Every year, the college application process seems to get more complex, and more intense. If you’re a student, you might be reviewing rumors and horror stories about that classmate of yours with perfect grades and a 1500 SAT score who somehow got rejected from every Ivy League school. If you’re a parent, you might be afraid of how much the college admissions system has changed and grown more competitive since you were your kids’ age, or perhaps you never had to navigate this system at all.
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!
Your essay is a unique reflection of who you are as a person. Even if your parent or friend is a gifted writer who would be happy to help you write your essay, do not let them write your essay. Your own words are the best way to convey who you are as a student and a person; using someone else’s words won’t give your essay an authentic voice. Additionally, if you’re caught letting someone else write your essay, you may be automatically disqualified from admission. That’s exactly the kind of college application help you don’t need.
In 1986 the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association (WLCA) Metropolitan Milwaukee Chapter was named as a beneficiary in the estate of the late Ronald J. Klokner, a past president and charter member of the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association. The bequest was made with the expressed intent to establish a scholarship fund for students actively pursuing a career in the landscape [...] More
Fast forward a few months, and I am lying in a similar bed to treat the underlying cause of the sublclavian DVT: a first rib removal. There is little that can adequately prepare someone physically, emotionally or spiritually to undergo surgery; and my thoughts continued to race in the days following. In addition to the expected physical pain, isolation, fear and frustration were a few of the emotions I experienced in the four day ordeal. The procedure went according to plan thanks to a skilled surgeon and his team, but the attributes that made the doctor “good” went far beyond his ability to operate.

People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.
The way you answer the college essay prompt is key to your success. It’s your opportunity to shine, to offer admission readers some understanding into who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and activities. That’s why you need to figure out exactly what you want admission officers to know about you before you pick an essay topic and before you write that first draft.
“Show, don’t tell” is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most.  Instead of saying, “I struggled to make friends when I transferred schools,” you can show your emotions by writing, “I scanned the bustling school cafeteria, feeling more and more forlorn with each unfamiliar face. I found an empty table and ate my lunch alone.”
Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It’s family. It’s society. And often, it’s chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.
The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to you know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and what matters to you.
Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).
I have always loved riding in cars. After a long day in first grade, I used to fall asleep to the engine purring in my mother's Honda Odyssey, even though it was only a 5-minute drive home. As I grew, and graduated into the shotgun seat, it became natural and enjoyable to look out the window. Seeing my world passing by through that smudged glass, I would daydream what I could do with it.

One could argue that college is largely about the pursuit of knowledge, so you can imagine it would be quite appealing for an admissions officer to have a meter for your level of self-motivated learning, along with a better understanding of how and why you choose to pay attention to the things that intrigue you. This is a window into your brain: how you process information, how you seek out new sources of content and inspiration. How resourceful are you when your curiosity is piqued to the fullest? The answer to this prompt should also reveal something to admissions about the breadth or depth of your interests. For example, if you’re interested in studying astrophysics, you might choose to discuss a concept that shows how far your exploration of the sciences truly reaches. How consumed are you by this passion you are choosing to pursue academically?

At Wellesley, typically three members of the Board of Admission read your application. The Board includes faculty members, administrators, admission professionals, and current students. We’re music lovers, artists, cyclists, baseball fans, professors, guitar heroes, runners, scientists, dog lovers, poets, beaders, computer techies, and more, thus bringing many perspectives to the admission process.
“Having worked in children’s education for years, I’m enthralled by child psychology. From shaping my Kumon students’ work ethic through positive reinforcement to employing associative learning to help my church students anchor their understanding of scripture, I have become experienced in using my knowledge of psychological concepts to help children manifest their cognitive and social abilities. Based on my experience working and bonding with youth, I want to be able to integrate psychological concepts into my future work as a pediatrician to develop supportive and insightful relationships with my patients.
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.
The Richard Weinreis Memorial Scholarship provides funding to Marathon County (Wisconsin) students who have had formal court contact through the Marathon County Department of Social Services juvenile intake system within the past seven years and are able to demonstrate evidence of a plan for education or training that would provide for personal career advancements.

Asides from my values, I’m truly passionate in the medical field. I always wanted to be a pediatrician since I was fourteen. My strong interest in the medical field allowed me to open up my shell in certain situations— when I became sociable to patients in the hospital as a volunteer, when I became friendly and approachable to children in my job at Kumon Math and Reading Center, and when I portrayed compassion and empathy towards my teammates in the badminton team. However, when I participated in the 2017 Kaiser Summer Volunteer Program at Richmond Medical Center, I realized that I didn’t only want to be a pediatrician. This program opened my eye to numerous opportunities in different fields of medicine and in different approaches in working in the medicine industry. While I may have a strong love for the medical field, my interest in business immensely grew as I soon discovered that I didn’t only have to take the practical approach in the medical field. With this interest, I plan to also become a part of a medical facility management team.
The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative awards three scholarships to the authors of the three best Apprentice Ecologist essays. Applicants should embody the spirit of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative by demonstrating personal leadership and environmental stewardship in their project. Winning essays have been 750 to 1,500 words long. Middle school, high school, or undergraduate college/university [...] More
The Raytheon Patriot Scholarship supports U.S Army student veterans who are entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of undergraduate study or are enrolled in a graduate program. Students must demonstrate leadership and engagement in their community and a commitment to and passion for their chosen field of study. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More

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.

Our mission is to unite the people engaged exclusively or partially in traffic duties of the various commercial and transportation interests of Baltimore and the vicinity in a program of education. To qualify, a completed application is to be submitted along with a 250-word essay on your career path and any interests in the field of logistics and transportation as well as how this scholarship [...] More


Sometimes, I only sleep 4 hours as I wake up and rush out the door in order to make it on time to 6am tutoring. Having to manage my schoolwork and home responsibilities has been difficult but I've managed to maintain high academic achievement by managing my time correctly and being persistent. If I truly want something, I need to go after it, and I will get it done. Sometimes being tired isn't an option.
The Franchise Education and Research Foundation and the Marriott Foundation have collaborated to sponsor this scholarship award. A competitive one-time award will be presented annually. Additionally, the individual selected will be invited to the International Franchise Association's (IFA) Annual Convention and will receive a travel stipend (up to $1,500) to attend. To be eligible for this [...] More

The Rainbow Scholarship seeks to assist gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI), college-bound teens with school expenses while increasing the positive visibility of queer youth and promoting awareness and acceptance in the community at large.There are three awards, ranging from $200 to $500; they are the LGBT Student of the Year Award, the Rainbow Award, and the Diversity Essay [...] More


Due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, The Vegetarian Resource Group each year will award $20,000 in college scholarship money to graduating U.S. high school students who have promoted vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or fowl. Vegans are vegetarians who do not use other animal products such as dairy or eggs. Entries may only be sent by [...] More

Due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, The Vegetarian Resource Group each year will award $20,000 in college scholarship money to graduating U.S. high school students who have promoted vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or fowl. Vegans are vegetarians who do not use other animal products such as dairy or eggs. Entries may only be sent by [...] More
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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