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!
Studies have shown that there are winning strategies to rock-paper-scissors by making critical assumptions about those we play against before the round has even started. Douglas Walker, host of the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships (didn’t know that existed either), conducted research indicating that males will use rock as their opening move 50% of the time, a gesture Walker believes is due to rock’s symbolic association with strength and force. In this sense, the seemingly innocuous game of rock-paper-scissors has revealed something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society. Why did so many males think that brute strength was the best option? If social standards have subliminally influenced the way males and females play rock-paper-scissors, than what is to prevent such biases from skewing more important decisions? Should your decision to go to war or to feed the hungry depend on your gender, race, creed, etc?
Unrelated elements of your personal life. In most cases, you should not mention your significant other in the essay. You might mention a spouse if you need to reference your children or a turning point in your life, but these personal details do not fit most essays. Any information that seems frivolous or ill-placed should be removed from the essay.

The Judy Shankle Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior who is planning on pursuing a college degree in any Engineering or Computer discipline. In order to be considered for this scholarship, the applicant must be a senior currently attending Graves County High School in Mayfield, KY. This scholarship will be awarded based on answers to two essay questions related to the [...] More
IvyWise empowers students to live up to their highest possible potential, both academically and personally. For over 20 years, IvyWise has been dedicated to helping students find the schools that will be a good fit for them, where they will be happy and succeed. Our team has over 150 years of combined experience and we have worked with thousands of students.
The Young Ambassador Scholarship in Memory of Christopher Nordquist is awarded in his memory and is intended to encourage young people to pursue learning and to help spread the message about the priceless gift almost anyone can leave after death - the gift of sight through eye donation. Eligible students must reside within New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Duchess & Putnam [...] More

So now, make a list of everything that seems like a fruitful topic. From the questions and prompts, you should find that you have 3-5 strong topic areas and stories—stuff that got you thinking and feeling, and which produced what Hemingway called the “honest sentences” that comprise good writing. Start with the one that moves you most—that’s your personal statement—but save all the others as fodder for your secondaries, or as backup material in case someone you trust tells you to consider switching topics for some reason. (Tip: the stuff that isn’t always linked to an anecdote or story but is important to you can often be useful for those secondaries.)
High school seniors residing in Shelby County (Ohio) and attending a school in Shelby County (Ohio) who will be a first-generation student (neither parent has a bachelor's degree or higher). You must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and will be enrolling as a full-time student in an accredited college or university in the coming academic year. The required essay cannot exceed 500 words. For more [...] More
College application essays are meant to help college admissions officers get to know students outside of the information already available on the college application, and can provide some context into students’ interests, goals, and motivations. Supplements are also a great way to help students demonstrate their informed interest. While some quirky college application essay prompts might seem weird and irrelevant, students have the chance to get creative and revel something about themselves that can’t be found anywhere else in the application.
Manufacturing firms supply more than 208,858 jobs to Iowans. These well-paying careers require education and training beyond high school, but many don't require the often burdensome cost of a bachelor's degree. Recent studies have shown that two-year degree holders, especially in high demand manufacturing occupations, can earn salaries that surpass those of college graduates.
The reliable and professional writing service is favored greatly by students because it delivers a non-plagiarized, genuinely written assignment within the promised deadline. Yet the academia would continue to perceive and portray online writing services in a negative light. However, behind every service, there is a genuine need. Since today’s academic life is fraught with pressures to excel and produce excellent or near perfect results at any cost within the deadlines, students would continue opting for less conventional solutions. Perhaps flexible deadlines, realistic expectations, and sound advice and support would help the students to do better on their own.
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.
Now, the biggest passion of my life is supported by my most natural ability. I have had over thirty Spanish students, ranging in age from three to forty and spanning many ethnic backgrounds. I currently work with fifteen students each week, each with different needs and ways of learning. Drawing on my own experiences as both a second language-learner and a figure skater, I assign personal, interactive exercises, make jokes to keep my students’ mindset positive, and never give away right answers. When I first started learning my axel jump, my coach told me I would have to fall at least 500 times (about a year of falls!) in order to land it. Likewise, I have my students embrace every detail of a mistake until they can begin to recognize new errors when they see them. I encourage them to expand their horizons and take pride in preparing them for new interactions and opportunities.
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.
Award Amount: $1,000 The $1,000 Financial Freedom Scholarship is open to current full-time college students. You must submit an essay of between 1,000 and 2,000 words on what financial freedom means to you, why it is important and how you will achieve it in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the $1,000 Financial Freedom Scholarship.
Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?

One of our consultants wrote about how growing up in a poor Vietnamese immigrant family inspired her to seize big opportunities, even if they were risky or challenging. She describes the emotional demand of opening and running a family grocery store. (Note: all of the following essay excerpts have been shortened and edited for this post. Names have also been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects.)


Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
It’s the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren’t going to get food or dinner; they’re going for “Texas BBQ.” The coat hanger comes from “a dumpster.” Stephen doesn’t just move the coat hanger—he “jiggles” it.
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.)
This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.
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