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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., 11 surprising facts about college admission.

boxes with surprise contents inside

We know that the college process—and everything it entails, from high school coursework and standardized tests to applications and financial aid—is a major source of stress. 

But it doesn't have to be! College Admission 101 , our YouTube Learning Playlist in which our Editor-in-Chief Rob Franek  walks you through the whole process—including classes and grades, extracurriculars, essays, letters of recommendation, interviews, and financial aid packages. Here's the takeaway: The process is knowable and navigable, and we are here to help you get into—and thrive at—your dream school. Watch the nine-video series for in-depth guidance that will help you strengthen your competitiveness as a candidate, maximize your scores as a test taker, and earn financial aid dollars as a student. You can read our release on the series here .

To show you just how entirely probable your future college acceptance is, we've gathered these 11 surprising facts.

1. More than three-quarters of college applicants get into their first-choice schools. 

Watch video #1 to find out how to maximize your chances of joining that group!

2. UCLA is the #1-most-applied-to college , with nearly 139,500 applications yearly.

Watch video #2 to find out why that’s less intimidating than it seems.

3. It's possible to write a college essay about something as mundane as showering...and get into Yale! (Someone did.) 

Watch video #5 to find out about surprising topics that made the cut!

4. While college debt is the single greatest cause for concern among students and parents (according to our College Hopes and Worries survey), a whopping 85 percent of students are awarded financial aid. 

Watch video #7 to find out why that percentage is probably lower than it should be.

5. The average financial aid award per student is nearly $15,000 ! 

Watch video #7 to learn about what you can do to maximize your financial aid.

6. Even at test-optional schools, strong SAT or ACT scores can help students unlock merit-based aid. 

Watch video #4 to discover what standardized tests can do for you.

7. About 43 percent of all institutional aid funds are merit-based. 

Watch video #4 to find out about how that percentage has been on the rise.

8. There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT, ACT, or AP exams.

Watch video #4 for test-taking tips that will help you maximize your scores.

9. The top admissions factor at every college is a student’s high school GPA.

Watch video #3 to find out whether it’s better to get an A in a regular class or a B in an honors class.

10. Social media activity can sometimes hurt college prospects—but it can also help students get into their dream schools.

Watch video #6 to find out how you can use social media to your advantage in the college process.

11. Students can minimize college debt risk with income-share agreements.

Watch video #8 to discover other outside-the-box strategies to help you save money on college. For more expert insights into the college process, watch the whole  College Admission 101 series.

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before you go

Help us keep in touch — it won’t take long, tips on writing your "25 things" essay, admissions counselor claire garst has some suggestions.

If you've taken a look at an application for any of the programs we offer at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, then a unique essay prompt has likely caught your eye—"25 Random Things About Yourself." Yes, you read that correctly. While we're interested in learning about your reasons for applying to Fuqua and your future goals, the most important thing we want to know is what makes you, YOU.

We read hundreds of applications per admissions cycle, and many people have similar motivations for studying quantitative management—but no one has had the same life experiences as you. Sharing your experiences with us is the easiest way to make your application stand out! Most of my teammates in admissions save reading the "25 Things" essay until last when we review applications. We're really rooting for you to demonstrate how interesting you are! 

After reading many "25 Things" lists from amazing applicants—and even creating my own list—I have a few tips on what makes a great "25 Things" essay.

  • Think of it as a list, not an essay.  We truly mean it when we say to number your points 1-25 and that some points can be just one sentence.
  • Avoid repeating what we already know about you.  The work experience and leadership and involvement sections of the application, as well as your resume and transcript, tell us everything we need to know about your academic and professional accomplishments. Reiterating that you graduated top in your class or that you were the student body president wastes valuable space you could use to share something else about yourself.
  • Make it personal.  For example, many of our applicants are very well-traveled, so we commonly see statements like, "I have visited 38 of the United States and 17 additional countries." A more specific and personal demonstration of your wanderlust would be, "I have visited 38 of the United States and 17 additional countries, but my most memorable trip was when I traveled to Italy the summer after graduating from college. I saved up during college by working a part-time job to afford that trip." Here, you don't just tell us you're well-traveled; you show us your strong work ethic. Plus, it's unlikely another applicant would share this exact same story!
  • Phone a friend.  Ask your family and friends—those who know you best—for help identifying your most unique traits and interesting stories. Something you may not think is noteworthy may be someone else's favorite thing about you!
  • Take your time.  This list shouldn't be written at 11:00 pm the night of the application deadline. Come up with as many facts as you can for your first draft, and then think on it for a week or so. During this time, get help from friends and family, reflect on childhood memories, make a list of your favorite anecdotes, and consider your hobbies. Then revisit your list, and you'll likely have plenty of great inspiration to reach the magic number 25!

I hope these tips help as you begin to tackle this very fun essay prompt. For more inspiration, check out  this post  from some of our Daytime MBA bloggers. Happy writing!

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Can You Answer These Bizarre (But Real) College Essay Prompts?

Can You Answer These Bizarre (But Real) College Essay Prompts?

With the release of universities 2022-23 supplemental essay prompts, we take you through some of the most unusual and bizarre US college supplemental essay prompts of all time, featuring universities such as UChicago, Tufts University and UPenn.

To get into a top US college , you’re going to need more than stellar grades, test scores, common application and extracurricular achievements. You’ll have to demonstrate, in your supplemental essays, that you are the kind of mature, driven, interesting person that would thrive at the particular university. This is much easier said than done — standing out from the crowd with a unique college essay can be very difficult.

Luckily, over the years some colleges have given their applicants a helping hand on this point by providing some really bizarre essay prompts. These warrant truly inventive responses, and let applicants really show off their writing prowess, creativity, and individuality.

Here’s out our list of some of the most creative, unusual and bizarre supplemental essay prompts from all time. How would you have responded to these questions? Check it out below!

Bizzare Supplemental Essay Prompts in 2022

We thought that it would be a good idea to include some of the more creative supplemental essay prompts from this year’s admission cycle (2022-23). We hope that this gets the creative juices flowing and helps you get a good early start to the essays!

University of Chicago

What advice would a wisdom tooth have?

Chapman University

Name one dish you would cook for the school’s admission team.

Pomono College

Marvel or DC? Pepsi or Coke? Instagram or TikTok? What’s your favorite ‘this or that’ and which side do you choose?

University of Vermont

Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?

In approaching these essays, it's essential to keep in mind why they are important and how they add context to your application. Admissions officers at top universities look for candidates that display creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and a unique perspective.

Interested in learning more? Attend one of our free events

See real applications accepted to the ivy league and other top colleges.

Friday, March 8, 2024 1:30 AM CUT

Evaluate real applications with a Former Stanford Admissions Officer - learn what made them successful and understand how you can build an application that stands out to top universities!


Unusual Supplemental Essay Prompts From Previous Years

When it comes to asking creative and wacky essay prompts, the University of Chicago is the leader. To come up with the best and most creative prompts, the college takes suggestions and inspiration from their own students, who are allowed to email their ideas annually. If you look on the UChicago website you can even see who submitted each essay prompt.

UChicago also allows you to answer a past prompt making these options for you to choose.

Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History…

This prompt was an excellent opportunity for students to show their creativity and humour, as well as their academic interests. The best ideas that we could find online were probably Visual Arms (Visual Arts) and Pig Problems (Big Problems).

Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.

Have you ever written an essay about a giant jar of mustard? In 2004 UChicago applicants had their chance, and while there are absurd elements to the prompt, there are many creative and serious directions essays took.

The elusive goal of mathematics, but with no context. What is “x”, and how did prospective UChicago students find it? We’re sure the students brought in a novel discussion of a diverse array of mathematical theory, as well as philosophical and personal matters.

Elvis is alive! OK, maybe not, but here in the Office of College Admissions we are persuaded that current Elvis sightings in highway rest areas, grocery stores and Laundromats are part of a wider conspiracy involving five of the following: the metric system, the Mall of America, the crash of the Hindenburg, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, lint, J.D. Salinger and wax fruit. Help us get to the bottom of this evil plot by constructing your own theory of how and why five of these items and events are related. Your narrative may take any form you like, but try to keep your theory to under two pages.

If there were any conspiracy theorists applying to UChicago in 1999-2000, they would certainly have been in luck with this prompt. Who would have been the mastermind behind your evil plot?

Tufts University

If UChicago is the champ of creative college essay prompts, Tufts might be considered a close second. Check out their unique prompts below.

Kermit the Frog famously lamented, 'It's not easy being green.' Do you agree?

This prompt is inspired by a Muppets song, whereby Kermit laments how green seems to blend in with so many other ordinary things and how he thus fails to stand out from the crowd. Of course, many students in their essays took this quote in a totally different direction, demonstrating their critical thinking and creativity.

The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?

Back when this prompt was released, Tufts’ #YOLO question caused quite a stir. Lee Coffin, the dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Tufts admitted that the question was inspired by his affinity for pop music and his desire for applicants to have some fun when they introduce themselves to Tufts.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon halfway around the world. History is filled with such linchpins – small events or decisions that have huge effects on the future. Make your own change somewhere in history and show us the effects on the world.

This is one for fans of alternative history, perhaps invoking visions of a distorted universe where life as we know it has taken a turn for the better or worse. Again, a challenge for applicants would have been how to say something about themselves and their interests in a creative way.

University of Southern California

(Short Answer) Hashtag to describe yourself

It is common for college essay prompts to have a few short answer questions to get to know the student. For a few years starting in 2017 USC adopted a unique question, making students describe themselves with a #hashtag as they would on twitter or instagram. But what a difficult task that is - how would you describe yourself with a single hashtag?

Wake Forest University

Give us your top ten list.

Many Buzzfeed enthusiasts applying to Wake Forest in 2017-18 would have enjoyed the opportunity to make a top-ten list about anything of their choosing. What topic would you have written about, and what does this say about you?

UC Berkeley

If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer or car describe you?

Imagine all of the time you’ve spent in your room, at your computer or behind the wheel; these objects might be the only things in the world that know your real identity. This question would have certainly prompted some deep reflection from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business applicants.

University of Notre Dame

You have 150 words. Take a risk.

Students could have taken this anywhere - so long as what they wrote was risky. There are even reports that some students took the ultimate risk and wrote nothing at all.

University of Pennsylvania

You have just finished your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.

This is an iconic prompt that UPenn asked for about 20 years. It encourages students to consider their story, and to use this to introduce themselves to UPenn. For added realism, many students liked to start their responses in the middle of a sentence.

So, How Do I Write the Essay?

Since more than three quarters of US universities no longer require students to take standardized tests, college essays are becoming increasingly important in your application.

The key piece of advice we give to our students is to start on these essays early. If you are applying to several universities, you will have many different supplemental essays to complete, as well as the common application essay . Many of our students attest that writing all of their essays is by far the most stressful part of the application, and a part of the application that is easy to neglect.

Our other key piece of advice is to make the content of each supplemental essay very specific to the university you are applying to. You need to do your research about what each university looks for in a candidate and show a clear desire to attend that particular university.

As the world’s leading university admissions support company, we at Crimson know how to approach each supplemental essay and maximise your chances of gaining admission to a top university.

If you want to feel confident when submitting your college application essay, get your essay reviewed by us at Crimson. Our experts have assisted students who have gained admission to Harvard , Yale , Princeton , Stanford , Oxford , Cambridge and many other top universities!

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College Reality Check

College Reality Check

14 Quirky College Admissions Facts You Won’t Believe

Al Abdukadirov

Applying to college is very stressful .

There are application forms to fill out, application deadlines to beat, recommendation letters to request, essays to write, and standardized test scores to report.

And then there’s the waiting for admissions decisions .

Whether you are about to complete the Common App or Coalition App or already applied to the colleges on your list, it’s crucial to relax and let life take its natural course.

In the meantime, check out these fun facts about college admissions and chuckle.

The Most Popular Major Among Incoming College Students Isn’t What You Think

It’s common knowledge that business is the most popular major.

Nearly 20% of all undergraduate students in the United States are majoring in it.

However, business is not the most popular among incoming freshmen students.


Estimates say that up to 50% of students enter college undecided .

So, if you are about to fill out that college application and have no intended major in mind, worry not because you’re not alone — it’s perfectly fine to apply that way.

Meredith College , in fact, says that being undecided is probably one of the best ways to enter college.

undecided college student

The Most Regretted Major Isn’t What You Think, Either

Most colleges and universities in the United States do not give undergraduate students enough time, usually until the end of the sophomore year , to declare a major for nothing.

It’s to make sure that they are committing to the right one.

According to CNBC , around 87% of graduates who majored in journalism regret their majors.

Sociology and liberal arts follow it, regretted by 72% of those who majored in them.

Communications, education, marketing management, and political science made it to the list, too.

For many, these majors sounded appealing in college.

Computer science or business administration would be the choice of most if given the chance to go back.

I’m Not Clowning Around — Clown College Was a Real School

Since its founding in 1968, Clown College has trained approximately 1,400 clowns.

The institution’s official name?

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

Clown College’s original location was in Venice, Florida — it moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, and then to Sarasota, Florida, until it shut down in 1997 because it was no longer making profit.

Its administration meant serious business.

So much so that its acceptance rate is lower than that of Harvard University — 1% vs. 35!

Further, only one or two of Clown College’s graduates each academic year would receive job offers to participate in what’s known as The Greatest Show on Earth .

This Private Institution With a 5% Acceptance Rate Wants to Know Where Waldo Is

The University of Chicago is #12 in National Universities by US News .

Considered a Hidden Ivy , some of its most popular majors include social sciences, mathematics, statistics, chemistry, computer science, biomedical sciences, physical sciences, and psychology.

In 2012, it had arguably one of the most ridiculous essay prompts in the world of college admissions.

The prompt applicants may choose to answer?

“So, where is Waldo, really?”

But it wasn’t the first time UChicago had an unusual essay prompt.

University of Chicago

In the past, applicants had to write about how they felt about Wednesday, the meaning of the super-sized mustard at Costco, or make up the history of an object.

Related Post: How Colleges Game US News Ranking System

More Than 110 Colleges and Universities Accepted This North Carolina High School Senior

The College Board suggests applying to five to eight colleges to ensure acceptance to a suitable school.

Estimates say that high schoolers apply to an average of six institutions.

Well, not this teen at the Academy at Smith in Greensboro, North Carolina.

In 2018, she applied to 115 colleges all over the country — and 113 admitted her!

Among the 26 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that sent her acceptance letters, three offered her full-ride scholarships: Ed Waters College, Mississippi Valley State University, and Bennett College.

She received more than $4.5 million in merit-based scholarships .

Eventually, she became an in-state student at Bennett College , a private HBCU.

The SAT and ACT are Not Important to About Eight in Ten Postsecondary Institutions

Around 3.3 million high school students took the SAT and ACT in 2023.

One of the purposes of these standardized tests is to demonstrate a college applicant’s readiness for college .

However, more than 80% of institutions in the United States that grant bachelor’s degrees do not require applicants to include their test scores in their Common App or Coalition App.

SAT and ACT score submission is optional for some.

On the other hand, it’s obsolete for others, particularly test-blind schools .

Most colleges and universities that still require test scores are highly ranked ones.

They include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, the University of Florida, and Purdue University – West Lafayette.

SAT and ACT for test optional schools

You’re Sure to Get Admitted to Almost 600 Four-Year Colleges

Applying to certain colleges can keep you from the trauma a rejection brings.

I’m talking about open admissions or open enrollment colleges.

These colleges require only one thing from applicants: a high school diploma or any other comparable credential, such as the General Educational Development (GED) certificate .

Many open admissions schools are indeed community colleges and technical schools.

However, there are many four-year institutions, too.

Want some examples?

Lewis-Clark State College, Granite State College, Missouri Western State University, the University of Texas at El Paso, Utah Valley University, and the University of Maryland Global Campus are just some of them.

I Would Recommend Staying Away From the Worst Recommendation Letter Writer Ever

Most selective colleges will require you to submit up to three letters of recommendation .

In 2016, Seventeen published what could easily be the worst recommendation ever.

It’s from a Reddit user named Jack.

Here’s what the recommendation letter in question said:

“Jack [surname] is an adequate student.”

That’s it — no more, no less!

However, it turned out that Jack’s high school teacher was just pranking him — Jack said his teacher handed him an actual recommendation letter a few minutes later.

Talking About a Membership-Only Discount Store in Your Essay Might Help You Get Accepted to Selective College

In 2016, Brittany Stinson , a senior high school student, got accepted to five Ivy League schools.

They were Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, and UPenn.

Stanford University also accepted her, which isn’t an Ivy League but also very selective.

Her Common App essay topic?


About how Costco sparked her intellectual curiosity.

It’s how she answered the essay prompt she chose, which read:

“Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

Of course, a quirky Costco essay Common App topic or something similar to it alone won’t do — you should also write it skillfully, meaningfully, and thoughtfully.

Almost All College Admissions Officers Find Admission Appeals Unappealing

Did you know you can appeal a college or university’s decision not to accept you?

It’s something you can do by writing an appeal letter .

Also known as an admissions appeal letter or academic appeal letter , it’s a petition you send to the school’s admissions office and explains why you should have been accepted instead.

Before sending one, check that the institution accepts appeal letters.

Unfortunately, most of the time, appealing an admissions denial doesn’t deliver results.

Estimates say that the probability that college admissions officers will reverse a rejection is only 1% to 2%.

It’s better to apply to Columbia University , whose acceptance rate is 4%, than cry over spilled milk.

Eating This Helps Chase College Admissions Blues Away

No amount of wailing, swearing, and throwing things can make a rejection letter not real.

Instead, take a deep breath, calm down, and wait for the arrival of other notification decisions.

ice cream

Rejected via early decision or early action ?

Spend the remaining time before regular decision deadlines arrive, improving what you can improve in your college application to increase your chances of getting in.

Eat some ice cream to help lift your mood as you focus on moving forward!

Certain amino acids found in ice cream, including tryptophan , are scientifically known to help increase the production of the happy hormone called serotonin in the brain.

As always, eat ice cream in moderation — a sugar crash could leave you depressed, anxious, and irritable.

Nearly 25,000 Students Apply to This Haunted School Each Year

Ain’t afraid of no ghosts?


Consider sending an application to Ohio University , a public research university in Athens, Ohio.

Ranked #178 in National Universities by US News, OU has a 1,800-acre campus, and every building has paranormal activities.

Wilson Hall is said to be the most haunted building on campus.

So much so that the TV series Scariest Places on Earth featured it.

Allegedly, a female student performing satanic rituals in room 428 in the said building died violently — the school’s administration sealed the room ever since, the story goes.

And did I already mention that five cemeteries surround the campus?

You Can Count This College’s Population Using Your Fingers (And Some Toes)

Are you one of those college-bound teens who want to be a part of a large and diverse campus?

Then, you might want to stay away from Deep Springs College .

A private two-year college in Deep Springs, California, it has an acceptance rate of 8%.

It’s undergraduate enrollment?

Only 26 students!

A little more than 80% of Deep Spring College’s attendees are from outside California (12.5% are from outside the US), and 100% are attending full-time — all of them reside on-campus, too!

There’s one faculty member for every four students.

A Selfie Could be an Application Requirement at Times

The Common App and Coalition App may not ask you for a photograph of you.

However, some institutions require applicants to submit a selfie .

Different colleges have varying reasons for asking applicants to submit a photo of themselves.

For instance, The Harvard Crimson once said it’s for personalizing the admissions process.

It added that it helps college admissions officers to recall mental images and impressions about applicants, which go away when decisions are made based solely on written materials.

George Washington University has a simple reason that makes perfect sense.

According to a GWU thread , the largest higher education institution in Washington, DC just wants to ensure that the applicant doesn’t use a substitute interviewee in case asked for an alumni interview.

Al Abdukadirov

Independent Education Consultant, Editor-in-chief. I have a graduate degree in Electrical Engineering and training in College Counseling. Member of American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, did you know 61 amazing facts.

General Education


Everybody loves looking like the smartest person in the room with cool and interest facts. While I’m a big fan of random and fun facts, Did You Know Facts are facts that you can use as supporting evidence, whether it’s in a timed essay, a debate, or even a conversation. Did You Know Facts help expand your knowledge base so you’re prepared for any situation, and have the benefit of making you seem like you know what you’re talking about on any subject.

What Is a "Did You Know?" Fact?

Did you know that you can incorporate outside facts into your essays, debates and conversations? Did you know that facts make your argument stronger and more interesting ? There's a whole world of fun and interesting facts out there, on all kinds of subjects. Read on to find out how to use "did you know facts" to your advantage, and dive into our list of fascinating facts.

Using Did You Know Facts in Essays

The SAT and ACT optional writing sections that include times essays, and the GRE has an essay in its mandatory writing section. Statewide standardized tests or tests you take in school may also time essay sections.

Supporting evidence from facts increases your score, since it makes your argument stronger, or can help you clarify a point or topic. Since timed essays are written in the same structure as an academic paper, where you defend a thesis , it’s always made stronger by factual or statistical evidence, particularly if you can show that you can apply outside knowledge to the prompt at hand.

It’s helpful to go into a test with a few Did You Know Facts already in mind, things that you can hopefully apply to whatever your prompt is. Historical, literary, and political facts are great for essays since they’re more broad, and can be applied to more prompts.

Using Did You Know Facts in Debates

In a debate, you should already be prepared and have your facts and ideas ready to go. However, a fun fact can impress your audience and judges and throw off your opponent. Even if the fact isn’t directly related to your topic, having more supporting evidence and showing how your argument influences other things than the ones you’ve outlined in your debate prep can help put the discussion in context, and enrich the debate.

Did You Know? Fun Facts in 7 Categories

This list offers some interesting facts in different categories. These facts are fun and interesting, but also can be used as supporting evidence. If you're looking for facts to keep in your toolbox for things like times essays, remember that statistics are always strongest, and to choose facts that are relevant to your topic .


Did You Know These Facts About Animals and Nature?

The closest living relative to humans are chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas. We share between 98 and 99.6% of DNA with these species. Gorillas can even catch colds from humans.

Most mammals have reproductive cycles. However, only humans, humpback whales, and elephants experience menopause.

To escape a crocodiles jaw, push your thumb into its eyeballs.

Cats have only lived with people for about 7,000 years. Compared to dogs, whose domestication may have begun as early as 25,000 years ago.

Most of the Earth’s longest-surviving species are found in the ocean. While cyanobacterias are technically the oldest living organisms on Earth, having appeared 2.8 billion years ago, the ocean sponge has also been on Earth for 580 million years, and jellyfish have been here for 550 million years.

85% of plant life is found in the ocean.

The Amazon rainforest is an amazing place. The Amazon produces over 20% of the world’s oxygen, and contains more than half of the world’s species of plants, animals, and insects.

Additionally, up to 73 million sharks per year die due to shark finning, where fishermen catch the shark, cut off its fins, and throw the still-living shark back into the water. Many countries have imposed full or partial bans on finning, mainly that the sharks need to arrive onshore with fins attached. A few countries, notably Israel, Egypt, Ecuador, Honduras, Brunei and the Maldives, have total shark fishing bans.

Many animals exhibit high levels of emotional intelligence. For example, cows form bonds akin to friendships, and often have a “best friend,” and Gentoo Penguins bring a potential mate a pebble to “propose.”

Dog noses are as unique as a human fingerprint.

Did You Know These Facts About History?

Paul Revere famously yelled “The British Are Coming!’ at the start of the American Revolution. Or...not. Revere was just one member of a secret militia operation to warn other militias about the British troops. A lot of colonial Americans still considered themselves British at that time, and would have likely been confused if he’d actually said or shouted this.

Many people came forward pretending to be Grand Duchess Anastasia after the Czar fell in the Russian Revolution. But Anastasia impersonators came from a long tradition of royal imposters; Louis XVII of France died during the French Revolution, and years later when the country was discussing a revival of the monarchy, over 100 people came forward claiming to be the prince.

There were more than 600 plots to kill Fidel Castro. Plots were crafted by a variety of enemies, and even included an exploding cigar.

The patent for the first car was filed in 1886 by Karl Benz for a gas-powered, 3-wheel motor car.

Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While not all nominees since have been controversy-free, whoever nominated these three probably regretted it.

We know now that the bubonic plague was in part spread by rats. But before the plague, Pope Gregory IX declared that cats were associated with devil worship and ordered that they be exterminated. Unfortunately, people listened and as a result the rat population flourished. It is believed that the increased rat population contributed to the plague. (Ahem, actions have consequences, and don’t mess with cats)

Jeanette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress in 1916, 4 years before women had the right to vote. She was a pacifist from Montana, and was elected a second time in 1941. Both times, she voted no in regards to entering World Wars 1 and 2.

Seven of the 10 deadliest wars in history have taken place in China. The Taping Rebellion had twice as many deaths as World War 1.

Pineapples are all the rage now, but they were also a fad in the UK in the 1700s. People carried them around to show their wealth and status, and people decorated their homes with pineapples. You could even rent a pineapple as an accessory.

Bonus: Jeanette Rankin was one of the few suffragists elected to Congress. Unfortunately, Montana has not elected a woman to Congress since.


Did You Know These Facts About Science?

20% of the Earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth at 2,000 kilometers long.

Most of us are familiar with the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. But there are actually two dozen known states of matter. Plasma is one example, but scientists have also found other states of matter that only occur under certain conditions.

When helium is cooled to absolute zero (-460 degrees Fahrenheit) it becomes a liquid and starts flowing upward, against gravity.

The moon once had an atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions on the moon released trillions of tons of gas into the air, which created an atmosphere. The gases eventually became lost to space.

When Einstein posed his Theory of Relativity, he didn’t have the resources to prove this theory. However, the theory has been proven correct several times over the years. Most recently in 2018, scientists saw that as a black hole distorted light waves from a nearby star in a way that agrees with the theory.

Scientists have answered the question “what comes first the chicken or the egg?” The chicken came first because the egg shell contains a protein that can only be made from a hen.

It is mainly men who experience colorblindness.1/20 men experience color blindness as opposed to 1/200 women.

Scientists were called “natural philosophers” until the 17th century because science didn’t exist as a concept.

Did You Know These Facts About Famous People?

Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate and has had papers published in two scientific journals, one of which was when she was in high school.

Some of Neil Patrick Harris’ characters are magicians, and so if the actor. His children’s book series, The Magic Misfits, is also about a group of magicians.

Colin Kaepernick got a pet tortoise at age 10, that fit in a shoebox. Today, the tortoise is 115 pounds and may live to be 135 years old.

The Doctor Suess book Green Eggs and Ham uses only 50 different words. Doctor Suess wrote the book on a bet from his publisher that he couldn’t write a book with fewer words than The Cat in the Hat, which has 225.

Woody Harrelson’s father was a hitman, who left the family when the actor was young. Woody didn’t find out about his father’s criminal activity until he heard a radio report on his trial.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a Star Trek fan. He convinced Nichelle Nichols, one of the first black women featured on a major TV show, not to quit, arguing that her role was making history. Mae Jamison, the first black woman to travel into space, later cited Nichols as one of her inspirations.

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch. She has been on the throne for 67 years. The 93 year old queen’s heir is currently her son Charles, who is 70.

Isaac Asimov published so many books, essays, short fiction, and non-fiction, that if you read one per week it would take you 9 years to read all of his work.

Did You Know These Facts About Politics and Government?

In 2018, 50.3% of eligible voters turned out to vote. This was the highest turnout for a midterm election since 2018.

Also in 2018, 16% of voters said it was the first time they’d voted in a midterm election.

About ⅓ of Americans think the president affects their personal lives, and 63% say he affects the country’s mood.

The U.S. spends more on defense than the other 7 countries combined. Last year, the U.S. spent $649 billion, while China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, the U.K. and Germany spent a combined $609 billion

Any person born in the United States or to U.S. citizen parents is also a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17th, 1787. It was meant not to “grant” rights, but to protect the rights people were born with.

Although the U.S. has a two party system, there are some other third parties. Notable ones now are the tea party and the green party, but the U.S. once had fringe parties like the Bull and Moose party.

Americans throw out 4.4 pounds of trash daily.


Did You Know These Facts About Sports?

The NCAA required football players to study during halftime in 1925

The Stanley Cup was originally two stories tall, but it was deemed too difficult to transport

Basketball legend Michael Jordan also played baseball, and allegedly still received his basketball salary while a member of the Chicago White Sox system.

Only three active players are in the top 50 on the all-time MLB home run list, yet 27 of the last 50 have played within the last 50 years.

There has never been a three-peat in the Super Bowl

Until 1992, female athletes competing in the Olympics had to undergo mandatory sex verification testing, due to fears that male athletes would disguise themselves as female to gain an advantage. The Olympic Committee still maintains the right to conduct testing if “suspicions arise.” There were no such requirements for male athletes.

Punters have the longest NFL careers, at an average of 4.87 years.

In 1972, Title IX was adopted, and opened the door for women and girls participation in sports. Before Title IX, women were 2% of college students participating in sports, and girls were 7% of high school students participating in sports. In 2019, high school girls are 42.7% of sports participants, and college women make up 44% of athletes.

Did You Know These Facts About Pop Culture?

Friday the 13th was filmed at a Boy Scout Camp. Fans of the film would go up to the camp to visit, take photos, and sometimes scare the campers, to the point where the camp had to ask on its website for people to stop coming there.

Elvis’s manager sold buttons that said “I hate Elvis” in order to make money off the many people who found his music controversial.

The world’s oldest piano is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates back to 1720.

Red Dawn was the first movie to be released with a PG-13 rating. It was released on August 10th, 1984.

The first movie to be released with an X rating (no admittance under the age of 16) was Greetings in 1968, Robert de Niro’s debut film. The rating was later reduced to R.

Mr. Rogers always announced when he was feeding his fish. He did so because a blind viewer wrote in, asking if the fish was okay, since she couldn’t see that he’d fed it.

The show M*A*S*H* was on TV for almost 13 years. The show was about the Korean War, in which American involvement only lasted three years.

In Game of Thrones, cloaks the members of the Night’s Watch wear are made from Ikea rugs

The shows Saved by the Bell, That’s so Raven, and iCarly were all filmed on the same “school” set, which is why they look so similar.

As they say, knowledge is power! And you, my friend, are one powerful person. While you can certainly use this list of facts to get high scores on your essays or stump your debate opponent, I also recommend that you take the opportunity to learn more about the things on the list. A lot of these facts are just the beginning of some super interesting topics and stories, and the first step in helping you become more informed about the world in which we live. Now you know, and happy reading!

What's Next?

Looking for compelling essay ideas? Check out these lists of Argumentative Essay Topics and Persuasive Essay Topics .

While you're working on your essay writing skills, make sure to read these guides on and writing an argumentative essay , and this guide on writing on analytical essay .

Are you taking the SAT or ACT writing section? Read How to Get an 800 on the SAT Writing and How to Write an ACT Essay .

And look for our lists of debate topics and research paper topics !

Carrie holds a Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and is currently pursuing an MFA. She worked in book publishing for several years, and believes that books can open up new worlds. She loves reading, the outdoors, and learning about new things.

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6 Common College Admissions Myths

Get a feel for how much grades, tests and your essay really matter from those who review the applications.

 Students walk through the campus of Haverford College

Brett Ziegler for USN&WR

College admissions officers are well aware of how different high school curricula are because they work with many of the same schools every year and receive detailed profiles of the course offerings, along with context about the student body.

When applying to college , many students think they know which strategies will help them attract the attention – in a good way – of admissions officers. But there's often a gap between perception and reality about what actually matters, and what matters most, when it comes to grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and other factors. And what holds true in this unprecedented time will differ in some ways from the norm.

Many colleges report that, while academic performance is key, they take a multifaceted approach to reviewing applicants, looking well beyond what can be seen on a transcript, says Joe Shields, an admissions counselor at Goucher College in Baltimore. "A holistic admissions review process allows a student to demonstrate their best qualities and discuss how they would be a good fit for that college," he says.

Another often misunderstood fact: It's not as difficult as many students think to get admitted to a college, beyond the most selective schools. A 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling revealed that, on average, two-thirds of first-time freshman applicants were offered admission to a four-year school in the U.S. Some 80% of places accepted 50% or more of applicants.

"There are many good colleges you may not have heard of," says Hannah Serota, founder and CEO of Creative College Connections, a consulting practice dedicated to helping applicants find the right fit .

Read on for a look at six other persistent myths about college admissions:

  • Getting all A's is the most important thing.
  • Test scores can make or break your chances of getting in.
  • The more clubs and activities on your resume, the better.
  • You should ask for a recommendation only from a teacher who gave you an A.
  • It's a mistake to get creative with your essay.
  • To make yourself memorable, you need to visit the campus.

Myth 1: Getting All A's Is the Most Important Thing

Of course, your grades matter. But what that means depends on a college's selectivity as well as the classes you took, based on the offerings at your high school. Some places offer more honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses than others, and a B in one of these more challenging courses can signify a higher level of mastery than an A in a grade-level class at a school with both.

College admissions officers are often well aware of how high school curricula are different from one school to another because they work with many of the same ones every year and receive detailed profiles of the course offerings, along with context about the student body.

"GPAs can present very differently from each institution to the next," says Janine Bissic, an education consultant and former director of admission at Whittier College in California.

For the next few years, college admissions officers will be evaluating transcripts that may have one or two terms that appear quite different from applicants' overall records, thanks to the varied experiences students have had studying from home during the coronavirus pandemic. They plan to be forgiving to those who, say, didn't receive letter grades for a semester or two.

Everyone evaluating applicants is in the same boat, says Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver . He expects counselors to "remain empathetic and flexible" as they weigh candidates. "We are trying to find reasons to admit students," he says.

That said, admissions officers will, as usual, look for evidence that applicants can succeed in college.

At Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, "we would expect the most rigorous schedule that's appropriate for the student and the highest grades. We would be looking for both," says Douglas Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid.

Being able to handle a challenging course load while maintaining strong marks is a signal that you have the academic grit and discipline to handle college-level work.

Balance is also key. Taking a handful of AP classes can help you look good, but more isn't always better; the idea is to take the most rigorous set of courses that makes sense given your abilities. While a B in an AP English literature class may be more impressive than an A in a grade-level class, a C or D isn't likely to wow anyone.

"Challenge yourself where you are strong, and then work hard and do well in all of your courses," advises Clark Brigger, executive director of admissions at the University of Colorado–Boulder . Now that the College Board has eliminated the SAT subject tests, doing well on AP exams may be an increasingly important data point for highly selective colleges, Serota says.

"When a student takes a challenging course and does well, it is predictive of how they will perform in college," Brigger says. "However, there are always some students who stretch too far and then struggle with their performance and subsequently their health."

If your grades dropped during a semester when you had personal hardships, such as a parent's job loss or a serious illness or death in the family, it's wise to explain the reason somewhere in your application. If the issue is coronavirus-related, the Common App and Coalition Application have provided optional ways for applicants to elaborate.

Don't be discouraged if your grades weren't where you'd have liked them to be early in high school. Many admissions officers look for an upward trend, improvements over time that enable a student to finish strong.

"At the end of the day, we want to feel confident that if we admit a student, they can handle the rigor of the courses," says Yvonne Romero da Silva, vice president for enrollment at Rice University in Houston.

Myth 2: Test Scores Can Make or Break Your Chances of Getting In

Test scores are just one element of the application package. "There are many students we've denied with perfect test scores because they didn't have anything else to set them apart," Christiansen says.

Even in normal times, different institutions place varying levels of importance on standardized tests. This year, some two-thirds of colleges and universities, including the eight Ivy League schools, are or are expected to be test-optional or test-blind for fall 2022 admissions.

In many cases, schools are extending this beyond next fall. The University of Maryland–College Park is one of many state flagships temporarily suspending their test requirements. The University of California system settled a lawsuit in May that claimed the tests discriminate against disadvantaged students; it won't consider scores at all in admissions decisions, although the agreement left open the possibility of using a new test in the future.

Even before the pandemic, many schools were shifting their test policies to optional, including Ohio Wesleyan University , the University of Denver and the University of Chicago . Bowdoin College in Maine has been test-optional for more than half a century. This trend is partly because admissions officers recognize that many applicants have intellectual abilities and academic strengths that aren't reflected in exam scores.

But before you decide to skip the tests, consider whether you'll be applying for scholarships, some of which may depend on the scores to qualify applicants, and whether having good results might be beneficial to your chances even at a test-optional school. Colleges and universities publish the data related to incoming classes online, so officials suggest that students can benchmark their own exam results and weigh whether it might enhance their application to submit scores.

Among colleges that do require the SAT or ACT , many "superscore," which means they use your best section-level scores even if they're from different test dates. In other words, if your SAT reading score was 70 points higher the second time you took the test but your math score was 50 points higher on the first, the better of both attempts is what the admissions office looks at.

Myth 3: The More Clubs and Activities on Your Resume, the Better

Quality means more than quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities, college admissions experts note.

"Being passionate about key interests is more important than joining a lot of clubs," says Christiansen. "We're looking for depth and progression of leadership, not just participation."

David Senter, a 2020 graduate of Rice, thinks his experience swimming competitively and working his way up to varsity team captain helped demonstrate his dedication and added something important to his strong academic record, along with his participation on the academic quiz bowl team.

"You have to show you care," Senter says. "I was never the fastest, and I never went to the state championships, but I showed up every day and bonded with the team."

When reviewing your contributions outside of the classroom , admissions officers really want to know things like: What did you do in high school that made an organization better or furthered its cause and helped you grow? What are you doing with your time that would contribute to our campus in a meaningful way if you were to come here?

"Colleges are looking for a well-rounded student body, not necessarily a well-rounded student," Serota says.

These days, of course, they will have to be sensitive to the fact that some students weren't able to participate in extracurricular activities for an extended period because of the pandemic.

"Admissions officers won't red flag a gap in, say, debate participation," says Mimi Doe, co-founder of the counseling firm Top Tier Admissions. "But for very top schools, they want to see what a student did instead. How they reached out beyond their own school and became engaged, even online, in some sort of initiative."

Even in normal times, some students simply don't have time for clubs and sports because of family obligations. Rather, they might need to take care of younger siblings after school or hold a job.

Admissions staffers get it. If that's the case, students would do well to be honest about their situation and to focus on the qualities that emerge from those experiences and what they get out of them, says Stacey Kostell, chief executive officer for the Coalition for College, a group of more than 150 colleges and universities dedicated to increasing students' access to higher education.

Myth 4: You Should Ask for a Recommendation Only From a Teacher Who Gave You an A

The best person to ask for a letter of recommendation isn't necessarily a teacher who gave you an A. It's better to consider whether a teacher can help admissions officers get to know a different side of you and better understand who you are. You might choose the teacher who taught your most difficult class, for example, or a class you thought you wouldn't like but did.

Students "should really be looking for recommendations from teachers and mentors who know them especially well and can give rich context to their work ethic, character, persistence and growth," Bissic says.

Shields agrees: "If you struggled with a subject and had a good rapport with the teacher, you can get a helpful recommendation if the teacher can talk about how you came for extra help or you were able to advocate for yourself."

Myth 5: It's a Mistake to Get Creative With Your Essay

The key job of your essay is to reveal something about who you are. If you're not funny, don't try to be. If you're not impassioned about a controversial subject, don't pretend to be.

"You need to make the case for why you care about something and what you're doing about it," Serota advises. But think carefully about choosing to share a mental health issue or a drug problem, for instance. "Be careful about revealing things that would make the reader feel a sense of caution about you," Serota says.

And while you may be tempted to write about how the pandemic affected you and your family, consider that admissions officers will likely be inundated with essays on the topic.

"It's likely to blend in, and it becomes that much more difficult to stand out," says Ethan Sawyer, founder of the College Essay Guy website and author of "College Admission Essentials." He encourages students to instead use the extra space provided by the Common and Coalition applications to describe the effects of the pandemic on their families.

An essay's most important quality is that it should feel authentic, Serota and others say. Make sure that it addresses the prompt, but also think of your essay as an opportunity to reveal your true voice and to highlight who you really are. Admissions folks are experts at distinguishing between viewpoints that feel genuine and those that don't. The most compelling essays reveal something about an applicant's personality, Kostell says.

When it comes to large universities in particular, it may be hard to believe that there are human beings who are actually reading and giving careful consideration to your app, but it's true. During the review process, "multiple sets of eyes read every piece of the application, essay and letters of recommendation," says Brigger, whose university reviewed more than 54,000 first-year applications this past cycle.

"Admissions officers and university faculty and staff are the ones making admissions decisions, not a computer or automated process ," Brigger says. The essay is your opportunity to connect and make an impression.

Myth 6: To Make Yourself Memorable, You Need to Visit the Campus

A campus visit , real or virtual, can be helpful in more ways than one. Since the pandemic brought in-person visits to a screeching halt, schools have introduced a wide range of virtual options, from informal chats to "tours" that are meant to offer students a taste of campus life.

Many competitive colleges are using these new approaches as one tool to gauge an applicant's demonstrated interest . This can be shown in various ways: by calling or emailing with questions, requesting a virtual interview, contacting alumni or interacting with a representative on social media or, when possible, at a college fair.

Some 40% of colleges indicate that demonstrated interest is a moderately or considerably important factor in decisions, according to the most recent NACAC data.

Admissions officers can track how many contacts you've had with their institution, and they can even see if you've opened and engaged with emails.

"The artificial intelligence and the way they use data has become super sophisticated," Doe says.

As colleges begin fully welcoming in-person visitors again, spending a day on campus sitting in on a class and talking with students, or perhaps attending a summer program for high schoolers at a college that appeals to you, can both signal your interest and help you and the admissions office establish whether you'll be a good fit. That's key.

"Fit continues to be the most important factor to us – we want students to succeed here," says Marc Harding, vice provost for enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh .

Participating in such a program shows that you're passionate and curious enough about a subject to take it to the next level, too. And that says a lot about your level of college readiness.

This story is excerpted from the U.S. News " Best Colleges 2022 " guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.

Tags: education , colleges , college applications , college admissions , students , Coronavirus

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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Writing a strong college admissions essay
  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
  • How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Taking your college essay to the next level

  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
  • Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem
  • Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

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Video transcript

Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

Want free help with your college essay?

UPchieve connects you with knowledgeable and friendly college advisors—online, 24/7, and completely free. Get 1:1 help brainstorming topics, outlining your essay, revising a draft, or editing grammar.


Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

Stuck on what to write your college essay about? Here are some exercises to help you get started.

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Learn how formal your college essay should be and get tips on how to bring out your natural voice.

Taking your college essay to the next level

Hear an admissions expert discuss the appropriate level of depth necessary in your college essay.

Student Stories


Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

Get the perspective of a current college student on how he approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

Get the perspective of a current college student on how she approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

Student story: admissions essay about a past mistake, how to write a college application essay, tips for writing an effective application essay, sample college essay 1 with feedback, sample college essay 2 with feedback.

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Articles & Advice > College Admission > Articles

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6 of the Worst College Admission Essay Myths You Shouldn't Listen To

There's a lot of misinformation out there surrounding the college admission essay. Consider these myths and facts before you get started.

by Kim Lifton President, Wow Writing Workshop

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Originally Posted: Mar 2, 2020

Fall of senior year is officially college application crunch time, especially if you're eyeing early admission deadlines. But that’s no reason to get all worked up! During this stressful time in your life, remember to breathe. You’ve done all you can to up to this point to get good grades and tests scores. There’s only one thing left you can do to stand out: nail that college admission essay.

“It’s value-added,” says Michigan State University Director of Admissions Jim Cotter, a 30-year industry veteran. “At a moderately selective school, the essay can pull a student on the cusp up. At a highly selective school, a poor statement can make the difference between being admitted or not.” There's a lot of misinformation out there that can take you off track. Consider these six college essay myths and facts before you get started.

Myth #1: No one really reads application essays

Fact:  Of course admission officers read your essays!

They wouldn’t ask you to write something they didn't plan to read. Admissions professionals want to read your story, the one you feel is important to share with them. It’s your story. Your voice. Your words. What they don’t want is to read a story about something you think they want to hear. A few years ago at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual conference in Indianapolis, we polled about two dozen admission representative to find out if they really read the essays. The collective answer: yes ! “Last year, we received 25,000 applications, and we read 25,000 essays,” said Amy Hoffman, Assistant Director of Admissions at Miami University in Ohio.

Related: Why Your College Application Essay Matters

Myth #2: An application essay has to be written about an impressive topic

Fact:  You are impressive, not the topic.

The admission essay subject is you; the topic is secondary. This essay is your opportunity to share something meaningful about yourself. Colleges want to know what you learned, not what you did. One student started her admission essay confident that discussing a trip to help the poor in Central America would capture someone’s attention inside the admission office. But she wasn’t really talking about what she learned by volunteering. Instead, her most important personal moment occurred when she was hanging out with friends during the trip. She overcame her fear of heights by jumping off a cliff into the water. That experience would have been meaningful whether it had happened during a service trip in Costa Rica or on a family vacation.

“The essay does not have to be about something huge, some life-changing event,” says Calvin Wise, the Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions at  Johns Hopkins University . “You can write about an ‘a-ha’ moment, what defines you as a person. But it doesn’t have to be really extensive. Students think they need a monumental experience, but the essay can be about something small “What does it mean to you?” Wise asks.  “That is what we want to know.”

Myth #3: Your college entrance essay should sound sophisticated

Fact: Admission officers do not expect you to sound like a college professor or a professional writer like Hemingway.

The college application essay is your story , and it should be written using your words, in your voice. You are a high school senior, and you should sound like one—not your mom, not your dad, not your English teacher, and certainly not one of the most revered writers of all time! “I wish I saw more of a thoughtful voice of a 17-year-old,” says Duke University ’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag. “By the time (the applications) come to us, many of them have gone through so many hands that the essays are sanitized.”

Related:  9 Big College Admission Myths, Busted!

Myth #4: Admission officers can’t tell if someone “helped” you write your essay

Fact: Oh, yes they can—and they can tell if you plagiarized too.

There's a fine line between getting help and letting someone like parent, tutor, teacher, or college coach write part or all of your essay. While parents and others can't always tell the difference, admission officers know when someone other than the student writes a story. And they don’t like it. “If a student has an adult write it, the admission committee can tell,” Cotter says.

According to The Harvard Crimson , if plagiarism is detected, the admission committee at Harvard University will contact the student and give them an opportunity to explain—some instances are unintentional, after all. But "if the student’s response does not suffice, the application is rejected." (Some colleges won't give you the chance to explain at all.)  The Crimson also reports that unfortunately, purchasing essays from private writing services often goes undetected, but this form of cheating is also deeply discouraged . Bottom line: you are the only person who should be writing your college application essay.

Myth #5: There's a right way and a wrong way to write an essay

Fact:  Your best story will grow out of the process of writing your college application essay.

There are no tricks or shortcuts to writing the “perfect” college application essay. You just need to trust the process. The college essay doesn't need to be so daunting. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it can be a little less stressful if you allow it to emerge from a process of discovery that includes:

  • Brainstorming ;
  • Free writing ;
  • Reviewing; and

Just keep reminding yourself that there is no magic formula to help you ace this assignment. To stand out, tell a genuine story about yourself using your words and your voice, and show some reflection.

Myth #6: Only superstar students impress admission officers with their essays

Fact:  Anyone can stand out with a great story!

You don’t have to rescue a child from a house fire, get a million downloads for an app you developed, or train seeing-eye dogs to impress admission officers. One student wrote a fabulous college essay about memorizing the general intestinal track to ace his anatomy final. Another wrote a gorgeous story about finding her passion for nature while pulling weeds in a community garden. One boy focused on the moment he forgot his cello for an orchestra concert and improvised his performance with a bass guitar. His problem-solving skills impressed admission officers, and one college sent him an offer of admission that praised his essay. "I think sometimes students feel that because they haven't found the cure for cancer they have nothing to share," says Vanderbilt University ’s Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions Jan Deike. "Life is truly lived in the smaller moments."

Related: How to Write a Great College Admission Essay, Step-by-Step

“There’s a misconception about what we do inside the admissions office,” Wise says. “We are trying to predict future potential. We need to dig deeper where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student. The essay is a student’s opportunity to speak directly to the admissions office, and we want to hear a 17-year-old’s voice.” How do you do that? Be personal. Be reflective. Move away from the five-paragraph English paper formula (and these six myths) and write a first-person story that draws the reader in.

Still struggling with your application essays? Find even more tips from the experts in our College Admission section.

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How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.


It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

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. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

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. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

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Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog

25 interesting facts about me.

To give you a better idea of how you might respond to Fuqua's application question, here’s my list of 25 Random Things.

Jackie Mancini

Published November 13, 2012

This year’s application includes an untraditional essay question which asks applicants for a list of 25 random things. Read more about the new essay question in this blog post from the Director of Admissions. To give you a better idea of how you might respond to the question, here’s my list of 25 Random Things:

  • I love puns and clever jokes and plays on words. I love Scrabble but don’t like Words with Friends because you can use words that don’t really exist.
  • I quote Finding Nemo often. I once started a “Just keep swimming” chant during a UVa football game across the 60,000 person stadium when they were down in the final minute of a big game.
  • I love DIY television shows, blogs, and magazines although I don’t own a house or know how to safely use a power tool.
  • I participated in Holi in Jaipur, India, this past March. My classmates from India didn’t warn me that my scalp and fingernails would be pink for a whole week!
  • I started reading The Wall Street Journal at age 18 (I had it delivered to my college dorm). However, I still skip the Money and Investing sections more often than not.
  • I organize my cookbooks by color. It’s just prettier that way.
  • I did catering in college and probably cut more than 50 wedding cakes (the secret is to dip the knife in hot water between slices for the cleanest pieces).
  • I met my husband at a leadership conference in high school . . . seriously.

visiting my childhood home in Lexington, Kentucky was 1 of my 25 random things

  • When I play golf, I sometimes make people turn around so they can’t watch me tee off.
  • Every year we organize a “Generational Celebrational” in the fall and invite our friends from the University of Virginia and their parents for an Olympics between the ages. Then we head to a football game in our orange and navy.
  • I consistently have a pile of books on my nightstand ready for reading, yet I continue to buy new ones to add to the pile.
  • I drove to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis with 7 other people from Fuqua in an RV and camped outside the stadium for three days. We never made it to the game but we set up a TV outside of the RV with the stadium in the background.

making homeade spaghetti and meatballs with my family was 1 of my 25 random things

  • I have a ridiculously good penguin dance. It was so good that I wrote my college essay about it and got in.
  • I have a freckle at the end of my nose that is perfectly centered. I have often wondered if people would look at me differently if it wasn’t. It’s also coincidental since my maiden name means “nose” in Italian.
  • I auditioned for the high school talent show singing a Dixie Chicks duet with my best friend. They canceled the show before we found out if we made it in . . .
  • I used to build model cars in high school and tried to bargain with my parents to buy a 1969 Chevelle but instead I got a 1996 Toyota Camry that was not mine but rather the “third family car that only I drove.”

My mom's graduation day from grad school was 1 of my 25 random things

  • I don’t like shows that make you feel uncomfortable and often have to leave the room when they are playing. This mostly includes anything that has the following actors: Jim Carrey, Dave Chapelle, or Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • I can’t work or read with the television on in the background but love listening to music instead.
  • I lost the second grade spelling bee in extra rounds on the word “friend” to this kid nicknamed “The Brain.” To this day, I am fearful of spelling any words that have “ie” or “ei” unless spellcheck is available.
  • I took a 4-week long cross-country road trip with two of my friends after college (to California and back to the East Coast). We slept in a place called the Border Inn which sat on the border of two time zones so the time changed when you walked between the bedroom and bathroom of the motel room.
  • It took me over two years, but I finally have the courage (and the fitness) to run the Washington Duke “WaDuke” trail.
  • I set my alarm at weird times (e.g., 7:23 am or 6:47 am). Subconsciously, I think it must be like those speed limit signs that are 19 mph in neighborhoods — it’s meant to catch your attention.

See more examples from and insight on Fuqua’s 25 Random Things essay

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When it comes to making yourself memorable and interesting to a medical admissions committee, it is all about how you tell your story. By the time people are reading your essay or interviewing you, you have already made the cattle call of prospective doctors–your GPA and MCAT scores are in the acceptable mass of students wanting to get into med school. So how does anyone–especially someone in the middle or lower end of scores–make themselves stand out?

The typical admissions essay is conservatively written and often boring to those reading similar essays over and over . . . I volunteered at this nursing home, I worked in this research lab, I really want to help people . . . all good things, but nothing memorable. What stands out is an interesting personal story.

The essay that got me interviews did not start with “I did research at the Arctic Studies Center in Canada, I enjoyed the valuable experience of working with research scientists.”. Rather, I painted a picture of standing in the frosty air on the roof of the lab, watching the Aurora Borealis as polar bears wrestled in the distance. I described the excitement preparing to go on the tundra with wildlife biologists and study the bears–then I connected it to metabolic studies that could be applied to humans, and my personal interest in clinical research. When I went to interview, they would say “Hey, you’re the polar bear guy!”. They remembered me from the interesting story I told.

The interview is an excellent opportunity to make yourself memorable. Once you are face to face with an interviewer, the scores on the paper are less important. If you can capture someones interest in that moment, the impression can carry weight beyond mediocre numbers. A common question asked is, What do you like to do outside of school work? What they really want to know is, who are you? Everyone interviewing is an overachiever, everyone has done the extra studying, the volunteer work, the expected extracurriculars. How can you stand out?

When I interviewed, I did not say “I like to exercise, I recently ran a marathon.”. I explained how at one point I was a non-exercising cigarette smoker. I felt miserable physically, and decided to make a change. I started jogging, and it changed my life. I stopped smoking and immediately felt better. I discovered self-discipline by running daily and increasing my mileage. I entered a 5k and then a 10k race. I set my vision on completing a marathon, and worked hard for months to extend my mileage. I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but I completed my goal and had a life-altering experience. Working hard on a daily basis, and pushing my body and my mind to the limit, I learned much about myself. I learned about inner-strength, but I also learned I was not unique. I gained an experience to share with others. One of the physicians who interviewed me chatted about running for an hour, and said he was inspired to train for a marathon himself. Do you think he remembered me at the admissions committee?

The interviews I’ve held that are most memorable are those with intriguing stories. The student with polycystic kidney disease, who instead of succumbing to self-pity, joined a research lab. He talked about his passion to conduct clinical research on the condition that had taken the lives of his family members, and the awareness that his own clock was ticking. Or the older student who revealed being homeless for 2 years before entering college. He talked about riding trains and eating in soup kitchens. He said it allowed him to have a connection with all types of people. He relayed a gripping tale of working as a cook while staying at the Salvation Army, and getting into junior college. He earned straight A’s and transfer to a university. He wanted to help with the suffering he had seen in the world. He used homelessness as a story of perseverance, strength, and compassion for others; and I remember his story to this day.

Again it is not necessarily the specifics of your story but how you tell it. If you volunteered at a nursing home, tell about the time you spent with the 30 year old man in a wheelchair from a head injury. How he had a 3 foot straw for his drink because he was a quadrapelegic. How the drawings on his walls were fading from a family who rarely visited. Describe how you decided to visit him weekly, and it taught you how to be grateful for life, how to understand that not everything can be cured, but compassion and respect can allow a person to live with dignity. This creates a memorable picture of who you are, and allows you to stand out from the other applicants.

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How To Answer Fuqua’s ’25 Random Things’ Essay

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It is one of the more unusual essay questions that any business school can ask an applicant: “Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.”

The question is a key reason why MBA admission consultants judge Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as having one of the very best admissions processes that allow the school to know applicants best, second only to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Among the school’s fans is Tyler Cormney, co-founder of  MBA Prep School .

“It’s why I rated Duke as a school that gets to know their applicants well,” he says. “By comparison, Columbia asks for one pleasantly surprising thing and Duke demands 25. It’s pretty telling when an applicant runs out of fun facts after listing only a handful or can’t resist copying in a few resume bullet points. Fuqua’s out to find the fun ones in the bunch, and I’m guessing the MBA experience will be much more fun as a result.”


Still, what kinds of answers does Duke expect to see when applicants attempt to list their own 25 random things? The school provides a couple of very good examples from Fuqua MBAs who graduated in the Class of 2013.

Here’s one from Dipesh Shah:

  • I was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta—specifically Stone Mountain, GA. Stone Mountain is one of the largest pieces of exposed granite in the United States and also the fictional home of Kenneth from the sitcom 30 Rock.
  • I am a US citizen by nationality, an Indian-American by ethnicity, and a true Southerner by geography.
  • I worked for 5.5 years at Deloitte Consulting doing Human Capital consulting. If you have seen the movie  Office Space , imagine the “Bobs” and you may get a picture of some of my work.
  • I have been dating my girlfriend for nearly 8 years.
  • My favorite television show in the entire world was  Lost . I was so addicted to the show that my friends had a  Lost  viewing party with T-shirts for the finale.
  • I am obsessed with planning and being on time. I wouldn’t say I am OCD but I think 5 minutes early is late.
  • I never snooze. When the alarm goes off, I get up.
  • I have a nephew, Rushabh, who is the cutest person in the entire world.
  • I went to Emory University and graduated with a business degree in marketing and finance. I love Emory!
  • I studied abroad in London while in undergrad and I still remember those 6 months as some of the best moments of my entire life. While abroad, I backpacked through Amsterdam, Athens, Corfu, Prague, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Paris.
  • I once skipped work with my girlfriend to hear Mark Paul-Gosselaar (Zach Morris from  Saved by the Bell ) speak at my undergrad school. I’d like to think I just said “time-out” and no one knew.
  • If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “goofy.” If I am not the goofiest person in the room, I want to meet that person because we will get along.
  • I had an internship this summer at Facebook. It was absurdly awesome.
  • I fully intend on winning the lottery one day, buying a private island, and reading books on a hammock while overlooking the ocean.
  • I love TV sitcoms and my favorite show right now is  How I Met Your Mother .
  • I am pretty passionate about cookies. I love them, specifically chocolate chip and double-stuff Oreos. This fact is on my resume and was asked about multiple times during my interviews.
  • My hero is and will forever be my dad. He passed away in 2005, but I aspire to be 10% of what he was, every single day when I wake up.
  • I am a vegetarian and proud of it. As far as I know, I have never eaten meat or fish.
  • I love to do Karaoke but I am so awful that I have to get a private room to save everyone else’s ears.
  • I dig Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) and have been practicing it off and on for a few years.
  • I grew the most hideous mustache last year for Fuqua’s Stache Bash. It was disgusting, but I raised $900 for charity!
  • My favorite guy movie of all time is  The Rock  and favorite chick flick is  Serendipity . (That’s right … I have a favorite chick flick!)
  • I always take the day off on my birthday because who wants to do work on their birthday?!?
  • I try to always be positive and high-energy. I think I exhaust people at times.
  • I shuffle my feet when I walk so most people hear me coming (and run away … LOL).

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10 Fun Facts about Georgetown University

We’re shining a spotlight on Georgetown University and the whacky students who call themselves Hoyas. If you’ve ever wondered what a Hoya is, you aren’t alone. The most popular story behind the name is that in Georgetown’s early days, all students were required to study Greek and Latin, and the sports teams were called “The Stonewalls.” At games, students used to shout the HOYA SAXA (hoya is Greek for “what” and saxa is Latin for “rocks”). The cheer is still popular today and Georgetown students are known as Hoyas. But that’s just some background for you… get to know Hoyas better with these 10 fun facts!

1. If someone steps on the Georgetown University seal in front of the Healy Hall, rumor has it that if the person is applying the Georgetown he or she will not be accepted.  If the person is a student, he or she will not graduate in four years. So step with caution!

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2. Georgetown students like to boast about our awesome Alumni, Bill Clinton and Bradley Cooper.  Who wouldn’t boast if they had grads that were the President of the United States of America and an Academy Award Nominee? Bonus: They stop by for talks and visits from time to time! 

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3. Georgetown is old enough to be part of the Ivy League. The Ivies are an athletic collegiate conference of sports teams on the East Coast.  Georgetown played with almost all the schools in the conference and was established in 1789. 

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4. Georgetown hails brilliant speakers every year ranging from the President of the United States, Barack Obama to Kevin Spacey, world-renowned actor.

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Tips for Your Duke Fuqua Application Essays 

July 13, 2023

Duke Fuqua Application Essay Tips, 2023-2024

Duke Fuqua presents its applicants with one of the most creative, and maybe challenging, essay prompts out there—asking candidates to come up with a list of more than two dozen “random” bits of information about themselves. Then, applicants need to craft a more traditional essay in which they explain their fit with the Fuqua culture and how they envision themselves contributing to it. The only specifically “professional” question the school poses involves a succinct declaration of one’s post-graduation career goal. The Fuqua admissions committee is clearly interested in learning about your values, interests, personality, strengths, and other distinctive characteristics to balance the more quantitative information provided in the other parts of your application. 

Free : Download Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Fuqua School of Business

Required short-answer question.

Answer the following question in 100 words. What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan.

This is a pretty straightforward and common MBA application question, though Fuqua throws in the little twist of asking for an “alternate plan” should things not work out exactly as you envision them at this point. Many candidates are focused pretty intently on a specific path, so by asking for a backup option, the admissions committee gets a chance to see what kind of thought you have given to the possibility of having to alter your original plan. You only have 100 words here, so you can’t get too detailed or overexplanatory, but you will want to show that your alternate goal makes just as much sense for you as your primary one, based on your skills, experience, and anticipated Fuqua experience. If your top choice is a very targeted position that is beyond the companies that typically recruit at Fuqua, your backup plan may be a more standard option for which Fuqua graduates are frequently recruited. Be sure to include the industry, function, and geography (if outside the United States), as well as two or three companies you would target.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself

The ‘team fuqua’ spirit and community is one of the things that sets the mba experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. please share with us “25 random things” about you. the admissions committee wants to get to know you – beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. share with us important life experiences, your hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are., your list will be limited to 2 pages (750 words maximum). please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. some points may be brief, while others may be longer..

Through this essay, Fuqua wants to get to know who you are as an individual, not just as an “MBA applicant,” so the admissions committee can determine how well you might fit with the Team Fuqua culture and what kind of leader you could develop into. Your list needs, above all, to be very distinct and personal to you, so don’t go into this thinking that there are certain items the admissions committee is expecting you to include. There really are no “right” or “wrong” answers. 

That said, we do have some ideas for ways you could catch the eyes (and hearts) of the admissions committee. For one, don’t be afraid to make them laugh. The school neither wants nor expects you to be serious  all  the time, and humor is a good way to show your lighter side. And remember that these are real, live human beings reading your application. If you can touch their funny bone, they will be more likely to remember you. Another idea is to include some key lessons you’ve learned. A personal experience you share will have an even bigger impact if you can attribute a meaningful takeaway you had from it. 

Consider demonstrating a personal connection of some kind with Fuqua, Duke University, or the Durham area. This could be related to something from your past or to something you’re looking forward to as a Fuqua student. For instance, if you play bass in a garage band (or did so at some point in the past), perhaps you look forward to getting together with musically inclined classmates for Fuqua’s Got Talent or Fuqua Idol. Also, show that you are a team player. Although the focus of this “essay” is obviously you, look for opportunities to demonstrate that you support and work well with others. 

As for what not to do, to start, don’t give just one- or two-word answers. The admissions committee needs a little context to fully appreciate your responses, and details are what make your items distinct and memorable. Similarly, avoid giving superficial or cookie-cutter responses that don’t provide the admissions committee with any insight into who you are, such as who your favorite character is on a popular television show (or player on a sports team), how many movies or books you’ve read (unless the number is truly astounding), what your name means, and so on. You also don’t want to include any basic facts that the admissions team can already find in another part of your application, especially your resume. This is your chance to complement that information with more personal insight. And of course, you need to keep your responses appropriate for an MBA application. You want to show some character and stand out, but you never want to be offensive or cross any lines. 

Use your random things list to present yourself as someone the admissions committee can see contributing positively to the Fuqua community, both during the MBA program and beyond. Are you excited to contribute to classroom discussions? Are you an individual people would want to engage with at Fuqua Fridays? Can they picture you working on a group project during your first year? What leadership role might they envision you in? If your classmates were to honor you with an award for demonstrating Team Fuqua principles, which would it be? Strive to make these types of questions easy for them to answer. 

Essay 2: The Fuqua Community and You

Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and to the development of leaders. based on your understanding of the fuqua culture, what are 3 ways you expect to make an impact at fuqua, your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum)..

If you hadn’t already picked up on this, culture is a big deal for Fuqua, so the admissions committee understandably wants to know that the applicants it admits are compatible with it. This essay is your chance to ensure that the school considers you a good match with its community and style. Being authentic is key. 

Of course, to be able to write a convincing essay for this prompt, you have to truly understand what the Fuqua culture and community are like, so your very first step really needs to be researching the school in depth. This means more than just reading the main pages of the website and any promotional materials the admissions office provides. For example, dig into press releases, blogs, and YouTube videos, but above all, connect with Fuqua students , alumni, and other representatives directly and pick their brains about what it means to be authentically engaged at Fuqua. Additionally, reach out to students currently involved in the clubs, centers, or events that align with your goals and interests. These conversations will inform what you decide to write about and will yield much more insight than you can find online. Students are very accessible, so not having these conversations will reflect poorly on you as an applicant. 

Let the admissions committee know what you are genuinely interested in doing at Fuqua, ideally as it relates to your background and post-MBA goals. Explain why you are passionate about contributing to a certain activity, club, event, or other opportunity or resource, and be specific regarding what your contribution might look like. Perhaps you have been involved with the women’s employee resource group at your company, developing a mentoring program for new hires. Relating this experience to proposed engagement with the Association of Women in Business will help demonstrate that your plans are sincere and well founded. It goes without saying that you should discuss your anticipated engagement in a professional club that aligns with your career interests.

Obviously, you need to also be Fuqua specific. Consider using the same terminology and language the school uses when talking about its program. For example, the name of the health care club at Fuqua might be very different from the name of its counterpart club at other schools you’re targeting, and using the wrong name in your essay would be detrimental. Such errors demonstrate a lack of research and genuine interest in Fuqua specifically, which is the last thing you want the admissions committee to think when reading your application!

Optional Information

If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance). note that you should not upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. the optional information section is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your circumstances only..

The optional essay is one that should always be used judiciously. If you feel your application conveys a complete, accurate picture of who you are as a strong Fuqua candidate, then you’re likely best off not submitting this optional essay. There’s little to be gained from adding to the admissions committee’s workload by asking them to read another essay that doesn’t add anything crucial to your profile. But if you have an issue of some sort in your candidacy that could benefit from additional explanation (see the school’s examples), then this is your chance to expound on and clarify it so that it is less likely to be a problem. 

Re-applicant Essay

Candidates who applied to the daytime mba program between july 2022 and may 2022 are considered re-applicants. , it is not uncommon for it to take more than one try to achieve a goal. please share with us the self-reflection process that you underwent after last year’s application and how you have grown as a result. how did it shape your commitment to fuqua and inspire your decision to reapply.

Ideally, in the time between your previous application and now, you have made progress in certain areas of your life and career and have seized on opportunities to learn and/or accomplish meaningful things. Fuqua wants to know not only what new skills and experiences you bring to the table this year but also that you are the kind of person who is not easily deterred by setbacks (in this case, not being accepted) and who continues to strive toward their goals even when their originally intended path does not come to fruition. In addition, the admissions committee wants to be able to gauge your capacity for self-assessment and to understand what specifically about the school’s program inspires your ongoing interest. Very simply, outline for the admissions committee what you have done, gained, and learned since you last applied, clearly communicating that your efforts were fueled by your desire to be part of and contribute in a meaningful way to the Fuqua community. 

In  Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Fuqua School of Business , you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings such as the Team Fuqua, The Blue Devils, Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum, and the Duke Start-Up Challenge. This free guide also includes class profile statistics and our expert advice on answering the business school’s application essay questions. Download our brand-new guide to learn more about Duke Fuqua!

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    This wealth of information often features prominently in fun facts about Yale, emphasizing the university's dedication to academic excellence. Adjacent to the Sterling Memorial Library is the Dwight Hall, a Victorian Gothic-style building that dates back to 1842. With its pointed windows, decorative tracery, and ornate details, the Dwight ...

  23. Fun Facts About Stanford

    October 24, 2023 By AdmissionSight Fun Facts About Stanford Stanford University is more than just an institution; an education hub, a ground for innovation, and a source of immense pride for its students and alums. Stanford is the birthplace of noble ideas and incredible legacies. Read on to discover ten fun facts about this prestigious university.