Georgetown University.

Sample Essays

The breadth of Georgetown’s core curriculum means that students are required to write for a wide variety of academic disciplines. Below, we provide some student samples that exhibit the key features the most popular genres. When reading through these essays, we recommend paying attention to their 

1. Structure (How many paragraphs are there? Does the author use headers?) 

2. Argument (Is the author pointing out a problem, and/or proposing a solution?) 

3. Content (Does the argument principally rely on facts, theory, or logic?) and 

4. Style (Does the writer use first person? What is the relationship with the audience?)

Philosophy Paper

  • Singer on the Moral Status of Animals

Theology Paper

  • Problem of God
  • Jewish Civilization
  • Sacred Space and Time
  • Phenolphthalein in Alkaline Solution

History Paper

  • World History

Literature Review

Comparative Analysis 

Policy Brief

  • Vaccine Manufacturing

White Paper

Critical Analysis

  • Ignatius Seminar

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.

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College Admissions , College Essays

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The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

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Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. 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. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

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

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

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Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

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Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

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

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

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

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

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

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

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

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

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

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Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

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

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

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

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

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An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

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An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

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Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

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#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

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What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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32 College Essay Examples That Worked

College Essay Samples

Reading college essay examples is a great way of preparing yourself for writing your own. Whether you’re aiming to get into your local college or looking to attend an Ivy League school , your college essay is a key component of your college application.

In this blog, we have 32 awesome college essay examples from some of the top universities in the world, including Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, UPenn, Yale, and more! Plus, you will learn how to craft an outstanding college essay step by step, so that your own personality and experiences will really shine. This is the same exact proven strategies our college essay advisors share with our own students in our much sought-after college admissions consulting program . We're not holding back. So, let's dive in!

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

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Article Contents 54 min read

Why a college essay matters.

A personal statement essay or a college admissions essay is the part of your college application that allows the admissions committee to get a stronger sense of who you are as a candidate. The admissions committee is not only seeking academically strong candidates for their school – they want to find students who will also be a good fit for the culture and values of their institution. The personal statement essay is your chance to show the committee why you are the best all-around candidate for admission.

Your essay will reveal both your hard and soft skills to the admissions committee. From a technical angle, it will showcase your writing skills in terms of organization, clarity, narrative ability, and spelling and grammar. In terms of content, a compelling personal statement should tell a story that reveals something about your personality and what formative experiences you have had in your life. Since the personal statement essay reveals so much about you as an applicant, crafting an outstanding essay is crucial! 

Writing a strong college essay requires significant time and effort. The best way to ensure success is to be properly prepared before you even begin to write:

How to Structure Your College Essay

Most personal statements tend to range from 250 words to 650 words in length. The specific format requirements can vary depending on if you’re writing a common app essay or a unique college admissions essay for a specific school. The structure of your essay will follow the structure of an academic paper, with an introduction, main body, and a conclusion. As our sample above shows, it is usually written in response to a prompt provided by the school. It is important to pay attention to and answer the prompt, as it demonstrates what the school is hoping to learn about you.

While this task may seem challenging, we are here to guide you through the writing process and the strategies you should apply each step of the way.

Great content requires a solid structure to really shine:

For example: \u201cAlthough being a member of a community isn\u2019t always easy, my experiences have taught me that helping others is also a gift to ourselves \u2013 perhaps solitude isn\u2019t the \u2018best society\u2019 after all.\u201d ","label":"Conclusion","title":"Conclusion"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

Here’s a short guide on how to write a college essay !

6 Tips for Effective Essay Writing

No matter what the prompt is, here are some tips and strategies that are essential for effective writing in any essay:

1. Do not plagiarize.

Your essay needs to be an honest representation of your abilities. It also needs to tell your story, not someone else’s. Copying someone else’s essay violates the rules of academic integrity. Always make sure that you are writing about your own experiences in your own words.

2. Say it with feeling.

Choose topics that you are passionate about – if you aren’t enthusiastic about what you’re sharing, then your audience won’t be excited to read what you have to say, either. Write about how situations made you feel, what you learned from your experiences and how it will serve you in the future. An essay written on a topic that you are passionate about will have a more genuine voice and will make for a more compelling and memorable read. Be sure to avoid clichés like “I know how to think outside of the box” that will sound impersonal and uninspired, and instead express yourself in your own unique and meaningful way. The personal statement essay is your one chance to showcase your personality and character, so let your natural voice shine through!  

3. Show, don’t tell.

Here is one of the best college essay tips : it is important to always give examples and use specific experiences to illustrate what you wish your reader to know about you, instead of merely summarizing or listing facts about yourself. Your experiences are stories, and when you tell your story in a well-organized and vivid way, it makes it easier for the reader to stay engaged and remember afterwards what you have shared with them. For example, simply stating, “I have a strong sense of community” can sound like an empty claim. Showing your reader how and why you have a sense of community is both far more memorable and far more effective in offering proof for what you’re saying (e.g. sharing an experience about working in a soup kitchen, and what it taught you about community). 

If your essay is over the word limit set by the school, you will appear to either not care about the rules in place or to have failed to pay attention to them. Either way, you will damage your standing as an applicant! Check your word counts to make sure you are within the proper range. If you have written too much, edit your work to make it shorter. Clear and succinct writing will create a good impression, so being under the word limit is acceptable as long as you have answered the prompt and effectively conveyed your experiences. 

5. Proofread your work.

As mentioned above, your college essay reveals a lot about your writing skills to the admissions committee. A compelling personal narrative can still end up undermined or muddled by poor spelling, grammar, and confusing syntax. Don’t let typos and grammatical errors let your essay down! You need to commit to proofreading your essay multiple times at each stage of the process, to make sure it is clearly and correctly written.

Additionally, get someone else to proofread it too! Ask a college essay review service or editor if you addressed the prompt effectively, if your essay makes sense, and if your message is clear. Ask them for their impression of the person writing the essay. How would they describe this person? Does that match with what you were trying to convey? What did they think of the tone of your essay? 

Ask a good teacher, a counselor, or another professional to go over your draft. However, choose your proofreader with care: if you let too many people read it, you may end up with too many conflicting suggestions and opinions. Ideally, your proofreader should be someone you trust, and who can provide you with honest feedback on the content and grammar of your essay. Be sure to share the essay prompt with your reader so that he or she can tell you whether you have answered the prompt effectively.

6. Read that prompt one last time!

It’s an excellent idea to go back and re-read the prompt one last time after you’ve completed the final draft of your personal statement essay. This way, you’ll be absolutely sure that you have responded to the prompt effectively. Double-checking before submission also ensures that you did not go too far off-topic in any way during the multiple re-writes you’ll have to do in perfecting your college admission essay. 

Don’t forget about supplemental college application essays ! Here’s a guide on how to write one:

College Essay Examples #1/32: Harvard

Prompt: The Harvard College Honor code declares that we "hold honesty as the foundation of our community." As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty. (650 words)

"I sit in a hot SUV winding it’s way over a bumpy African road, a scarf protecting my nose and mouth as dust streams in through the window. Returning from a teaching session with the Maasai women, the other students' excited chatter dances around me as they discuss our invitation to the Maasai coming of age ceremony. The ceremony centers on the circumcision of pubescent males and females; often performed with a sharp rock and no anesthetic. It is a rite of passage for the Maasai. My stomach is a tight knot, picturing the children we met today and imagining the painful procedure they will soon undergo. The other students, excited about the feast and intricate costumes, hope that accepting the invitation will strengthen our bond with the community. I, however, am weighed down by a profound sense of unease when it comes to the main attraction, the circumcisions. Further, the leader of the organization is absent; should she not be consulted? Do I go along with the group, and participate in something that I am morally opposed to? Or do something about it?

For me, the strength of a person’s character is defined by their ability to act on their values and stand up for what they believe in. Having strong moral values only becomes a powerful agent of change when one is willing to follow through on them with action. Situations, such as this one, where I feel a sinking sensation deep in my gut, help to cue me to conflicts with my own values, prompting me to gather more information, thus taking the first step towards informed action.

In this situation, the knots in my stomach came from being asked to participate in the celebration of female genital mutilation; a practice which is decidedly against my personal values of reducing human suffering and promoting women’s rights. My visceral reaction came specifically from the idea of watching while doing nothing to intervene. Further, I worried that, as students, our group would be woefully ill-equipped to navigate the nuances of the situation, potentially resulting in harm to our relationship with the community. Plus, due to our association with a medical organization, our presence could be mis-interpreted as an endorsement of the safety of these procedures. With the potential to do harm and without an actionable plan in place for stopping genital mutilation, I concluded that I could not, in good conscience, attend the ceremony.

Though I had decided that I could not go, I still felt concerned about the potential impact of the group's attendance, and wanted to gain more insight into the situation before deciding on a course of action. I shared my concerns with my partner and another student. My partner agreed with me, and we decided to consult his physician father. We quickly learned that Canadian physicians are not legally permitted to condone female genital mutilation, meaning that our attending the ceremony could have legal ramifications for our physician-run organization. With this information in hand, I knew I had to contact the organization lead about the excursion. She forbid our group from attending, requesting that I inform the other students, who were obviously disappointed that I had 'gotten the trip cancelled'.

Though I believe my course of action was the right one and I would not change the outcome, looking back, I wish I had voiced my concerns earlier; it may have made the end result easier for the other students to swallow. In spite of this, being honest when expressing my discomfort with a situation and choosing an alternative course of action that is aligned with my values has never led me to make a decision that I regret. Though standing up for what you believe in, and doing what is right, is not always easy, it is always worth it, and arguably the only way of living a life without regrets."

Want to learn the 7 most important and easy ways to make your college essay stand out? Check out this video:

College Essay Examples #2/32

Prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

When I was a child, I loved to play the video game Pokémon. My favorite part was having to go to different places and collect all the animals. Around the same time, I entered Boy Scouts and got engrossed in the idea of merit badges. Each badge could be earned by learning about a topic or a challenge and then doing a series of projects related to it. From fishing to first aid, I quickly found that I loved learning about each new task. In my first year in Scouts, I earned double the required number of badges, and it took off from there. My love of collecting trophies was once again reignited. 

My passion for collecting the Pokémon animals was transferred to Boy Scouts. I had set my mind on earning every merit badge, so I had to tell my parents and my troop. My parents were on board instantly, but my troop took some convincing. Many of them said that it would take too much time; that I’d have to travel to different states for some badges like the snow sports merit badge, or that I’d have to build up the endurance to bike for 50 miles at one time for the bicycling merit badge. I told them that I was eager to do this and that I needed their help to find where the badges were being taught. They chuckled and let me have access to the citywide list. Over the next six years I hiked up mountains, swam across rivers, and camped outside with nothing but a long jacket. As I kept going, my troop's attitude slowly turned from apprehensive to encouraging. Members of the community started popping up to teach some of the more obscure merit badges like atomic energy and bugling. Word of what we were doing spread thought-out the local scouting community and other scouts started joining our mission when someone offered one of the uncommon badges. There was a little boy who must have weighed 80 pounds when he took the computers merit badge with me, and last time we talked, he had been offered a job at Google.

A scout must collect all the badges before his 18th birthday. With the strength of the community behind me, I was able to get my final merit badge a month before my 18th birthday – right before I had to sit for my final interview for the Eagle Scout badge. During that interview, the scout leader asked if I had completed every single merit badge. When I confirmed, he informed me that I had broken a new world record as the first Boy Scout in history to earn every merit badge before earning my Eagle! As he stood up and shook my hand, I was overcome with gratitude for everyone who had gotten me to this point. Every late night with my parents, every merit badge counselor, every teacher, every fellow scout, and every scout leader who helped me achieve that goal. This was about so much more than one scout. This was about a community coming together to make history. Even though this was a few years ago, I look back fondly on all the people who made it happen, and today I am a merit badge counselor myself working to give back to scouting more than what it has given me, even though that might take a while. 

Prompt: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find, so engaging it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

I have always been fascinated by history: the rise and fall of empires, the evolution of humanity, innovation, politics, and everything else that made us who we are today. What amazes me so much about history are the moments when everything could have gone differently had it not been for one decision: what if Lincoln was never elected? What if the French Revolution never took place? What if the Magna Carta was never signed?

My love of history likely started in middle school with Mr. Flickerson. He was a very thin, tall man with a giant white mustache who always wore a tweed jacket. He was our history teacher and he always claimed that books didn’t always have everything right. Mr. Flickerson often encouraged us to do our own research and see what else we could find on a topic of interest. If someone could find something from a reputable source that disagreed with the textbook, we got five bonus points on a test.

I still remember how excitedly he recounted old battles. He would do gruff voices for generals and deftly switch to a hilarious high pitched voice for the ladies. His passion for history greatly affected his students, and by the end of the year, we were shooting history reenactment videos in full costume. Since then, history has always held a special place in my heart.

Now when I exercise, half of my podcasts are all history related. I remember once getting so engrossed in a podcast about Genghis Khan that I stayed at the gym for three hours! On the one hand, he was a vicious warrior and tyrant, but he was also an innovator and loyal leader. He allowed women to serve in leadership positions. He even promoted freedom of religion. There are many stories of him eating on the ground or from an old wooden bowl while his guests dined using the fine silver. 

From history, we can learn a lot about the complexities of humanity. We can see how people in the past dealt with issues and what their results were. In its way, history sheds light on our present and future. 

Here’s why “show, don’t tell” is the most important rule for writing any personal statement:

College Essay Examples #4/32

Prompt: The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission? (650 words max)

The phrase “citizen-leader” is important to distinguish from conventional ideas about leadership. Rather than leading by trying to single oneself out among peers, I believe that real leadership comes through effecting palpable change in the lives of those around you. Effective leaders don’t stand apart from their communities, but rather strive to become as deeply rooted within them as possible. A real leader is first and foremost a citizen, a peer, and a support for those around them.

My sense of leadership has been shaped by my father, whose nearly 25 years in public education have positively impacted hundreds of students. Each year he would come home on the last day of a school year with dozens of cards and gifts, from both current students graduating and former students who stopped by to thank him sometimes years after being his students. He was a leader—someone who helped others learn to find themselves, rather than direct their actions or words through conventional authority. I’ve come to believe that power it is the ability to encourage people to evolve, and that sustained, successful leadership is measured only by the success and wellbeing of the people around you.

As a result of this understanding, I’ve maintained an active presence in my high school’s peer tutoring program throughout my junior and senior years. Since I also hope to become a teacher, this has provided important experience that helped me better understand the kind of communication and time management skills needed to help people overcome their educational obstacles, specifically regarding their writing skills. The Academic Resource Center’s Peer Tutoring program at Harvard is one of the central ways in which I’d like to help lead my fellow students toward a better understanding not only of rhetoric and composition, but of the world in general.

Coaching in sports is another mode of leadership that I hope to maintain at Harvard. Powerlifting has had a major place in my extracurricular life during high school and I was thrilled to learn that Harvard boasts a competitive powerlifting club. This goes back to the metric of encouraging success and wellbeing of others — the powerlifting club presents an opportunity in which I can further develop these skills along with my fellow barbell enthusiasts. I’ve found strength sport environments to be really egalitarian and accessible, with a continual emphasis on collaboration and mutual support that’s unique among team sports. The path to becoming a more effective leader comes from forging bonds and developing skills alongside other people, so that eventually your ability to lead follows naturally from the experience and abilities you’ve honed over years of work. By lifting up oneself and others, we eventually pass a threshold into becoming beacons of knowledge, exemplars of ethical and effective action, and citizen-leaders.

This all further galvanizes my desire to teach following my time at Harvard. I feel incredibly fortunate that my current passions in writing and powerlifting will provide opportunities in which I can further develop my leadership skills in a way that will improve my ability to teach them to others. I will strive to continue being a supportive peer and collaborator which is an important foundation for becoming a true leader and educator. Harvard is in every sense the best possible environment for continuing this evolution and encouraging it in my fellow students as well. (556 words)

Write a killer college essay for Harvard by reading some of the best Harvard supplemental essay examples .

College essay examples #5/32: cornell.

Prompt: What is your "thing"? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours? (maximum of 650 words)

“Bam!” These were the energized words of Emeril Lagasse as he added a touch of parmesan cheese to perfectly top off the dish he had just cooked on live television. Growing up, my sisters and I became hooked on watching chefs like Emeril cook on The Food Network. I never liked mushrooms and despised when my parents included them as we sat down to eat dinner together each night. My parents said that if I did not like it, I could cook dinner myself. I had been watching cooking shows, so I decided to try my hand at cooking our family meals. My parents were thrilled to have someone else making dinner for the night and I was ecstatic to be put in the decision-making seat for what we would be eating for dinner. Over the years, I continue to cook with my family as a way to grow closer together and I also cook by myself as a form of stress relief. As I chop vegetables, I get lost in the repetitive nature of the task and it becomes a form of meditation for me; something for my mind to focus on that allows me to forget about the troubles of the day. While my love for cooking stemmed from a desire to not have to eat mushrooms with dinner, it has grown into one of my favorite hobbies. At Cornell, I know I will meet a wide range of people and even the typical college student that does not know now to cook and relies on a microwave, pop tarts, and ramen to get through arduous study sessions. I hope to bring my hobby of cooking to Cornell where I can use it to make it through my own stressful hurdles but also to build relationships with my new classmates who may be missing a home-cooked meal.

The college admissions essays for Cornell are a bit different than other Ivy League schools. Brush up on writing Cornell essays and review the essay prompts to start your writing! ","label":"Note","title":"Note"}]" code="tab3" template="BlogArticle">

College Essay Examples #6/32:

School: Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

Prompt: What is your "thing"? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours? (650 words)

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m bent over my computer screen. In front of me is one of the photographs I intend to submit for the Charles Lewin Digital Photo Essay Competition. It is a silhouette shot of a tall, smiling woman – my mother – framed against the backdrop of a gorgeous red sunset. Though I’d used the whip-pan technique to give the photo the same dynamic, inspiring, whirlwind energy I associate with my mother, it’s not quite right. I’ve been fiddling with the white balance and color pallet for hours, trying to capture the perfect amount of luminosity in my mother’s eyes. At that moment, my mother herself comes in, asking why I’m up so late on a school night. When I show her the picture, her eyes light up in exactly the way I’ve captured in the photo. That photo essay, capturing the beauty of three generations of women in my family, went on to win me first place in the competition. And yet the moment that I shall carry with me forever is the one from 4 a.m. that night. The moment when my mother’s eyes lit up in joy and wonder as she understood exactly what I was trying to say through my photography. In that moment, I knew for sure that I’d be chasing this feeling for the rest of my life.

Though that moment cemented my love for photography, I’ve been playing around with a camera since I was 5 years old, when my father first introduced me to his favorite hobby. I was a shy, quiet kid and photography allowed me to experience the world and communicate my feelings like I never could before. Most of our weekends were spent taking pictures, from micro nature photography on our camping trips to event photography for every community event. Even back then, I was constantly asking questions about why one picture looks better than another. I credit my father for helping me develop my photographic “eye”. The training of those early years helped me develop my sense of aesthetic placements, framing, and positioning. 

To this day, I am obsessed with learning about the technical side of photography. I have a natural analytical bent of mind that exists along-side my artistic vision; and so, I gravitate towards understanding exactly how aperture, depth of field, shutter speed, exposure, composition, and white balance can be used as a tool of artistic control in photography. My favorite way to unwind is to read books and online articles about photography and techniques I’m currently obsessed with. I also love experimenting with different styles of photography. Though art photography is my passion, I spent a couple of years as the staff photographer for my high school newspaper. This foray into the journalistic arena helped to broaden my horizons and consider the social impact of photography.

Lately, I’ve become passionately interested in the philosophy and psychology of photography. There are two books that inspired this journey - “The Art of Photography” by Bruce Barnbaum and “Studio Anywhere” by Nick Fancher. These books led me to think deeply about the artistic merit and social impact of photography and inspired me to sign up as a volunteer photographer at the local community center. I remember when an older lady, a little self-conscious about her appearance, asked me to take a photo of her in her evening dress at a fund-raising event. When I showed her the photo I took, her expression transformed from anxiety and discomfort to pride and confidence, just like my mother on that fateful Tuesday night. That’s another moment of joy I’ll carry with me forever.

Alfred Stieglitz once said - “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” Every photographer has a vision of their own reality and the greatest joy I feel is when I successfully communicate this philosophy using my work. (648 words)

School: Cornell College of Arts and Sciences

Prompt: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (650 words)

Growing up, I was your average troublesome kid. I rarely turned in homework on time, I frequently landed in detention, and I preferred video games to any other activity. This was me until the age of 14 – and that was when it all changed, thanks to Mr. Robert Brown. I was placed in Mr. Brown’s English Literature class in freshman year. Mr. Brown believed that every student could become interested in English Literature, given the right bait, and for me the bait was science fiction novels. He identified my nascent inclination towards science-based, fantasy worlds, based on my interest in video games, and handed me some choice works by Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, and Frank Herbert. In a matter of days, I was hooked. 

Looking back, I can appreciate how deeply transformative that period of my life was. Science fiction fulfilled all of my natural inclinations towards an exploration of imagination and wonder within the limits of a rule-bounded world. At the same time, it awoke in me a deep and abiding interest in larger questions of philosophy, sociology, technology, and ethics. I had a new-found love for not only English Literature, but also Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Math and my overall grades improved tremendously. I often took up projects for extra credit just so I could explore a particular new topic I was obsessed with. Specifically, I loved to take up parallel projects in different classes since I loved exploring two different sides of the same essential question. For instance, in my sophomore year, I wrote a paper on Darwinian Evolution in Mid-Century American Fiction for my English Literature class, while also working on an extra-credit class presentation on the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for Biology. This kind of dual-natured exploration of topics is something I want to pursue throughout my life.

Over time, my interest in the fictional explorations of socio-scientific questions expanded to the real world. In particular, I developed an interest in biotechnology innovations such as gene-therapy, drug engineering, and agricultural biotechnology and I even started a YouTube channel to provide commentary on the latest scientific news. My scientific interests led me to real-world activism in my junior year when a biotechnology company came to our town to offer “free” genetic sequencing for the population. I organized an informational campaign highlighting their lax privacy and data protection terms. Thanks to our efforts, the company revised their terms to ensure greater privacy for the genetic information of all participants.

This experience sparked my interest in medical ethics as a career and I am now actively seeking an education that will allow me to pursue both the scientific and philosophical questions related to technology, society, and ethical limitations. I believe the Science & Technology Studies major at the Cornell College of Arts and Sciences offers a unique opportunity to pursue the holistic, balanced education I seek. 

Though I know what I eventually want to major in, it is also particularly important to me to continue building my knowledge base in both humanities and sciences, before declaring my major. The holistic, balanced curriculum at your school allows me this freedom. At Cornell, I will have the chance to acquire philosophy AND biology mentors, interact with students who have varying subject matter interests, and complete an independent research study in any topic of my choosing. 

It’s strange to think that just a few years ago, I cared about nothing more than my League of Legends avatar and Minecraft cohorts! And yet, that love for video games was the first step in my journey towards finding answers to the greatest socio-philosophical and scientific questions of our times. I hope Cornell College of Arts and Science can be the next step in that journey. (623)

Want to get into a top school but have a low GPA? Here’s what you can do:

College Essay Examples #8/32: Princeton

Prompt: At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future? (250 words)

As captain of my high school basketball team, I have led my team to many hard-earned victories and a few crushing losses. Yet the most difficult moment of my football career took place off the field. It was the morning after our last game of the season, when Tyler, one of my classmates, approached me to ask for a favor. He said that a group he was a part of called the Hands-On organization were planning a new campaign that they’d love my support with, as captain of the football team – a campaign to request a different school mascot. You see, our school team was called the “Lincoln Indians” and our mascot was a stereotypical representation of an Indian. In our small town located in rural Montana, this has never even been recognized as an issue and initially, I, too, didn’t comprehend why it might be one. Tyler took the time to explain to me how it made him feel to see his identity masqueraded as a costume. It was a revelation to me to learn how traumatized he felt at every game. It was a brief conversation which made me re-think a lot of things I had taken for granted; ultimately, I was enlightened and humbled. Thanks to Tyler’s efforts, we have a new team mascot. As for me, I am now a member of the Hands-On organization myself, and I want to continue to use my voice to create awareness around the issues affecting minorities in our country. (250) 

If you\u2019re planning to apply to Princeton, read some more Princeton essay examples to get you started! ","label":"College Diversity Essay","title":"College Diversity Essay"}]" code="tab4" template="BlogArticle">

College Essay Examples #9/32:

School: Princeton University 

Prompt: Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250 words)

I was 14 when I met Jennifer at the local Literacy Volunteers and Advocates (LVA) chapter. At this time, I was going through the basic motions of volunteering without truly understanding the impact or significance of what I was doing. Jennifer was an immigrant from Mexico and attended my computer literacy class at LVA. She was one of the few new immigrants who could speak English fluently, and so she served as the unofficial translator at our LVA center. Once, I asked her if she didn’t find it annoying to always have to leave her own tasks and go running off to translate for other people. She told me that for her, it was a privilege to be able to do this for others and the biggest annoyances were the authority figures who displayed impatience, discrimination, and cruelty towards immigrants. Her words had a lasting impact on me and from that moment, I saw so many instances of inequity, cruelty, and injustice that I had not even registered before. At the same time, I recognized the potential I had to make a real difference in people’s lives. I decided to take on a full-time Spanish tutor and in a couple of years, I was near-fluent in Spanish. My life’s goal is to continue practicing my Spanish language skills through my undergraduate education and to eventually enact provisions in politics and society to counter the language barrier that so many immigrants face. (241)

Prompt: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)

I have always enjoyed my English Literature classes and Mrs. Sutherland’s junior year Lit class was no different. Our assigned reading was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was my first Austen novel, and in fact, it was the first classic novel I had read from that historical period. I knew I’d enjoy the romantic story of the novel; what I didn’t expect was how the social structure of the novel would grip me as I deep-dived into it for our class. When Mrs. Sutherland gave us the freedom to write our English Lit finals paper about any topic, I chose to write about the social fabric of the Regency era. I was fascinated by how the Regency-era economic and military events formed the backdrop for Jane Austen’s social realism. This paper sparked my interest in social history as a field of study, and subsequently, I read as many books as I could about the social, cultural, and economic history of England. Each new topic I read about made me reflect on how social mores and day-to-day social rituals are formed as a result of the major economic, military, and business events of the time. That one semester of English Literature introduced me to a whole new world of learning, questioning, and debating, and eventually helped me define what I wish to study in college. Thank you Mrs. Sutherland! (230)

College Essay Examples #11/32:

School: Stanford University

Prompt: Virtually all of Stanford's undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better. (100-250 words)

Dear future roommate,

The number one thing you should know about me is that I live in a state of organized chaos, both in my mind and outside it. For example, I love learning about new topics and my favorite way to learn is to read as much as I can while drinking copious cups of tea. Prepare to often see large piles of books about my latest hyper-obsession lying around! 

Yes, I still like checking physical books out of the library rather than downloading digital copies – that’s another one of my quirks. While I’m open to learning and I enjoy new experiences, I also like the comfort and stability of tradition. In fact, I am also a very traditional student. For me, learning is not just about classes and homework and assignments. I like to bring my learning home with me, and to talk about topics that sparked my interest with my friends. 

For example, yesterday in AP Biology, we learned about invasive species and their impact on ecology. This got me thinking about how human beings could, in our current form, be considered an invasive species, and I later had an interesting conversation with my friend about whether natural corrections could already be occurring in response. 

Along with my piles of books, you can expect me to bring home many ideas, experiences, and speculations to discuss with you, maybe over a cup of tea! (236)

College Essay Examples #12/32:

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?(100-250 words)

I am a passionate advocate for universal healthcare and specifically, equitable, and non-discriminatory access to healthcare for people of all communities. One of my goals in pursuing an education in medicine combined with public health policy is to take tangible actions towards my beliefs. 

Growing up, my family and I never considered “going to the hospital” an option. My parents both had minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Without health insurance, without coverage, healthcare was, to us, a luxury. If we were seriously injured or ill, we would call on “unofficial” doctors – a friendly nurse, a local vet, or the knowledgeable pharmacist who lived above us. I remember when I was 12, my mother, who at the time had an undiagnosed diabetic condition, went into insulin shock, and almost died. Riding to the hospital in the ambulance, I could see that even in that moment, my father couldn’t purely worry about his wife’s life; he also had to worry about the medical bills he’d be stuck with, even if she lived. 

My mother survived, and so did our family, but the suffering of that time still lives with me. It informs my desire to be the best possible doctor I can be, serving communities that need my help. And it’s why my greatest ambition is to one day be in a position to implement effective policies that address the imbalances in our healthcare system. (234)

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College essay examples #13/32:.

School:  Stanford University

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (Max 250 words)

Cold water splashed my exposed calves as I helped pull the rubber dingy safely to shore. I kept thinking about the line of a poem by Warshan Shire: “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” I noted that there were more than 15 small children in the boat. My family and I had been vacationing on a Greek island when we heard cries coming from the sea. We rushed to help and with the aid of locals, we pulled the boat to shore. Luckily everyone survived. A few of those on the boat spoke English; they explained that they were refugees and had fled conflict in Syria. Until that point in my life the concept of a refugee was opaque. Now I understood in a visceral way what it meant to flee one’s country.    

Since this trip one year ago, I have devoted most of my extracurricular hours to a local NGO that helps to resettle refugees. I have convinced many friends to join me as a “buddy” to incoming refugees. We teach each other about our cultures by cooking together, sharing stories, and exploring nature. The more I learn about other cultures, the more I realize that I have much more to learn. What I now know is that is my duty to advocate for those who do not have the power to advocate for themselves and to fight for the rights of those at home and abroad. (248 words)

Prompt: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

As a child, I was considered the “fat” kid. I grew much faster than any of my peers and was over a foot taller than every other person in my 5th-grade class. With that speedy growth came a lot of eating and I tended to be overweight for most of my childhood. However, by the start of grade 7, I started to lean out and at the end that year I was finally “in shape.” This new status and change in my appearance led to major changes in most of my relationships: it was easier to make friends, teachers treated me better, and I was picked first for sports teams. Everything seemed to improve. Yet, I remembered what it had been like to be an “outsider” and suffer humiliation for my appearance and weight.

I learned to appreciate the power of humor very early on in my life. Initially, when a classmate went on about how giant or stupid I was, I could not stand up for myself. It was painful and infuriating, but I took the abuse quietly. However, once I learned that I shouldn't take myself and my appearance too seriously, I was able to make fun of myself too. This change in my attitude was life-altering. My classmates' taunts didn't hurt anymore and most of my peers did not want to bully someone who reacted to their abuse with laughter. As the years went on, I would hone this ability, always ready to deflect mean words with a quick joke or a clever comment. I even started using it to swing in and save other outsiders like myself. The key was to distract the bully long enough to escape or to get the bully to start laughing, perhaps even turning them into friends. Once I dropped the weight and became conventionally “normal”, I never forgot what it was like to be different. Since then, I have always worked to include everyone. Inclusion has become a priority to me, as I do not want anyone to experience what I did. A kind word or a quick joke makes strangers feel like friends and speaking from experience, sometimes that’s all we need.

Children can be brutally honest. If they see something different than what they are used to, they have no problem pointing it out. As an adult, this is an endearing trait to see in children, but as a fellow kid, it was difficult to endure. Growing up is hard for everyone, but it is especially rough for people who are different. One of my best friends as a child was a kind girl from Spain whose family always made very fragrant foods. Other children mocked the smell of her lunches, but I was always friendly, and we often enjoyed her delicious lunches together. Together, our respective challenges did not seem so severe.

Growing up as an outsider taught me a lot. Negative experiences are also valuable: knowing what it’s like to be made fun of and excluded teaches you the value of friendship and companionship. I didn’t know it at the time, but hardships can be helpful gifts. The spice of life is variety. If everyone looked, acted, and thought the same, we’d have such a boring world. But instead, we have artists, craftsmen, philosophers, and writers - people who change the world through their uniqueness. 

College Essay Examples #15/32: University of Pennsylvania

Prompt: How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

Realizing how infinitely fascinating biology could be is a memory steeped in the peculiar odor of formaldehyde. My tiny hand, 9 years old and perpetually snack-sticky enough to leave fingerprints on the glass, reached out and lightly rested on the jar holding what I then called “monster hands”. In reality, this was an impeccably preserved pair of hands from a gout sufferer, one of the thousands of wet specimens in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, a place I didn’t know existed prior to my first visit but have not forgotten since.

Though the sight was unusual, I wasn’t scared by this display at all. My parents have since told me that I was overcome with fascination in that moment, genuinely transfixed by what surrounded me. My now-hazy recollection is one of wonder, and a feeling I couldn’t quite describe at the time but now understand to be empathy. “Was he sore?” I asked my parents. My mother laughed and my father calmly tried to explain, in toddler terms, just how much pain this person suffered.

This planted a seed that has since matured into a profound appreciation for the complexity of living systems. And, in more somber terms, a sensitivity to how these systems can short-circuit and create a domino effect of dysfunction that results in everything from uric acid crystals in knuckles to conjoined twins. I’ve since tempered my childhood fascination with more extreme medical conditions, but I can still see, feel, and smell that room in the Mutter. Strange as it may be, my lifelong obsession with medicine and biology comes out of this oddity-packed room, its vaguely astringent air, and impossibly large intestine sitting halfway up the stairs.

Penn’s Musculoskeletal Center is therefore one of the biggest reasons for my application for admission. The center’s current research in both ossification disorders and tissue engineering is incredibly exciting to me, and while I know participation in high-level research is quite limited for undergraduates, nothing would make me happier than to contribute to the MC’s singular work in some small way. Even more generally, the strength of Penn’s biology department will provide an incredible launching pad for more specialized work in medicine following graduation. (363 words)

Here are some top study strategies that will help you during undergrad!

College Essay Examples #16/32:

School: University of Pennsylvania

Prompt: At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classroom, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community. (150-200 words)

In addition to my academic interests, music will be my main means of exploring Penn’s community. Growing up in a small town of just 600 people meant that my high school was perpetually underfunded and unable to support any music programs. Penn’s symphony orchestra and jazz combos would be my first opportunity to utilize years of private lessons and practice I’ve undertaken since early childhood. Moreover, working with such a renowned orchestra will be my first commitment to musical performance outside of small community ensembles. This would enable a previously underdeveloped part of who I am to bloom in the company of incredibly talented musicians and directors. 

Shifting from very introverted, isolated artistic practice to genuine collaboration and community would be a massive evolution for me as both a musician and a person. I would look forward to unbottling the energy I've built up playing along to Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane over the last ten years, energizing and encouraging my fellow musicians and adding a unique perspective as someone who's new to—but very grateful for—larger ensemble performance. (178 words)

Check out some more UPenn essays to find inspiration before writing your own!

College essay examples #17/32: yale university.

Prompt: Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words or fewer)

Art is always a snapshot of a given cultural and artistic moment, but the physicality of this information in pottery has always fascinated me and encouraged me to be both a voracious researcher and experimenter in my own creative practice Pottery is rightly considered an art, but its underpinnings in chemistry are what have attracted me to this practice and kept me engaged with it over the years. Glazes in particular are endlessly complex, rife with history and a sense of cross-cultural collaboration. In a sense, something as simple as the type of cobalt luster on a Hispano-Moresque plate contains centuries of history, telling stories of resource availability, migration, commerce, and even theology. Yet all of this information must be unlocked through understanding a piece's chemical underpinnings, and specifically the nearly infinite variations in fluxes and ensuing chemical interactions that have shaped—or more accurately, colored—earthenware and stoneware art throughout history.

Yale’s Chemistry BS/MS program will be a demanding course of study, but a big part of my extracurricular and personal development involvement throughout it will remain in the molecular magic of pottery. Much the same way surgeons often engage in very dexterity-dependent arts in their downtime, I look forward to continuing my personal explorations in art-oriented chemistry while further developing my academic proficiencies in the science itself. (217 words)

School: Yale University 

Prompt: Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international significance. Discuss an issue that is important to you and how your college experience could help you address it. (250 words or fewer)

Being called “short stack” is probably common for a lot of 5 year-olds, and it certainly didn’t bother me throughout my kindergarten year. But just a few years later, I came to understand that I was not only significantly shorter than my friends but was in fact growing at a much slower pace. 

I had grown up in a so-called “food desert”. As is the case for most families in these areas, mine rarely had enough money to afford what scarce high-nutrient food we did have access to. This experience has shaped a big part of not only my sense of self but of my desire to pursue a career in policy analysis to help prevent other kids from having food insufficiencies. Legislation around food and specifically its insufficient supply in poorer areas would therefore be a central focus in my individual research in Yale’s Urban Studies program, as well as my graduate and professional work thereafter. 

I feel extremely strongly that I have an ethical duty to utilize the privilege afforded to me by an education at Yale to help other kids grow up happier, healthier, and in more self-sufficient communities. (192 words)

Applying to Yale? Here are some Yale supplemental essays examples !

College essay examples #19/32: columbia university.

Prompt: Columbia students take an active role in improving their community, whether in their residence hall, classes or throughout New York City. Their actions, small or large, work to positively impact the lives of others. Share one contribution that you have made to your family, school, friend group or another community that surrounds you. (200 words or fewer)

The biggest impact I’ve had on my friends and peers was small enough to fit in a shoebox. It started simply: one day in 8th grade, a friend forgot to pack any money, so the rest of us pitched in to buy her lunch. The next day she wanted to pay us back, but I suggested we just stash the $5 in case any of us forget our lunch money in the future. After a few weeks of saving our spare change, we had enough to move our cache to a small shoebox, which then became our friend group’s bank. This caught on quickly, and by ninth grade we began to maintain a class-wide “shoebox bank,” available to anyone who needed lunch money or a few dollars for anything else. 

By the end of high school, this grew into a formal “leave what you can / take what you need” policy that allowed us to donate $400 to our city’s food bank at the end of the year. I couldn’t have done this alone, and so one of the most important things I learned from the success of our shoebox was that a good idea needs community support to succeed. (200 words)

College Essay Examples #20/32:

School: Columbia University

Prompt: Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? (200 words or fewer)

Columbia has long been my magnetic North in the world of American literature. I was an early reader, and became interested in poetry, first the romantics and transcendentalists, then the beats. Tracing the biographies of figures like Kerouac and Ginsburg more recently, I began to realize that they and many other writers whose work had found its way to me spontaneously came with the common thread of Columbia.

My own poetic practice has therefore been deeply informed by the textures and philosophical milieus which stem from Columbia, and a big part of my desire to matriculate. Professor Arsić’s book On Leaving was especially transformative, awakening me to a fuller sense of the interrelatedness of so many American writers like Emerson, and galvanizing beyond any doubt the sense that literary studies was my calling. And on a more concrete level, the resources of both the Burke and Butler libraries would play a central part in my proposed thesis, allowing me to fully enmesh my own academic work with the history that has shaped it. (173 words)

The \u201c why this college \u201d is a common essay prompt for admissions. Be sure your reasons for applying are clear and sound. Outline 2 or 3 reasons why you want to attend and what you will bring to the program, especially if you\u2019re writing to an Ivy League school! Read some Columbia essay examples to see what other prompts you can expect. ","label":"Tip","title":"Tip"}]" code="tab5" template="BlogArticle">

College Essay Examples #21/32:

Prompt: Please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)

My first visit to a planetarium at the age of 10 infected me with a specific obsession: infinity. The idea of an ever-expanding universe was so thrilling and puzzling to me that I couldn’t shake trying to understand it. 

For months after my first trip to the Hayden planetarium, I pondered infinity, barely understanding the word itself. This matured into a lasting fascination with number and number theory specifically, and by the time I was in high school I was committed to following this path of knowledge without reservation. The history of number theory formed a prominent part of my elective work as an undergrad, during which I undertook both bibliographic and technical research on Cantor's paradox and "actual infinity" in relation to his lifelong mysticism. 

My commitment to mathematics has grown and become much more specialized since my early bedazzlement by cosmology, but the experience of seeing mathematics as a way of thinking beyond conventional scales and frameworks has remained a central part of my love for the discipline ever since. A life spent exploring the outermost reaches of number and logic has been and still is my deepest desire. (191 words)

Prompt: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it. (250 words)

Looking through the eyepiece of a microscope, I was amazed to see the individual cells of a sea urchin embryo. In my high school cell and molecular biology class, we were studying the cell cycle and we had the opportunity to harvest embryos from sea urchins to view under the microscope. I had used a microscope before, but only to look at prepared slides containing preserved tissue samples. This was my first time viewing a live sample that I had prepared myself. This experience opened my eyes to the wonders of cell biology and how our scientific world has been expanded with the technology of microscopes. I knew that I wanted to continue to incorporate microscopes into my own learning and to learn as much as I could about cells and their inner workings. With Brown’s Open Curriculum, I am excited to broadly study biology while also diving deeply into the world of cell biology. The excitement I felt when looking through the microscope at a sea urchin embryo is one that I look to bring with me to Brown as my classmates and I embark on expanding our academic horizons and building the foundation needed to be successful in our future scientific careers. 

College Essay Examples #23/32:

School:  Brown University

Prompt: Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)

When I was a child, I was upset to learn that my parents had decided we would be moving houses. I did not want to leave the place I had called home for the past thirteen years, the place where I had friends and happy childhood memories. Since this period in my life, I have moved several times and now when I think of home, the first thought that comes to mind is my parents. I realized that home is not a specific place; it is the people that surround you that make you feel at home. This perspective allows me to travel to new places and embark on new adventures with the understanding that I can make any place feel like home. The key is building friendships and relationships with those around you so a place does not feel foreign but rather a place in which you feel supported. As I join your community, I look forward to establishing these relationships as my peers and I build a new home at Brown University.  

If you’re applying to Brown University, be sure to read some more Brown essay examples !

College essay examples #24/32:.

School:  Tulane University

Prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. 

My arms began to shake as the bag filled up. Soon it became almost too heavy to manage. Finally, the massive Leatherback Sea Turtle had finished laying her eggs and my team and I could move them to a nursery we had prepared. I was in Costa Rica for an AP class in Tropical Ecology and we were tasked with saving these eggs from poachers. We brought the eggs to safety and when we returned two months later, we were able to watch as hundreds of baby sea turtles hatched and made it out to sea. 

This experience was particularly formative for me. I learned two important lessons. The first is the importance of environmental stewardship. Due to trawling, harvesting for consumption, light pollution and other human factors, many sea turtles are now critically endangered. It will be left to my generation to continue the fight to preserve the natural world. I also learned how inequality can contribute to environmental degradation. The poachers, for example, were working-class families who sold the eggs as aphrodisiacs for $USD 1-2 in order to survive. When I heard this, I had to act. By saving the eggs, we may have unintentionally denied these families their means of survival. I therefore, asked my school program if we could brainstorm a solution that would help both the turtles and the locals. We decided to buy their handicrafts at a higher price, to sell back at home. We also established a yearly fundraiser. To date we have helped transition 10 local families from relying on turtle eggs, to selling handmade items. Through this new partnership with the community, we have also established a cultural exchange, in which a few of our youth spend one month in Costa Rica each year while their youth come to the United States. I hope that this will continue to flourish in the years to come. 

With privilege comes responsibility: those of us who have grown up in wealthy societies have largely benefitted from an unequal global system. I believe that it is my duty to use this privilege to help both the world’s human and non-human inhabitants.

Prompt: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (600 words)

I had not lived long, but at that moment, I was sure this was the worst day of my life. I was only eleven years old, and I had to listen to a doctor tell my mother that I would have to inject myself every day for the rest of my life. Being diagnosed with Type I diabetes felt almost like a death sentence; my life changed in an instant, and I was terrified of not being able to cope with a chronic disease and afraid that I would never get to be a normal child. Little did I know that this condition would later on allow me to give back to my community through my volunteering initiatives and would make me want to pursue a career where I could help others.

The impact that my disease had on my family was profound. We all had to learn to adjust to a new reality, and I went from having a normal life, to having to mature in a matter of weeks. I knew that it was up to me to make this work, but I felt lost and did not know how to deal with this immense responsibility of managing a new diet, an insulin shot four times a day, and my emotions. After a few days, the initial shock was replaced by denial, then came anger, and little by little, I later gained acceptance. By exercising determination and courage, I decided that even though my disease was now a part of my life, I would not let it dictate who I was or what I could become. I was resolute to do great things.  

Besides the discipline and resilience that I had to muster to live my life as a diabetic, I realized that some things in life are better dealt with by having a support system. With this in mind, I looked for volunteering positions where I could share my experience with others and listen to their own struggles. After I got involved in different initiatives, I decided to organize a support group in high school for students who were dealing with difficult situations and just needed someone to talk to. The group was so successful that I was invited to other schools to talk about what we did and about the difference we made in our members’ lives by just listening to one another. Today, we have more than twenty volunteers, and our meeting times have doubled since we started. Additionally, this group has been a platform for other initiatives that I have helped launch such as fundraising campaigns and mental health events. I do this as I keep looking for ways to get involved in my community and create spaces for people to support one another in difficult times. 

We all have challenges in life. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease at such a young age was devastating for me and my family. However, form this experience I have learned that being disciplined is the key to living a healthy life and that being compassionate is the first step to helping those who need it. When I see how many people have been benefitted from our group, I look back and remember being a scared eleven-year-old, and I feel proud of what I have become. What felt like a death sentence at first turned into a way of supporting others in my community proving that the lessons we take from the obstacles we encounter can, in fact, be fundamental to later success.

Are you applying to any UC schools ? Familiarize yourself with some UC personal statement samples and prompts , since these can be very different from common app prompts! ","label":"Note","title":"Note"}]" code="tab6" template="BlogArticle">

College Essay Examples #26/32:

Common App Essays

Prompt: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Staring down at my scuffed Converse Chuck Taylors, I distinctly remember the feeling of heat rising in my cheeks. Somehow, I had landed myself in the principal’s office at the beginning of the school year in tenth grade. I blame it on the growth spurt I experienced the summer before that had single-handedly taken half of my wardrobe out of commission. The polka dot dress skimmed the tops of my knees on the first day of high school was now, apparently, so short that it would “distract the young men” in class. Though I respected the rules at my school, I was infuriated, embarrassed, and confused about being made to feel as though I had done something morally wrong as a result of my height making my skirt length criminally deficient. After sheepishly explaining the situation to my mom, I was relieved to find her just as angry about the school’s actions, and even more relieved when she supported my desire to challenge them.

Challenging the school’s actions ended up being a little more, well, challenging than I thought. Growing up in a conservative area, my defiance was met with disdain and whispers in the hallway about not knowing my place. Thankfully, however, not all of my peers were so resistant to change. After weeks of emails campaigning the student government’s faculty advisor, I was finally permitted to make a presentation about the sexism inherent in the school’s dress code before the student government representatives, who grew excited about the potential to change school policy for the better. Collaborating with each grade’s representative, we organized a school-wide awareness-raising campaign to engender support for our initiative. At after-school sports practices, band rehearsals, and art club meetings, I pleaded with my peers to realize how antiquated these restrictions on girls’ dress were. It was a blatant sexualization of minors’ bodies at best and spread the message that male students were not responsible for their actions when faced with such temptations as exposed kneecaps and bare shoulders. I knew that our school could do better.  

Finally, after months of work, my team of advocates and I obtained 1,000 student signatures and 2,000 parent signatures supporting an initiative to reconsider my school’s dress code through a gender equity lens. I distinctly remember the heat rising in my cheeks as I stepped up to the podium to address the school board, but this time they were flushed with excitement and pride, not shame or embarrassment. Though I did abide by my mother’s censorship of my wardrobe that time—admittedly, scuffed Chuck Taylors did not reflect the gravity of that event—I was so proud to be advocating for gender equity in my school and saving so many of my female peers the trouble of disciplinary action for their bodies being seen. The results of the reconsideration are not yet in, but I learned the power of using my voice for positive social change – something I look forward to continuing in college.

College Essay Examples #27/32:

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

Nothing compares to the feeling of the first pass of a pigment-soaked brush on a clean canvas. The first slice into a beautifully iced birthday cake or the powerful print of a first footstep in snow may come close, but I can never lose myself in a sugary confection or icy landscape the way I can when standing at my easel. The thrill I felt as a small child when finger painting never left me, though my technique may have improved a bit.

Technique aside, the value of self-expression through artistic endeavor has only grown for me as I mature. Many find cathartic release through journaling or sharing their thoughts with others in conversation, but I feel most connected to my feelings and the world when I put paint brush to canvas. Not all sentiments can be captured in words, which is where art takes over for me. Just as a piece of music can engender poignant emotions in its listener, a piece of art can make a person feel seen in a large and often lonely world. Nobody knew this better than my middle school art teacher Mrs. Williams. She often let me stay in the studio after school to put continuous rounds of final touches on my latest masterpiece, knowing that sometimes my piece did not need those additional strokes, but my soul did. A true artist herself, Mrs. Williams understood how art could tell a story and that sometimes the artist’s need to tell their story in color and shape was more important than the finished product. Over the years following middle school, I visited Mrs. Williams every once in a while and each time was always like no time had passed. We would set our easels side by side and paint, sometimes chatting a bit, but often sitting in comfortable silence as we watched colors blend and form new hues with the flick of a paint brush.

In the middle of my junior year of high school, I received the tragic news that Mrs. Williams had suffered a massive heart attack and passed. Devastated and trying to make sense of the first death I had ever experienced, I turned to my mother for advice. “Well, how would you deal with this if Mrs. Williams were here?” she asked me. Of course. I should have known that was the answer to working through my grief. Grabbing my easel and a stool, I set up on the front porch where I could see the sun filtering through the oak leaves in green and yellow shards of glass, smiled at the memory of Mrs. Williams, and began to paint.

I think by the time we graduate high school, we all fall into the trap of thinking we know ourselves pretty well by now. The truth is, we are only just discovering who we are. And at that point in our lives, we are entering into an incredible period of self-discovery and personal growth. I know I am no exception, and my post-high school years have included some of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Last year was my first opportunity to travel abroad. For someone who rarely strayed more than 100 miles from where they grew up, this was a pretty intimidating choice, but I was excited to travel, to learn about another place and people. For this unique experience, I chose to travel to Japan; a country so unlike my own, I was both excited and worried. Excited for the opportunity, but worried because I speak no Japanese and had never left home before. I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself.

After first arriving, everything seemed to be going well, and I had few problems getting around. The locals were friendly and spoke enough English that I had no troubles. Aside from learning to adapt to a new culture, I had no qualms. That is, until I decided to take a bus trip, by myself, into a rural area of the country to do some sightseeing.

I was traveling alone, and all the other bus passengers spoke little English. After we arrived at our destination, I got off the bus and toured around, taking photos and enjoying some lunch. Unfortunately, when I went to catch the bus back to the city, I discovered it was gone. And from what I could gather at the bus stop, there would be no more buses running until the following week, since it was the weekend. Now that I was in a smaller village, there were virtually no English speakers, but I managed to communicate in the limited Japanese I’d learned.

Basically, there were no options for transport back to the city. I could walk down a mountainside throughout the night, or I could wait until Monday to catch the next bus back. Through some creative communication, I managed to get a place to stay for the weekend. The village didn’t have an official inn, but the owner of the restaurant where I’d eaten lunch was kind enough to rent me her vacant upstairs room for the two days. Even with her limited English and my poor Japanese, we found a way to make it work. She was even nice enough to invite me to eat with her family that night, and give me some suggestions for a hike the next day. When I got on the bus to leave on Monday morning, she waved me goodbye and sent me off with a homemade meal for the journey.

Although the setback I experience seemed at first to confirm my fears that I wouldn’t be able to get myself out of a jam, I still managed to sort the problem out, with some help from a kind woman.

If anything, this experience taught me that I am still learning and still growing. It also showed me that I am much more adaptable and resourceful than I give myself credit for. By being open to new experiences and expanding horizons, I can allow myself to expand, too.

My trip taught me some invaluable things about myself, and definitely changed my perspective of who I am. It also taught me the importance of planning ahead and having a backup travel plan!

College Essay Examples #29/32:

From the time I was in grade school, I thought I was destined to become a scientist. Specifically, I wanted to become a marine biologist. Other students in my class would change their minds from week to week, switching their ideal future careers from doctor to astronaut to musician, never settling on anything and always exploring new possibilities. But I was stuck on marine biology. I was obsessed. Every weekend, I asked to visit the local aquarium.

I imagine my parents were quite pleased with my choice of interest, as they were both scientists themselves. My mother is a molecular biologist, and my father is a neuroscientist and professor. They encouraged my love of science, from bringing me to the aquarium to teaching me to snorkel and scuba dive as I grew up.

In high school, I excelled in the sciences and received high grades. Every academic performance was another step towards my goal of becoming a marine biologist, of being admitted to a good school and focusing on science. But somewhere along the way, my love for science was changed. Not diluted, or split, but evolved into something more. Through science, I discovered a love for art. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this love began, but it was somewhere in the cool, bluish space of the aquarium observation room. Having spent so many hours there, observing the hundreds of different species, studying their patterns, it’s easy to forget that I used to draw sketches of them.

I dug through some old boxes, and as often happens when you’re looking through childhood memories, I found something unexpected. Sketchbooks, crammed full of sketches, diagrams and notes of my favorite aquatic species. There were sketches from things I’d seen while scuba diving or visiting the aquarium—fish with colorful stripes and waving fins, coral with intricate patterns and shapes. I was surprised at the details I’d put into the drawings. After showing them to some friends and receiving positive reviews, a friend of mine convinced me to show my drawings in an art show. I’d never considered art as something other than a tool I used in my scientific studies. It never occurred to me that there was an intersection between art and science. An undeniable connection. How could two disciplines, seemingly opposites, come together seamlessly?

The scientist in me was intrigued that there was an existing relationship between the two I had yet to discover. So, I took my friend’s advice and let them arrange an art show for me. I selected my best pieces drawn in pencil. Then I went back to visit my favorite aquarium. I brought my tools with me, and I commenced my experiment.

For hours, I sat on the benches, drawing sketches, scribbling notes on color differentiation, environment and behavior. Taking my new sketches home, I started experimenting with an entirely new medium: paint. With some help from my friend, I began learning the techniques and methods to create fully colorful paintings of my favorite marine creatures. The results were surprising and stunning.

By the end of a few weeks, I had dozens of pencil sketches and half a dozen smaller paintings. I’d seen how I could develop an eye for color, and use it to capture the exact hues of the creatures I observed. Or how to translate the natural movement of coral and their incredible patterns into flecks of paint. The realism I could create with a few simple things was astounding. I nervously displayed my artwork and waited for my first art exhibition.

The exhibition was a great success, and I even sold some of my paintings. The most notable part of my experience was how it changed my idea of myself. It was surprising and delightful to discover that my passion for science could be expressed so creatively. And that art could understand and capture the beauty of science.

Prompt: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Sample College Essay #30

College essay examples #31/32:, sample college essay #31, college essay examples #32/32:.

Prompt: 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.

Sample College Essay #32

Yes, your college admission essays are important. Although the committee can evaluate your academic abilities based on your grades and test scores, the essay is your chance to present a full, unique story of your experiences. While many students have great marks and scores, the essay is usually the weak link in many students’ applications. You must work hard to create an essay that will make your application stand out.

Each school will have specific instructions regarding the length of the essay, but the range is usually between 250 and 650 words. You need to review the instructions and the word limit carefully before you begin to write.

Writing a strong essay requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Ideally, you should plan on spending 6-8 weeks writing and rewriting your essay. Always remember that a truly effective essay will require multiple drafts!

The essay prompts are typically very open-ended. You can choose to write about any topic you like as long as it directly relates to the prompt. Remember, you must answer the prompt, do not ignore it! As I already said, essay prompts are open to interpretation, so try to be original. Instead of writing about common topics like a sports victory or a difficult test, brainstorm unique ideas for your college essay. Rather than playing it safe, take your chance to be unique and unforgettable.

Your essay is your chance to be personable, real, and honest. Discuss what shaped you and your world view, or what concerns you about humanity’s future, or discuss a painter or a filmmaker who changed your life. Do not be afraid to explore different topics. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions committee member, wouldn’t you want to read something exciting, new, and different?

Give yourself ample amount of time to prepare your essay. It might take you weeks or even months to shape it into a great paper. Give yourself at least 8 weeks to prepare your submission.

First, make sure you have set aside enough time for your personal essay (6-8 weeks). Then, take some time to familiarize yourself with the culture and values of your school and program of choice, to get a general sense of what sort of person they would value having has a student. Read and re-read the essay prompt several times to ensure that you understand what they expect you to address in your essay. Make a list of qualities and experiences that you may wish to include in your essay. Review your list of experiences carefully to narrow them down to the most significant ones. Once you know which experiences you wish to feature in your essay, brainstorm how you would like to tell your story. Create an outline or some notes sketching out what each section of your essay should cover, and keep it close by for reference while writing.  

It might be a good idea for someone to review your essay. Do not let too many people read it, as too many reviews could make your essay into a melting pot of ideas and opinions. Ideally, your reader is someone you trust and who can provide you with honest feedback on the content and grammar of your essay.

Remember, this is your story. Instead of writing about topics often used in college essays, reflect on your own unique experiences and choose something that will intrigue and interest the admissions committee. You might not think that your life and experiences are very interesting, but you are wrong. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at your life objectively – dig deep and give yourself time to brainstorm a variety of options.

Your essay will feature an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Good organization is essential in creating a compelling, logical narrative for your reader to follow, so always pay close attention to your essay’s structure. Your introduction should open with an attention-grabbing sentence that captures your reader’s interest and helps to reveal or foreshadow what your essay will be about. Your main body highlights the formative experience (or 2-3 experiences) that you wish to share, and what you learned from that experience. Your conclusion ties your essay together and should leave your reader with an interesting and memorable final thought, which will leave your reader wanting to learn more about you. 

Some colleges may ask you to submit a curriculum vitae, or a CV. This is not a requirement for all schools, but most colleges have some kind of variation of the CV. For example, UC schools ask their applicants to fill out an activities list.

*Please note that our sample essays are the property of BeMo Academic Consulting, and should not be re-used for any purpose. Admissions committees regularly check for plagiarism from online sources.

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Jonathan Walker

Good Post! Amazing tips to me. I also want to study abroad. I have to improve my English. Every night I usually use duolingo to learn more, except for class hours, apkdownload is a reasonable choice for old android users like me. I will try very hard, to study abroad, open my eyes

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Jonathan! Thanks for your comment! Good luck!

I think this was a really good articile, I was able to learn a lot for my class!

Hello Sussy! Thanks for your comment.

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example of university essays

Essays That Worked

example of university essays

The essays are a place to show us who you are and who you’ll be in our community.

It’s a chance to add depth to something that is important to you and tell the admissions committee more about your background or goals. Below you’ll find selected examples of essays that “worked,” as nominated by our admissions committee. In each of these essays, students were able to share stories from their everyday lives to reveal something about their character, values, and life that aligned with the culture and values at Hopkins.

Read essays that worked from Transfer applicants .

Hear from the class of 2027.

These selections represent just a few examples of essays we found impressive and helpful during the past admissions cycle. We hope these essays inspire you as you prepare to compose your own personal statements. The most important thing to remember is to be original as you share your own story, thoughts, and ideas with us.

example of university essays

Ordering the Disorderly

Ellie’s essay skillfully uses the topic of entropy as an extended metaphor. Through it, we see reflections about who they are and who they aspire to be.

example of university essays

Pack Light, But Be Prepared

In Pablo’s essay, the act of packing for a pilgrimage becomes a metaphor for the way humans accumulate experiences in their life’s journey and what we can learn from them. As we join Pablo through the diverse phases of their life, we gain insights into their character and values.

example of university essays

Tikkun Olam

Julieta illustrates how the concept of Tikkun Olam, “a desire to help repair the world,” has shaped their passions and drives them to pursue experiences at Hopkins.

example of university essays

Kashvi’s essay encapsulates a heartfelt journey of self-discovery and the invaluable teachings of Rock, their 10-year-old dog. Through the lens of their companionship, Kashvi walked us through valuable lessons on responsibility, friendship, patience, and unconditional love.

example of university essays

Classical Reflections in Herstory

Maddie’s essay details their intellectual journey using their love of Greek classics. They incorporate details that reveal the roots of their academic interests: storytelling, literary devices, and translation. As their essay progresses, so do Maddie’s intellectual curiosities.

example of university essays

My Spotify Playlist

Alyssa’s essay reflects on special memories through the creative lens of Spotify playlists. They use three examples to highlight their experiences with their tennis team, finding a virtual community during the pandemic, and co-founding a nonprofit to help younger students learn about STEM.

More essays that worked

We share essays from previously admitted students—along with feedback from our admissions committee—so you can understand what made them effective and how to start crafting your own.

example of university essays

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Harvard University Essay Examples (And Why They Worked)

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The following essay examples were written by several different authors who were admitted to Harvard University and are intended to provide examples of successful Harvard University application essays. All names have been redacted for anonymity. Please note that Bullseye Admissions has shared these essays with admissions officers at Harvard University in order to deter potential plagiarism.

For more help with your Harvard supplemental essays, check out our 2020-2021 Harvard University Essay Guide ! For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)

Feet moving, eyes up, every shot back, chants the silent mantra in my head. The ball becomes a beacon of neon green as I dart forward and backward, shuffling from corner to far corner of the court, determined not to let a single point escape me. With bated breath, I swing my racquet upwards and outwards and it catches the ball just in time to propel it, spinning, over the net. My heart soars as my grinning teammates cheer from the sidelines.

While I greatly value the endurance, tenacity, and persistence that I have developed while playing tennis throughout the last four years, I will always most cherish the bonds that I have created and maintained each year with my team.

Why this Harvard essay worked: From an ex-admissions officer

When responding to short essays or supplements, it can be difficult to know which info to include or omit. In this essay, the writer wastes no time and immediately captivates the reader. Not only are the descriptions vivid and compelling, but the second portion highlights what the writer gained from this activity. As an admissions officer, I learned about the student’s level of commitment, leadership abilities, resiliency, ability to cooperate with others, and writing abilities in 150 words.

I founded Teen Court at [High School Name Redacted] with my older brother in 2016. Teen Court is a unique collaboration with the Los Angeles Superior Court and Probation Department, trying real first-time juvenile offenders from all over Los Angeles in a courtroom setting with teen jurors. Teen Court’s foundational principle is restorative justice: we seek to rehabilitate at-risk minors rather than simply punish them. My work provides my peers the opportunity to learn about the justice system. I put in over fifty hours just as Secretary logging court attendance, and now as President, I mentor Teen Court attendees. My goal is to improve their empathy and courage in public speaking, and to expand their world view. People routinely tell me their experience with Teen Court has inspired them to explore law, and I know the effort I devoted bringing this club to [High School Name Redacted] was well worth it.

This writer discussed a passion project with a long-lasting impact. As admissions officers, we realize that post-secondary education will likely change the trajectory of your life. We hope that your education will also inspire you to change the trajectory of someone else’s life as well. This writer developed an organization that will have far-reaching impacts for both the juvenile offenders and the attendees. They saw the need for this service and initiated a program to improve their community.

Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: Books Read During the Last Twelve Months

Reading Frankenstein in ninth grade changed my relationship to classic literature. In Frankenstein , I found characters and issues that resonate in a modern context, and I began to explore the literary canon outside of the classroom. During tenth grade, I picked up Jane Eyre and fell in love with the novel’s non-traditional heroine whose agency and cleverness far surpassed anything that I would have imagined coming from the 19th century. I have read the books listed below in the past year.

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus *
  • Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger *
  • Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
  • Aphra Behn, The Fair Jilt ♰
  • Mongo Beti, Mission Terminée * (in French)
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening
  • Arthur Conan-Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
  • Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête * (in French)
  • Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry *
  • Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane *
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying *
  • Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • E. M. Forster, Maurice
  • E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
  • E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • Eliza Haywood, The City Jilt ♰
  • Homer, The Iliad
  • Christopher Isherwood, All The Conspirators
  • Christopher Isherwood, A Meeting by the River
  • Christopher Isherwood, Sally Bowles
  • Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
  • Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  • James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
  • Franz Kafka, The Trial
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies *
  • Morrissey, Autobiography
  • Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy *
  • Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
  • Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, Herland
  • Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
  • Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove
  • Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
  • Mary Renault, The Friendly Young Ladies
  • Mary Renault, The King Must Die
  • Mary Renault, The Persian Boy
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des hommes * (in French)
  • Shakespeare, Hamlet *
  • Mary Shelley, The Last Man
  • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead *
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
  • Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop
  • Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
  • Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction ♰
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman ♰
  • Virginia Woolf, A Haunted House and Other Stories
  • * indicates assigned reading
  • ♰ indicates independent study reading

Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: What would you want your future college roommate to know about you? (No word limit)

Hi Roomie!!!!

You probably have noticed that I put four exclamation points. Yes, I am that excited to meet you, roomie!

Also, I don’t believe in the Rule of Three. It’s completely unfair that three is always the most commonly used number. Am I biased in my feelings because four is my favorite number? Perhaps. However, you have to admit that our reason for the Rule of Three is kinda arbitrary. The Rule of Three states that a trio of events is more effective and satisfying than any other numbers. Still, the human psyche is easily manipulated through socially constructed perceptions such as beauty standards and gender roles. Is having three of everything actually influential or is it only influential because society says so? Hmm, it’s interesting to think about it, isn’t it?

But if you’re an avid follower of the Rule of three, don’t worry, I won’t judge. In fact, if there’s one thing I can promise you I will never do, it’s being judgmental. Life is too short to go around judging people. Besides, judgments are always based on socially constructed beliefs. With so many backgrounds present on campus, it really would be unfair if we start going around judging people based on our own limited beliefs. My personal philosophy is “Mind your own business and let people be,” So, if you have a quirk that you’re worrying is too “weird” and are afraid your roommate might be too judgy, rest assured, I won’t be.

In fact, thanks to my non-judginess, I am an excellent listener. If you ever need to rant with someone about stressful classes, harsh gradings, or the new ridiculous plot twists of your favorite TV show (*cough* Riverdale), I am always available.

Now, I know what you are thinking. A non-judgmental and open-minded roommate? This sounds too good to be true. This girl’s probably a secret villain waiting to hear all my deepest and darkest secrets and blackmail me with them!

Well, I promise you. I am not a secret villain. I am just someone who knows how important it is to be listened to and understood.

I grew up under the communist regime of Vietnam, where freedom of speech and thought was heavily suppressed. Since childhood, I was taught to keep my opinion to myself, especially if it is contradictory to the government’s. No matter how strongly I felt about an issue, I could never voice my true opinion nor do anything about it. Or else, my family and I would face oppression from the Vietnamese government.

After immigrating to America, I have made it my mission to fight for human rights and justice. Back in Vietnam, I have let fear keep me from doing the right thing. Now, in the land of freedom, I won’t use that excuse anymore. I can finally be myself and fight for what I believe in. However, I can still remember how suffocating it was to keep my beliefs bottled up and to be silenced. Trust me, a conversation may not seem much, but it can do wonders. So, if you ever need a listener, know that I am right here.

See, I just shared with you a deep secret of mine. What secret villain would do that?

See ya soon!!!!!

[Name redacted] : )

P/S: I really love writing postscripts. So, I hope you won’t find it weird when I always end my emails, letters, and even texts with a P/S. Bye for real this time!!!!!

Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: Unusual circumstances in your life

I would like the Harvard Admissions Committee to know that my life circumstances are far from typical. I was born at twenty-four weeks gestation, which eighteen years ago was on the cusp of viability. Even if I was born today, under those same circumstances, my prospects for leading a normal life would be grim. Eighteen years ago, those odds were worse, and I was given a less than 5% chance of survival without suffering major cognitive and physical deficits.

The first six months of my life were spent in a large neonatal ICU in Canada. I spent most of that time in an incubator, kept breathing by a ventilator. When I was finally discharged home, it was with a feeding tube and oxygen, and it would be several more months before I was able to survive without the extra tubes connected to me. At the age of two, I was still unable to walk. I engaged in every conventional and non-conventional therapy available to me, including physical and speech therapy, massage therapy, gymnastics, and several nutritional plans, to try to remedy this. Slowly, I began to make progress in what would be a long and arduous journey towards recovery.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of repeated, often unsuccessful attempts to grip a large-diameter crayon since I was unable to hold a regular pencil. I would attempt to scrawl out letters on a page to form words, fueled by either determination or outright stubbornness, persevering until I improved. I spent countless hours trying to control my gait, eventually learning to walk normally and proving the doctors wrong about their diagnoses. I also had to learn how to swallow without aspirating because the frequent intubations I had experienced as an infant left me with a uncoordinated swallow reflex. Perhaps most prominently, I remember becoming very winded as I tried to keep up with my elementary school peers on the playground and the frustration I experienced when I failed.

Little by little, my body’s tolerance for physical exertion grew, and my coordination improved. I enrolled in martial arts to learn how to keep my balance and to develop muscle coordination and an awareness of where my limbs were at any given time. I also became immersed in competition among my elementary school peers to determine which one of us could become the most accomplished on the recorder. For each piece of music played correctly, a “belt” was awarded in the form of a brightly colored piece of yarn tied around the bottom of our recorders- meant as symbols of our achievement. Despite the challenges I had in generating and controlling enough air, I practiced relentlessly, often going in before school or during my lunch hour to obtain the next increasingly difficult musical piece. By the time the competition concluded, I had broken the school record of how far an elementary school child could advance; in doing so, my love of instrumental music and my appreciation for the value of hard work and determination was born.

Throughout my middle and high school years, I have succeeded at the very highest level both academically and musically. I was even able to find a sport that I excelled at and would later be able to use as an avenue for helping others, volunteering as an assistant coach once I entered high school. I have mentored dozens of my high school peers in developing trumpet skills, teaching them how to control one’s breathing during musical phrases and how to develop effective fingering techniques in order to perform challenging passages. I believe that my positive attitude and hard work has allowed for not only my own success, but for the growth and success of my peers as well.

My scholastic and musical achievements, as well as my leadership abilities and potential to succeed at the highest level will hopefully be readily apparent to the committee when you review my application. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the behind-the-scenes character traits that have made these possible. I believe that I can conquer any challenge put in front of me. My past achievements provide testimony to my work ethic, aptitudes and grit, and are predictive of my future potential.

Thank you for your consideration.

In this essay, the writer highlighted their resilience. At some point, we will all endure challenges and struggles, but it is how we redeem ourselves that matters. This writer highlighted their initial struggles, their dedication and commitment, and the ways in which they’ve used those challenges as inspiration and motivation to persevere and also to encourage others to do the same.

Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you.

I want to be a part of something amazing, and I believe I can. The first line of the chorus springs into my mind instantaneously as my fingers experiment with chords on the piano. In this moment, as I compose the protagonist’s solo number, I speak from my heart. I envision the stage and set, the actors, the orchestra, even the audience. Growing increasingly excited, I promptly begin to create recordings so I can release the music from the confines of my imagination and share it with any willing ears.

My brother [name redacted] and I are in the process of writing a full-length, two-act musical comprised of original scenes, songs, characters. I began creating the show not only because I love to write music and entertain my friends and family, but also with the hope that I might change the way my peers view society. Through Joan, the protagonist of my musical, I want to communicate how I feel about the world.

The story centers around Joan, a high schooler, and her connection to the pilot Amelia Earhart. Ever since I saw a theatrical rendition of Amelia Earhart’s life in fifth grade, she has fascinated me as an extraordinary feminist and a challenger of society’s beliefs and standards. As I began researching and writing for the show, I perused through biographies and clicked through countless youtube documentaries about the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, astounded by her bravery and ability to overcome a troubled childhood and achieve her dream. In my musical, as Amelia transcends 20th century norms, changing the way that people regard women and flight, Joan strives to convince her peers and superiors that the worth of one’s life spans not from material success and grades, but from self-love and passion.

As I compose, the essence of each character and the mood of each scene steer the flow of each song. To me, it seems as though everything falls into place at once – as I pluck a melody out of the air, the lyrics come to me naturally as if the two have been paired all along. As I listen to the newly born principal line, I hear the tremolo of strings underscoring and the blaring of a brass section that may someday audibly punctuate each musical phrase.

The project is certainly one of the most daunting tasks I’ve ever undertaken – we’ve been working on it for almost a year, and hope to be done by January – but, fueled by my passion for creating music and writing, it is also one of the most enjoyable. I dream that it may be performed one day and that it may influence society to appreciate the success that enthusiasm for one’s relationships and work can bring.

These essay examples were compiled by the advising team at Bullseye Admissions. If you want to get help writing your Harvard University application essays from Bullseye Admissions advisors , register with Bullseye today .

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Essays About University: Top 6 Examples and 6 Prompts

Our time in university is often one of the most critical points in our lives;  if you are writing essays about university, read our guide. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a university as “ an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees .” Otherwise known as colleges, universities are the institutions in which students obtain their tertiary education, helping them pursue the careers they want. 

Regardless of your university’s prestige, taking your college education seriously is crucial. University prepares you to go into the field you want to work in, and it is regarded as essential for success and prosperity in life. The choices you make in and for university will affect your path forever.

6 Examples of Essays About University

1. compare and contrast between state university and private university by naomi moody, 2. a reflection on my college experience by tori harwell, 3. you don’t need college anymore, says google by david leibowitz, 4. on graduating in a pandemic by audrey huang.

  • 5. ​My University Experience by Jenny

6. From Living for the Later to Living for the Now: A Reflection of My College Career by Trisha Kangas

1. is university really as daunting as it seems, 2. what lessons did your college experience teach you, 3. how did you grow throughout university, 4. the skills you need for university, 5. how can you best prepare for university, 6. is it necessary to attend university.

“Many people assume a public college is cheaper than a private college because of tuition fees are reduced for state residents. But the posted “sticker price” of a private college is rarely the real price. If a private college strongly appeals to you, consider waiting for its financial aid offer before making a final decision. More often than not, private colleges offer the scholarships and grants that significantly cut your actual cost, even bringing it close to the cost of a public college.”

Moody discusses the differences between public and private universities. A state university is more accessible and has various course options, while private university courses often specialize in specific fields and are more challenging to receive an entry. The price difference between public and private universities is more manageable if given financial aid, Moody writes. She believes that although both set students up for success, she is partial to private universities and would instead study in one. 

“I used to laugh at the people who told me college would go by in the blink of an eye. And then it did. Soak in every single second of these crazy, chaotic, stressful four years. Spend as much time with your friends as you can. The days go by faster and faster the closer you get to leaving. Take advantage of the time you do have.”

In her essay, Harwell gives tips on how to enjoy their years in university, based on her personal experiences. She encourages readers to take reasonable risks, say “yes,” find the right balance between academics and social life, and get involved to make friends. Most importantly, she wants readers to make the most of their college years and enjoy every moment, just as she did. You might also be interested in these essays about assessment .

“In Google’s report of their IT certification course, 61% did not have a four-year degree, typically complete the program in under six months, and earn a median annual wage of $54,760. To be blunt, university degrees are only as valuable as the weight applied by company hiring managers, and Google has just signaled that a $300 certificate has parity with a diploma.”

Leibowitz describes how university has become obsolete to some. Companies such as Google are allowing job applicants to work without a diploma, instead making them take an IT certification program. Other companies such as Levi’s and Gap have followed suit, allowing employees to complete a program in place of a degree. Leibowitz poses the idea of eliminating degree requirements to make work more accessible.

“Graduation has historically been all about projecting into the future — anticipating what’s to come, cherishing the bright spots within these precious college years, formation and self-discovery in an ever-accelerating landscape. Pandemic graduation seems to be about having the brakes thrown into our plans, and being forced to sit still and alone for a very long time.”

Huang reflects on her university experience in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and imagines the future that her suitemates might live out, and how they have pursued their dreams or changed. Huang is mostly distraught at having to stop her education and an “inferior” graduation experience; however, she is relieved that she can reflect on her time in university, an experience she will treasure for a lifetime. 

5. ​ My University Experience by Jenny

“I would like to tell you that coming to Leeds Beckett on the Speech and Language Therapy course has been the best decision for my career, and I’ve had so much fun living here and making new friends. Making the most of my course’s opportunities, as well as all the opportunities Leeds Beckett gives you like volunteering aboard, joining sports teams and everything else is a really valuable experience which you won’t regret. Put in the work and you’ll get loads out of it!”

Jenny, a student at Leeds Beckett University, writes about how she returned to college after graduating in 2014. However, she wanted to pursue a different career, so she attended university again. She writes about her course requirements, job placements, and overall university experience, and she encourages people to try her course or attend her university if they are interested.

Looking for more? Check out these essays about online learning .

“Although it was maybe difficult for me to slow down and give myself a pat on the back for getting on the dean’s list, writing a 15 page short story I was really proud of, or being nominated for the Student Employee of the Year Award, I still did all of those things and that in itself is something to be proud of. And I think that’s where my focus should ultimately end up.”

Kangas reflects on her time in college, writing that she feels accomplished yet anxious simultaneously. She worked hard but remembered not to be too hard on herself, something she encouraged all students to practice. It is important to find a balance between academic achievement and mental health. She also reminds students not to be afraid of change but to have a positive outlook.

6 Helpful Writing  Prompts on Essays About University

Many say university entails the toughest years of your life, making children dread going to college. Based on your experiences, write about your experience in university and determine whether this claim is factual or not. 

In university, we learn a lot about ourselves and our world. Write about lessons or life skills you may have learned in college and how they have helped you today. Such as becoming more confident, learning to love yourself, connecting with people, or even pursuing new passions in life. Be sure to link your main idea back to how college can help you do better in the future.

Essay About University: How did you grow throughout university?

For your essay, reflect on your college experience. Answer the question, “how did you grow as a person?” Write about your feelings throughout your university years, particularly how they changed, and describe any skills you may have learned. Be sure to use personal anecdotes for a more heartfelt perspective. 

Before attending university, you must equip yourself with specific skills to help you succeed. You must often obtain certain grades in specific classes to enter university. However, you also need personal skills such as communication, time management, and discipline to complete assignments. Write about some of these skills and explain why they are important. You can also explain how to hone these skills to improve your experience at university.

Essay About University: How can you best prepare for university?

University can be daunting, especially for people leaving high school and moving city or state to attend university. In your essay, discuss how you can prepare yourself, physically and mentally, to attend university. What should college students know before they start the year? Be sure to use your personal experiences as a basis. You can also give examples of books or articles readers can look at for further knowledge. 

Many argue that university education has become unnecessary in the 21st century. Many famous entrepreneurs and business owners, such as Elon Musk , speak out against university education, saying that life experience and learning on the job are more valuable. Detail your stance on this issue and explain your reasoning. Be sure to support your argument with details and credible sources. 

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers .

If you still need help, our guide to grammar and punctuation explains more.

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Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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How to Write the American University Essays 2023-2024

example of university essays

American University has one optional prompt for all applicants about why you want to attend AU. Additionally, the school has prompts for each of its special programs.

There are three prompts for Honors Program applicants, two prompts for Global Scholars Program applicants, three prompts for Lincoln Scholars Program applicants, three prompts for Politics, Policy and Law Scholars applicants, two prompts for Public Health Scholars applicants, two prompts for Sakura Scholars Program applicants, and five prompts for AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship (International Students) applicants.

Since AU receives thousands of applications from academically strong students, your essays are your chance to stand out. In this post, we’ll discuss how to craft an engaging response to each of these options.

Want to know your chances at AU? Calculate your chances for free right now.

All Applicants Prompt

At american university, inclusive excellence is a cornerstone of the academic experience for our students, and we deeply value the learning that is inspired by the diversity of backgrounds and life experiences that all our community members bring with them. please share why you would like to join this community. (150 words).

This is a standard instance of the common “Why This College?” prompt . Unless this is the first college you are applying to, chances are you’ve already seen a prompt like this before. There are no tricks here; this straightforward prompt is meant to gauge your interest in AU.

The admissions committee will use your answer to determine how you fit with the University and how you’ll make the most of all its opportunities. To help them figure these things out, your essay should show how your personal goals and the AU’s resources intersect.

A good approach to an essay like this is establishing a connection with AU. There are two kinds of connections—tangible and intangible. Ideally, you’ll be able to establish both, but a good response will establish at least a tangible connection.

Establishing a tangible connection can be done by explicitly discussing resources and opportunities offered by AU that resonate with you personally. To have a strong, specific response, you’re going to need to do some research. Don’t fret if you haven’t done this before; we’ve created a handy guide to help you research colleges effectively!

To begin, try to find your desired major’s webpage by consulting this list of degree programs . You should also look into faculty members in your department. To do that, you can use this searchable directory to find your department, which will have its own faculty list. Finally, look into the wealth of centers, institutes, and initiatives at AU.

Here’s an example of what a successful, specific response might look like:

“I am from a multicultural family; my mother is Jewish and my father Muslim. This background exposed me to some profound discussions of geopolitical affairs from a fairly young age. I am fascinated by international studies and I wish to contribute to initiatives that aim to reduce conflict between Israel and Palestine. AU’s International Studies program at the School of International Service offers in-depth classes that are highly relevant to this passion of mine. RELG-475 Religion and Violence and SISU-319 Arab-Israeli Relations specifically will grant me insights into the religious roots of the conflict that I simply cannot learn by just talking to my parents.

I am particularly interested in the work of Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer. My mother showed me his book Evaluating Interreligious Peacebuilding earlier this year, and I found his thoughts on conducting evaluations in conflict areas illuminating, as they explain some consequences of fieldwork.”

This response does a few things effectively. First, it gives the admissions committee an idea of who the student is and where she comes from. Second, it establishes her motivations and passions. Third, it specifically discusses several courses and the work of one of AU’s faculty members, as well as why those resources are important to the student. You can do all these things while remaining within the small word limit.

Besides describing the particular resources to intend to make use of, you might also wish to express an intangible connection with AU. This isn’t necessary, but it would add to your application if you can do it. An intangible connection is just what it sounds like—a connection that isn’t based on the tangible resources offered by the University. Often, an intangible connection involves alignment between your personal values and those of the institution.

For example, perhaps you’re deeply invested in environmental conservation. You’ll be happy to know that AU is “the first urban campus, the first research university, and the largest higher education institution in the United States to achieve carbon neutrality.” It also achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule! You could write a bit about how much you appreciate AU’s sustainability initiatives to your response to establish an intangible connection.

Finally, there are a few things you’ll want to avoid doing in your essay:

  • Name-dropping. Don’t write a laundry list of activities, classes, or professors that interest you without explaining why those things are important to you. Even though you are discussing facets of the university, this essay needs to be primarily focused on you.
  • Empty flattery. Anyone can write that “AU is a well-respected institution with an amazing international studies program.” It’s nice to compliment the university, but you don’t have a lot of space, and empty flattery suggests that you don’t have anything more substantive to say.
  • Generic remarks. Talking about AU’s good location, a strong program in some field, or small class sizes won’t add much to your response. These are generic things that apply to many schools.

Make sure that you do ample research, develop nuanced reasons for choosing AU, and write a sincere response, and you will be off to a great start!

American University Special Program Essay Prompts

Click on the link to be taken to the special program prompts.

  • AU Honors Program
  • Global Scholars Program
  • Lincoln Scholars Program
  • Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program
  • Public Health Scholars Program
  • Sakura Scholars Program
  • AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 1

Au honors students are distinguished by their sense of intellectual curiosity, both inside and outside of the classroom. tell us what you are most curious about, and how that curiosity has influenced your life thus far. (300 words).

This prompt is fairly broad, so you can approach it in a few different ways. We recommend writing a sort of blend between a “Why This Major?” essay and an extracurricular activities essay . Focusing on an aspect of your intended major will show your passion for something inherently intellectual, and throwing in some of your other interests/hobbies will add nuance and personality to your response.

Before you begin writing, you’ll want to gather your thoughts so that your essay will have structure. Think of the following questions as a way to focus your thoughts:

1. What piques your curiosity and interest the most? What are your authentic reasons for being interested in this thing?

2. What are some specific examples of things that you enjoy with regard to this interest?

If this is something you’re truly curious about, you shouldn’t describe it generically. Instead of thinking “I love reading,” think “I enjoy reading novels that explore existentialist philosophical themes.”

3. How might pursuing this thing serve your life and/or career goals?

Is your curiosity about this thing a driving force in your plans for your future? For example, are you so curious about ocean life that your biggest life goal is to become a marine biologist?

4. Is this interest primarily academic or extracurricular? What are your best experiences with this interest both inside and out of the classroom?

5. Is there any recurring emotional experience that you have when exploring this thing that piques your curiosity? Why do you find that experience or state of mind appealing?

6. How has this thing influenced your development as a person? Have you developed or strengthened any personality traits or skills as a result of your object of interest?

Questions 4, 5, and 6 will be especially helpful when you’re trying to recall some anecdotes to support your interest and curiosity in it.

You only have 300 words to work with, so you should keep your response limited to one thing you’re deeply curious about (or maybe two if they’re related). A strong essay will do a few things:

  • First, it will show that you have nuanced interests with intellectual depth.
  • Second, it will talk a bit about the trajectory your life has been on as a result of your interests.
  • Finally, it will display an important part of your personality that can give the admissions committee an idea of who you are as an individual.

There are a couple of common mistakes you should avoid when writing your response:

  • Picking the wrong topic. Bad topics include: an interest you already wrote about somewhere else in the application; an interest that sounds impressive, but that you aren’t very invested in; one you haven’t spent much time on.
  • Writing a generic statement about why the interest you chose is interesting or cool without addressing the personal connection you have with it. It’s great to appreciate your own interests, but you need to show the admissions committee why the thing that makes you curious is so important to you.

Some examples of strong topics would be:

  • A student who’s a second-generation Japanese immigrant might be curious about the relationship between language and identity. She’s noticed while learning Japanese that it’s easier to have more complex conversations with her parents in their native tongue, and that they’re better able to express their personality. And as she’s become more comfortable speaking Japanese, she’s able to connect more with her heritage. This has led her to attend local language exchanges and start a podcast about the stories of the attendees and their thoughts on language and identity. She hopes to study Japanese at AU and become a translator.
  • A runner who got tendonitis in his junior year may be curious about how the tendons and ligaments in our body work to support us during exercise. After doing physical therapy and healing his tendon, he decided to take an anatomy course and shadow his physical therapist. He wants to become a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor to help other athletes rehab their injuries.

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 2

What aspect of the au honors program piques your interest the most (300 words).

This prompt is a slightly more specific version of the “Why This College?” prompt . However, you’re being asked why you’re drawn to the AU Honors Program in particular rather than to American University as a whole.

The prompt is meant to assess a few things:

  • First, it’s meant to see if you know what you’re getting into with the program. If you’ve done your research on the Honors Program, you should have something detailed to say about it.
  • Second, it’s intended to determine how you will fit in the program. The admissions committee wants to know what role you’ll have in the program and how you’ll make use of its resources to achieve your goals.
  • Finally, it’s an effective way for the admissions committee to see which students are genuinely interested in the program.

Before you begin writing, make a list of the reasons you decided to apply to the program. You might find it helpful to explicitly jot down the things that drew you to the Honors Program in the first place. One of these reasons might very well be the subject of your essay. You should also explore the Honors Program website to make sure you don’t miss any of your reasons.

The prompt asks specifically for the aspect that most piques your interest, so you have to figure out if you want to write about an academic reason, an extracurricular one, or an intangible one. Let’s go over what makes each of these unique.

Academic reasons are as straightforward as they sound. Things such as the Honors Colloquium courses, the Honors Capstone , and research opportunities are academic aspects of the program that you might want to write about.

Extracurricular reasons include activities and opportunities that are supplementary to academics. Things such as Honors housing , the Student Advisory Council , and the Honors “Have You Ever Wondered?” discussion series are extracurricular aspects of the program.

Intangible reasons are those that involve values, beliefs, and other nonphysical things. The program’s commitment to interdisciplinary thinking and the BIPOC Affinity Group ’s dedication to “an empowering and supportive environment” are examples of intangible aspects of the program.

Your reasons for being interested in the program don’t have to be the most exotic or outlandish; you can write an effective straightforward response to this prompt. The thing that piques your interest the most might be the ​​Honors Colloquia, the opportunity to engage with Program Associates, or the opportunities in Honors housing. All these options are valid ways to establish a tangible connection with the program.

For example, consider a student who wants to do political science research in her future career. She might be most interested in the Honors Program’s curriculum. Her response can cover the rigorous nature of the program, discuss some of the Honors-specific courses, and talk about the ample opportunities to conduct undergraduate research (such as HNRS-398 Honors Challenge Course and the Honors Capstone).

Avoid name-dropping random courses, activities, or faculty members without elaborating on how they resonate with you personally. Doing so will make your interest look superficial or disingenuous.

As long as you can describe what in particular has drawn you to the Honors Program as well as why it did so, you will be able to write an effective response to this prompt.

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 3

We all have meaningful experiences that shape us and inform our worldview. what aspect of your background would you most like to share with other students in the honors program (300 words).

This is, in essence, a version of the common diversity prompt that many colleges provide. Colleges often include diversity prompts so they can learn something about your personal background and its influence on your worldview.

In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. Nevertheless, the ruling allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts. If you feel that your racial background specifically has impacted you significantly, this is the response in which you should write about that.

More generally, you can respond to this common prompt with a fairly traditional answer. One tried-and-true method you could use involves identifying the most important part of your identity, then discussing how that aspect of your background is relevant to you and your life experiences.

Before you jump into writing your response, think of aspects of your background that may have had an impact on the way you look at the world or the way you live your life. Some examples of things that have likely influenced your worldview include:

  • Personal identity. Your race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, etc. all have a profound influence on the way you think and perceive the world.
  • Cultural identity. Your religious affiliations, political views, socioeconomic status, social class, and even the place you are from influence what issues you see the most, and what solutions you envision for these issues.
  • Personal history. Things in your life may have an average trajectory. Maybe you’ve had a fortunate life with few obstacles to overcome so far, or maybe you’ve experienced a great deal of adversity or tragedy. The way things generally tend to go in your life will have a great impact on how you view life and the world around you.
  • Interests. The things you’re really invested in can change how you perceive the world. If you’re a musician, for example, you might find musicality in the most mundane sounds out in the world on a daily basis.

That said, there are several angles with which you could approach this prompt. Some more specific examples of aspects of identity you might write about include:

  • Having a disability that has changed your perspective on something in the world.
  • Being a member of an ethnic group that has an interesting cultural practice.
  • Fluency in another language that you use to help members of your community.
  • Being a member of a fandom.

You have 300 words to work with, which is a considerable length, so feel free to structure your essay using an anecdote. You might begin with a time when your worldview was different, then describe how it changed due to the aspect of your background that is the subject of your essay.

One thing you should avoid is simply listing out things that generate diversity. Diversity includes everything mentioned above and more, but just writing out a list of things contributes very little to your application and also fails to respond to the prompt. The prompt asks you which singular aspect of your background you would like to share, so make sure to choose wisely and elaborate.

This prompt is one of the few opportunities you have to showcase your unique perspectives. Whatever aspect of your background you choose to write about here, make sure your response is sincere. Try to show as much individuality and specificity as you can in your response.

Global Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

In your view, what is the greatest challenge facing humanity today and how do you envision yourself being part of the solution (no word count given).

In this prompt, you are asked to give your opinion on the greatest challenge facing humanity today. This sounds like a very tall order, but don’t worry; it’s an opinion question, so any reasonable challenge you choose will be fine.

Admissions committees want to see specifics, so we often recommend not identifying too broad a problem. In the brainstorming stage, however, you can think as broadly as you’d like. Global poverty, world hunger, illiteracy in developing countries, human rights abuses—each of these things can be an effective starting point.

Thinking about your identity and values might help you determine which issues are most important to you. Aspects of your identity include your ethnicity, race, country of origin, language, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, hometown, income class, socioeconomic status, illnesses/disabilities, and even interests and activities!

Consider these different aspects of your background and list broad world issues that may have an impact on some part of your identity. For example, you might be Ukrainian and have family members directly affected by the current war. In this case, your ethnic background may compel you to write about geopolitical conflicts or human rights issues.

Be sure to narrow your topic to something specific once you begin writing. Even though the prompt asks what you think is “the greatest challenge facing humanity today,” you should be prepared to discuss concrete examples of that challenge.

For instance, if you want to write about world hunger, try to also describe particular situations and specific problems related to that broader issue—some things you might want to examine in such an essay can include widespread food and water shortages in Venezuela as a result of governmental policies, hunger in Haiti due to food insecurity and currency inflation, and the impending famine in Sudan as a result of internal conflicts.

The aforementioned examples can add a great deal of nuance to your essay for a couple of reasons. First, citing specific instances of your chosen challenge goes beyond simply stating that your challenge exists. It creates tangible reasons to be concerned about the issue. Second, having a few concrete examples demonstrates that you are informed and knowledgeable about the issue.

Once you have decided on a global challenge and have thought of a few examples to support your point, reflect on how you might be able to contribute to a solution to this problem. This program is offered by the School of International Service, so you will be pursuing a degree in International Studies.

You might already have some ideas about how you wish to help solve your chosen problem, but your essay will be even better if you can connect your goals to the school and degree. Read up on the BA in International Studies and the Global Scholars Program to inspire your writing!

There really is no wrong way to envision yourself as part of the solution. Consider the following hypothetical students to see how contributions can vary:

  • A student who’s passionate about the environment might say that climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and might describe how it has devastated different communities around the world, including his small coastal town, which has experienced worsening floods. He might hope to major in International Studies to eventually work in the United Nations and be a part of climate change conferences and agreements.
  • A student who wants to be a doctor might say that lack of access to good, inexpensive healthcare is the greatest global challenge. She could describe how the U.S. healthcare system fails many low-income people, and how poorer countries lack the infrastructure and resources to treat easily treatable illnesses. She hopes to go to medical school then join Doctors Without Borders to help those in conflict zones and those facing disasters get the treatment they need.

This prompt is meant to gauge which global issues you deem important and how you intend to use your college education and degree to contribute to ongoing efforts to solve these issues. You’ll have a strong essay as long as you’re sincere and write about a problem you’re personally invested in.

Global Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

Describe a situation in which you had to work harder than you expected. when and how did you know that your current efforts were not enough how did you adjust (500 words).

This prompt asks you to describe a time in your life when you faced a challenge that required you to put in an unprecedented amount of time and effort. What you choose to write about doesn’t have to be a singular experience; a situation in this context can be something much larger.

You can choose to describe any experience—academic, personal, extracurricular, and so forth—in your answer. Like most other prompts, the key will be in how you not only relate your chosen situation to your personality, but to the Global Scholars program at large.

Think first about your identity and your environment—are there any distinguishable experiences in which you have always felt that you’ve had an uphill battle or unfair disadvantage? Think about periods of your life in which you may have had to undergo a major transition or change.

Regardless of the situation you choose, remember that the best answers come out of asking yourself questions. This applies equally to a situation you may describe that does not involve your identity or environment—you can also approach this prompt by thinking about any life-altering events that forced you to pivot or make a change.

For example, maybe COVID-19 left one or both of your parents unemployed, and you had to pick up a job on top of your schoolwork. While you may have expected to be able to handle the part-time job, perhaps you saw your schoolwork and relationships begin to slip through the cracks and you were forced to really reevaluate your time management skills.

You may end up writing about an experience that is similar to that of other applicants, so it’s how you relate it to yourself and to your environment that will make you stand out from the crowd. Make sure you continue to emphasize your emotions and honesty throughout your answer, and lastly, try to relate your chosen experience back to the Global Scholars program at large.

You can conclude by writing about how you hope to apply what you learned from your life experiences to your participation in the Global Scholars program—how you hope to apply your newfound understanding of various financial or personal circumstances to learning about various cultural and global circumstances.

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

Tell us about a morally complicated text that you think would lead to good discussion for first year college students. in what way is the text morally complicated and why do you recommend it (no more than 500 words).

This might seem like a daunting prompt, but it can be easier than it seems. Don’t worry about having some grandiose, impressive tome to talk about for this essay. If you think creatively, you should be able to identify moral complications in simpler texts. This is the kind of essay that really benefits from careful argumentation.

Brainstorming your topic:

There are two kinds of texts that would probably make for a strong essay:

  • Texts you’ve read recently, which should still be fresh in your mind
  • Texts you’ve read a long time ago and still remember because they were impactful or profound to you

It’s important that you pick one of these kinds of texts because you’ll want to write about something you know well enough. If you choose a text that you don’t really remember, or worse, a text you haven’t read that looks impressive, your points will probably be shallow and superficial, which will drag the overall quality of your essay down.

As far as the text itself is concerned, you can write about nearly anything (just make sure it’s not too trivial, like a children’s book). Perhaps you have read a clearly morally complex text, such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird . If you have, and you remember the details well enough to explain your choice, then by all means write about it!

However, if you haven’t read a text like that, that’s fine too. Think of things you’ve read recently that have moral dilemmas you might discuss. For some idea on how you might stretch the theme of morality, consider some examples:

  • Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a young adult novel, discusses themes related to individuality and emotional depth and can be pitted against order and conformity. This moral conflict leaves a lot of room for debate, as the balance between individuality and societal conformity is one that is often hard for individuals to navigate.
  • Marvel Comics’ Civil War, a seven-issue comic book storyline from 2007, has a plot centered around the U.S. government requiring super-powered individuals to reveal their identities to be superheroes under official regulation. While this may not be a traditional text, it has been acclaimed for its exploration of the conflicting desires of security and freedom that are still discussed in American politics today.
  • Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, the authorized biography of Apple’s co-founder, is a thorough look at the life of the controversial business magnate. It discusses not only his great achievements in the worlds of business and technology, but also his personality, which has been described as abrasive or difficult at times. This text allows students to examine the ways in which massive corporations, their employees, and their consumers can be directly affected by the very human individuals who lead them.

As you can see from the above examples, you can find and argue for moral complications almost anywhere you look. You might use a traditional example of a large, classic novel with clear and distinctive moral ambiguity, or you might explore some more creative options, such as biographies, YA novels, and even comic books or graphic novels!

Tips for writing your essay:

A good response will answer every part of the prompt. You should strive to identify the text, explain how it’s morally complicated, and detail your reasons for recommending it. The first and last part shouldn’t be too hard once you’ve settled on your text—naming the text and talking about why you’re recommending it are tasks that you can probably do easily if you know your chosen text well. After all, you know why you like the book.

It’s the second part of the prompt that will require some more careful thought. Effectively explaining how the text is morally complicated is only something you can do if you’re familiar enough with the text and its themes. Oftentimes, the moral complications of a book aren’t directly relevant to the plot—they’re often a thematic consequence of a character’s actions or are intended to be seen behind the main narrative, but not the focal point of the text itself.

That said, it might actually be a good idea to consult online summaries, videos, and study guides of the text you chose. Of course, you should absolutely have read the text and have a decent grasp of its material, but this isn’t a test for school—you can and should see how the moral themes are discussed by other readers. This will inform your argument that this text should be used in discussions among first year students.

Mistakes to avoid:

There aren’t too many ways to tackle this prompt incorrectly, but there are a couple of things you should avoid , which have already been mentioned but are worth repeating:

  • Choosing a text you aren’t familiar with, just because it looks more impressive. It’s better to write a thoughtful, intelligent essay on a text that might be seen as lackluster than to write a shallow, generic essay on a text seen as impressive. Remember, the admissions officers aren’t making decisions based on books you have or haven’t read—they’re making decisions based on the quality of your essays.
  • Choosing a trivial or juvenile text. Most young adult novels should be complex enough to be valid texts for this essay, but don’t try to be overly creative by writing about something for little children. Children’s books are intentionally written in a way that does not deal with the complex, intellectual themes that you’re tasked with discussing here.

As long as you pick a decent text (i.e., one you’re familiar with that isn’t too trivial), describe the ways in which it deals with questions of moral complexity, and make a good case for its use in Caltech’s first year classrooms, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a strong response.

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

One goal of the lincoln scholars program is to encourage intellectual and political diversity on campus. what does this goal mean to you and why does a program with this goal interest you (no more than 500 words).

This prompt puts a specific spin on the common “Why This College?” and “Why This Major?” prompts, with a couple of key differences:

  • First, you’re asked about a particular goal and what it means to you.
  • Second, rather than discussing the University as a whole or a particular major, you’re tasked with describing why a program like the Lincoln Scholars Program appeals to you.

Make sure to address both parts of the question to have a full response. You have up to 500 words to work with, so you can really go into detail about each part. A good approach would be to answer each portion of the question in turn.

Before you begin writing, think about what intellectual and political diversity mean to you. Note the wording of the prompt: “What does this goal mean to you?” You can take advantage of the nuanced meanings of the word “mean.” In a literal sense, the question is asking how you would define such a goal. But in another sense, it’s asking why the goal is significant or important to you.

It might be helpful to jot down some bullet points that you might want to build on in your response. You might end up with a list that looks something like this:

  • Having a group of people with different fields of expertise work on one project from various angles
  • Different viewpoints creating points for intellectual debate
  • Multiple people of various backgrounds informing each other’s perspectives
  • Generating varied approaches to the same problem with the shared goal of solving it

Whatever you think of, try to come up with a solid personal definition of intellectual and political diversity. From there, you can begin to describe why these kinds of diversity are important to you. Using an anecdote-driven narrative to explain this point is a good approach. For example, perhaps you participated in a school project in which a different perspective was the one that led to a solution. Or, maybe you were part of a debate club and learned to see a topic differently because of a well-informed persuasive argument on the other side.

As you develop your thoughts on why such a goal is important to you, transition into a discussion of the program and why it interests you. Here, it’s essential that you establish a connection to the program. Do some research on the program’s webpage to learn about resources and opportunities that are offered.

Perhaps one of the program’s courses is appealing to you because of its content. Or, maybe you resonate with the program’s mission “to explore the great questions of moral and political life in a context of intellectual and political diversity.” Be sure to describe how and why a program like this piques your interest.

Connect the goal of intellectual and political diversity to your personal goals and values. This is the strongest way to convey your interest in the Lincoln Scholars Program and in exploring big questions from multiple viewpoints.

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 3

List five texts, magazines, movies, websites, podcasts, music, or other media that you regularly engage with and explain briefly why you like each one. please list a variety of types of media. (1-2 sentences per item, no more than 400 total)..

This is a more niche prompt that you probably haven’t seen often, if at all. Luckily, there’s really no right or wrong answer! In fact, the program’s webpage lists some of the books that students have applied to the program with this year, and they include all kinds of works—ancient epic poems, classic novels, niche novellas, poetry collections, philosophical dialogues, and memoirs!

AU is curious about what interests you, how you think, how you’ve developed intellectually, and how you may have challenged yourself with the media you consume. Choose your examples carefully, but also be honest.

One great way to think about this prompt is through the idea of a “capsule wardrobe.” In a capsule wardrobe, each piece of clothing is unique and works well on its own—you might have a graphic tee, a leather jacket, a button-up shirt, and a few pairs of jeans. Even though each article of clothing has its own character, each also works toward your overall style—the entire wardrobe. Combining items into outfits can highlight different aspects of each item as well as similarities they share

The same idea applies to the texts, movies, websites, and music in your list. Each item should be compelling on its own, but should also contribute to the wardrobe that is your intellectual style. A great list will have items that complement each other, like a belt that matches with a pair of shoes. Some more style tips:

​​1. List items that build on each other. You want your list to have synergy . Just like wearing two matching items together can convey your sense of style, including two similar items in your list can display a sustained interest in a subject. For example, if you include both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story in my list of films, you’re showing the admissions officer that you’re interested in exploring how the same story has been interpreted by different creatives from different times and places. Neither Romeo and Juliet nor West Side Story could demonstrate this idea alone—when included together, the message is greater than just the sum of its parts!

  • Show multidimensionality. There’s something to be careful about. It’s possible to show sustained interest in a topic without indicating growth, and this is something you’ll want to avoid. For example, if your entire list consists of true-crime podcasts, it will look a bit one-dimensional and bland because each item effectively conveys the same message. Aim to list works that show your interest in the multiple angles of a topic. For example, listing the true-crime podcast Serial and Criminal Perspective as well as the journal Psychological Review and a blog on forensic psychology will add levels of intellectual nuance to your interest in the broad theme.
  • Don’t overdress. You might want to only include the most impressive, difficult, intellectual media you’ve consumed to show that you’re intelligent and academic, but too much of that will probably make you look like you’re exaggerating for the admissions committee. Instead of doing that, balance the weightier, deeper items with some more relaxed or jocular ones. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory are going to look less like you’re pandering if you include something like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in your list. Balance the intellectual interests you wish to show off with your some distinctive personality.
  • Don’t underdress. The opposite of the previous tip is also true. While throwing in some fun little books, movies, or music can add some dimension and personality to your list, they shouldn’t be the only things you include. You absolutely can (and should) include a sitcom or a non-academic novel on your media list, but make sure you don’t overfill the list with items of lesser substance. Also avoid including items that are too juvenile. Think smart casual clothing—you don’t need to wear a suit everywhere you go, but some places (like this supplemental essay) require a bit more than sweatpants and flip flops. Some nice jeans and a polo can be enough.
  • Recognizable brands can be effective. Mentioning a couple of notable pop culture items will increase your list’s relatability in the admissions officer’s eyes. And, psychologically speaking , similarities on paper can help you in non-personal interactions. Just make sure you pick something that is well received both critically and by the masses, like a Beatles album or the movie Parasite —something that you and your reader could have a robust intellectual debate about.
  • Moderation. If it’s not already clear by now, making a strong list is going to be a delicate task. You’re going to need to find the middle ground between casual and intellectual, specific and general, fiction and nonfiction, books and movies, etc. Don’t wait until the last minute to cobble together a list of random things just because this isn’t a fully fledged essay. Remember that you still need to explain and defend your choices. Devote as much time to this list and you do to your essays. The list reveals as much about you as an individual as a full essay does—be sure to treat it with the same respect.
  • Be honest! You may be asked about this list somewhere down the road during the admissions process. Don’t get caught off guard by what you’re passing off as your own list. Nothing is more embarrassing and detrimental during this process than not having a clue about something you purport to have read/seen.

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

The politics, policy, and law scholars program is an intensive course of study in which students from diverse backgrounds live and learn together. given its intense and unique nature, why do you want to be a part of the program why do you think you would be a good fit for the politics, policy and law scholars program (250 words).

This is essentially a “Why This College?” prompt , but applied to a special program rather than AU as a whole. Moreover, in addition to describing how the program is a good fit for you, you’re tasked with describing how you are a good fit for the program.

Brainstorming your essay:

A recommended strategy for prompts like this is to establish a connection to the program. Two kinds of connection you might try to establish are a tangible connection and an intangible one.

A tangible connection can be made by identifying specific program offerings that resonate with you personally. To find such resources, you should do some in-depth research on the program. A good place to start is the PPL Scholars website . There you’ll find the course of study, the applicable majors, information about the living learning community, and more.

You might write about things like the campus culture, specific classes or academic opportunities, particular professors, etc. Given the rather low word limit, try to stick to academic features, as others might come off as less important.

An intangible connection can be made by discussing how your personal values align with those of the program. The PPL program emphasizes “the principles, practices, and institutions of politics and law from quantitative and qualitative, philosophical, and social science perspectives.”

If your personal values deeply resonate with the ideas of practicing law, government, public policy, criminal justice, or a similar field, you might wish to discuss how those values will be supported and informed by those of the program. Be sure to take a look at the PPL Scholars FAQ webpage to get a little more insight into the program.

Since you only have 250 words to work with, it would be a good idea to choose either a tangible connection or intangible one to discuss, rather than both. Remember, you need to save some space to discuss how you’re a good fit for the program.

Also note that it’s okay if you can’t develop a really strong intangible connection to the program—that is usually the harder kind of connection to write about. A strong tangible connection and a good explanation of how you’re a good fit for the PPL Scholars Program will make for a good response.

For example, consider a hypothetical student whose mother is a lawyer and whose father is a police officer. She might feel deeply connected to issues of justice and reform through the stories her parents tell her. She might write a response that begins like this:

“My parents are both deeply involved in the legal professions—my dad is a police officer and my mom is a lawyer. They have told me how the justice system isn’t perfect—both of them have seen the system succeed and fail many times. The passion with which they describe their careers has inspired me to go into a legal field too.

Having been raised by two parents in intense careers in legal fields has given me the resolve I will need to undertake such a career myself. I believe that my passion and determination, as well as my existing background knowledge about these fields make me uniquely equipped to take on the challenges of the Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program…”

This excerpt is an excellent start to this prompt because it explains the unique features of the students past that equip her with the skills needed to succeed in the PPL Scholars Program. Note that this blurb is only half the word limit, which should give you some perspective on how much detail you might go into.

With prompts like this one, there are three things you will want to avoid doing in your response. These include the following:

  • Name-dropping. It looks superficial and insincere to simply name certain courses or professors without elaborating on the ways in which these resources are meaningful or useful to you.
  • Empty flattery. Don’t waste your word count talking about the prestige of the program or the University. There’s nothing wrong with being nice, but overdoing that in a prompt with a word limit might lead to you writing an essay that doesn’t answer the question.
  • Naming general resources that are applicable to many schools. Don’t base your essay on things like good class sizes, strong political science courses, a nice location, etc.—these things apply to many schools and programs, and don’t showcase a personal connection to this particular program.

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

The living learning community and cohort aspects are integral parts of the politics, policy & law scholars program. describe a specific project, course, or other experience that required you to work with others toward a shared goal or to resolve conflict and build consensus. how did you contribute to accomplishing the goal or resolving conflict how did you engage with others how has this experience prepared you for the ppl program be specific. (250 words).

This prompt asks you to elaborate on a team-based problem-solving experience that will give the admissions reader insight into how you will fit in with the PPL program at large. As an intensive program, PPL requires all students to be a part of their Living Learning Community, meaning that you’ll be working alongside fellow PPL students both in and outside of the classroom. As such, the admissions committee wants to ensure that you’re able to support a larger community of like-minded (or even sometimes diversely minded) students.

First, think back over your time in high school and try to identify any large-scale projects that you were involved in with a group. At the same time, keep in mind that this response should not just be more explanation of something that may already appear on your application. When selecting what to write about, try to fill in the gaps your application has.

For instance, perhaps you were on the Executive Board of Model UN, and hope to share an experience about how you organized a conference hosted at your high school. While that’s definitely a valid experience, this answer should be less about the what and more about the how .

How did that conference come together? How did you delegate responsibilities among your peers and which responsibilities did you take on? What challenges or obstacles did you face as a team and how did you overcome them together? Did you have to work through any conflicts when working with one another?

Ultimately, reflect not only on your accomplishments with whichever experience you choose, but also on the failures, conflicts, and honest strategies you chose to employ to keep the ship afloat. The next step will be highlighting the crucial lessons that the experience taught you, and how you hope to apply those lessons to your time in the PPL program.

In order to brainstorm how you wish to close out your response, remember that the PPL program will require you to live and learn alongside your peers—make sure your answer emphasizes that you were able to come together as a group to tackle a complicated problem, and ultimately come out not just successful, but as a closer group overall.

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 3

You have been hired to advise a member of congress or a state legislator (you can choose which one, but you should pick one) about the issues that affect americans aged 18-26. you have been asked to identify one legal, political, or policy issue that will resonate with this group of americans and recommend a policy proposal that he or she should support and promote. explain the issue, explain why the elected official should highlight it, and propose a specific original policy solution. provide support for your proposed solution. your proposal should not simply be to support another individual’s already created policy. (650 words).

This prompt is less of a by-the-books response and more of an exercise, asking you to not only identify a major issue facing the country but also persuading a hypothetical elected official to pay attention to it and also brainstorm a possible solution.

The purpose of this prompt is to get a sense of your level of political engagement, as well as to give you a chance to attempt your first case study, which will serve as a gateway to the PPL program at large. This essay will require thorough research and deliberation, but, at its core, it’s just an expanded version of a typical Political/Global Issues prompt.

First, decide the scale of your chosen issue. Trying to brainstorm a list of possible issues to focus on will end up generating a laundry list of options, and might exhaust your brain before you even begin writing your response.

Something that may help guide you is remembering that you should have a unique perspective on your chosen issue. For example, you wouldn’t want to write your response about something general like the dangers of climate change if you genuinely don’t have anything to add to the conversation—the point is not to reiterate discourse that is already out there, but rather to think creatively and critically about the world and the ways in which your unique perspective can be valuable in trying to solve your chosen issue.

Therefore, it may be more useful to start small and then expand outwards. Look at your environment—what issues impact your community, your state, or your region? Looking again at the issue of climate change, perhaps you come from a state where fracking is not only legal, but still actively occurs. Perhaps your own family or a family you know has ties to the fracking business, and you feel as though current legislation and efforts to outlaw fracking stall because of pushback from these communities.

Tie your belief to your perspective—you may believe that fracking should be illegal, and your perspective can guide you in persuading an elected official to provide various incentives to those who rely on fracking for their livelihoods. As such, starting small will make your answer more specific and unique while still tackling a national issue like climate change.

If you don’t feel as though your environment has given you a distinct perspective on a current event, do some research on what issues have most recently surfaced in the country. For example, recent months have called attention to a migrant crisis that the United States is facing and how resources for these migrants are quickly diminishing.

Regarding this example, perhaps you are very active in community service and volunteering—how can you use that interest to frame your answer? Your proposed solution can involve rallying young people to volunteer and provide support to these migrant communities, while also trying to work with the opposing party to reach a solution.

Remember, your answer still needs an official policy proposal, so perhaps your proposed solution can immediately provide temporary shelter and resources for migrants while also opening the door to a firmer long-term solution. Your proposed solution doesn’t have to completely close the door on an issue, but it should showcase your understanding of the political process.

Public Health Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

Discuss a public health issue of local, national, international, or personal importance to you. explain why it is important to you and describe how you envision impacting this issue (500 words)..

This prompt is meant to gauge two things. First, it’s trying to find out which public health issues you consider important and why. Second, it wants to discern how you intend to use your college education and life experience to contribute to a solution to this issue.

Admissions committees are constantly looking for nuance and specificity, so we recommend that you choose a problem that isn’t very broad. A problem like “COVID-19” is too vague to write an effective essay on. Instead, choose something more narrow, such as “COVID-19 in impoverished communities.”

If you’re having trouble settling on a topic to write about, think about your identity and values. Aspects of your identity include your ethnicity, race, country of origin, language, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, hometown, income class, socioeconomic status, illnesses/disabilities, and even interests and activities! There might be an aspect of your identity that is directly related to a public health issue.

Consider these different aspects of your background and make a list of public health issues that may have an impact on part of your identity. For example, African Americans are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease or stroke than white Americans. In cases like this, people with your racial background may be affected by a health issue more than people of other backgrounds.

To help add nuance to your essay, be sure to cite specific examples or your chosen issue. Concrete examples will make your essay more specific as well as help you transition into a discussion of how you intend to help contribute to solving the issue.

For instance, if you want to write about substance misuse and substance abuse, discuss some specific situations in which these issues take hold. In such an essay, you might want to write about things you have seen firsthand—these can include opiate abuse by the homeless population in your home city, overprescription of certain drugs in your area, a persistent community habit of failing to finish a full course of antibiotics, etc.

The above examples can add nuance to your essay for two reasons. First, simply stating that your issue exists and is important (even if that’s true) is not a compelling argument without concrete evidence. Providing examples shows your reader that there are tangible reasons to care about the issue. Second, having some real-life examples in your essay shows that you are both inquisitive and informed.

Once you’ve picked a public health issue that you can support with tangible evidence, ponder how your future college education and life experience can afford you the ability to help solve this issue. AU’s Three-Year Public Health Scholars Program is an accelerated course of study designed to help you get a BA or BS in Public Health in 3 years (possibly on a pre-med track as well).

You might already have plans for your future contributions to solving your chosen issue, but you can potentially elevate your essay if you’re able to connect your goals to the school and degree. Look at AU’s Three-Year Public Health Scholars Program website as well as the Public Health BA website and BS website to inspire your writing!

This essay is about your plans for a career in public health, so don’t worry too much about having a “right” or “wrong” answer. Here are a couple of hypothetical student bios to show you just how different effective ideas can look:

  • Jane has been curious about psychology and mental health since middle school. Throughout high school, she has had many conversations with her uncle, a cognitive behavioral therapist, about the staggering lack of mental health resources across the United States. Jane is pursuing a degree in Public Health because she feels that this field is the key to developing lasting reform in the domain of mental health.
  • Robert is a Chinese-American with a family history of cardiovascular disease. Intrigued by this recurrent issue, he has done a lot of independent research on prevalence rates. Robert found that Asian-Americans are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular disease due to several social determinants. He hopes to get a degree in Public Health so he can help spearhead initiatives that will provide care to his underserved ethnic community.

Public Health Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

Why do you want to join a 3-year degree program what skills and insight do you hope to acquire through this experience respond in no more than 250 words..

This prompt is a bit of a mix of two common types of prompt—the “Why This College?” and the “Why This Major?” prompts. It’s a very straightforward question meant to gauge your interest in the University, the field of public health, and the 3-Year Public Health Scholars Program. The admissions committee wants to see how you fit with the program and how you’ll make the most of its resources.

You’ll want to establish at least a tangible connection to the program. The best way to do this is to describe your interest in the field then connect it to your reasons for applying to the program.

Think about why you’re passionate about public health. For what reasons do you want to study it? What are some career and life goals of yours? How will this 3-year program help you achieve these goals?

Explore the program’s website as well as the sites for the Public Health BA degree and BS degree to help inspire your writing! Try to find unique features of the program that you can use to inform your response.

Look at this hypothetical response to see how you might establish a connection with the program:

“Growing up, I had a lot of problems with my weight and health, and I was shamed for not making ‘healthy choices.’ It was only when my dad got a promotion and we moved to a new neighborhood that I realized what the main issue was. In my old, poorer neighborhood, all we had access to were fast food restaurants and corner stores. In my new neighborhood, there were several grocery stores with fresh, healthy food within a mile. My weight and health have improved significantly ever since our move.

I want to get a BS in Public Health because I hope to make it easier for young, poor kids like I was to gain access to the resources to live a healthier life. A 3-year program will allow me to help these communities more effectively.

I look forward to taking the course Gender, Poverty and Health, which will explore the intersections between these topics and allow me to reflect on systemic ways to bring much-needed health resources to impoverished communities. Furthermore, the course Multicultural Health will allow me to approach my work through an intersectional lens, as there are many immigrants in low-income communities who face unique health disparities based on their backgrounds.

Good health is not as simple as just ‘making the right choices’ when there are systemic barriers to making those choices. I hope to help remove those barriers in my work.”

This example is effective for a couple of reasons. First, it gives the admissions committee an idea of the student’s background, motivations, and passion. Second, it answers each point of the prompt explicitly and clearly. The student describes why he is interested in a 3-year program, then lists the main skills he hopes to acquire through this program.

There are a few things you should avoid when crafting your essay:

  • Empty flattery. Writing about how unique or prestigious the University/program is might sound nice, but you shouldn’t talk about how cool a program is to you without elaborating on why . This kind of approach is vague and doesn’t add any nuance to your essay.
  • Name-dropping. Don’t simply list a bunch of classes, professors, or activities that appeal to you without describing why they’re interesting to you.
  • Being generic. A good location, a strong program in public health, a nice core curriculum, etc. are things that apply to many schools and programs. They are too vague and will make your essay stand out less.

As long as you give a genuine answer and you have solid goals that this program will help you achieve, you’ll craft an effective essay that is sure to stand out to admissions officers.

Sakura Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

The sakura scholars program requires students to study in both the united states and japan, learn the japanese language, focus on regional topics in east asia and the pacific, and complete a capstone for the joint bachelor’s degree in global international relations. why are you interested in this program what are your personal and/or professional goals and how will this program help you to reach them (500 words).

This prompt is similar to the common “Why This College?” prompt , but more specifically applies to the intercollegiate Sakura Scholars program. This prompt is meant to gauge your reasons for applying to the program to see if you’re a good fit for it and if it’s a good fit for you.

To write a successful essay, you‘ll need to establish a connection with the program and express how your goals are best served by being a part of it.

There are two kinds of connections that you can make with a college, program, major, etc. The first kind is the tangible connection. This involves identifying specific concrete reasons for applying to the program. To do this effectively, you will need to do in-depth research on the program and its offerings.

If you’ve made it to this point, you have probably written your response to the All Applicants prompt that was covered at the beginning of this guide. If you have, doing research on the program will be very similar to doing research on American University broadly, as you did earlier. If you haven’t done that essay yet, don’t worry! We have created a guide to help you research colleges (and programs) for this type of essay.

Go to the program’s website to begin your research. Scroll through the main site and the FAQ page to learn more about the program. In this program you have the choice of starting your undergraduate career at American University or Ritsumeikan University, so be sure to check out Ritsumeikan University’s program site as well! This will help you determine where you want to spend your first semester. Regardless of which school you choose, you’ll spend four semesters at AU and four semesters abroad.

The program awards a degree in Global International Relations, so a good approach to this essay is to describe why the field of international relations is important to you and how the program is uniquely equipped to help you achieve your goals in this field.

One direct way to establish a tangible connection between the program and your goals is to find courses or faculty members that really resonate with you. Since the program is between two universities, you should look through the faculty lists of both American and Ritsumeikan .

Consider the following excerpt from a response that might be written by a hypothetical Uyghur student, whose ethnic background has many people suffering human rights violations abroad:

“The Sakura Scholars program is the perfect opportunity for me to study international relations in the United States and Japan. It would give me unprecedented access to Western and Eastern perspectives. I am particularly interested in the work of Professor Jeffrey Bachman at American University and that of Professor Rieko Kitamura at Ritsumeikan University.

Prof. Bachman studies genocide, political violence, and human rights, and Prof. Kitamura has done work on human rights protections. Studying under the supervision of these professors will offer me the chance to delve deeper into specific regional issues. The degree awarded by this program will offer me new ways to help end the plight of my people.”

This response is very effective for a number of reasons:

  • First, it establishes a personal background that helps the admissions committee understand the student’s personal motivations.
  • Second, it showcases the student’s sincere interest in the Sakura Scholars program.
  • Finally, it explicitly names resources (specifically professors) at both universities that will be assets to the student’s education and to the realization of the student’s personal goals.

The second kind of connection you can make with the program is an intangible connection. This involves things like seeing if your values and those of the program are aligned. For example, you might appreciate how the program takes place in the East and West, emphasizing “voices, experiences, and theory from a truly multicultural, multiregional, global perspective.”

There are some things you’ll want to avoid when writing your response:

  • Name-dropping. Don’t simply list activities, courses, or professors that interest you without explaining why you’re interested in them. This essay needs to be about you more than the program itself.
  • Empty flattery. Anyone can write about the reputations of AU and Ritsumeikan. Compliments are nice, but empty flattery suggests that you don’t have anything more substantive to say.
  • Generic aspects of the program. Talking about good locations, a strong program in international relations, or small class sizes won’t really add to your essay. Try to write about unique aspects of the program or things that are rare .

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do deep research before you begin writing. Also be sure to write about nuanced personal motivations for applying to the program. Most importantly, write a sincere response! Honestly will go a long way, both in the application process and beyond.

Sakura Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

In this joint degree program, you will gain first-hand comparative international experience as you spend two years at american university and two years at ritsumeikan university. think of a time when you faced a challenge or found yourself in an unexpected situation. explain what happened, what you learned, and how this experience might help you adapt to different intercultural situations, and work through future challenges as a sakura scholar. (no word count given).

This prompt is a very standard example of the Overcoming Challenges essay . You’re being asked about a challenge you faced as well as the lessons you learned from it. These questions are to give the admissions committee an idea of how you handle moments of adversity or surprise, and how you learn from adverse or unexpected experiences.

Before you begin writing, you should plan out your topic as thoroughly as you can so that the writing process can move smoothly. When trying to decide on a topic, think about any major challenges you’ve faced in life. Also consider any unexpected life events that may have turned out to be formative experiences. The prompt specifies that challenges and unexpected situations are both fair game, so don’t feel restricted to thinking only of negative experiences.

Once you’ve thought about possible experiences you could write about, create a list of the challenges that came to mind and a separate list of unexpected situations. For each list, ask yourself which experiences taught you the most important or influential lessons about yourself or the world.

Finally, after deciding on the best experience to talk about in this essay, ask yourself the following questions about it:

  • What happened?
  • In the moment, what was your reaction to the situation? How did it affect you, your thoughts, and your emotions? How have these emotions changed over time?
  • Why was this experience so important to you? What is its personal significance?
  • Consider the steps you took to manage the situation. Were they successful? Why or why not?
  • Reflecting on the outcome of the event, how did the experience allow you to grow and mature as an individual? What did you learn from the success or failure of your approach? What lessons did you learn, both broadly and specifically?
  • How did the experience prepare you to face occurrences like it in the future? How has it equipped you to adapt to different intercultural situations?

Once you’ve chosen a topic and answered these questions, writing the essay shouldn’t be so daunting.

Maybe you don’t have a clear answer for every question above. That’s fine, but be sure that you can do at least three things to effectively respond to the prompt:

  • Describe the event/experience.
  • Explain the most important lessons you learned from the experience.
  • Detail the ways in which these lessons have improved your ability to adapt to different potential intercultural situations and your capacity to be a strong Sakura Scholar.

With regard to structuring your essay, you may find it helpful to frame it with a narrative format. After all, part of your response requires an explanation of the experience, which would benefit from an anecdote.

Here’s an outline to help you organize your writing:

  • If you choose to use a narrative format, begin with an anecdote—a vivid and evocative retelling of the event to draw your reader in.
  • After introducing the topic through an anecdote, describe yourself (your attitudes, beliefs, motivations, etc.) prior to the event that you learned from.
  • State specifically how the experience was a turning point for you. How did your life change? What did you learn about yourself, others, and/or the world? The lesson should ideally reflect the way you now embrace challenges or unanticipated occurrences, and the ways in which you’re better equipped to tackle intercultural issues.
  • If storytelling is one of your strong suits, you might choose to rearrange the order in which you describe events. For example, you might start with a summary of who you are now and how you’re able to approach intercultural situations, then transition to a discussion of who you were before the experience, then discuss the experience and how it affected you.

A hypothetical student might write about an experience related to his multiracial background. Perhaps the student felt like he had to deny both of his ethnic backgrounds to fit in with the American teens around him at school. He began to embrace his identity and eventually overcame his fear of being judged. He learned that innocent childhood ignorance was not a reason to detract from his own identity, a lesson that will help him later on because he has spent years confronting issues of identity in a multicultural context.

This example would be effective because it explicitly outlines the challenge the student had to confront, his response to adversity, what he learned about himself from overcoming the challenge, and how it has prepared him to undertake life as a Sakura Scholar in this multicultural program.

There is no word count given, but you should try to keep your response around 300 words. An essay longer than 350 words might become drawn out or redundant, and one shorter than 250 words might not leave you with enough space to be sufficiently detailed.

A Note About the AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Prompts

The following five prompts are all required for applicants to the AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship. This scholarship covers all billable AU expenses (full tuition, room, and board) for one international student who will need a non-immigrant visa (preferably an F-1 or J-1 student visa) to study in the United States.

Since the scholarship is only being offered to international student applicants, you can disregard the next five prompts if you’re a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, U.S. pending permanent resident, or dual citizen of the U.S. and another country. You are also not eligible to apply if you’re enrolled in or have already begun any post-secondary studies at another university in your home country or the U.S., or if you graduated secondary school earlier than 2022.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants (International Students), Prompt 1

Discuss a significant issue in your home country about which you are passionate and describe how you would use the education you obtain at our institution, american university (au), washington, dc, to create positive civic and social change once you return home. (250 words).

This prompt is intended to help you reveal a few important things about yourself—your ability to find significant civic and social issues around you, the types of problems that are important and interesting to you, your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and your plans for using your college education to its full potential after graduation.

This prompt is a bit like the common community service prompt , albeit in the future tense. It’s different in that rather than describing how you helped solve an issue in the past, you’re tasked with writing about how you foresee yourself contributing to the solution to a problem in the future.

Before you begin writing, think about the issues that truly bother you in your home country. Since you’re just brainstorming a list right now, these problems can be big or small. To have an essay that stands out, however, you should ultimately pick something substantial when you begin writing.

Your problem doesn’t have to be within any specific domain as long as you can envision civic and social change being integral to the problem’s resolution. As you think, consider social, economic, political, governmental, environmental, war-related, and public health issues.

The prompt isn’t asking you to write a whole textbook on the issue, but be sure that you research it well enough to describe its important points at the very least. You need to write a description of the problem, as well as some ways in which your American University education will help you tackle the problem back in your home country.

That being said, you should have a good understanding of what the problem entails. You might want to pick an issue in which you have some personal investment so you can add a nuanced perspective to your essay.

You only have 250 words to address every part of the prompt, so be succinct and direct in your explanation of the issue. Don’t only talk about the basic facts, though. Be sure to also touch on why the problem is important to you. Be careful not to let bias direct how you report the facts. Try to strike a balance between straightforward reportage and personal interest.

For example, consider a hypothetical student from Ethiopia, a country still facing the effects of a yearslong civil war. Perhaps he has noticed that the problem primarily stems from a lack of communication between the government and the rebelling military faction. He might write a response like this:

“In December 2020, my family fled its home, the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, at the outset of war. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a political party that ruled Ethiopia for decades, held an election during the COVID-19 pandemic that the current federal government ruled illegal. This debate escalated to violence, beginning a war that, despite a ceasefire, still has lasting impacts.

My family fled and thankfully found a safe haven in Europe, but so many other families did not have such luck. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced or killed in this senseless conflict that is ravaging my homeland.

It is my hope that a strong education will equip me with the skills and knowledge to go back home and contribute to a more definite end to this conflict. Despite the ceasefire, some occupations continue and famine is widespread. I believe a degree in International Studies will help me better understand the causes of war and the preconditions necessary to end it.

I cannot solve this issue myself, but I can no longer watch my home get torn apart. I want to help resolve this conflict by participating directly in the peace and rebuilding processes. If nothing else, I can at least use my education on the global stage to direct more eyes to this dreadful time period. Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan once said, ‘Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.’ I know in my heart that he was right.”

This is an effective response. First, it provides a fairly detailed outline of an issue in the student’s home country. Second, it describes why the issue is such an important problem and why it’s so hard to solve. And finally, it discusses how a degree from AU can help the student contribute to awareness of the issue and attempts to resolve it.

You will craft a strong essay if you can address three things:

  • What – Define the issue thoroughly but concisely.
  • Why – Describe why the issue is important to you and to the people it directly affects.
  • How – Detail how your AU education will prepare you to contribute to efforts to resolve the issue.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants (International Students), Prompt 2

Discuss your current involvement in community service projects and volunteer activities. describe what you have learned about yourself as a result of these activities. (250 words).

This is a prime example of the community service essay. Schools that use this prompt want to know about your level of engagement with the people and environment around you. The Emerging Global Leader Scholarship—a program that emphasizes “leadership development and global engagement” —is especially interested in your impact on your community.

Be sure to check out CollegeVine’s guide to writing the community service essay for some in-depth tips and examples!

Since you only have 250 words, you won’t be able to write about many activities. In fact, we recommend sticking to 1-2 really meaningful and long-term projects. These are the projects that tend to show a genuine commitment to community service. If you only have short-term projects to write about, then you can mention 2-3 in your response.

When picking a topic, try to think about any projects you do that might be less common. For example, painting murals on old buildings to brighten up the neighborhood is less common than volunteering at a food drive or soup kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with writing about a more common volunteering experience in this essay, but if you have a unique project to write about, it may make your essay more engaging.

If you deem all your volunteering activities and community service projects are fairly commonplace, try to choose the ones that are more meaningful to you. If you feel more connected to a particular experience over the others, your writing about it will be more passionate and vivid.

Once you have decided on an activity (or a few), think about these questions:

  • What happened during the activity?
  • What went through your mind and how did you feel as this was happening?
  • How have your emotions regarding the activity changed over time?

With your activity and motivations in mind, think about how you want to structure your essay. If you’re writing about a singular experience, consider taking a narrative approach. An essay that simply lists facts lacks important emotion. Tell about your experience with vivid imagery—show, don’t tell. This is a good way to draw your reader into the experience.

For example, perhaps you speak Spanish and do volunteer work where you can serve as a translator. Maybe you have seen firsthand the impact that speaking someone’s native language can have. Lessons this experience might have taught you about yourself can include the following:

  • Your ability to switch between two languages is better than you thought.
  • You can take on a leadership role even under the pressure of needing to speak a second language.
  • You have more patience than you thought you did.
  • You’re really good at working with the elderly, and you didn’t know that before.

As you can see, there are plenty of lessons you can glean from even one volunteering experience. These might include skills, abilities, personal attributes, or something else entirely.

This shouldn’t be a difficult essay to write, but you should note that there are three particular things to avoid :

  • Listing out everything that happened. You have 250 words to work with. While this is ample space, you should use it wisely. This isn’t a play-by-play, so stick to the most important details. Your essay should focus more on the lessons you learned.
  • Using a privileged tone. You’ll want to maintain a balanced, humble tone. Looking entitled or pretentious is not going to help your application in the least. Show how the experience is important to you without painting yourself as some kind of savior.
  • Clichés. You might think it’s a good idea to quote a famous person or to use a trite, old life lesson, but we actually recommend avoiding these strategies. Admissions officers have seen them hundreds of times, so they won’t contribute much to your application.

When you write your response, be genuine about your motivations, honest about your impact on the local community, and specific in your descriptions of activities. Doing all those things will ensure a strong essay.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants (International Students), Prompt 3

Describe an obstacle or challenge you have faced in your life. how have you overcome this challenge and grown from this experience (250 words).

This is the classic Overcoming Challenges prompt , so we recommend that you read our linked guide for advice and examples.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants (International Students), Prompt 4

The au diplomats are a diverse group of current au international students and us global nomads who have been selected by the au admissions team to form and maintain connections with new and prospective american university (au) students, and to represent au to the international community., our emerging global leader scholar is expected to play an impactful role in the work of our au diplomats group. what outreach, communication, and/or intake strategies would you employ to inform and welcome new and prospective students to american university, washington, dc (250 words).

This prompt tasks you with highlighting how you envision yourself connecting with new and prospective students who may also be international students. While it may seem daunting to have to think ahead to welcoming and guiding others to a University you yourself are currently applying to, the answer is really based more on your experience than you may think.

Think about how your application process has felt so far. Applying to a school in a country different from your own may have been an overwhelming process, and it’s perfectly all right to write about that feeling—in fact, it may even guide your answer.

Imagine you were in contact with an AU Diplomat or a current Emerging Global Leader scholar. What questions would you ask now or would you have asked in the past? Doing some role-reversal will help you imagine the kind of Emerging Global Leader Scholar you can be to help new and prospective students like yourself.

Additionally, reflect on what you wish you knew prior to the application process. How did you find American University? Did anything or anyone help you along the way? How did you engage with American University prior to applying? And eventually, what advice would you give to a younger student who will soon be in your shoes?

For example, perhaps you live halfway across the world, and had trouble attending virtual information events at many schools because of the time difference. Maybe American University offered some information sessions specific to your country or region of the world—how did that make you feel more connected to the school? Maybe you want to volunteer for these events to give more prospective students the opportunity to learn about the school, and maybe even reach areas that haven’t yet been reached.

Your strategies will come from your personal experiences, so be open and honest about your past and present—even though your own future may still be undetermined.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants, Prompt 3

This is the classic Overcoming Challenges essay, so we recommend that you read our linked guide for advice and examples.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants, Prompt 4

The au diplomats are a diverse group of current au international students and us global nomads who have been selected by the au admissions team to form and maintain connections with new and prospective american university (au) students, and to represent au to the international community. our emerging global leader scholar is expected to play an impactful role in the work of our au diplomats group. what outreach, communication, and/or intake strategies would you employ to inform and welcome new and prospective students to american university, washington, dc (250 words).

This prompt tasks you with highlighting how you envision yourself connecting with new and prospective students who may also be international students. While it may seem daunting to have to think ahead to welcoming and guiding others to a University you are applying to, the answer is really based more in your experience than you may think.

Think about how your application process has felt so far. Applying to a school in a different country than your own may have been overwhelming, and it is perfectly all right to write about that feeling – in fact, it may even guide your answer.

Imagine you were in contact with an AU Diplomat or a current Emerging Global Leader scholar. What questions would you ask or would you have asked in the past? Doing some role-reversal will help you imagine the kind of Emerging Global Leader Scholar you can be to help new and prospective students like yourself.

Additionally, reflect on what you wish you knew prior to the application process. How did you find American University? Did anything or anyone help you along the way? How did you engage with American University prior to applying? And eventually, what advice would you give a younger student who will soon be in your shoes?

For example, perhaps you live halfway across the world, and had trouble attending virtual information events at many schools because of the time difference. Maybe American University offered some information sessions specific to your country or region of the world – how did that make you feel more connected to the school? Maybe you want to volunteer for these events to give more prospective students the opportunity to learn about the school, and maybe even reach areas that haven’t yet been reached.

Your strategies will come from your personal experiences, so be open and honest even though your own future may still be undetermined.

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants (International Students), Prompt 5

What are the characteristics of leadership that you most admire who is a leader that exemplifies those qualities, and why (250 words).

There are two main approaches you can use to navigate this prompt. You can certainly begin by brainstorming a list of leadership qualities you find most important and then find a leader you admire, but it may actually be wise to work backwards and reverse-engineer your answer—essentially, choose a leader you admire first and then identify the qualities that make them a great leader. Choosing someone you already admire may make your response more sincere and detailed.

There are no real wrong answers to this prompt, which also means that the more specific and unique you can get, the better. It is, however, best to avoid leaders who would be generally named immediately. For example, you would not want to pick a figure like the current President of the United States, other former Presidents, or other well-renowned world leaders, as they will likely be a common answer to this question.

Instead, think about whether your home country has any leaders—political, social, environmental, etc.—that would make for a strong response. Remember, this answer isn’t just about proving why your choice is a strong leader, it’s about showing the admissions committee your perception of what makes for great leadership.

After you’ve selected a leader, analyze the characteristics of that leader that resonate with people. Are they a great public speaker? Have they managed to unify a wide populace of differing perspectives? What is their public image? What impresses you most about their accomplishments?

These questions can help you identify how your chosen leader reflects your perspectives on great leadership as a whole, and will allow you to craft an answer around your thesis rather than the other way around.

Where to Get Your American University Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your AU essays? After rereading your essays over and over again, it can be difficult to spot where your writing could use some improvement. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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  • Knowledge Base
  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

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Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

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As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

  • Argumentative
  • Literary analysis

This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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  6. How to Write Boston University's Supplemental Essays

COMMENTS

  1. 14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2024-2025)

    College essay example #1. This is a college essay that worked for Harvard University. (Suggested reading: How to Get Into Harvard Undergrad) This past summer, I had the privilege of participating in the University of Notre Dame's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program .

  2. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts '17 graduate. 2. Write like a journalist. "Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading.

  3. Sample Essays

    Sample Essays. The breadth of Georgetown's core curriculum means that students are required to write for a wide variety of academic disciplines. Below, we provide some student samples that exhibit the key features the most popular genres. When reading through these essays, we recommend paying attention to their ...

  4. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Using real sample college essays that worked will give you a great idea of what colleges look for. Learn from great examples here. Call Direct: ... along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out University of Georgia. 1 "strong essay" sample from 2019; 1 "strong essay" sample from 2018 . Harvard. 10 ...

  5. Example of a Great Essay

    This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people's social and cultural lives.

  6. 16 Strong College Essay Examples from Top Schools

    In this post, we'll share 16 college essay examples of many different topics. Most of the essay prompts fall into 8 different archetypes, and you can approach each prompt under that archetype in a similar way. ... Prompt: Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that ...

  7. College Essay Examples

    Table of contents. Essay 1: Sharing an identity or background through a montage. Essay 2: Overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative. Essay 3: Showing the influence of an important person or thing. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about college application essays.

  8. Essay and dissertation writing skills

    University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. ... For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the ...

  9. Harvard University Essay Example

    Harvard University Essay Example. Harvard University is a highly-selective school, so it's important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we'll share an essay a real student has submitted to Harvard. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).

  10. How to Write a College Essay

    Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement. Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying "no" to other interests. Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness. Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself.

  11. 7 Magnificent University of Michigan Essay Examples

    What's Covered: Essay Example #1 - Community in Coaching. Essay Example #2 - Community in Drawing. Essay Example #3 - Community in Books. Essay Example #4 - Why This Major, Political Science and Environment. Essay Example #5 - Why This Major, Psychology and Spanish. Essay Example #6 (Ross School of Business) - Solving Issues with ...

  12. 32 College Essay Examples That Worked

    College Essay Examples #9/32: School: Princeton University. Prompt: Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250 words) I was 14 when I met Jennifer at the local Literacy Volunteers and Advocates (LVA) chapter.

  13. Essays That Worked

    The essays are a place to show us who you are and who you'll be in our community. It's a chance to add depth to something that is important to you and tell the admissions committee more about your background or goals. Below you'll find selected examples of essays that "worked," as nominated by our admissions committee.

  14. Harvard University Essay Examples (And Why They Worked)

    For more help with your Harvard supplemental essays, check out our 2020-2021 Harvard University Essay Guide! For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

  15. 3 Strong Boston University Essay Examples

    This essay is a strong response that adequately conveys what the student hopes to obtain from an education from Boston University. The applicant begins with a straightforward statement that expresses their interests in engineering and government. I am most excited by Boston University's Societal Engineer vision.

  16. PDF HOW TO WRITE AN ACADEMIC ESSAY

    Your essay's purpose refers to its main rhetorical function with regard to why it is being written in the first place. Are you seeking to describe, narrate, argue or explain, these being the four common purposes for writing academic essays. Below is a brief description of each purpose, or 'mode', illustrated with examples. ESSAY MODES

  17. How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction

    Good example. I wiped the sweat from my head and tried to catch my breath. I was nearly there—just one more back tuck and a strong dismount and I'd have nailed a perfect routine. Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus.

  18. 7 Strong UPenn Essay Examples

    UPenn Essay Examples Essay 1: Neuroscience; Essay 2: Why UPenn; Essay 3: Why Nursing; Essay 4: Library Love; Essay 5: Tug of War; Essay 6: Internet Networks; Essay 7: Thank You; Where to Get Your UPenn Essays Edited The University of Pennsylvania is a highly-selective Ivy League school in the heart of Philadelphia.

  19. Examples of Essays

    Examples of Essays Example 1 . Example 2 . Example 3 . Elsewhere on the site . Current students . Staff intranet . News & Events ... Politics and International Studies, Social Sciences Building, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK. Talk to us People search Connect with us. Facebook Twitter Instagram. Page contact: Renske Doorenspleet ...

  20. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body. This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and ...

  21. Essays About University: Top 6 Examples And 6 Prompts

    6 Examples of Essays About University. 1. Compare and Contrast Between State University and Private University by Naomi Moody. "Many people assume a public college is cheaper than a private college because of tuition fees are reduced for state residents. But the posted "sticker price" of a private college is rarely the real price.

  22. How to Write the American University Essays 2023-2024

    In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. Nevertheless, the ruling allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts.

  23. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.