ISI's Graduate Fellowship Program is characterized by the observation of Richard M. Weaver that "a liberal education specifically prepares for the achievement of freedom." After more than fifty years, the ISI graduate fellows program boasts some of the most distinguished figures in the academy and public life. Each year ISI grants Richard M. Weaver Fellowships to students who intend to use their [...] More
The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options. If your essay could fit under more than one option, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. Many admissions officers, in fact, don't even look at which prompt you chose—they just want to see that you have written a good essay.
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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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Scholarships from the Cancer Survivors' Fund are granted to cancer survivors for their college educations. Recipients are selected by a committee based on applicants' personal hardship and financial need. Applicants must be a cancer survivor or currently diagnosed with cancer, and does not have to be receiving treatment to qualify. Must be enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in an accredited [...] More

The Virginia Zank Scholarship: Submit a 500-word essay describing your relationship to writing. What do you write? Why do you write? What are your writing goals for college? What are your writing goals after college? How will the Virginia Zank Scholarship help you achieve your goals? Applicants must be incoming English majors with a 21 ACT score or higher (and/or SAT Critical Reading and Math [...] More
4. The Mini-Odyssey Essay: The last classic and powerful module is the good old problem-driven essay. In this type of essay, our hero (you, the writer) meets a challenge in the first paragraph and then the essay is devoted to showing us how it is solved. Let’s say Michael wanted to write not about learning to surf from his grandfather but about learning when his grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There’s a lot of narration that will be required for Michael to tell us about losing his grandfather—it’s too much to cram into the first paragraph. So Michael might distribute the narration chronologically, showing us first the bad news [the problem]—then zooming out to reflect; then showing us how he faced it [addressing the challenge], probably failing to adequately face it perfectly the first time, and then eventually facing it successfully [the solution].
The Hildegard Durfee Scholarship was established to enable residents of Windham County to further their education at the graduate level and/or to prepare themselves for career changes that require graduate-level education. In order to apply, you must reside in Windham County (preference given to residents of Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Newfane and Putney); demonstrate [...] More
The ABPA Harrington-Arthur Memorial Scholarship Essay Competition was established to reward students that seek to increase their knowledge and understanding of how Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention help ensure safe drinking water. Backflow Prevention is designed to prevent dangerous - and sometimes fatal - bacteria, chemicals, and other harmful agents from entering the local water [...] More
The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is awarding scholarships to outstanding Middle Tennessee* students pursuing a degree in business, criminal justice, information technology, or a law-related major. One scholarship, the Donna Crutcher Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $2,500, one scholarship in the amount of $2,000, one scholarship in the amount of [...] More
The Americanism Educational Leaders and Pepperdine University Libraries are pleased to announce its annual collegiate essay contest. The mission of AEL is in its strong belief in "American exceptionalism", i.e., that our country is exceptional in the history of the world. All of our programs are meant to encourage students to learn about, understand, and appreciate some aspect of the American [...] More

Once you have created a lengthy list of ideas , funnel through and map out how the essay would look with the best ones among them. One unique idea is to combine a couple of varied ideas on your list into one major discussion topic, either comparing or contrasting the two. Once you pick your best approach, the hardest part is over and it will be easy to write a creative, unique essay.


For this essay: BE SPECIFIC! Colleges can tell when your essay is just a form essay. Make sure your essay mentions specific and unique aspects of the college/university you’re applying to so it’s clear that your essay is not just generic. There’s so much information out there on the Internet that there’s really no excuse for a poorly researched response. 
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.
One of the most common questions at parent meetings is “what’s better college or university”? This question did not make sense to me, I then realized that parents want to know the difference between community college and a four year. Concepts like financial aid, grants, loans, are all foreign concepts as most of our parents never went to college. As a student ambassador, I help bridge that gap. We often hold meetings where we explained resources available and different options for each student. I have learned, that as a student, I can provide assistance to my own community through my knowledge. I am the communication necessary for further successes, using my personal knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations. My pursuit is to not only go to college but thrive and come back ready and able to help students like myself that have to fight for their seat in the lecture hall.
ASDSO Senior Undergraduate Scholarships will be awarded for the upcoming school year and have ranged from $5,000-$10,000 in recent years. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and enrolled full-time at the senior level (during the upcoming year) in an accredited civil engineering program, or in a related field as determined by ASDSO, and must demonstrate an interest in pursuing a career in hydraulics, [...] More

2. The Patterned/Iterative Essay: This module is a little more advanced. Let’s take Josh's essay about piano playing. He might want to open with a scene of him playing piano on stage, but that’s a little obvious. The essay he’s going to write is actually about practice, and learning to stop making mistakes. So what if he started each paragraph with a different mini-moment of him playing piano and making a mistake? Paragraph 1: My first time erring on stage—I am six, and I’m playing Chopsticks. Then he’ll introduce the theme of the essay. Paragraph #2: My second time messing up—I am thirteen, and… etc. Then the natural place to end it is the time he almost messes up but doesn’t, which shows us how he’s grown overtime.
Answer: Since you only have 650 words to express the intangible parts of yourself, we always recommend using as much of the word limit as possible. If you’re well below that limit, it’s worth asking yourself why your personal statement is so short. Check it against the outlines we’ve worked through in this post. Have you used your five-paragraph essay fully? Has your essay demonstrated change over time, or personal growth? Perhaps you’ve told a story but forgotten to reflect on it. The important thing is to ensure that you’ve fully inhabited each ‘element’ of the successful Common App Essay, as noted in this guide. Doing so will bring you close to the sensible word limit.
You can also reuse an essay by submitting an essay originally written for a specific prompt for a more general prompt as well. For example, you could submit your ApplyTexas topic B app (the one that's about overcoming a specific obstacle) for the Coalition essay prompt 1 (the one about a meaningful story from your life and what you learned). In that case, you might want to tweak the essay slightly to address the question of what you learned more explicitly, but you could likely use the same personal statement with minimal changes.

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Secondary or supplemental essays: these are the essays that schools can choose to have you fill out on top of the core Common App Essay. They might invite you to talk more about an extracurricular activity on your resumé, or to reflect on a quote from a famous alumna/alumnus of the college and share your thoughts. They’re wide-ranging, and we’ll be covering them in an upcoming guide!
Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one who paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. A self-admitted Phys. Ed. addict, I volunteered to help out with the Adapted PE class. On my first day, I learned that it was for developmentally-disabled students. To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn't had too much interaction with special needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself around them. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping out in APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program. I love working with the students and watching them progress.
The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain. Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?
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What values did you grow up holding dear? Are they the same ones today? Tell the story of the first time you learned about these values—say, a morning at Sunday School or a conversation with a grandparent. If they’ve changed, tell the story of the moment (as best you can place it) when they changed—say, in a classroom, in a conversation with a friend, etc.
Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 word limit)

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!
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.
The essay is your megaphone — your view of the world and your ambitions. It’s not just a resume or a regurgitation of everything you’ve done. It needs to tell a story with passion, using personal, entertaining anecdotes that showcase your character, your interests, your values, your life experiences, your views of the world, your ambitions and even your sense of humor.
4. Some connection between your past, your present, and your future. It’s common to see a student choose an important experience in their past, narrate the whole thing beautifully, but then forget to tie it to the present. Before you even start writing, think about whether your potential topic is influencing the way you think about the present, and, crucially, the future. Take Michael, again. He writes beautifully about his grandfather teaching him about the waves, but he’s not a pro surfer, and might even be going to college in the middle of the country. Does that matter? Not as long as he tells us how surfing influences him—as he did in extracting a wider lesson.
Estimating your chance of getting into a college is not easy in today’s competitive environment. Thankfully, with our state-of-the-art software and data, we can analyze your academic and extracurricular profile and estimate your chances. Our profile analysis tool can also help you identify the improvement you need to make to enter your dream school.
Emphasize volunteer work or other ways you’ve helped people or made your community a better place. It helps if the activity is related to the subject you want to study. For example, Christopher Rim of Command Education Group, which coaches students, remembers that one student who wanted to become a dentist set up a nonprofit and held fund-raisers to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste and other dental products to homeless shelters. Admissions staff members want to know how your presence will make the college a better place.
Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness.
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My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.
In conclusion, my HOSA experience helped provide me with improvements in leadership, communication, and team work skills.  As I move onto college each of these skills will help me in defining my goals, establishing lasting friendships and relationships, and working with others for common goals for the betterment of our local, state, and national health communities.  I am confident that all of these qualities that I have learned and practiced through HOSA will contribute to my success in every aspect of my future!”

The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is awarding scholarships to outstanding Middle Tennessee* students pursuing a degree in business, criminal justice, information technology, or a law-related major. One scholarship, the Donna Crutcher Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $2,500, one scholarship in the amount of $2,000, one scholarship in the amount of [...] More


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 Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to up to three Michigan students whose ideals and goals reflect those of the Senator. Graduates of Michigan high schools or community colleges planning to attend Lake Superior State University are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA as of their current year of study and demonstrate an interest in public service, as [...] More
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You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
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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.
Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.
Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the listprovided.

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College of Agriculture and Life Sciences– Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals? (Please limit your response to 650 words.)

Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.
Of all the qualities I tried to explain in what makes a “good” doctor, there was no emphasis on skill and knowledge. And while being able to fulfill the duties of making the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans is expected, the intangibles of love, compassion, foresight and honesty is what makes a doctor, “good”. I learned such lessons in the purest manner possible, by being a patient myself, and will use them to guide me in all future patient encounters, as I strive to be a “good” doctor.”
The American Galvanizers Association's (AGA) Galvanize the Future: A Richard L. Brooks Memorial Scholarship essay contest was developed to assist future specifiers with the rising cost of a college education. The scholarship is open to full- or part-time undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in an accredited college or university studying architecture, civil engineering, structural [...] More
For this essay: BE SPECIFIC! Colleges can tell when your essay is just a form essay. Make sure your essay mentions specific and unique aspects of the college/university you’re applying to so it’s clear that your essay is not just generic. There’s so much information out there on the Internet that there’s really no excuse for a poorly researched response. 
The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles. Prizes and scholarships can be awarded at the Post, District, state and national level. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or [...] More
The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles. Prizes and scholarships can be awarded at the Post, District, state and national level. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or [...] More
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For this essay: BE SPECIFIC! Colleges can tell when your essay is just a form essay. Make sure your essay mentions specific and unique aspects of the college/university you’re applying to so it’s clear that your essay is not just generic. There’s so much information out there on the Internet that there’s really no excuse for a poorly researched response. 
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Another advice is to start such type of work with a currently discussed problem within the society. It might be the reasons why recycling matters to the environment. If a student plans to become a world-known writer one day, he/she should focus on how this job may deliver life-valuable messages to the modern population. Focus on things you can do for both the college community and local society!
Candice's Sickle Cell Fund, Inc. has been established to raise awareness among the public concerning sickle cell disease. Our goal is to help alleviate the financial pressures of college-bound students in the Tri-State Area (NY/NJ/CT)with sickle cell disease by providing three scholarships annually in the amount of $1500 ($750 presented in September, and $750 presented in January).
In order to qualify for the Mexican-American Dream Scholarship, students must be an AB-540 student or member of a COFEM affiliated federation or club and reside and attend school in the following counties only: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Inland Empire, and Ventura County. A minimum 2.5 GPA is required, as well as demonstrated financial aid. Students must be willing to volunteer 25-50 hours [...] More

1. Anecdote and specificity. As you saw in the prompts above, we’re big advocates of beginning with a particular story or anecdote. This is NOT the only way to start an essay, but it’s a classic one. Journalists call this a “lede”—it’s a hook that brings the reader into a wider topic. Your essay will always go beyond the anecdote, but an anecdote offers a reader an easy, smooth way into your personal statement.

My mother and my father wept after they closed the shop. Seeing the business as a failure, my mom commenced her packing that night; returning to Vietnam seemed inevitable. The next business day, however, sales increased ten-fold. More and more customers came each successive day. My mom’s tears turned into—well, more tears, but they were tears of joy. My mother unpacked a bag each night. Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Ravine Grocery. My parents work, work, work to keep the shelves stocked and the customers coming. The grocery store holds a special place in my heart: it is the catalyst for my success. So when the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store. Although the opportunities that my parents and I pursued are different, our journey is essentially the same: we walk a road paved with uncertainty and doubt with the prospect of success fortified by our hearts and our hands.”
This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt.

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.

Give more details about being a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program. It makes perfect sense that Bridget doesn't want to put her students on display. It would take the focus off of her and possibly read as offensive or condescending. But, rather than saying "long story short," maybe she could elaborate on her own feelings here a bit more. What is it about this kind of teaching that she loves? What is she hoping to bring to the lives of her future clients?

Will polyphonic notes resonate in college? Yes. For instance, balancing a creative narrative with scientific facts will make a more believable story. I want to bring together different kinds of students (such as music, film, and English majors) to create more meaningful art. Understanding fellow students’ perspective, talents, and ideas are what build a great community.
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