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!
The Richmond Question: For 2018-19, please choose one of the following essay prompts: (1) What is an urgent global challenge or social justice topic about which you are passionate? What solutions or outcomes do you hope to see? (2) By the time you graduate from college, there will be jobs that don’t exist today. Describe one of them and how Richmond might prepare you for it. (3) You are required to spend the next year in either the past or the future. To what year would you travel and why? (650 words)
I hope to contribute to ending racial discrimination by utilizing our present interconnectivity and running a social media campaign titled #It’sNotOver. #It’sNotOver aims to oppose the widespread misconception that, because racial inequality was legally outlawed, de facto racial inequality does not still persist in our society. Our recent presidential election may have brought life to a ‘Divided America,’ but it also exposed how influential social media is. By raising awareness of racial disparities that occur everywhere, I might encourage a new wave of change in our country like that of the present Time’s Up movement. Furthermore, if I can access the influence of celebrities in my #It’sNotOver campaign, like that of Time’s Up, I might similarly capture the attention of millions of people and inspire action against this issue across the globe.

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.
But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.
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
One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event (whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage) that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation. In the case of religious topics, however, be sure to not get carried away with details, and focus on the nature of your personal growth and new understanding — know your audience.
This scholarship provides assistance to students with financial need who have resided in, or have substantial ties to, Larimer County and have an interest in the study of law or our system of government, debate or other similar law-related educational activities. Students attending Windsor High School are eligible to apply. Requires an essay submission.
This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.
To succeed with the scholarship essay, it is critical to follow the prompt the way admissions officers post it. Mind the smallest details like format and word count. Every element mentioned in the assignment’s prompt is critical for the final grade, and a student can check it in the grading rubric. Experts recommend reading the instruction several times not to miss a detail.

But the chicken dismisses the cowardly voice in its head, reminding itself of the injustice back in the deceptively charming prison. Over the next several hours, it learns to strategically position itself so that it is in line with the empty space between the tires of passing trucks. It reaches the yellow dashes. A black blanket gradually pushes away the glowing sun and replaces it with diamond stars and a glowing crescent. It reaches the untouched field.
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The affect Germinal had on me was not just limited to social awareness. I also became more aware of other literature, history, and art. I read other Zola novels which led me to discover Balzac and his wonderful books such as the sweet sad tale of Pere Goriot. I also became interested in the French Revolution in order to find out how the month of Germinal came to get its name. When I learned that the young Zola was a early champion and admirer of Monet and the Impressionists, I began to notice art for the first time.
But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.

Another way to get critical distance from your essay is to get criticism. And I don’t mean a slash-and-burn review like you might get from an unreasonable reality-TV competition judge. I’m talking about constructive feedback from trusted friends, family, or mentors. Southwestern University Assistant Director of Admission Rebecca Rother recommends having two people review your essay. The first should be someone “who knows you super well, such as a parent, best friend, close teacher, etc. They will be able to see the essence of you in the story you’ve chosen.” The second reader should be “someone who doesn’t know you as well,” such as “a teacher you haven’t had for a few years, a friend of the family, the librarian at the local library, etc. This will be the person who makes sure that you aren’t missing key details to your story.” Often, the college-application essay is so personal that you can forget that your reader, the admission officer, is practically a stranger and may not recognize the people and places you mention in your essay, so your second reader can help you clarify those unfamiliar references.

IAPMO formed the foundation - the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) - to help provide safe access to clean water and sanitation systems. How would you promote the IWSH projects and what slogan would you use do to so? Students must be a current high school senior; or enrolled or accepted as a full-time student in an accredited technical school, community college, trade [...] 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
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.
Competing with Lehigh, Tufts University had quite the array of unique questions, so we had to pick favorites. Tufts is known as a Little Ivy and a “New Ivy,” so we imagine that those applying to this school, which ranks amongst the top in the nation, appreciate the chance to speak their minds via the college application essay. Learn more about Tufts University.
This experience was not the only reason I wanted to study criminal justice, but it did play a big part. I started exploring the career more when I decided that a desk job just wasn’t for me. Throughout high school I struggled because of the routine nature of it all. I saw the same people and attended the same classes every single day. I knew I didn’t want a job that would be that stagnant. That’s when I got the idea to work in law enforcement, because there would always be a new challenge for me to tackle. After researching the field even more, I set my sights on crime scene investigation.
The AAF-Greater Evansville awards scholarships to deserving high school and/or college students yearly in April. Over the past 40 years, AAF-Greater Evansville has distributed over $153,000 in scholarship awards. To be eligible, students must plan to pursue a career in advertising, marketing, public relations or graphic design. The application deadline varies yearly, but is typically in early [...] More

Project Sleep's Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship is the first-ever national narcolepsy scholarship program to support students with narcolepsy while also fostering awareness in high school and college settings. Applicant must be a high school senior who will attend a four-year university starting in the fall and must have a signed letter from an accredited sleep specialist or neurologist with [...] More
Take a minute and think about the college or university admission officers who will be reading your essay. How will your essay convey your background and what makes you unique? If you had the opportunity to stand in front of an admission committee to share a significant story or important information about yourself, what would you say? The college application essay is your chance to share your personality, goals, influences, challenges, triumphs, life experiences, or lessons learned. Not to mention why you're a good fit for the college or university—and why it's a good fit for you. These are the stories behind the list of activities and leadership roles on your application.   
Essay Prompt: Please explain a personal hardship or catastrophic life event that you have experienced. How did you manage to overcome this obstacle? What did you learn and how did you grow from it? This answer is critical to your application as Change a Life Foundation’s vision is to assist individuals who have persevered and overcome a hardship/catastrophic life event.

At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.
At a large school, I will be able to work alongside a student body with a swath of complex and fresh career plans, and it is through my observations and subsequent response that I hope to help others move further along their path to reaching their ideals while pursuing my own career in medicine. In doing so, I am confident that I will be able to forge the deep, lasting bonds that I consider critical for personal development all while building up skills in observation and interaction- traits that I consider integral to a successful medicinal career.
If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.
Your job, if you’ve started this early, is not to start writing your draft immediately, or even to choose which Common App question you plan to answer. First, you’re going to freewrite using the above prompts as a guide—choose the ones you like, or print them out, cut them up, and put them in a hat; each day, shake up the hat and grab one at random!
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 CBC Spouses Education Scholarship is for African-American or black students for all majors who are preparing to pursue or are currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree full-time at a U.S. accredited college or university. A minimum 2.5 GPA is also required. Students must also exhibit leadership ability and participate in community service activities. For more information or to [...] More
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No one is expecting you to solve the issue of world peace with your essay. Often times, we find students getting hung up with “big ideas”. Remember, this essay is about YOU. What makes you different from the thousands of other applicants and their essays? Be specific. Use vivid imagery. If you’re having trouble, start small and go from there. P. S. make sure the first sentence of your essay is the most interesting one.
Faith Hope and Love Jesus, Inc. is excited to offer an annual college scholarship. This will be the easiest 500 words or more essay to write in the world. Why? Because it can be on any topic or subject. You decide. That's right. We figure if you're going to write, you'll enjoy it more if it's something you want to write about. Please submit a letter from your doctor documenting a history of a [...] More
Plus, the easy-to-follow structure means there’s no room for confusion. Furthermore, the real-life examples used throughout the essay make her passion for science even more obvious and engaging. If you’re passionate about the topic at hand, don’t be afraid to let it shine through! It just might be the difference between an essay that worked and one that didn’t.

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.
The Edmund F. Maxwell Foundation believes it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of high-achieving students. The Maxwell Foundation is offering financial aid for freshmen starting a four-year private college program during the upcoming academic year. The scholarship is renewable for four years. Students who plan to pursue a four-year degree at an accredited private college or [...] More

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.
It may be only 500 words — or sometimes only 100-250 words — but the admissions essay(s) portion of a college application can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. How you write your personal essay shows the admissions committee why you are different from other applicants. It provides information about you that test scores, grades, and extracurricular pursuits just cannot. 
We talked a lot about whether Josh would do best avoiding writing about piano—it’s the main thing on his resumé and sometimes it can be good to show things off-resumé, as Ramya and Anita plan to. Josh did some writing about his relationship with his sister and his brother, and that might find a home in the secondary essays. But it became clear that Josh has an obsessive, if not always positive, relationship with piano, and so there’s something there.
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.
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But that safety net was ripped wide open the day I walked through the sliding double doors of City Hall for my first Youth Council meeting. I assumed I would spend my hour flipping through flashcards and studying for next week’s unit test, while a bunch of teenagers complained about the lack of donuts in the student store. Instead, I listened to the stories of 18 students, all of whom were using their voices to reshape the distribution of power within their communities and break the structures that chained so many in a perpetual cycle of desperation and despair. While I spent most of my time poring over a textbook trying to memorize formulas and theorems, they were spending their time using those formulas and theorems to make a difference in their communities. Needless to say, that meeting sparked an inspirational flame within me.
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!
The Missouri Mayflower Society Scholarship contest is open to high school seniors who are citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Missouri, and who plan to attend an institution of higher learning in the fall. Three scholarship awards are offered by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Missouri. Requirements include demonstrating strong academic and personal [...] More
As always, remember to use specific examples to illustrate your point. What relevant experiences have you had or interests have you pursued? What made you think this subject or career would be a good fit for you? Are there related classes or activities you're excited to participate in at the school? The more specific you can be in addressing these questions, the stronger your essay will be.
The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
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