Best College Essay Examples (2024)

Best College Essay Examples (1)

One of the hardest things to write on your college application is thepersonal statement. The personal statement is the most abstract section ofthe form as it has little to no guidance on how to fill it in and is themost open-ended of all sections. If you are struggling to write theadmission essay, the best guidance would be from the essays of students whowere accepted previously. They were accepted into the college so theiradmission essays must have worked, and there are blueprints for what thecolleges are looking for from a candidate. They have achieved the successyou are looking to replicate and can form the basis of your essay.

This article will look at the criteria that generally makes for a greatpersonal statement while giving you a huge list of successful essays thathave been accepted at a number of different institutions. By breaking downthese example essays, this article will examine why they were successful,and how you can employ these techniques yourself.

The Common Features Successful College Essay Contain.

A Clear Structured Plan.

Having a clear and structured plan is the basis for any good piece ofwriting, and a college essay is no different. Sit down, think about thestory you want to write. Write in bullets, and expand from there.

Start Small – Then Expand.

It is best to have a narrow, and focused start to the essay. This willprovide you with a solid foundation to build from. This narrow focus iscommon and formulaic in most successful applications. The writer beginswith a detailed story that describes an event, a person or a place. Thesedescriptions usually have heavy imagery. The essay then extends outwardfrom this foundation. It uses this scene and connects it to the author'spresent situation, state of mind, or newfound understanding.

Story Telling

These authors know how to tell a tale. Only a very few of them relate to aonce in a lifetime event. Most focus on mundane events that happen ineveryday life. The trick is to set yourself apart by telling the story inan interesting way. Let us take on of the most mundane and awful tasks onthe planet – ironing - how would you construct an interesting tale aroundthat? Would you increase the drama by giving yourself a strict deadline youhave to meet or invent an impossible struggle against a difficult shirt youneed as flat as a pancake? Would you look at how to present it in a funnyand interesting way like a time your ironing board broke, and you had tofind inventive ways to flatten out your clothes such as sitting on them?Would you write a harrowing tale about how you were doing it for charity?Think about how you want to present yourself, and what the essay says aboutyour life. When reading the sample essays always analyze them with this inmind.

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Hook them with the First Sentence

A killer first sentence will draw the reader in from the start. You havetheir attention and investment from the get-go. The punchier the sentence,the better it is. The best sentences act as teasers to make the readerprogress. To make them want to read what comes next. Think of them ascliffhangers that introduce an exciting scene or a bizarre situation thathas no logical conclusion. Here aretwenty-two of the best hooks Stanford applicantshave to offer. Don’t you want to know how they ended?

Find Your Voice

Writing is a method of communicating and building a rapport with thereader. The reader, in this case, is an underpaid and overworked admissionsofficer who has to slog through thousands of essays a day. You should aimto have an interesting and entertaining statement that makes you stand outfrom the crowd, and doesn’t bore your reader to death. You need to grabtheir attention and the best way to do that is by writing in your ownvoice. Use interesting and unique descriptions, describe the world as yousee it, avoid clichés, idioms, and frozen metaphors – when you read theessay you should think, yes – that’s me.

Be Technically Correct

Your personal statement should be a thing you've slaved over and cherished.As such it should read like it has been proofread a few thousand times.Make sure it has no spelling mistakes, the grammar is correct, the syntaxflows in the right order and punctuation is used correctly. The best way tospot errors is by getting someone else to read your work. Have yourparents, teachers, mentors, and even your friends check over the work tohelp eliminate those pesky comma splices. Colleges advise getting theapplication checked over by others, as they know how hard it is to spotyour own mistakes.

Published Essay Collections

Colleges regularly publish accepted essays as an example and guideline forstudents to use when they are formulating their own college applications.Find a few links below for some of the best essays we found online. Thesearticles are a great resource for you to use when you are crafting yourpersonal statement.

It is important to note that some of these statements may be using promptsthat are no longer accepted by colleges. Here are some ofthe Common Application Prompts taken from Common Appanother great resource to use:

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that isso meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete withoutit. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can befundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and whatdid you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief oridea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?[Revised]

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. Itcan be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma -anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain itssignificance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify asolution. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization thatsparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourselfor others.[Revised]

6.Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makesyou lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who doyou turn to when you want to learn more?

[New]

7.Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you'vealready written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one ofyour own design.[New]

These questions are regularly updated or revised, so it is best to checkthe current questions yourself.

Carleton College

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is known for its strange and oddball approach tosupplementary questions. Here is a collection of thoughtful answers tothese questions.

Connecticut College

Hamilton College

Johns Hopkins

These applications are answers to former prompts from both the CommonApplication and the Universal Application as John Hopkins accepts both.

Smith College

Smith College gives its applicants a prompt for a 200 words essay. Theprompt varies each, and this collection of essays comes from 2014’s prompt:“Tells us the about the best gift you’ve ever given or received.”

Tufts University

Tufts asks applicants to answer three short essay questions in addition tothe Common Application essays. Two of these questions are mandatory and theother one is selected from a list of prompt questions.Here is the writing supplement list for the class of 2022.

And here are some previous answers to these writing supplements.

If the school you are applying to is not listed above, do not despair.Check their website and see if they have published any admission essays foryou to read through and analyze.

How to Analyze Admission Essays to Help Your Personal Statement

This section will examine two essays from the examples that were collectedabove so we can pull them apart and investigate the criteria that make fora great college application essay. We'll dissect each case and examine whatmakes these essays tick.

Example One

A Johns Hopkins Admission Essay by Stephen entitled ‘Breaking intoCars’

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat forHumanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoysome Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Notuntil we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and tooka few steps back.

“Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?”

“Why me?” I thought.

More out of amusem*nt than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hangerinto the window’s seal like I’d seen on crime shows, and spent a fewminutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly,two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (Iactually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I’dbeen in this type of situation before. In fact, I’d been born into thistype of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family ofseven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblingsarguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house wasfunctioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time.When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant.At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface ofwater. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case myaircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. “The water’s on fire! Clear ahole!” he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I’m stillunconvinced about that particular lesson’s practicality, my Dad’soverarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, andyou have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, alittle pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quickdeal, and give the improbable a try. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and Idefinitely don’t expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room tableonly has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance ofpunctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, myfamily life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have nopower. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned howto thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realignedthem 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.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure mysurvival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me aquestion that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year:“How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of peopleI did not choose?”

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me inLaredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger hadbeen handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in athing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It’sfamily. It’s society. And often, it’s chaos. You participate by letting goof the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing theunexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My familyexperience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

An Amazing Hook

‘I had never broken into a car before.’

This has everything we talked about earlier, in the Hook Section. Itdescribes a scene – he is standing next to a car, and he is about to breakin, it has a hint of danger and drama – he is making a transgression – andthen there is cliffhanger too – how will it turn out, will he get caught?

Strong Visual Language

‘We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat forHumanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoysome Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Notuntil we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and tooka few steps back.

“Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?”

“Why me?” I thought.

More out of amusem*nt than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hangerinto the window’s seal like I’d seen on crime shows, and spent a fewminutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.’

Stephen uses extremely detailed language to build up a visual scene thatreally makes this experience come to life. He used specific language toprovide details rather than use general words; for example, we know it's‘Texas BBQ' which will invoke the reader’s senses more than a more generalterm such as food or take out. We can smell the BBQ. The ‘author’ describeshow the ‘coat hanger’ comes from a dumpster making this more a crime ofopportunity than careful planning. Stephen also chooses strong verbs thathave strong connotations and creates a visual image such as ‘Jiggles.’These strong words do not need adverbs, and this creates a concise, flowingsentence that is easy to read.

These details aid us in imaging the emotions of the people in the scene.Stephen is given the coat hanger, and then that person takes a few stepsback – it shows that he isn’t just nervous but afraid and looking forsomeone else to take charge. Stephen also captures the tone of a teenagerin the dialogue he has written. It grounds the piece in reality and makesit so easy to picture and visualize in your mind.

Insightful Analysis of the Situation

‘Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door.(I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization thatI’d been in this type of situation before. In fact, I’d been born into thistype of situation.’

Stephen demonstrates his inventiveness and resourcefulness in two wayshere. Firstly, in a practical way – his resourcefulness has resulted in himunlocking the car door. Secondly, he demonstrates it by his clever usage of‘click’ which plays on the word having two different meanings. In thisplayful way, he is changing the situation from the narrow story to thebroader deeper aspects. The insight he has gained from it. His personalgrowth.

Ground Abstract terms by Using Concrete Examples.

‘My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a familyof seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblingsarguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house wasfunctioning normally.’

That section opens up with very abstract terms ‘Unpredictability andchaos.’ Abstract terms can be interpreted in a number of ways, and couldquite possibly mean anything from living in an atmosphere of violence todealing with issues of abandonment (or even living with some kind of mentalinstability). Stephen clarifies what he means in the next sentence whichlimits the number of inferences the reader can make by providing a detailedand visual scene of the chaos: ‘family of seven' and ‘siblings arguing, dogbarking, phone ringing.' It is easy to see the abstract notions Stephen isdescribing.

Humor to Entertain the Reader

‘My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, hehad a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine,I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dadconsidered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carriershould ever get torpedoed.’

The humor relaxes the reader and actually draws them closer to the essay writerwhile providing details about the author's life. Learning how to clearburning oil from the water surface isn't a skill most nine-year-oldchildren need to know, and Stephen plays on this by using a flippantstatement – ‘in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.’ Thistongue in cheek tone makes the reader aware he is okay with the strictenvironment, and in fact, makes fun of it.

The ‘you know’ is really important too, as it makes the statement soundmore like a spoken informal conversation but introducing colloquialphrases. Another thing to take notice of is that this type of humor andphrasing is kept to a minimum in the statement, and is only used aroundtopics where the reader could feel discomfort to relax them. The moderateamount of humor helps keep the prose meaningful and serious rather thanflippant.

Insightful About His Own Behavior

‘But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a questionthat he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: “How can Iparticipate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did notchoose?”

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me inLaredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger hadbeen handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in athing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It’sfamily. It’s society. And often, it’s chaos. You participate by letting goof the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing theunexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My familyexperience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.’

Stephen ends his essay by reflecting on how his life has prepared him todeal with the future. His dad’s approach to parenting and the chaos of hisfamily life has given him the skills to succeed in an unpredictable worldthat he cannot control.

Stephen connects his past experience to his current maturity throughself-knowledge. All great personal essays contain this key element.Maturity and awareness of your own behavior is something that all collegesdesire in their applicants. They indicate that a student will be able toadapt to the independence that is required in college classes, will beresponsible for their own lives and actions.

How This Essay Could Have Been Better

No piece of writing is ever perfect. Most writers would be happy revisingpieces of writing for the rest of their life if there was a deadline theyhad to meet. So, what would you have done differently with this essay? Whatwould you change to give it that little extra piece of oomph?

Cliched Language Usage

Stephen uses a lot of prefabricated language in his essay such as idiomsand common phrases examples are – ‘twists and turns’ and ‘don’t sweat thesmall stuff.’ Remember what we said about creating a unique voice,describing the world as you see it? These block phrases work against thisand dampen the author's unique voice to just one among the crowd. This canmake your writing tired and predictable if used in large amounts.

More Examples

The essay demonstrates how Stephen is adaptable to the situation and thathe is not afraid to use his inventiveness to adapt to and thrive indifficult situations. This is a great example, and very well used.

Stephen also makes several claims later in his essay that he didsubstantiate through examples. Remember to make abstract claims concrete,so the reader knows exactly what you mean. We are left wondering what hetruly meant when he claimed ‘he was different things to different people.’By providing us with examples of this it would have given us some contextand a way to visualize and understand the roles he plays.

Example Two

An Untitled Tufts University Admission Essay by Bridget Collins

‘I have always loved riding in cars. After a long day in first grade, Iused to fall asleep to the engine purring in my mother's Honda Odyssey,even though it was only a 5-minute drive home. As I grew, and graduatedinto the shotgun seat, it became natural and enjoyable to look out thewindow. Seeing my world passing by through that smudged glass, I woulddaydream what I could do with it.

In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to beEmperor of the World. While I sat in the car and watched the miles pass by,I developed the plan for my empire. I reasoned that, for the world to runsmoothly, it would have to look presentable. I would assign people, aptlynamed Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that needed fixing. That old man downthe street with chipping paint on his house would have a fresh coat in notime. The boy who accidentally tossed his Frisbee onto the roof of theschool would get it back. The big pothole on Elm Street that my mothermanaged to hit every single day on the way to school would be filled-in. Itmade perfect sense! All the people that didn't have a job could beFixer-Uppers. I was like a ten-year-old FDR.

Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalkcracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I'm doing so from the driver'sseat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperorof the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car rideimaginings. Or do they? I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man inan orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with adeep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.

Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary onewho paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover whatI am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. A self-admittedPhys. Ed. addict, I volunteered to help out with the Adapted PE class. Onmy 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 withspecial needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself aroundthem. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping outin APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysissummer program. I love working with the students and watching themprogress.

When senior year arrived, college meetings began, and my counselor asked mewhat I wanted to do for a career, I didn't say Emperor of the World.Instead, I told him I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst.A BCBA helps develop learning plans for students with autism and otherdisabilities. Basically, I would get to do what I love for the rest of mylife. He laughed and told me that it was a nice change that aseventeen-year-old knew so specifically what she wanted to do. I smiled,thanked him, and left. But it occurred to me that, while my desiredoccupation was decided, my true goal in life was still to become aFixer-Upper. So, maybe I'll be like Sue Storm and her alter-ego, theInvisible Woman. I'll do one thing during the day, then spend my off-hourshelping people where I can. Instead of flying like Sue, though, I'll optfor a nice performance automobile. My childhood self would appreciatethat.’

Compare and Contrast

When you compare Bridget's essay to Stephen's, the two approaches are verydifferent. The main thing they have in common is they use lifetime eventlanguage to build an engaging and interesting narrative. And they are thetwo keys to any great essay.

A Simple Flowing Structure.

The story told in the essay unfolds in chronographic order. His steadunfolding of time is signed post at the of each paragraph:

  • Paragraph 1: “after a long day in first grade”
  • Paragraph 2: “in elementary school”
  • Paragraph 3: “seven years down the road”
  • Paragraph 4: “when I was a freshman in high school”
  • Paragraph 5: “when senior year arrived”

This flow natural structure lets the reader know when they are, andunderstand the narrative with simplicity and ease.One Central Conceit and Theme‘I would assign people, aptly named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything thatneeded fixing. That old man down the street with chipping paint on hishouse would have a fresh coat in no time. The boy who accidentally tossedhis Frisbee onto the roof of the school would get it back.

[...]

Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalkcracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I'm doing so from the driver'sseat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperorof the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car rideimaginings. Or do they? I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man inan orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with adeep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.

[…]

I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst. A BCBA helps developlearning plans for students with autism and other disabilities. Basically,I would get to do what I love for the rest of my life. He laughed and toldme that it was a nice change that a seventeen-year-old knew so specificallywhat she wanted to do. I smiled, thanked him, and left. But it occurred tome that, while my desired occupation was decided, my true goal in life wasstill to become a Fixer-Upper.’The way Bridget takes an idea she had during childhood and crafts it into ametaphor for her future desires makes this admission essay an entertainingread. This metaphor is not only clear, but it demonstrates self-knowledge.She knows what she wants to be as she has always known since childhood. Shewants to make a difference in the community, and a person’s life bytackling their problems one fix at a time.A Unique VoiceBridget uses techniques that build a rapport with the reader. Through thecourse of the narrative, we get to know her, and her perspective on theworld. She becomes someone we like, and believe is genuine. There are threemain techniques:

  • Humor

Bridget pokes fun at herself and the childish notions she had about theworld. This highlights her growing maturity as she is starting tounderstand how simplistic her childhood dream was, and how complex theworld really is. Not only she is mature enough to realize this, she doesn'tabandon that dream but merely redefines in a way that both makes sense, andremains true to her vision. The fact she is able to see the funny sideportrays her as open-minded and adaptable.

‘In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to beEmperor of the World.’

‘All the people that didn't have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like aten-year-old FDR.’

  • Coined Words

Bridget invents her own terminology and uses it throughout the essay. Byusing terms like ‘Fixer-Ups’ instead of something more generic like helpersor assistants it creates a unique voice and style that makes her stand outfrom the crowd. It also gives a greater connotation to the idea of mendingsomething that was broken in her eyes, of healing that more generic termswould miss. These terms give us a greater view of how Bridget perceives theworld and lets us understand her actions towards it. These childish termsare charming and iconic. These terms are central to the essay, providing itwith its key concept and holding its theme together.

  • Syntax

Bridget switches the structure, length, and syntax of a sentence. Themajority of the essay uses standard English and English grammar. By doingsomething slightly unorthodox with language, Bridget makes the reader payattention to her story.

‘The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother managed to hit every singleday on the way to school would be filled-in. It made perfect sense! All thepeople that didn't have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like aten-year-old FDR.’

Here she narrates the thoughts she had as a child. She switches her stylewith the unexpected short sentence ‘It made perfect sense!’ This serves toreflect this realization was sudden and indicates it was a rationalizationshe had made on the spot. The use of the exclamation mark gives thesentence that Eureka moment.

‘As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperor ofthe World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car rideimaginings. Or do they?.

A similar shift in sentence length is used when she begins to discuss herpresent-day aspirations. Bridget inserts a tiny question ‘Or do they?’ intothe narrative. This emphasizes her doubts, or how she is trying toreconcile how her childish aspirations relate to the adult world. Ithighlights her determination and invention to find a way to fulfil herdesires of being a ‘Fix-Upper.’‘Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a deep love forYankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.’Here the metaphor is directly mapped on Bridget for the first time. Herethe comparison between a ‘Fixer-up’ who corrects the worlds physicalproblems are directly mapped onto the disability specialist. This keyconcept is emphasized through a parallel sentence structure, a rhetoricaldevice that is commonly used in literature to create links between segmentsof a text and create emphasis.

‘To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn't had too much interaction withspecial needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself aroundthem. Long story short, I got hooked.’

A short sentence is used to create the emotional resolution of theadmission essay. Here Bridget goes from being nervous about helpingstudents with disabilities to being hooked. The short sentence ‘Long storyshort, I got hooked’ takes away a lot of the potential for a cliched andcheesy moment. The slang also emphasizes this area of the letter. So, bychanging the sentence structure, Bridget is emphasizing her feelings anddrawing attention to her personality and emotional drive. This endows theadmission essay with a fantastic and unique voice.

How could this essay have been better?

Even though Bridget’s essay is extremely well written, there are still afew tweaks that could improve it.

The Car Connection

Bridget starts her essay by telling us about her loves of car rides, butthis doesn’t seem to be connected to much the essay – which is centeredaround the idea of ‘Fixer-Uppers.' Nor does the car seem connected to theidea of working with disabled children. To make the hook work better,Bridget needed to explain why cars were connected to the idea more or maybehave deleted the thing about cars and used the space from some morerelevant.

Give More Details Around Teaching Experience

The crux of the essay is this experience that gave her the confidence andknowledge of what she wanted to help fix in the world. Despite this Bridgetglosses over the what it was about the experience that made her feel thisway, and what the experience really entailed in the essay. Where she couldhave impressed the admission officer with her drive or understanding of thesatisfaction she derived from her experience, she says ‘Long story short’which leaves us wondering – what exactly did she enjoy? What exactly washer experience here?

Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

Are you wondering how this resource and the stockpile of old letters canmake your own admission essay better? Here are some ideas on how to use theinformation we have provided here.

  • Dissect the Other Essays on Your Own

Here is a checklist of questions that will help you analyze and think aboutthe other essays that we have collected. By learning to take things apartand critique, you’ll also learn how to write the statements better.

Checklist Questions

  • Examine the opening sentence and explain why it works so well? Howdoes it hook you and make you want to read on?

  • How does the author describe the anecdote? What senses does theauthor use to convey the story? Do these sensual descriptions makethe story visual?

  • Where does the narrow anecdote expand into the larger perspectiveof the author? How does the author connect the narrow experience tothe larger picture? And what trait, characteristic or skill doesthe anecdote emphasis and how?

  • What is the tone of the essay? And how does it evoke this tone? Isit funny – if so where does the humor come from? Is it sad andmoving? Can you find the imagery that describes this feeling? Howdoes the word choices add to the tone of the piece?

  • How would you improve the essay? Is it missing something? Is thevoice unique? If they were asking you for advice, how would youadvise them?

  • Find the Moment

These essays rely on creating an emotional connection with the reader bythe author describing a scene from their life in great detail. It doesn'tmatter if the scene is dramatic or from a slice of everyday life; it shouldbe personal and revealing about you. It should make your individualityshine through, and the reader should see you through it.

  • Edit, Edit, and Edit again

It may sound strange but writing isn’t about writing, but more aboutediting. The best pieces of writing only emerge when something has beenrewritten a few thousand times. As such it best to start writing youradmission letters early. I’d advise finishing your first draft a couple ofmonths before the admission deadline. This way you have time to pass itaround, get feedback and rewrite.

The best advice when editing anything is to put in a drawer for a few daysand just forget about it and come back to it with fresh eyes. Read throughit and use the checklist above to dissect and analyze as if it was someoneelse’s work. Is there anything that isn’t needed? Is there something thatis needed? Is there anything that’s in the wrong place? Does everythingmake sense? Are the words strong? Is your voice there? Edit it, put awayfor a few days and repeat the cycle.

Best College Essay Examples (2024)

FAQs

How do you write an A+ college essay? ›

Here's how to write an essay sure to get you an A+ grade:
  1. Do Some Preliminary Research. ...
  2. Write Your Thesis Statement. ...
  3. Build an Essay Outline. ...
  4. Write Your Body Paragraphs. ...
  5. Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction. ...
  6. Write an Applause-Worthy Conclusion. ...
  7. Edit, Edit, Edit. ...
  8. Format Your Sources.
15 Apr 2021

What is a good hook for a college essay? ›

Start with Quotations. You can use two types of quotes here: literary citations and inspirational quotes from famous people or influencers in the field. A literary quote would be a perfect hook for your application essay, while quoting influencers helps to support an argument you represent in your paper.

How do I make my college essay stand out at least 6 tips? ›

To make your college essay stand out, consider these expert tips.
...
  1. Choose a Thoughtful Title. ...
  2. Jump Right In. ...
  3. Don't Be Afraid to Use Humor. ...
  4. Use Specific Examples. ...
  5. Channel Your Most Unusual Passions. ...
  6. Be Vulnerable and Authentic. ...
  7. Draw Connections.

How do I make my college essay stand out? ›

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
  1. Write about something that's important to you. ...
  2. Don't just recount—reflect! ...
  3. Being funny is tough. ...
  4. Start early and write several drafts. ...
  5. No repeats. ...
  6. Answer the question being asked. ...
  7. Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
  8. Test Your College Knowledge.

Do colleges care if you get an A or A+? ›

Short answer is Yes and they do care about whether it is A or A+ or A-. Colleges see the full transcript and they review not only the grades but also the type of courses, whether they are regular, honors, AP etc. The rigor of the curriculum is as important a factor as the grades.

Do a+ boost your GPA? ›

An A+ letter grade is equivalent to a 4.0 GPA, or Grade Point Average, on a 4.0 GPA scale, and a percentage grade of 97–100.

DOES A+ and A affect GPA? ›

For GPA purposes, A and A+ are usually equal, but A+ is a rarer grade. Sometimes, A+ is used for 96 and higher.

Do you introduce yourself in a college essay? ›

A college essay is absolutely a way to introduce yourself to the college, but it shouldn't be taken so literally. Rewriting your application in the form of an essay is a waste of valuable time, for both you and the college admissions officer. Instead, focus on a unique way to introduce yourself.

How long should a college essay be? ›

The primary essay for your college application, often called a personal statement, is typically around 400-600 words. The Common App personal statement — which is used as the primary application essay by more than 800 colleges — must be 250-650 words.

What do colleges want to hear essays? ›

The context that admissions officers are looking for could be anything about you that differentiates you from other students. It could include your ethnic or socioeconomic background, your values, your passions, or anything else that sets you apart from your peers.

What do colleges look at the most? ›

KEY FACTORS IN COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
  1. Good Grades. Earning good grades is the most critical factor for college applications. ...
  2. Challenging High School Curriculum. ...
  3. Strong Standardized Test Scores. ...
  4. A Well-Written Essay. ...
  5. Extracurricular Participation and Leadership Skills. ...
  6. Diversity. ...
  7. Enthusiasm for the School. ...
  8. Letters of Recommendation.

How do you grab your attention in college essay? ›

There are different ways to grab the reader.
  1. Try starting with a question.
  2. Begin with a bold statement.
  3. Use an interesting quote.
  4. Put the reader in medias res, that is, in the middle of things. ...
  5. Challenge the reader by speaking directly to him/her.
  6. Tell the reader what you do NOT want to do in your writing.

What words should you not use in a college essay? ›

Don't Use Contractions, Slang or Cliches

Avoid contractions like "don't," "it's" and "they're" in your essay because they will give your writing an informal feel. Instead, separate and write out the full words.

What makes you a strong candidate for college essay? ›

A reader should be able to learn about at least some of the following: your passions, feelings, perspectives, values, your defeats and/or accomplishments. College essays should also demonstrate your ability to think and organize your thoughts. Above all… make sure you choose a topic you care about.

How do I know if my college essay is good? ›

4 Ways to Know if You've Written a Good College Essay
  • Put the essay away for a day or two. Then read it again. ...
  • Read your essay out loud. You shouldn't stumble over words or phrases when you read your essay out loud. ...
  • Ask yourself if your essay says everything you want it to say about you. ...
  • Pretend you're a college reader.
21 Jul 2014

What are 4 most important parts of an essay? ›

  • Introduction—An essay begins with a brief introduction, which prepares the audience to read.
  • Body—An essay includes body paragraphs, which develop the main idea (thesis or claim) of the.
  • Conclusion—An essay ends with a brief conclusion, which brings the essay to a logical end. An.

How do I find ideas for an essay? ›

Techniques for generating topic ideas
  1. Talk it out. ...
  2. Brainstorm. ...
  3. Free write. ...
  4. Don't feel you need to work logically. ...
  5. Work from general to specific. ...
  6. Maintain momentum. ...
  7. Let ideas go. ...
  8. Choose a topic that interests you.
17 Nov 2014

What year do colleges look at most? ›

Your junior year grades are essential: it's the grade a college will look at most, along with your senior year. Your grades predetermine your academic performance for your final year. Your GPA and the “sturdiness” of it matters.

Which year GPA do colleges look at? ›

In the application review process, they will take freshman (and senior) year course choices into account, but will use only grades received in sophomore and junior year when calculating students' GPAs.

Do colleges prefer AP or honors? ›

Colleges like them both. Both honors and AP courses are rigorous courses that most high schools weight more heavily on your transcript. AP courses, however, culminate in the AP Exam. Good AP scores show colleges you are ready to succeed at college-level work and can even earn you college credits.

What is the highest GPA ever? ›

A GPA higher than 5.0 is rare, but school point systems are occasionally structured so that students taking advanced classes can rack up bonus points. One student even managed to land a stunning 10.03 GPA by taking 17 advanced classes at a school that awarded bonus points.

How fast can you raise a GPA? ›

If you have a 3.0 GPA and 15 credit hours, by earning straight A's during your next (15 credit) semester, you can bump your GPA to a 3.5. However, if you have already earned 60 credit hours and have a 3.0 GPA a straight-A semester will only bump your GPA to a 3.2.

Are straight A's worth it? ›

While straight A's might get you in the door to grad school or a job, they will in no way guarantee your success. Grant writes, “Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence.

What is my GPA if I have all A's and one B? ›

GPA:
Grade Equivalence
A4.00
A-3.67
B+3.33
B3.00
8 more rows

How much will my GPA drop if I fail a class? ›

The failing grade will NOT calculate in your GPA, but it will still show on your transcript. On your transcript, an "E" will show to the right of your failing grade to mark the course as "Excluded". On your transcript, an "I" will show to the right of the second time you took the class, marking it as "Included".

What GPA do you need to get into Harvard? ›

It is tough to get into Harvard. The university receives applications from more qualified applicants than they can accept, and most applicants have at least a 4.18GPA. Meeting GPA and SAT/ACT requirements (although these are now optional) will help you get through the first round of filters.

Do colleges actually care about essays? ›

Even if the rest of your profile makes you a top candidate for competitive colleges, your essay always matters. In fact, your essay could end up hurting an application for an otherwise strong candidate if it appears hastily written or not well thought-out.

Do colleges actually read essays? ›

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process.

Is it OK to talk about depression in a college essay? ›

It is okay to write about mental illness and Depression in your college essay as long as it proves that you're a suitable student. Thus, you should be asking yourself, “how does my experience with mental illness or Depression make me a strong candidate?”

What is a good paragraph starter? ›

Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

What is the structure of a college essay? ›

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but these are two common structures that work: A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme. A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

How many paragraphs should a college essay be? ›

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay. College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count.

When should you start your college essay? ›

Most counselors and students who have applied to college recommend getting started on your college essays early -- the summer prior to senior year, if possible. If you find yourself putting it off, or if you're experiencing essay anxiety, take a deep breath and try this 6-step plan.

What is the shortest a college essay can be? ›

As exemplified by the University of Illinois, the shortest word limits for college essays are usually around 150 words (less than half a single-spaced page). Rarely will you see a word limit higher than around 650 words (over one single-spaced page). College essays are usually pretty short: between 150 and 650 words.

Is it bad to go over the word limit for a college essay? ›

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay. You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely.

What are 5 things colleges look for? ›

What are the Most Important Factors in College Admissions?
  • Grades in college prep courses. ...
  • Strength of curriculum. ...
  • Admission test scores. ...
  • Grades in all courses. ...
  • Extracurricular commitment. ...
  • Letters of recommendation. ...
  • Essay or writing sample. ...
  • Demonstrated interest.

What are the 7 college essay prompts? ›

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
  • Prompt #1: Share your story.
  • Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
  • Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
  • Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
  • Prompt #5: Personal growth.
  • Prompt #6: What captivates you?
  • Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
  • Describe a person you admire.

What admissions officers look for in college essays? ›

Admissions officers look for students whose essays reveal their character and perspective through their real experiences, not contrived situations. Admissions officers say most essays they read are safe, generic and do nothing to make them remember or want to advocate for the students who wrote them.

What are colleges impressed by? ›

Academics
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) The most important step you can take to make yourself a competitive candidate is, of course, to work hard in school. ...
  • Test Scores. For schools that consider standardized test scores, those typically rank second in importance. ...
  • Clubs. ...
  • Sports. ...
  • Community Service. ...
  • Jobs/Internships.

What do colleges find impressive? ›

A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum. Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have) A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement. A unique extracurricular interest or passion (a "spike," as we like to call it)

How can I stand out to college? ›

If you want to make your college application stand out memorably, take a look at these 16 tips.
  1. Choose Your High School Classes With Intention. ...
  2. Strive for Good Grades. ...
  3. Tell the Story of Who You Are. ...
  4. Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Keep Accurate Records. ...
  7. Manage Your Social Media Presence.

What are 3 examples of an attention getter? ›

There are lots of ways to capture the attention of an audience, but here are a few of the most common:
  • Relay an anecdote. Start by telling us a story that directly relates to your speech. ...
  • Cite a startling fact or opinion. ...
  • Ask a question. ...
  • Use a quotation. ...
  • Build suspense through narrative.

What should my college essay be about? ›

Your college essay should reflect your opinions and experiences and display clear and critical thinking. It's more than a list of facts or a highlight reel of successes; it helps college admissions officers understand your character. So show them who you are.

What are the current topics for essay? ›

ESSAY TOPICS
  • Bad Bank and its rolein tackling NPAs.
  • Impact of increasing oil prices on Indian economy.
  • How important is flow of money for the economy?
  • Need of the Hour is to Maximise Possibilities of Agriculture in India.
  • Inequality can be Reduced by the Power of the Market rather than the Government.
  • FDI in Defence sector.

What are the 2 main types of college essays? ›

There are two main types of college essays: personal statements and supplemental essays. In general, you will write one personal statement and submit it to every school you apply to. By contrast, you'll submit a different set of supplemental essays to each school.

What qualities make a good college essay? ›

A great college essay is one in which the student's voice and though process comes through clearly. It should be consistent with the rest of the application and showcase an aspect of the student not highlighted in the rest of the application. It is also well written and grammatically correct.

How do you write a 2022 college essay? ›

Here are five tips for writing college admissions essays for the 2020-2021 school year.
  1. Make the essay deeply personal. ...
  2. Avoid writing about cliché topics. ...
  3. Study successful admissions essays. ...
  4. Don't put COVID-19 at the center of your story. ...
  5. Check out online editing services to take your essay to the next level.
18 Aug 2022

What are the three parts of a college essay? ›

The main parts (or sections) to an essay are the intro, body, and conclusion.

What is too personal for a college essay? ›

Here are some of the personal topics to stay away from: Mental health: If you suffer from OCD, depression, an eating disorder, etc it really isn't great material for your college essay. You don't want to give colleges any reason to be concerned that you won't be healthy enough to succeed in college.

What essay should I write about? ›

Personal essay topics: what are they about? You may write on any subject. Popular themes include hobbies, nature, childhood, illness, travel, making a difficult choice, learning something new, friends, family, and relationships. You may use some personal challenge essay ideas and tell about overcoming an obstacle.

How long does it take to write a college essay? ›

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay, and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts.

What is the most important element in an essay? ›

Thesis. The thesis is the statement of an essay that determines the primary focus. A thesis statement should be one coherent, concise sentence that clearly states the point of your essay. If you are writing a persuasive essay, the thesis statement is where you make your primary argument.

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