This can be challenging. Like most 16- and 17-year-olds, you and your friends are probably thinking about your future, travel plans, jobs, where you want to live, or just what movie you want to see tonight. You’re probably not reflecting on your life and what it’s meant thus far. (Then again, maybe you are, especially if you’re the journal-keeping type!)
This past summer, I had my first substantive work experience interning at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, researching and writing about treatments and therapies. Working there was certainly not a game, but my strategy was the same: work hard, remain focused, be mindful and respectful of those around me, deal with the inevitable curveballs, and take constructive criticism to heart, all in pursuit of a meaningful goal. At first, I found it intimidating, but I quickly found my footing. I worked hard, knowing that what I took away from the experience would be measured by what I put into it. I studied my co-workers: how they conducted themselves, how they interacted with each other, and how they approached their respective jobs. I carefully reviewed redlines on my writing assignments, tried not to get discouraged, and responded to the comments to present the material more effectively. I absorbed the stories relayed by Parkinson’s patients regarding their struggles and was amazed at how empowered they felt by their participation in clinical trials. Through them, I discovered what it really means to fight to win. I have also come to understand that sometimes a game never ends but transforms, causing goals to shift that may require an adjustment in strategy.
Write one personal essay for all the schools to which you apply via the Common App. This essay is important, as it provides you with an excellent opportunity to reflect and to communicate to colleges what they should know about you. As you will have only one major essay to write, we hope it will represent your best efforts. Write your Common Application essay in essay format, with a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 650 words.
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I look at the ticking, white clock: it’s eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levi’s, and last week’s Statistics homework. Having prepared my work space, I pull out the big, blue box and select two 12 by 12 crème sheets of paper. The layouts of the pages are already imprinted in my mind, so I simply draw them on scratch paper. Now I can really begin.
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.
The 25 creative college essay prompts listed above should give you a starting point to write your own personal statement. The personal statement is used by most colleges to help them evaluate the type of person you are, which can help differentiate yourself from other applicants who have similar academic backgrounds to yours. By considering the 25 creative college essay prompts above, you can be more prepared to write an engaging personal statement that will let your personality shine through and will help you to be accepted into the college of your choice.
One of our consultants described his ignorance of his brother’s challenges—the writer assumed that because his brother Sam was sociable, Sam was adjusting fine to their family’s move. After an angry outburst from Sam and a long late-night conversation, the writer realizes his need to develop greater sensitivity and empathy. He now strives to recognize and understand others’ struggles, even if they’re not immediately apparent.
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!
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
Luckily, college essay prompts tend to be pretty similar to each other. In this guide, I'll list all the college essay questions for popular schools in the US (and a few abroad) and then break down the patterns to help you brainstorm topics and plan how to approach multiple essays efficiently. After reading this guide, you'll be able to strategize which essays you'll write for which colleges.
I talked about my community every chance I got, writing a public backlash to Donald Trump and reading out to the group of parents to show them my unique struggle. The election of Donald Trump has forced me to come to terms with the harsh realities of this world. The lack of respect he has for women, minority groups, and factual evidence are alarming. This presidency makes me want to prove wrong all of his perceptions of people like me, the poor, the immigrant, the woman. I left people in awe, leaving me empowered. I had people come up to me and explain that they can relate to my poem about not fitting in, being Mexican American and not feeling like you can consider yourself American or Mexican because you’re both. I emphasized that I, like many others, am in between and we have the same platform that anyone else does to succeed. I explained that many of us, hold this pressure of first generation children of immigrants to prove that we are the proof that our parents sacrifices of restarting in a new country was worth it. I was the visible representation of a first generation child of immigrants, branching out into a new environment despite where I had come from and shocking everyone with my prosperity.
Now, taking your chosen topic, it’s time to outline it. Outlining works great for some people as a pre-writing tactic, and we always recommend it. For others, it can be harder than simply getting down to writing. If you’re really struggling to outline and would rather just follow the pen to a first draft, that’s fine, but do yourself a favor and make outlining your second draft step. At some point, everyone needs an outline, but it’s your call when to do it. Let’s follow this through with Ramya’s essay on the Patriots. The model we’ll use for this essay is a five-paragraph, anecdote-driven essay.
Also, keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something important to you that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.
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?
This prompt, more than the others, poses a high risk but also a high-potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to demonstrate individuality and confidence. Here, you can craft an innovative essay that tackles a difficult topic (for example, whether to raise or lower taxes) or presents information with a unique format (such as a conversation with an historical figure).
Don’t show anyone anything you have written yet. And don’t reread it immediately. Let all that you’ve written sit, latent, so you’re not tempted to edit it right off the bat. Why? Allowing your writing to breathe away from you can prevent you from committing one of the cardinal sins of personal statement-writing—but also all writing!—trying to force the story into what you think it should be instead of what it is. To get more concrete: let’s say Michael wrote about his grandfather teaching him to surf in answer to several of those prompts—about a crucial summer, and an important person to him. But now he’s so excited about that that he immediately wants to turn it into his draft. As he’s writing, he gets self-conscious, thinking: why am I writing about surfing when I’m not a competitive surfer, and when it’s only something I do occasionally? Or say Michael shows it to an English teacher, who gets distracted by the quality of Michaels prose—which was meant to be free and unedited—and tells him to choose another topic, since this one isn’t “singing” yet. Respect your process and let these things sit.
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)
The essay is not so hard once you start putting ideas down. It lets you express things that don’t appear elsewhere on your application. We hope that you’ll plunge into it, thoughtfully develop your ideas, be honest, and let us hear your voice. Tell us who you are by writing about topics or in a style that reveals your personality, character, or sense of the world.
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.
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Nonetheless, you should analyze any prompts you encounter in the same way. Ask yourself why the college is asking that question and what admissions officers are hoping to see—not in terms of specific topics but in terms of general trends and traits. Understanding what admissions officers are hoping to get out of your essay will help you pick a great topic that'll help you exhibit your unique personality and perspective in the most effective way possible.
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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.
I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.
Student #1: Ramya: Ramya intends to be pre-med in college, but isn’t sure if she wants to major in biology or something else entirely. She’s spent her high school years participating in a variety of activities. She played soccer, but wasn’t the star player. She was involved in student government, performed in cultural shows as a dancer, and did speech events.
Even though most college applications only have a suggested minimum of 250 words and no established limit, it is imperative that students realize that every admissions officer has a large pile of essays to read on a daily basis. Since he or she normally expects to spend fewer than five minutes reading through your writing, it is recommended that your essay has fewer than 700 words total to avoid straining their patience. Instead of trying to cover everything in your essay, be concise and coherent when giving the committee a snapshot of your autobiography.
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.
When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.
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I’ve danced ballet since I when I was seven-years-old. But, even after almost eight years, I could still barely extend my legs as high as my peers nor could do as many pirouettes as them. My flexibility was incredibly subpar and I easily wore out my Pointe shoes, making them unwearable after a couple of months. Where the average lifespans of my peers’ pointe shoes extended into months, mine could barely last ten classes. I was the weakling of my class at Ballet Etudes, and I was too absorbed in my insecurities to do anything to better myself to become the dancer I aspired to be.
Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup. My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
Things to consider: Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can’t get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.
If a prompt asks about why you’re interested in a specific school or how you'd fit in, don't try to use it for more than one school. Admissions officers want to see that you're excited about their school and will bring something interesting or special to their community. It's impossible to show them this if you can't be bothered to write a unique essay for their application.
But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.
This is a heavily revised version of one of 2016’s prompts, which asked students to describe a transition from childhood to adulthood. The purview of the inquiry has been expanded to ask about personal growth in general, leaving the lessons and timing of an applicant’s transformation more open-ended. Students are also now free to reflect on a “realization” in addition to an “event” or “occurrence.” While a realization that changes your understanding of the world will likely be sparked by a concrete marker (i.e., an event or accomplishment), we are happy to receive the added flexibility from you, Common App. Thank you very much.
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.
The chicken--confused, betrayed, disturbed--slowly lifts its eyes from the now empty ground. For the first time, it looks past the silver fence of the cage and notices an unkempt sweep of colossal brown and green grasses opposite its impeccably crafted surroundings. Cautiously, it inches closer to the barrier, farther from the unbelievable perfection of the farm, and discovers a wide sea of black gravel. Stained with gray stones and marked with yellow lines, it separates the chicken from the opposite field.
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Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it. Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.
Each graf was 45 words long and contained substantively the same information (applicant has wanted to be a librarian since she was a young girl). But they are extraordinarily different essays, most strikingly because the former is generic where the latter is specific. It was a real thing, which happened to a real person, told simply. There is nothing better than that.
Reading the essays of other students who successfully got into the college of their choice is a good way to find inspiration for your own writing. Look for common patterns in college admission essay samples, such as personal stories and a touch of humor. You might also find some good ideas for structuring your essay to give it a breath of fresh air.