an impressionable age, I realized that science was not only for experienced technicians in lab coats, but for anyone.
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

The obvious answer is "Whichever scholarship is worth the most money" but only assuming you haven’t put things off for too long. If it is February of your senior year in high school, see which ones still have deadlines you can make – there should still be plenty. It is imperative that you respect deadlines and get your scholarship applications and/or essays in on time. Put those with the closest due date at the top of your list and don’t bother with one if you aren’t confident you truly qualify or don't stand a good chance of winning. Once you have finished the ones that are "slam dunks," you may still have time to go back and apply to the ones in the "maybe" category. If you start early enough (think October of your senior year), you will definitely be giving yourself an advantage. You might not be able to get an application for all of them yet but the rules and requirements of some great scholarships may be available. You can use these to get an early start on your application or to get a feel for what scholarship providers will be looking for. Start early and time won’t be an issue. You will be able to base priority strictly on the largest amount of money being offered and on confidence in your ability to win a scholarship. Good luck!

As a Catholic university, we strive to be a community in which the dignity of each person is respected and everyone can truly flourish. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., challenged our community to reflect on the following statement: “Let us never do anything to make another member of our community feel unwelcome, and let us not stand by if we see others doing so. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are.” Tell us about a time when you walked with others.
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
Student #4: Michael: Michael lives in a small coastal town and attends a big public high school. After school he has a job scooping ice cream, and though he’s not expected to contribute to his family’s income, he doesn’t have much time for clubs or sports, which aren’t very important at his school. He generally likes chemistry, but he isn’t sure what he wants to do with that. He doesn’t want to be pre-med, and he can’t imagine being a chemist, so he’s undecided about what to major in.
For an inquisitive student like me, Brown’s liberal program provides a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment, giving me great freedom to tailor my education by pursuing a double concentration in both public health and business. I also look forward to pursuing other, more unconventional, academic interests, such as ancient history and etymology through the first year seminars.
I greatly appreciate your consideration. Please know that this scholarship will make a significant positive impact on my ability to continue in school and will be greatly appreciated. I look forward to becoming an active member of the Society for Professional Widget Makers once I graduate from college and begin working in the field. I can assure you that I will be a dedicated professional that you will be proud to count among your ranks.
Reading the essays of other students who successfully got into the college of their choice is a good way to find inspiration for your own writing. Look for common patterns in college admission essay samples, such as personal stories and a touch of humor. You might also find some good ideas for structuring your essay to give it a breath of fresh air.
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