Tips to consider: This is an opportunity to describe your academic and future professional interests. You may not yet be 100% certain about what you want to do, but is there a particular field that you think you want to work in, or a certain path you want to pursue after college? How have your interests and experiences influenced your choice of majors or your plans to explore in college?

While International Student is specifically a site providing information for international students, their Student Essay Writing Center has a handful of detailed, actionable articles that guide you through the processes of writing different types of essays. They also have a collection of sample essays that you can use as a helpful guide for how your essay should be structured—but remember, don’t plagiarize!
While the personal essay has to be personal, a reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it. One of my favorites from when I worked in admissions at Duke University started out, “My car and I are a lot alike.” The writer then described a car that smelled like wet dog and went from 0 to 60 in, well, it never quite got to 60.
But don’t get stressed if your first outline feels like it’s getting away from you. Tip #4: Try a reverse outline. Once you’ve written one draft of your essay, print it out. (By the way: Tip #5: print stuff out! Don’t get stuck in an endless spiral of copy-and-paste—by printing out your draft, you can keep a draft next to you and then open a new document so that you feel free to rewrite entire paragraphs, or delete sections entirely.) Then take your printout and write out what the function of each paragraph is in the margin. Might get a little tough, right? If you can’t answer the question what is the goal of this paragraph? or what do I want the readers to garner from this paragraph?, then you’re probably missing a topic sentence.
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.
She’s only got 650 words. Which leads us to Tip #1: Take refuge in the anecdote, in the specific, in the particular: everything gets easier if you choose something specific. Many writers—of college essays and other media—get stressed out, believing that they must convey their entire selves in an essay. This just isn’t possible to do in the capsule of space that is your Common App personal statement. And, it will ironically accomplish the opposite—it’ll cause your essay to look shapeless and meandering, therefore communicating very little about you. If you instead use an individual story as a stand-in for something larger, or for something else, your essay becomes a kind of parable or lesson that educates your reader both about you and, hopefully, about a part of the world they’ve never previously considered.

If you haven’t experienced a “big” failure, another angle to take would be to discuss smaller, repeated failures that are either linked or similar thematically. For example, if you used to stutter or get nervous in large social groups, you could discuss the steps you took to find a solution. Even if you don’t have a massive foundational challenge to write about, a recurring challenge can translate to a powerful essay topic, especially if the steps you took to overcome this repeated failure help expose your character.


It’s not a bad start, but it brings us to Common Error #1: beginning the essay by introducing oneself, instead of introducing the story, AKA, starting too broad. Ramya begins by trying to tell us who she is in a big, introductory, throat-clearing way, instead of choosing a specific route into who she is. It’s sweet that she’s small, but there’s a lot in here that we don’t need: we don’t need her height, nor do we need to know that she used to get the games in one particular way or another. We just need to know that she’s at the bar.


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As a vibrant community of learners dedicated to inclusive excellence, the students, faculty and staff at the University of Colorado Boulder seek to be open and respectful of contrasting beliefs and opinions. Every student has a unique life experience and a set of circumstances by which they are shaped and influenced. Your background may have been shaped by family history, cultural traditions, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, income, ideology, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Don’t brag about your achievements. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Failure is essayistic gold. Figure out what you’ve learned. Write about that. Be honest and say the hardest things you can. And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.
We love Prompt #4, which asks students to talk about a problem and how they have solved or are planning to solve it. This question is similar to Prompt #2 in that it is meant to tease out a student’s problem-solving skills and provide a glimpse into an applicant’s frame of mind when dealing with challenges. It also provides a few bonus opportunities for creative expression, leaving both the scale and the time frame for setting up a problem/solution wide open.
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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What books or articles have you read that caused you to identify something wrong in the world? What did you learn from those, and what did they/do they make you want to do? Tell the story of reading that book/article for the first time—where were you? Who handed it to you? Who did you discuss it with afterward? How often have you reread that meaningful book or article?
When I was sixteen I moved on to a larger project: my clunker of a car. I had purchased my 2002 Elantra with my own savings, but it was long past its prime. With some instruction from a mechanic, I began to learn the components of an engine motor and the engineering behind it. I repaired my brake light, replaced my battery, and made adjustments to the power-steering hose. Engineering was no longer just a nerdy pursuit of robotics kids; it was a medium to a solution. It could be a way to a career, doing the things I love. I was inspired to learn more.
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).
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As my tenure was coming to a close, I organized meetings with the local students who were planning to run for local and state officer positions.  I met with them in groups and individually to help prepare them for the interview process, and to emphasize the importance of maintaining the high standard of leadership in the global health community, if elected.  In May 2018 the Ohio HOSA State Leadership Conference was held in Columbus, Ohio. I had an integral role in interviewing, selecting, and presenting the new Ohio State Officers to over 1500 students and advisors from around the state.  
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They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.
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.
Notice that I didn’t say, “write a rough draft, and submit it.” Why shouldn’t you let your essay fly? Because you need to take some time away from it to get some critical distance. For example, in the flurry of a rough draft, you might feel attached to a particular sentence or paragraph, but after stepping away—physically and mentally—from your first effort, you might come back to find that those wonderful turns of phrase don’t really fit the content or tone of the rest of the piece. You’ll be better able to catch those inconsistencies and revise them if you’ve given yourself distance from the essay. You want to make sure that your application is polished and tells a clear, convincing, coherent story about why you belong at XYZ University, so instead of dashing it off and being done with it, give yourself at least a day or two away from it so that you can come back to revise with an alert mind and fresh eyes. Only after you’ve had a chance to review your essay carefully and put the finishing touches on it should you click the submit button.

Admission officers already know your grades. They can see which sports and clubs you’ve joined from your college application. They know what types of courses are offered at your high school, and whether your neighborhood is wealthy, poor, or somewhere in the middle. They can even figure out which types of books you’ve read, depending on your classes. Your transcript provides them with a wealth of information.
Being part of a minority is very conflicting for me as I feel both empowered as a part of a Haitian minority community but also disconnected from my non-immigrant peers. Coming from a background of poverty in Haiti, I knew that, even at a very young age, I had to be a good student in order to succeed. This work ethic--found throughout my Haitian community--has been very beneficial in my life as we all came here to pave ourselves a better future. As my mom held two jobs, went to college, and was temporarily homeless just to secure me a better future, I feel invigorated to be part of such an indefatigable community. And, it is because of this strong work ethic, central to my community’s core values, that I am now the salutatorian of a class of 679 students.
While in college, I hope to impact my own learning experience and that of the student body around me by taking an active listening approach. Rather than sink back to my high school mindset that purely focused on soaking in knowledge and regurgitating it for grades, I plan to adopt a posture of employing my listening abilities to curate and act upon a stronger understanding of the lives and perspectives of my campus. Whether it be reciprocating the advice I receive in my summer transition program to my future roommates or finding campus opportunities best fit for my classmates while in conversation with upperclassmen, I believe that I will be able to positively impact both my own individual growth and the intellectual development of others by harnessing my observations and parlaying them into new opportunities, connections, and insights for others.
Collaborative endeavors are the proving grounds for Murphy’s Law: everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The shredded beef, which was supposed to be tender, was still hard as a rock after an hour on the stove. With our unseasoned cooking minds, all ideas were valid. Put more salt in? Sure. Cook it at a higher temperature? Go for it. Collaboration requires people to be receptive. It demands an open mind. All ideas deserve consideration.
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!

Every year, the path to college is paved with more roadblocks. Increasing applications from the U.S. and abroad mean that universities across the country are rewarded with an even more elite pool of candidates. Impeccable grades and test scores alone are no longer enough to set students apart from the crowd. As social media and technology begin to change the landscape of higher education, admissions officers are looking for new ways to get to know potential students. There is still no better way to introduce yourself than through an admission essay.
My first HOSA conference as the Historian was the International Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida in June 2017.  Over 2,500 students came together to learn from five outstanding healthcare professionals. Topics included exploring healthcare careers, changes in healthcare, and medical innovations needed in the industry.  I had the opportunity to have an active role in facilitating and participating in workshops and meetings for HOSA members. The goal of these workshops and meetings was to develop practical leadership skills, effective communication skills with people of all ages, and to understand the importance of encouraging individual and group achievements.  Exceptional qualities that I plan on using in my career.
I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.
2. Billboard/nutgraph/thesis paragraph: in the magazine world, they call the second paragraph in a piece the “billboard paragraph” because it broadcasts—loud as on a billboard—what the piece is about. Newspapers call the same thing a nutgraph, and academic papers would refer to your thesis statement. All these point to one thing: this is where you shout, HEY! THIS IS WHAT MY ESSAY IS ABOUT! This is where you meld the scene and characters of paragraph 1 with the thematic concerns you’ll address for the rest of the essay. For Ramya, it goes something like this: Dee's is where I learned to be loyal—to my team, the Patriots, from across the country—but also to my father, to my friends, and to myself. Ramya’s essay is going to focus on loyalty: a big theme, one that would sound terribly weak if she introduced it in the first line or even paragraph, but one that is surprising and interesting here because she’s juxtaposed it against a unique setting and seemingly light fare—sports at a bar. (Ramya has, at some point, assured the admissions committee that she’s not drinking in this bar!)
"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why the story you tell is so meaningful. 
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Another Common Error (#3!) that Ramya made was: Mixing up the conclusion’s sentiment with the billboard paragraph. Her second paragraph, in the original essay, read: “I want to thank Dee's Sports Bar for teaching me life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me the importance of loyalty, relationships, and laughter.” That’s a sentiment, but it’s not a thesis. And that sentiment is fine—it may have a place at the end of the essay—but it doesn’t belong in the second paragraph, because it doesn’t guide our reading of the rest of the essay. It isn’t strong and declarative yet.
A & P A Farewell to Arms A Rose for Emily Accounting Advertising Affirmative Action Africa African History Agriculture AIDS Alcohol American History - American Analitical Animal Sciences Anthropology Antigone My Antonia Apocalypse Now Araby Architecture Argument Art History As You Like It Assisted Suicide Athlete Autobiographical The Awakening Barn Burning Beloved Beowulf Bible Biology Birthmark Blade Runner The Bluest Eye Business Canadian Culture Candide Canterbury Tales Capital Punishment Catcher in the Rye Cathedral Censorship Chemistry Chrysanthemums Climate Change A Clockwork Orange Cloning Admissions Essays Communication Compare/Contrast Comparing Literary Works Computers Conversation Creationism Creative+Writing Crime and Punishment Critical Culture Death in Venice Death of a Salesman Deductive Definition Desiree's Baby Dialog Dogs A Doll's House Drugs Eating Disorders Economics Cause/Effect Environment Essay Epic of Gilgamesh Eulogies European History History - European Physician Assisted Suicide Everyday Use Evolution Exploratory Expository Their Eyes Were Watching God Dr. Faustus Feminism Films Finance Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Freedom of Speech Essay Great Gatsby Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Gay Studies Genetic Engineering Geography Glass Menagerie Young Goodman Brown Graduation Speeches The Grapes of Wrath Great Expectations Gulliver's Travels The Handmaid's Tale Health & Fitness Heart of Darkness Henry IV & Henry V To His Coy Mistress The Iliad Immigrants & Immigration Importance of Education Essay Inquiry International Relations Internet Internet Censorship Internet Censorship Internet Pornography Internet Privacy Interview Invisible Man Jane Eyre Journalism Journalistic The Joy Luck Club King Lear Learning Literature The Lottery The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Macbeth Management Marketing Mathematics Measure for Measure Media Media Censorship Media Violence Media and Women Merchant of Venice Metamorphosis A Midsummer Night's Dream Military Movies Much Ado About Nothing Music My Papa's Waltz Mythology Neuromancer Nutrition Nutrition Observation. The Odyssey Oedipus Rex Oresteia Othello Overpopulation Paleontology Paradise Lost Philosophy Physics Place Political Science Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Pride and Prejudice Privacy Privatization Process Profile Proposal Public Health Public Schools Racial Profiling Racism A Raisin in the Sun Reflective Richard II & Richard III On the Road Romeo and Juliet School Choice School Violence School Vouchers Siddhartha Slaughterhouse-Five Smoking Social Work Song of Solomon Sonnets Sonnet 73 more... Sports Sports Stereotyping Steroids Steroids and Sports The Story of an Hour Sula Taming of the Shrew Teaching Technology Technology and Education Telecommunications The Tempest Test and Testing The Color Purple The Picture of Dorian Gray The Scarlet Letter Theology Things Fall Apart To Kill a Mockingbird Trifles TV Violence Twelfth Night Uncle Tom's Cabin Violence Virginia Woolf War on Drugs Wedding Speeches Wedding Toasts Welfare Where Are You Going Wife of Bath Women's Studies World History History - World A Worn Path Writing Wuthering Heights The Yellow Wallpaper
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Since I was five, my parents pushed me to value education because they were born in Vietnam and had limited education. Because of this disadvantage, I learned to take everything I do seriously and to put in all of my effort to complete tasks such as becoming the founder of my school’s Badminton Club in my sophomore year and Red Cross Club this year. Before creating these clubs, I created a vision for these clubs so I can organize my responsibilities better as a leader. The more involved I became, the more I learned as a leader and as a person. As a leader, I carried the same behavior I portrayed towards my younger cousins and sibling. My family members stressed the importance of being a good influence; as I adapted this behavior, I utilized this in my leadership positions. I learned to become a good role model by teaching my younger family members proper manners and guiding them in their academics so that they can do well. In school, I guide my peers in organizing team uniform designs and in networking with a nonprofit organization for service events.
Your writing should provide a context within which the reader learns about who you are and what has brought you to this stage in your life. Try to tie your account into how this has made you develop as a person, friend, family member or leader (or any role in your life that is important to you). You may also want to make a connection to how this has inspired some part of your educational journey or your future aspirations.
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It is good to be afraid of cliché—but one of the truisms about clichés is that they become trite because they reiterate feelings we’ve all had. That also means that buried beneath many clichés is some authentic, particular, and personal relationship you have to your topic. If you’re working with a teacher, counselor, or advisor on your statement, they can help you discern whether you’re in cliché territory or whether you’ve bypassed it to a more fruitful realm.
But wait. There is one big rule. Be humble. Don’t try so hard to sound adult, or beyond your years, that you end up coming across as a know-it-all. It’s better to show the admissions committee that you are capable of finding and making meaning through the experiences you’ve had as a young person, no matter how small or limited they may seem to you. If you’ll let us wax philosophical for a moment: that ability to make meaning from something that isn’t pompous or dramatic—and to do so without being aggrandizing—is the stuff of great art. So you’re in a good tradition if you stick to humility and take a deliberate and honest approach to your essays.
When tailoring responses to individual college prompts, it’s important to use specific details you’ve learned through visiting and research. Not only does this show colleges that you’ve have done your homework, but it also demonstrates your interest in the college – and colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll. Show your knowledge of the college by mentioning specific courses, professors, places of interest, and more. Show how you fit into the campus culture and how you will impact the community through specific examples.
My present decision to switch from social psychology to political science is further related to a study abroad course sponsored by the European Union with Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UT. Professor Mitchell obtained a grant to take a class of students to Belgium in order to study the EU. This course revealed a direct correlation between what I had studied in the classroom with the real world. After spending several weeks studying the EU, its history and present movement towards integration, the class flew to Brussels where we met with officials and proceeded to learn firsthand how the EU functioned.
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