10 Successful Harvard Application Essays | 2021
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Successful Harvard Essay
I had never seen houses floating down a river. Minutes before there had not even been a river. An immense wall of water was destroying everything in its wake, picking up fishing boats to smash them against buildings. It was the morning of March 11, 2011. Seeing the images of destruction wrought by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I felt as if something within myself was also being shaken, for I had just spent two of the happiest summers of my life there.
In the summer of my freshman year, I received the Kikkoman National Scholarship, which allowed me to travel to Japan to stay with a host family in Tokyo for ten weeks. I arrived just as the swine flu panic gripped the world, so I was not allowed to attend high school with my host brother, Yamato. Instead, I took Japanese language, judo, and karate classes and explored the confusing sprawl of the largest city in the world. I spent time with the old men of my neighborhood in the onsen, or hot spring, questioning them about the Japan of their youth. They laughed and told me that if I wanted to see for myself, I should work on a farm.
The next summer I returned to Japan, deciding to heed the old men’s advice and volunteer on a farm in Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. I spent two weeks working more than fourteen hours a day. I held thirty-pound bags of garlic with one hand while trying to tie them to a rope hanging from the ceiling with the other, but couldn’t hold the bags in the air long enough. Other days were spent pulling up endless rows of daikon, or Japanese radish, which left rashes on my arms that itched for weeks. Completely exhausted, I stumbled back to the farmhouse, only to be greeted by the family’s young children who were eager to play. I passed out every night in a room too small for me to straighten my legs. One day, I overslept a lunch break by two hours. I awoke mortified, and hurried to the father. After I apologized in the most polite form of Japanese, his face broke into a broad grin. He patted me on the back and said, “You are a good worker, Anthony. There is no need to apologize.” This single exchange revealed the true spirit of the Japanese farmer. The family had lived for years in conditions that thoroughly wore me out in only a few days. I had missed two hours of work, yet they were still perpetually thankful to me. In their life of unbelievable hardship, they still found room for compassion.
In their life of unbelievable hardship, they still found room for compassion.
When I had first gone to Tokyo, I had sought the soul of the nation among its skyscrapers and urban hot springs. The next summer I spurned the beaten track in an attempt to discover the true spirit of Japan. While lugging enormously heavy bags of garlic and picking daikon, I found that spirit. The farmers worked harder than anyone I have ever met, but they still made room in their hearts for me. So when the tsunami threatened the people to whom I owed so much, I had to act. Remembering the lesson of compassion I learned from the farm family, I started a fund-raiser in my community called “One Thousand Cranes for Japan.” Little more than two weeks later, we had raised over $8,000 and a flock of one thousand cranes was on its way to Japan.
Professional Review by AcceptU
This essay is very clean and straightforward. Anthony wisely uses imagery from a well-known historic event, the 2011 tsunami, to set the scene for his story. He visited Japan for two summers and provides depth about what he learned: In his first summer, he explored Tokyo and studied the language and culture; in his second summer, he lived in rural Japan and worked long hours on a farm.
We like to see how applicants learn, grow or change from the beginning to the end - and Anthony rightfully spends more time describing the hard work and lifestyle of farming and what he learned from this experience.
The beauty of the essay actually lies in its simplicity. Admittedly, it is not a groundbreaking or original essay in the way he tells his story; instead, Anthony comes across as someone who is very interesting, hardworking, intellectually curious, dedicated, humble and likable - all traits that admissions officers are seeking in applicants.
We like to see how applicants learn, grow or change from the beginning to the end - and Anthony rightfully spends more time describing the hard work and lifestyle of farming and what he learned from this experience. Anthony concludes with a reference to his opening paragraph about the tsunami, and impresses the reader with his fundraising to help victims.
It is not necessarily missing, but perhaps a sentence or two could have been added to explain why Anthony was in Japan in the first place. What was his connection to the country, language or culture? Does it tie into an academic interest? If so, that would make his already strong essay even stronger in the eyes of admissions officers.
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I entered the surprisingly cool car. Since when is Beijing Line 13 air-conditioned? I’ll take it. At four o’clock in the afternoon only about twenty people were in the subway car. “At least it’s not crowded,” one might have thought. Wrong. The pressure of their eyes on me filled the car and smothered me. “看看！她是外国人！”(Look, look! She’s a foreigner!) An old man very loudly whispered to a child curled up in his lap. “Foreigner,” he called me. I hate that word, “foreigner.” It only explains my exterior. If only they could look inside.…
I want to keep reading because there is something she is saying about her identity--be it performative or actual--that I am curious about.
They would know that I actually speak Chinese—not just speak, but love. They would know that this love was born from my first love of Latin—the language that fostered my admiration of all languages. Latin lives in the words we speak around the world today. And translating this ancient language is like watching a play and performing in it at the same time. Each word is an adventure, and on the journey through Virgil’s Aeneid I found that I am more like Aeneas than any living, dead, or fictional hero I know. We share the intrinsic value of loyalty to friends, family, and society. We stand true to our own word, and we uphold others to theirs. Like Aeneas’s trek to find a new settlement for his collapsed Troy, with similar perseverance I, too, wander the seas for my own place in the world. Language has helped me do that.
If these subway passengers understood me, they would know that the very reason I sat beside them was because of Latin. Even before Aeneas and his tale, I met Caecilius and Grumio, characters in my first Latin textbook. In translations I learned grammar alongside Rome’s rich history. I realized how learning another language could expose me to other worlds and other people—something that has always excited me. I also realized that if I wanted to know more about the world and the people in it, I would have to learn a spoken language. Spanish, despite the seven years of study prior to Latin, did not stick with me. And the throatiness of French was not appealing. But Chinese, more than these other traditional languages, intrigued me. The doors to new worlds it could open seemed endless. Thus I chose Chinese.
If these subway passengers looked inside me, they would find that my knowledge of both Latin and Chinese makes me feel whole. It feels like the world of the past is flowing through me alongside the world of the future. Thanks to Latin, Chinese sticks in my mind like the Velcro on the little boy’s shoes in front of me. If this little boy and his family and friends could look inside, they would understand that Latin laid the foundation for my lifelong commitment to languages. Without words, thoughts and actions would be lost in the space between our ears. To them, I am a foreigner, “外国人” literally translated as “out-of-country person.” I feel, however, more like an advena, the Latin word for “foreigner,” translated as “(one who) comes to (this place).” I came to this place, and I came to this country to stay. Unfortunately, they will not know this until I speak. Then once I speak, the doors will open.
Professional Review by Bridge to College
Your college essay should serve two purposes: allow the reader to gain insights about you that they are not able to do in other parts of your application and provide an example of your writing abilities. To the former, you are hoping to demonstrate five soft skills that most colleges are at least implicitly interested in gleaning, those that indicate your capacity to be a good student at their institution.
Alex arrives at both goals in an interesting way. Without seeing the rest of her application, I can only assume that she is possibly interested in pursuing a major in a language (if she is pursuing a major in an applied math, this essay would be extremely interesting) and she has likely participated in some kind of team sport to demonstrate the soft skill of teamwork. To be honest, as someone who speaks five languages myself and studied Latin in undergrad, I don’t necessarily agree with her assessment of the languages. BUT I’m interested. I want to keep reading. She isn’t supposed to get everything right in this essay; she’s supposed to demonstrate a capacity for learning. And she does that.
I want to keep reading because there is something she is saying about her identity--be it performative or actual--that I am curious about. With our work in college access and admissions, we’ve only worked in underserved communities, be they students of color or girls interested in STEM or first-generation college students or more. People make an assumption that we are exploiting these identities into sob stories that admissions readers will immediately hang on to. We’re not doing that. We are encouraging students to write about something similar to what Alex did—describe how your identity has created a learning opportunity or a moment of resilience or determination. Alex seems like someone who is well resourced: her access to certain text; language curricula and the amount of time she spent studying those languages; even her sentence structure, gives that away. But her openness to adapt with humility is a critical skill that is so necessary to be a great student, and unfortunately a skill that many students miss.
For the second goal, she does a tremendous job of demonstrating her writing abilities. Her sentence structures are varied and there aren’t egregious mistakes in grammar and spelling. The last two sentences of the second paragraph sold me on her skill-level and personhood. I also really appreciated that she wasn’t shying away from what she has been able to access as far as her schooling. Alex is smart, witty, and well-traveled, and you’re going to know it. I love that.
The essay works as an introduction to who she is and her soft skills, as well as a demonstration of her writing abilities.
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When I was a child, I begged my parents for my very own Brother PT-1400 P-Touch Handheld Label Maker to fulfill all of my labeling needs. Other kids had Nintendos and would spend their free time with Mario and Luigi. While they pummeled their video game controllers furiously, the pads of their thumbs dancing across their joysticks, I would type out labels on my industrial-standard P-Touch with just as much zeal. I labeled everything imaginable, dividing hundreds of pens into Ziploc bags by color, then rubber-banding them by point size. The finishing touch, of course, was always a glossy, three-eighths-inch-wide tag, freshly churned out from my handheld labeler and decisively pasted upon the numerous plastic bags I had successfully compiled.
Labeling became therapeutic for me; organizing my surroundings into specific groups to be labeled provides me with a sense of stability. I may not physically need the shiny color-coded label verifying the contents of a plastic bag as BLUE HIGHLIGHTERS—FAT, to identify them as such, but seeing these classifications so plainly allows me to appreciate the reliability of my categorizations. There are no exceptions when I label the top ledge of my bookshelf as containing works from ACHEBE, CHINUA TO CONRAD, JOSEPH. Each book is either filtered into that category or placed definitively into another one. Yet, such consistency only exists in these inanimate objects.
Thus, the break in my role as a labeler comes when I interact with people. Their lives are too complicated, their personalities too intricate for me to resolutely summarize in a few words or even with the 26.2 feet of laminated adhesive tape compatible with my label maker. I have learned that a thin line exists between labeling and just being judgmental when evaluating individuals. I can hardly superficially characterize others as simply as I do my material possessions because people refuse to be so cleanly separated and compartmentalized. My sister Joyce jokes freely and talks with me for hours about everything from the disturbing popularity of vampires in pop culture to cubic watermelons, yet those who don’t know her well usually think of her as timid and introverted. My mother is sometimes my biggest supporter, spouting words of encouragement and, at other instances, my most unrelenting critic. The overlap becomes too indistinct, the contradictions too apparent, even as I attempt to classify those people in the world whom I know best.
For all my love of order when it comes to my room, I don't want myself, or the people with whom I interact, to fit squarely into any one category.
Neither would I want others to be predictable enough for me to label. The real joy in human interaction lies in the excitement of the unknown. Overturning expectations can be necessary to preserving the vitality of relationships. If I were never surprised by the behaviors of those around me, my biggest source of entertainment would vanish. For all my love of order when it comes to my room, I don’t want myself, or the people with whom I interact, to fit squarely into any one category. I meticulously follow directions to the millimeter in the chemistry lab but measure ingredients by pinches and dashes in the comfort of my kitchen. I’m a self-proclaimed grammar Nazi, but I’ll admit e. e. cummings’s irreverence does appeal. I’ll chart my television show schedule on Excel, but I would never dream of confronting my chores with as much organization. I even call myself a labeler, but not when it comes to people. As Walt Whitman might put it, “Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.).”
I therefore refrain from the temptation to label—despite it being an act that makes me feel so fulfilled when applied to physical objects—when real people are the subjects. The consequences of premature labeling are too great, the risk of inaccuracy too high because, most of the time, not even the hundreds of alphanumeric digits and symbols available for entry on my P-Touch can effectively describe who an individual really is.
Professional Review by Elite Prep
Amusing yet insightful, perhaps the most outstanding quality of Justine’s personal statement lies in the balance she strikes between anecdotal flourish and honest introspection. By integrating occasional humour and witty commentary into an otherwise lyrical and earnest self-reflection, Justine masterfully conveys an unfettered, sincere wisdom and maturity coveted by prestigious universities.
Justine breaks the ice by recalling a moment in her childhood that captures her fervent passion for labelling. When applying to selective academic institutions, idiosyncrasies and peculiar personal habits, however trivial, are always appreciated as indicators of individuality. Justine veers safely away from the temptation of “playing it safe” by exploring her dedication towards organizing all her possessions, a dedication that has followed her into adolescence.
She also writes from a place of raw honesty and emotion by offering the rationale behind her bizarre passion. Justine's reliance on labelling is underpinned by her yearning for a sense of stability and order in a messy world—an unaffected yearning that readers, to varying degrees, can sympathize with.
She also writes from a place of raw honesty and emotion by offering the rationale behind her bizarre passion. Justine’s reliance on labelling is underpinned by her yearning for a sense of stability and order in a messy world—an unaffected yearning that readers, to varying degrees, can sympathize with. She recognizes, however, it would be imprudent to navigate all facets of life with an unfaltering drive to compartmentalize everything and everyone she encounters.
In doing so, Justine seamlessly transitions to the latter, more pensive half of her personal statement. She extracts several insights by analyzing how, in staunch contrast with her neatly-organized pencil cases, the world is confusing, and rife with contradictions. Within each individual lies yet another world of complexity—as Justine reflects, people can’t be boiled down into “a few words,” and it’s impossible to capture their character, “even with the 26.2 feet of laminated adhesive tape compatible with [her] label maker.”
In concluding, Justine returns back to the premise that started it all, reminding the reader of her take on why compartmentalizing the world would be an ultimately unproductive effort. The most magical part of Justine’s personal statement? It reads easily, flows with imagery, and employs a simple concept—her labelling practices—to introduce a larger, thoughtful conversation.
The best compliment I ever received was from my little brother: “My science teacher’s unbelievably good at telling stories,” he announced. “Nearly as good as you.” I thought about that, how I savor a good story the way some people savor last-minute touchdowns.
I learned in biology that I’m composed of 7 × 10 27 atoms, but that number didn’t mean anything to me until I read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. One sentence stayed with me for weeks: “Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you.” It estimates that each human has about 2 billion atoms of Shakespeare hanging around inside—quite a comfort, as I try to write this essay. I thought about every one of my atoms, wondering where they had been and what miracles they had witnessed.
My physical body is a string of atoms, but what of my inner self, my soul, my essence? I've come to the realization that my life has been a string as well, a string of stories.
My physical body is a string of atoms, but what of my inner self, my soul, my essence? I’ve come to the realization that my life has been a string as well, a string of stories. Every one of us is made of star stuff, forged through fires, and emerging as nicked as the surface of the moon. It frustrated me no end that I couldn’t sit down with all the people I met, interrogating them about their lives, identifying every last story that made them who they are.
I remember how magical it was the first time I read a fiction book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was duly impressed with Quidditch and the Invisibility Cloak, of course, but I was absolutely spellbound by how much I could learn about Harry. The kippers he had for breakfast, the supplies he bought for Potions—the details everyone skimmed over were remarkable to me. Fiction was a revelation. Here, at last, was a window into another person’s string of stories!
Over the years, I’ve thought long and hard about that immortal question: What superpower would you choose? I considered the usual suspects—invisibility, superhuman strength, flying—but threw them out immediately. My superhero alter ego would be Story Girl. She wouldn’t run marathons, but she could walk for miles and miles in other people’s shoes. She’d know that all it takes for empathy and understanding is the right story.
Imagine my astonishment when I discovered Radiolab on NPR. Here was my imaginary superpower, embodied in real life! I had been struggling with AP Biology, seeing it as a class full of complicated processes and alien vocabulary. That changed radically when I listened, enthralled, as Radiolab traced the effects of dopamine on love and gambling. This was science, sure, but it was science as I’d never heard it before. It contained conflict and emotion and a narrative; it made me anxious to learn more. It wasn’t that I was obtuse for biology; I just hadn’t found the stories in it before.
I’m convinced that you can learn anything in the form of a story. The layperson often writes off concepts—entropy, the Maginot Line, anapestic meter—as too foreign to comprehend. But with the right framing, the world suddenly becomes an open book, enticing and ripe for exploration. I want to become a writer to find those stories, much like Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich from Radiolab, making intimidating subjects become familiar and inviting for everyone. I want to become Story Girl.
By combining her previous interest with her newfound love for biology, Carrie is able to highlight how her past experiences have assisted her in overcoming novel challenges. This portrays her as a resilient and resourceful problem-solver: traits that colleges value heavily in their students.
Carrie begins her essay with a fondly-remembered compliment from her brother, introducing her most passionate endeavor: storytelling. By recalling anecdotes related to her love of stories, she establishes herself as a deeply inquisitive and creative person; someone whose greatest virtue is their unfettered thirst for knowledge. Curiosity is greatly prized by colleges, and Carrie’s inclusion of this particular value encourages admissions officers to keep reading.
Going on to explore the intersections between stories and science, Carrie reveals her past difficulties with AP biology; that is, until she learnt about the amazing stories hidden within the subject. By combining her previous interest with her newfound love for biology, Carrie is able to highlight how her past experiences have assisted her in overcoming novel challenges. This portrays her as a resilient and resourceful problem-solver: traits that colleges value heavily in their students.
Carrie ends her essay with her belief that through stories, everything is possible. She expounds on her future ambitions in regards to storytelling, as well as her desire to make learning both fun and accessible to everyone via the power of stories. By comparing her goals to that of a superhero, Carrie is able to emphasise her enthusiasm for contributing to social change. Most importantly, Carrie’s ambitions show how she can contribute to the Harvard community positively, making her a strong applicant.
As an admission essay specialist , Dan Lichterman has been empowering students to find their voice since 2004. He helps students stand out on paper, eliminating the unnecessary so the necessary may speak. Drawing upon his storytelling background, Dan guides applicants to craft authentic essays that leap off the page. He is available for online writing support within the US and internationally. To learn more and schedule a brief complimentary consultation visit danlichterman.com.
I have a fetish for writing.
I’m not talking about crafting prose or verses, or even sentences out of words. But simply constructing letters and characters from strokes of ink gives me immense satisfaction. It’s not quite calligraphy, as I don’t use calligraphic pens or Chinese writing brushes; I prefer it simple, spontaneous, and subconscious. I often find myself crafting characters in the margins of notebooks with a fifty-cent pencil, or tracing letters out of thin air with anything from chopsticks to fingertips.
"One's handwriting," said the ancient Chinese, "is a painting of one's mind." After all, when I practice my handwriting, I am crafting characters. My character.
The art of handwriting is a relic in the information era. Why write when one can type? Perhaps the Chinese had an answer before the advent of keyboards. “One’s handwriting,” said the ancient Chinese, “is a painting of one’s mind.” After all, when I practice my handwriting, I am crafting characters.
I particularly enjoy meticulously designing a character, stroke by stroke, and eventually building up, letter by letter, to a quote personalized in my own voice. Every movement of the pen and every droplet of ink all lead to something profound, as if the arches of every "m" are doorways to revelations. After all, characters are the building blocks of language, and language is the only vehicle through which knowledge unfolds. Thus, in a way, these letters under my pen are themselves representations of knowledge, and the delicate beauty of every letter proves, visually, the intrinsic beauty of knowing. I suppose handwriting reminds me of my conviction in this visual manner: through learning answers are found, lives enriched, and societies bettered.
Moreover, perhaps this strange passion in polishing every single character of a word delineates my dedication to learning, testifies my zeal for my conviction, and sketches a crucial stroke of my character.
"We--must--know ... " the mathematician David Hilbert's voice echoes in resolute cursive at the tip of my pen, as he, addressing German scientists in 1930, propounds the goal of modern intellectuals. My pen firmly nods in agreement with Hilbert, while my mind again fumbles for the path to knowledge.
The versatility of handwriting enthralls me. The Chinese developed many styles -- called hands -- of writing. Fittingly, each hand seems to parallel one of my many academic interests. Characters of the Regular Hand (kai shu), a legible script, serve me well during many long hours when I scratch my head and try to prove a mathematical statement rigorously, as the legibility illuminates my logic on paper. Words of the Running Hand (xing shu), a semi-cursive script, are like the passionate words that I speak before a committee of Model United Nations delegates, propounding a decisive course of action: the words, both spoken and written, are swift and coherent but resolute and emphatic. And strokes of the Cursive Hand (cao shu) resemble those sudden artistic sparks when I deliver a line on stage: free spontaneous, but emphatic syllables travel through the lights like rivers of ink flowing on the page.
Yet the fact that the three distinctive hands cooperate so seamlessly, fusing together the glorious culture of writing, is perhaps a fable of learning, a testament that the many talents of the Renaissance Man could all be worthwhile for enriching human society. Such is my methodology: just like I organize my different hands into a neat personal style with my fetish for writing, I can unify my broad interests with my passion for learning.
“...We -- will -- know!” Hilbert finishes his adage, as I frantically slice an exclamation mark as the final stroke of this painting of my mind.
I must know: for knowing, like well-crafted letters, has an inherent beauty and an intrinsic value. I will know: for my versatile interests in academics will flow like my versatile styles of writing.
I must know and I will know: for my fetish for writing is a fetish for learning.
Professional Review by Dan Lichterman
We learn that he expresses his innermost self through an art that has become a relic within the information age. As we peer into his mind, we learn something essential about Jiafeng's character–that he is irrepressibly drawn to the intricate beauty of pure learning.
Jiafeng’s essay succeeds by using the metaphor of handwriting, and it’s immense physical satisfaction, to showcase the unbounded pleasure of pursuing knowledge. We can visualize spontaneously crafted letters filling his notebooks. We see him trace Chinese characters into air by chopstick and fingertip. We learn that he expresses his innermost self through an art that has become a relic within the information age. As we peer into his mind, we learn something essential about Jiafeng’s character–that he is irrepressibly drawn to the intricate beauty of pure learning.
Jiafeng goes on to reveal that his intellectual pursuit has been shaped by not one but three Chinese styles of handwriting, each reflecting a distinct element of his intellectual growth. We see Jiafeng’s logic when engaged in mathematical proof, rhetorical flair when speaking before Model United Nations, and improvisational spark when delivering lines on stage. He presents these polymath pursuits as united by writing, indicating to readers that his broad interests are all an expression of the same principle of discovery. By the time readers finish Jiafeng’s essay they have no doubts regarding the pleasure he derives from learning–they have experienced him enacting this celebration of thought throughout every line of this well-crafted personal statement.
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“Ella, what did you think of Douglass’s view on Christianity?” I gulped. Increasingly powerful palpitations throbbed in my heart as my eyes darted around the classroom – searching for a profound response to Dr. Franklin’s question. I took a deep breath while reaching the most genuine answer I could conjure.
“Professor, I don’t know.”
Dr. Franklin stared at me blankly as he attempted to interpret the thoughts I didn’t voice. My lack of familiarity with the assigned text wasn’t a consideration that crossed his mind because he was familiar with my past contributions to class discussions. I was a fervent critic of the corrupted culture behind Christianity of the Puritans in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and modern evangelicals involved in the puzzling divinity of Donald Trump. He arched his flummoxed brows as he began to open his mouth.
“Professor, what I mean is that I’m not sure whether or not I even have a say on Douglass’s statements on Christianity in his Narrative of the Life.”
In class, I often separated the culture of Christianity from the religion. To tie these immensely disparate concepts as one and coin it as Christianity would present fallacies that contradict with the Christianity I knew. Lack of tolerance and hostility were products of humans’ sinful nature – not the teachings of Christ. People were just using Christianity as an excuse to exalt themselves rather than the holy name of Jesus. These were the “facts.”
My greatest realization came when Douglass declared Christian slave-holders as the worst slave-holders he ever met because of their deceptive feign of piety and use of Christianity to justify the oppression of their slaves. I realized that I couldn’t bring myself to raise the same argument that I used to convince myself that my Christianity of love was the only true Christianity. To Douglass, Christianity was the opposite. I didn’t want to dismiss his story. People use this sacred religion to spread hatred, and to many, this is the only Christianity they know. Their experiences aren’t any bit falser than mine.
Christianity isn’t the only culture that harbors truth that transcends the “facts.” America’s less of a perfect amalgamation of different ethnic cultures and more of a society severed by tribal conflicts rooted in the long established political culture of the nation. Issues such as racism, white privilege, and gender disparity are highly salient topics of current political discussion. However, during a time when people can use online platforms with algorithms that provide content they want to see, we fail to acknowledge the truth in other people’s experiences and express empathy.
My protective nature drives my desire to connect with different people and build understanding. To do so, however, I step outside my Korean American Southern Baptist paradigm because my experiences do not constitute everyone else's.
As a Korean-American in the South, I am no stranger to intolerance. I remember the countless instances of people mocking my parents for their English pronunciation and my brother’s stutter. Because their words were less eloquent, people deemed their thoughts as less valuable as well. I protect my family and translate their words whenever they have a doctor’s appointment or need more ketchup at McDonald’s. My protective nature drives my desire to connect with different people and build understanding. To do so, however, I step outside my Korean American Southern Baptist paradigm because my experiences do not constitute everyone else’s.
Excluded from the Manichaean narrative of this country, I observe the turmoil in our nation through a separate lens - a blessing and a curse. Not only do I find myself awkwardly fixed in a black vs. white America, but I also fail to define my identity sandwiched between Korean and American. In the end, I find myself stuck amongst the conventional labels and binaries that divide America.
“You seem to work harder than most to understand other people’s points of view,” Dr. Franklin said after I shared these thoughts to the class.
“I find this easier because I spent my childhood assuming that my culture was always the exception,” I replied. As an anomaly, accepting different truths is second nature.
Professional Review by Crimson Education
At a time in which the Black Lives Matters movement was sweeping America and racial tension was at a high, Ella was able to offer a powerful and brave perspective: how she feels to be neither Black nor White. The true strength of this essay is its willingness to go where people rarely go in college essays: to race, to politics and to religion.
This is a trait that exists in a powerful independent thinker who could push all kinds of debates forwards - academic ones or otherwise.
Her dedication to her religion is evident - but so is her willingness to question the manipulation of the word ‘Christianty’ for less than genuine purposes. It requires intellectual bravery to ask the hard questions of your own religion as opposed to succumbing to cognitive dissonance. This is a trait that exists in a powerful independent thinker who could push all kinds of debates forwards - academic ones or otherwise.
Her word choice continues to emphasize bravery and strength. “I protect my family” inserts Ella as the shield between her family and the daily racism they experience in the south because of their accents and heritage. Her humorous quirks show the insidious racism. She even needs to shield her family from the humble request for some more Ketchup at McDonalds! Imagine if one is nervous to ask for some more Ketchup and even such a mundane activity becomes difficult through the friction of racial tension and misunderstanding. This is a powerful way to deliver a sobering commentary on the real state of society through Ellen’s lived experiences.
She demonstrates her intellectual prowess in her discussion of somewhat high-brow topics but also grounds herself in the descriptions of her daily acts of kindness.
She connects major societal debates (Trumpism for example) with daily experiences (her translations at the doctor’s office) with a gentle but powerful cadence. She demonstrates her intellectual prowess in her discussion of somewhat high-brow topics but also grounds herself in the descriptions of her daily acts of kindness.
Creatively Ella weaves numerous literary devices in and out of her story without them being overbearing. These include alliteration and the juxtaposition of longer sentences with shorter ones to make a point.
Her final dialogue is subtle but booming. “....my culture was the exception”. The reader is left genuinely sympathetic for her plight, challenges and bravery as she goes about her daily life.
Ella is a bold independent thinker with a clear social conscience and an ability to wade in the ambiguity and challenge of an imperfect world.
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"Paint this vase before you leave today," my teacher directed as she placed foreign brushes and paints in my hands. I looked at her blankly. Where were the charts of colors and books of techniques? Why was her smile so decidedly encouraging? The sudden expectations made no sense.
She smiled. "Don't worry, just paint."
In a daze, I assembled my supplies the way the older students did. I was scared. I knew everything but nothing. And even in those first blissful moments of experimentation, it hurt to realize that my painting was all wrong. The gleam of light. The distorted reflection. A thousand details taunted me with their refusal to melt into the glass. The vase was lifeless at best.
As the draining hours of work wore on, I began wearing reckless holes in my mixing plate. It was my fourth hour here. Why had I not received even a single piece of guidance?
At the peak of my frustration, she finally reentered the studio, yawning with excruciating casualness. I felt myself snap.
"I barely know how to hold a brush," I muttered almost aggressively, "how could I possibly have the technique to paint this?"
She looked at me with a shocked innocence that only heightened the feeling of abandonment. "What do you mean you don't have the technique?"
It was as though she failed to realize I was a complete beginner.
And then suddenly she broke into a pitch of urgent obviousness: "What are you doing! Don't you see those details?? There's orange from the wall and light brown from the floor. There's even dark green from that paint box over there. You have to look at the whole picture," she stole a glance at my face of bewilderment, and, sighing, grabbed my paint,stained hand. "Listen, it's not in here," she implored, shaking my captive limb. "It's here." The intensity with which she looked into my eyes was overwhelming.
I returned the gaze emptily. Never had I been so confused…
But over the years I did begin to see. The shades of red and blue in gray concrete, the tints of Phthalo in summer skies, and winter’s Currelean. It was beautiful and illogical. Black was darker with green and red, and white was never white.
I began to study animals. The proportions and fan brush techniques were certainly difficult, but they were the simple part. It was the strategic tints of light and bold color that created life. I would spend hours discovering the exact blue that would make a fish seem on the verge of tears and hours more shaping a deer’s ears to speak of serenity instead of danger.
As I run faster into the heart of art and my love for politics and law, I will learn to see the faces behind each page of cold policy text, the amazing innovation sketched in the tattered Constitution, and the progressiveness living in oak-paneled courts.
In return for probing into previously ignored details, my canvas and paints opened the world. I began to appreciate the pink kiss of ever-evolving sunsets and the even suppression of melancholy. When my father came home from a business trip, it was no longer a matter of simple happiness, but of fatigue and gladness' underlying shades. The personalities who had once seemed so annoyingly arrogant now turned soft with their complexities of doubt and inspiration. Each mundane scene is as deep and varied as the paint needed to capture it.
One day, I will learn to paint people. As I run faster into the heart of art and my love for politics and law, I will learn to see the faces behind each page of cold policy text, the amazing innovation sketched in the tattered Constitution, and the progressiveness living in oak-paneled courts.
It won’t be too far. I know that in a few years I will see a thousand more colors than I do today. Yet the most beautiful part about art is that there is no end. No matter how deep I penetrate its shimmering realms, the enigmatic caverns of wonder will stay.
Professional Review by College Confidential
My favorite college essays begin with one moment in time and end by tying that moment into a larger truth about the world. In this essay, Elizabeth uses this structure masterfully.
This essay is a great example of a create essay. It's real strength, however, lies in showing how the writer pursues her goal despite frustration and grapples with universal questions.
The essay opens with dialogue, placing the reader right in the middle of the action. She shares only the details that make the scene vivid, like the holes in her mixing plate and her teacher’s yawn. She skips backstory and explanations that can bore readers and bog down a short essay. The reader is left feeling as though we are sitting beside her, staring at an empty vase and a set of paints, with no idea how to begin.
The SPARC method of essay writing says that the best college essays show how a student can do one (or more) of these five things: Seize an opportunity, Pursue goals despite obstacles, Ask important questions, take smart Risks, or Create with limited resources. This essay is a great example of a “create” essay. It’s real strength, however, lies in showing how the writer pursues her goal despite frustration and grapples with universal questions.
As the essay transitions from the personal to the universal, her experience painting the vase becomes a metaphor for how she sees the world. Not only has painting helped her appreciate the subtle shades of color in the sunset, it has opened her up to understand that nothing in life is black and white. This parallel works especially well as a way to draw the connection between Elizabeth’s interest in political science and art.
Written by Joy Bullen, Senior Editor at College Confidential
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When I failed math in my sophomore year of high school, a bitter dispute engulfed my household -- “Nicolas Yan vs. Mathematics.” I was the plaintiff, appearing pro se, while my father represented the defendant (inanimate as it was). My brother and sister constituted a rather understaffed jury, and my mother presided over the case as judge.
In a frightening departure from racial stereotype, I charged Mathematics with the capital offences of being “too difficult” and “irrelevant to my aspirations," citing my recent shortcomings in the subject as evi. dence. My father entered a not guilty plea on the defendant's behalf, for he had always harbored hopes that I would follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps -- and who ever heard of a businessman who wasn't an accomplished mathematician? He argued that because I had fallen sick before my examination and had been unable to sit one of the papers, it would be a travesty of justice to blame my "Ungraded” mark on his client. The judge nodded sagely.
With heartrending pathos, I recalled how I had studied A-Level Mathematics with calculus a year before the rest of my cohort, bravely grappling with such perverse concepts as the poisson distribution to no avail. I decried the subject's lack of real-life utility and lamented my inability to reconcile further effort with any plausible success; so that to persist with Mathematics would be a Sisyphean endeavor. Since I had no interest in becoming the entrepreneur that my father envisioned, I petitioned the court for academic refuge in the humanities. The members of the jury exchanged sympathetic glances and put their heads together to deliberate.
Over the next year, however, new evidence that threw the court's initial verdict into question surfaced. Languishing on death row, Mathematics exercised its right to appeal, and so our quasi-court reconvened in the living room.
In hushed tones, they weighed the particulars of the case. Then, my sister announced their unanimous decision with magisterial gravity: "Nicolas shouldn't have to do math if he doesn't want to!" I was ecstatic; my father distraught. With a bang of her metaphorical gavel, the judge sentenced the defendant to "Death by Omission"-- and so I chose my subjects for 11th Grade sans Mathematics. To my father's disappointment, a future in business for me now seemed implausible.
Over the next year, however, new evidence that threw the court's initial verdict into question surfaced. Languishing on death row, Mathematics exercised its right to appeal, and so our quasi-court reconvened in the living room.
My father reiterated his client's innocence, maintaining that Mathematics was neither "irrelevant" nor "too difficult." He proudly recounted how just two months earlier, when my friends had convinced me to join them in creating a business case competition for high school students (clerical note: the loftily-titled New Zealand Secondary Schools Case Competition), I stood in front of the Board of a company and successfully pitched them to sponsor us-- was this not evidence that l could succeed in business? I think I saw a tear roll down his cheek as he implored me to give Mathematics another chance.
I considered the truth of his words. While writing a real-world business case for NZSSCC, l had been struck by how mathematical processes actually made sense when deployed in a practical context, and how numbers could tell a story just as vividly as words can. By reviewing business models and comparing financial projections to actual returns, one can read a company's story and identify areas of potential growth; whether the company then took advantage of these opportunities determined its success. It wasn't that my role in organizing NZSSCC had magically taught me to embrace all things mathematical or commercial -- I was still the same person -- but I recognized that no intellectual constraints prevented me from succeeding in Mathematics; I needed only the courage to seize an opportunity for personal growth.
I stood up and addressed my family: “I’ll do it.” Then, without waiting for the court’s final verdict, I crossed the room to embrace my father: and the rest, as they (seldom) say, was Mathematics.
Professional Review by KEY Education
For some, math concepts such as limits, logarithms, and derivatives can bring about feelings of apprehension or intimidation. So, Nicolas’s college essay reflecting on his personal conflict coming to terms with Mathematics offers a relatable, down-to-earth look at how he eventually came to realize and appreciate the importance of this once-dreaded subject. Not only does Nicolas’s statement use a unique, engaging approach to hook the reader in, but also he draws various connections from Mathematics to his relationship with his family, to his maturation process, and to his extracurricular involvement. A number of factors helped Nicolas’s statement add color to his application file, giving further insight into the person he is.
Nicolas’s choice of Mathematics as the focusing lens is effective for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is genuine and approachable. It is not about some grandiose idea, event, or achievement. Rather, it is about a topic to which many students—and people for that matter—can relate. And from this central theme, Nicolas draws insightful linkages to various aspects of his life. At the outset of his essay, Mathematics is presented as the antagonist, or as Nicolas skillfully portrays, the “defendant”. However, by the end of his piece, and as a demonstration of his growth, Nicolas has come to a resolution with the former defendant.
Adding to the various connections, Nicolas presents his case, literally, in an engaging manner in the form of a court scene, with Nicolas as the plaintiff charging the defendant, Mathematics, with being too difficult and irrelevant to his life.
Through Nicolas’s conflict over Mathematics, we gain a deeper understanding of his relationship with his father and the tension that exists in Nicolas fulfilling his father’s wishes of following in his entrepreneurial footsteps. His father’s initial attempts at reasoning with him are rebuffed, however Nicolas later acknowledges that he “considered the truth of his words” and eventually embraces his father, signifying their coming to a resolution with their shared understanding of each other. Furthermore, Nicolas connects his evolved understanding of Mathematics to his important organizational role in creating the business-focused New Zealand Secondary Schools Case Competition, acknowledging how “mathematical processes actually made sense when deployed in a practical context, and how numbers could tell a story just as vividly as words can.” As he states, “I needed only the courage to seize an opportunity for personal growth,” which he ultimately realizes.
Adding to the various connections, Nicolas presents his case, literally, in an engaging manner in the form of a court scene, with Nicolas as the plaintiff charging the defendant, Mathematics, with being too difficult and irrelevant to his life. Bearing in mind word count limitations, what would have been interesting to explore would be deeper insights into each of the connections that Nicolas drew and how he applied these various lessons to other parts of his life.
Nicolas employs a number of characteristics essential for a successful essay: a theme that allows for deeper introspection, an engaging hook or approach, and a number of linkages between his theme and various aspects of his life, providing insight into who he is and how he thinks.
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Successful Harvard Essay by Abigail Mack
Abigail gained national attention after reading her application essay on TikTok earlier this year, with over 19.9 million views on the first video. Her essay helped her to recieve a rare likely letter in the most competitive Harvard application cycle in history with a less than 4 percent acceptance rate, and now she uses her platform to help other college hopefuls navigate the application process. Watch her read the beginning of her essay here and check out her other writing tips on her TikTok .
I hate the letter S. Of the 164,777 words with S, I only grapple with one.
I hate the letter “S”. Of the 164,777 words with “S”, I only grapple with one. To condemn an entire letter because of its use 0.0006% of the time sounds statistically absurd, but that one case changed 100% of my life. I used to have two parents, but now I have one, and the “S” in “parents” isn’t going anywhere.
“S” follows me. I can’t get through a day without being reminded that while my friends went out to dinner with their parents, I ate with my parent. As I write this essay, there is a blue line under the word “parent” telling me to check my grammar; even Grammarly assumes that I should have parents, but cancer doesn’t listen to edit suggestions. I won’t claim that my situation is as unique as 1 in 164,777, but it is still an exception to the rule - an outlier. The world isn’t meant for this special case.
The world wouldn’t abandon “S” because of me, so I tried to abandon “S”. I could get away from “S” if I stayed busy; you can’t have dinner with your “parent” (thanks again, Grammarly) if you’re too busy to have family dinner. Any spare time that I had, I filled. I became known as the “busy kid”- the one that everyone always asks, “How do you have time?” Morning meetings, classes, after school meetings, volleyball practice, dance class, rehearsal in Boston, homework, sleep, repeat. Though my specific schedule has changed over time, the busyness has not. I couldn’t fill the loss that “S” left in my life, but I could at least make sure I didn’t have to think about it. There were so many things in my life that I couldn’t control, so I controlled what I could- my schedule. I never succumbed to the stress of potentially over-committing. I thrived. It became a challenge to juggle it all, but I’d soon find a rhythm. But rhythm wasn’t what I wanted. Rhythm may not have an “S”, but “S” sure liked to come by when I was idle. So, I added another ball, and another, and another. Soon I noticed that the same “color” balls kept falling into my hands- theater, academics, politics. I began to want to come into contact with these more and more, so I further narrowed the scope of my color wheel and increased the shades of my primary colors.
Life became easier to juggle, but for the first time, I didn’t add another ball. I found my rhythm, and I embraced it. I stopped running away from a single “S” and began chasing a double “S”- passion. Passion has given me purpose. I was shackled to “S” as I tried to escape the confines of the traditional familial structure. No matter how far I ran, “S” stayed behind me because I kept looking back. I’ve finally learned to move forward instead of away, and it is liberating. “S” got me moving, but it hasn’t kept me going.
I wish I could end here, triumphant and basking in my new inspiration, but life is more convoluted. Motivation is a double edged sword; it keeps me facing forward, but it also keeps me from having to look back. I want to claim that I showed courage in being able to turn from “S”, but I cannot. Motivation is what keeps “S” at bay. I am not perfectly healed, but I am perfect at navigating the best way to heal me. I don’t seek out sadness, so “S” must stay on the sidelines, and until I am completely ready, motivation is more than enough for me.
Professional Review by HS2 Academy
There's an honesty here as she reveals to the reader her attempts at filling this void in her life by constantly keeping busy. It's further satisfying to see these attempts at committing to various activities evolve into what she terms a double
Abigail’s essay navigates one of the most delicate sorts of topics in college applications: dealing with personal or family tragedy. Perhaps the most common pitfall is to take a tragic event and effuse it with too much pathos and sense of loss that the narrative fails to reveal much about the author’s own personality other than the loss itself. In short, a “sob story.” However, Abigail’s essay adeptly skirts this by utilizing wit and a framing device using the letter “S” to share a profoundly personal journey in a manner that is engaging and thought-provoking.
Rather than focus purely on the loss of one of her parents to cancer, Abigail reflects on her life and the adjustments she has had to make. It is particularly poignant how she expresses the sense that her life with only one remaining parent seems somehow anomalous, that the constant reminders of the completeness in the familial structures of others haunts her.
What also makes this essay all the more intriguing is how we get a glimpse into her internal life as she learns to cope with the loss. There’s an honesty here as she reveals to the reader her attempts at filling this void in her life by constantly keeping busy. It’s further satisfying to see these attempts at committing to various activities evolve into what she terms a “double S,” or “passion,” as she discovers things that she has become passionate about. Perhaps this essay could have been strengthened further by giving the reader a sense of what those passions might be, as we’re left to speculate based on the activities she had mentioned.
Lastly, we see a sense of realism and maturity in Abigail's closing reflection. It’s easy to end an essay like this with a sense of narrative perfection, but she wisely concedes that “life is more convoluted.” This poignant revelation gives us a window into her continuing struggles, but we are nonetheless left impressed by her growth and candor in this essay.
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I learned the definition of cancer at the age of fourteen. I was taking my chapter 7 biology test when I came upon the last question, “What is cancer?”, to which I answered: “The abnormal, unrestricted growth of cells.” After handing in the test, I moved on to chapter 8, oblivious then to how earth-shattering such a disease could be.
I learned the meaning of cancer two years later. A girl named Kiersten came into my family by way of my oldest brother who had fallen in love with her. I distinctly recall her hair catching the sea breeze as she walked with us along the Jersey shore, a blonde wave in my surrounding family's sea of brunette. Physically, she may have been different, but she redefined what family meant to me. She attended my concerts, went to my award ceremonies, and helped me study for tests. Whenever I needed support, she was there. Little did I know that our roles would be reversed, forever changing my outlook on life.
Kiersten was diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 22. Tears and hair fell alike after each of her 20 rounds of chemotherapy as we feared the worst. It was an unbearable tragedy watching someone so vivacious skirt the line between life and death. Her cancer was later classified as refractory, or resistant to treatment. Frustration and despair flooded my mind as I heard this news. And so I prayed. In what universe did this dynamic make any sense? I prayed to God and to even her cancer itself to just leave her alone. Eventually, Kiersten was able to leave the hospital to stay for six weeks at my home.
But the beauty that resulted from sympathizing as opposed to analyzing and putting aside my own worries and troubles for someone else was an enormous epiphany for me. My problems dissipated into thin air the moment I came home and dropped my books and bags to talk with Kiersten. The more I talked, laughed, smiled, and shared memories with her, the more I began to realize all that she taught me.
My family and I transformed the house into an antimicrobial sanctuary, protecting Kiersten from any outside illness. I watched TV with her, baked cookies for her, and observed her persistence as she regained strength and achieved remission. We beat biology, time, and death, all at the same time, with cookies, TV, and friendship. Yet I was so concerned with helping Kiersten that I had not realized how she helped me during her battle with cancer.
I had been so used to solving my problems intellectually that when it came time to emotionally support someone, I was afraid. I could define cancer, but what do I say to someone with it? There were days where I did not think I could be optimistic in the face of such adversity. But the beauty that resulted from sympathizing as opposed to analyzing and putting aside my own worries and troubles for someone else was an enormous epiphany for me. My problems dissipated into thin air the moment I came home and dropped my books and bags to talk with Kiersten. The more I talked, laughed, smiled, and shared memories with her, the more I began to realize all that she taught me. She influenced me in the fact that she demonstrated the power of loyalty, companionship, and optimism in the face of desperate, life-threatening situations. She showed me the importance of loving to live and living to love. Most of all, she gave me the insight necessary to fully help others not just with intellect and preparation, but with solidarity and compassion. In this way, I became able to help myself and others with not only my brain, but with my heart. And that, in the words of Robert Frost, “has made all the difference.”
Professional Review by collegeMission
Nikolas is candid, writing about how he could solve problems intellectually, but struggled to cope emotionally during Kiersten's diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, he finds his way and gains a deeper perspective on life, and thus shares a story of overcoming and of complex intellectual and emotional growth.
Nikolas uses an unexpected approach in this essay, sharing a story of someone else’s struggle, as he highlights change within himself. The emotions and connection that he felt for Kiersten, his older brother’s girlfriend, are quite powerful, as is his recognition of his own attempt to navigate his way through the experience. Nikolas is candid, writing about how he could solve problems intellectually, but struggled to cope emotionally during Kiersten’s diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, he finds his way and gains a deeper perspective on life, and thus shares a story of overcoming and of complex intellectual and emotional growth.
Nikolas’ use of imagery is terrific. We first see it in the essay when he describes one of his first impressions of Kiersten, with her blonde hair flowing in the wind by the Jersey Shore and how that contrasted with the dark hair of his family. That description then flows as we read the next paragraph, where he talks about the impact of her cancer. “Tears and hair fell alike after each of her 20 rounds of chemotherapy as we feared the worst.” Instead of explicitly sharing everyone’s heartbreak, through details that heartbreak becomes so very evident.
One missing piece here is an explanation of why Kiersten stayed with Nikolas’ family rather than returning home to her own family. Maybe a quick explanation would have helped the reader make sense of her location, and create an even stronger linkage with Nikolas and his family. Additionally, Nikolas might have taken one more step toward the end of the essay to connect this newfound emotion to other parts of his life. The final paragraph feels slightly repetitive, and a compelling route could have been to show how he went on to embrace the idea of “loving to live and living to love.” Nonetheless, Nikolas reveals that he is capable of growing through adversity, a character trait that this admissions committee clearly appreciated.
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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application
What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?
How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start early. Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
- Keep the focus narrow. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
- Be yourself. Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
- Be creative. “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
- Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.
Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .
We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.
What exactly goes into writing a great college essay, and more importantly, what does it take to write one that stands out from thousands of others, landing itself in the “Accept” vs. “Reject” pile?
Breaking Down the College Essay
Let’s start by breaking it down into manageable parts and examining the required elements.
What’s the point of the college essay?
Almost every standard college application requires first-year applicants to submit a personal essay. If you are one of these applicants, you may be wondering, what’s the point?
With so many colleges deciding to go test-optional, (many do not require standardized tests and instead focus solely on your transcripts, essay, and recommendations), the essay is the one place in your application where you can illuminate your character in words and ideas, rather than in numbers and percentages. It is your chance to show schools who you are, what makes you tick, and why you stand out from the crowd.
Admissions counselors will read your essay and try to determine whether or not they want you at their school. While reading, they will be asking themselves, “What will this person bring to our community? Will they make our school a more valuable place?”
What are the prompts?
There are seven personal essay prompts in the Common Application. You may choose to write about obstacles you’ve encountered, your accomplishments and realizations, moments when you experienced extreme gratitude, or select your own topic.
No one prompt is considered “better” than another, but they can vary slightly from year to year, so be sure to read through all of them for your application cycle. At the end of the day, if there is something you feel really passionate about, you can likely adapt it to fit a prompt.
How long should your essay be?
The essay should be 650 words, which might sound like a lot at first, but you will be surprised by how quickly you reach that limit once you get going. Most of the students I work with end up making cuts to shorten their essays before submitting. The word limit is non-negotiable. You will not be able to submit an essay that’s even one word over the limit.
Writing the College Essay
Your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors know what they are talking about when they tell you to get started on the essay during the summer before your senior year. Don’t leave it until the last minute. Once senior year starts, life is a whirlwind. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay. Aim to start in July or August before senior year.
Starting can be as easy as creating a document where you generate an ongoing list of potential topics. You will want to draft your essay in a separate document anyway. You can copy and paste it over into the Common Application once you have a final, edited version.
Additionally, starting doesn’t always mean sitting down in front of a computer and typing. Talk about topic ideas out loud with anyone who will listen. Discuss ideas for topics with your family members over dinner or on car rides with friends. Think about ideas when you are out for a run or bike ride. Almost all colleges and universities have samples of “College Essays That Worked” in the admissions section of their websites. Reading through these may inspire you.
Keep the focus narrow.
Do not think too big. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
That leads to another suggestion: Don’t write about Covid-19. Your essay might touch on something that’s an offshoot of your time spent in quarantine or a loss connected to Covid, but it should not be about the pandemic specifically. There’s no question Covid-19 had, and still has, a major impact on all of us, but that topic has been written about by many students from every angle possible. Colleges want to read something different.
The Common Application has added an optional question that gives all applicants a place to address the impact that Covid has had on them personally and educationally. If you feel you have a story you must tell connected to the pandemic, this is the place to share it.
So, what should you write about?
When brainstorming topics, think about challenges you have faced and how you’ve handled them. You can also ask people who know you best how they would describe you in a few words and why. Their responses can be great jumping off points for writing your essay.
Some students choose to write about seemingly small, ordinary topics that illuminate their character beautifully, and are both poignant and thought-provoking. One student I worked with wrote about growing up hiking with her parents from the time when she was a baby in a backpack carrier, to a grumpy middle schooler, to an appreciative, nature-loving young adult who found outdoor experiences were an essential part of who she was at her core.
Other students choose to describe major life events, or especially challenging experiences that have impacted them deeply. An essay that comes to mind is one written by a student who battled loneliness and isolation due to anxiety and depression, and ultimately found invaluable reprieve in the arts, a passion that they hoped to continue to pursue at the college level.
Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, be sure the essay rises above a strict recounting of a story. Instead, use the narrative to reveal your true self. It’s okay to be vulnerable and honest; in fact, it’s critical you do so. Admissions counselors will not judge you negatively for depicting moments of weakness or fear, or for having different politics than they might. More likely, they will be impressed by your level of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and introspection.
Admissions counselors want value-adders. What adds value to a college campus? Students who display energy, resilience, leadership, passion, inclusivity, unique outlooks, and people who can inspire others. Your essay should tell a story that highlights traits like these. No one else has lived your life or experienced what you have in the way that you have; tell your unique story. Use a voice that’s real to you.
This is not the time to experiment with overly formal academic nor romantic, flowery language. Use words you would normally use and show the reader what makes you, you. There is no need to over-inflate things. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
The college essay is not like a typical English paper. It’s a true blend of the creative and the literary. In creative writing classes you often hear the advice, “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece. Describe sights, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and sounds as you write.
That said, just because you are being creative does not mean your essay should lack structure. This is not the time to experiment with a completely outlandish form. You don’t want to make your readers work to understand what you are trying to say. You want them to be entirely absorbed in the story you are telling. The easiest way to do this is by making your essay easy to read.
Think of the typical five paragraph structure for English papers. Your essay should have an introductory paragraph with a thesis/hook, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together. Your story might lend itself to six or seven paragraphs instead of five, depending on where the natural narrative breaks lie, and that’s fine. Just make sure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Your essay should not have any spelling, formatting, or grammatical errors. Mistakes do not put your best foot forward to admissions counselors, and they are distracting.
Be sure to read, re-read, and share your submission with others to prevent the possibility of mistakes. Use tools like spell and grammar check, and ask at least two other people to read your essay and offer feedback. You can ask a trusted family member to take a look, or even reach out to a friend with exceptionally good writing skills. We often get so close to our own words that we miss obvious errors. Even the best writers in the world rely on editors to help catch mistakes.
Another option is to ask your English teacher or guidance counselor to review your essay. In some schools, students will work on the college essay in English class during the fall of their senior year. This gives them a chance to receive both teacher and peer feedback, which can be incredibly valuable.
Finally, read your essay aloud before hitting submit. It may feel silly, but you will be amazed at the errors you will catch this way.
Make a point.
By the time you reach your conclusion, be sure your essay makes some sort of point. This is what will separate it from the competition. Ask yourself what you want your reader to walk away thinking and knowing about you, and allude to that in your final sentences. A strong conclusion that helps tie the entire essay together, and also points to the bigger picture, is key.
To achieve this, as you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had. Above all, remember that the conclusion should not be an afterthought, nor should it simply summarize the previous few paragraphs.
In many ways, the conclusion is the most important part of your essay as it’s the last thing people will read. Be sure to give it the time, effort, and energy it deserves. You want your readers to pause and reflect at the end of your essay. You want them to feel something, versus just moving on to the next essay on their list.
While some students are able to afford pricey college counselors to help guide them through the application process, at the end of the day, there is no magic formula that someone can pay thousands of dollars for when it comes to writing the college essay. Everyone has a unique story to tell and that is priceless. As long as you give yourself the time to brainstorm, and write and then rewrite, as well as ask for feedback from others along the way, you can end up with a solid final product.
One lesson you will learn at college is that the world is full of a wide array of brilliant, interesting, diverse individuals who all have unique life experiences. You are one of those people. Enjoy the process of telling your story, and then relish the opportunity you will have to create more stories as you move onto the next chapter of your life.
- AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business, All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including Pine Row Press , Months to Years, and Atlanta Review .
How to Write a College Application Essay: A Complete Guide
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- College application essays allow students to showcase their strengths and uniqueness.
- A well-written college essay could tip an admission decision in your favor.
- Students should spend time editing and proofreading their application essays.
- Your college application essay should focus on you and a meaningful topic.
Many colleges and universities require a college admissions essay as part of the application process. These personal statements allow students to describe their academic achievements, their strengths, and other personal aspects that can help admissions officers see them as unique individuals.
The essay also demonstrates a student's readiness for college and likelihood of success. While an applicant's GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and transcripts are important, a college application essay can offer an admissions department insights that these metrics don't reveal.
How Important Is the College Application Essay?
Many schools strongly emphasize the college application essay during admissions.
Although universities consider other elements such as GPA and recommendation letters , an outstanding personal essay for college can help you stand out from other applicants. If you have a similar GPA and test scores to those of other applicants, an essay can allow you to differentiate yourself.
According to a 2018-19 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling , 56.4% of admissions counselors reported that their institutions placed "considerable" or "moderate" importance on the college application essay when making admission decisions.
The report also found that private schools and more selective colleges tended to put the most weight on admissions essays.
How Long Should a College Essay Be?
Most effective college essay topics tend to reflect conciseness. Students who don't know how to write a personal statement for college might lose their readers' attention if they take too long to make their point. Applicants should remember that they get only a few hundred words to leave a favorable impression.
The Common App essay , for example, allows applicants to write a maximum of 650 words and a minimum of 250 words. Most supplemental essays submitted through this application system should be around 250 words or less.
With the Coalition Application, essays should be 500-650 words long .
What Kinds of College Essay Prompts Are There?
College essay prompts typically consist of broad, open-ended questions. They intend to focus students' writing while allowing for some freedom when addressing a topic. Depending on the school, students might respond to one prompt or pick from several.
Students should pay attention to what a prompt asks and stay on topic. Failing to answer the prompt directly is a common mistake when writing a personal statement for college.
Both the Common App and Coalition for College provide several prompts. Students should read their chosen question carefully as they develop their response. Creating outlines can help applicants stay on topic.
Common App Essay Prompts, 2021-22
- 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.
- 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?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- 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?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- 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?
- 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.
Coalition App Essay Prompts, 2021-22
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you've had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a student now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
What Are Some Examples of Good College Essay Topics?
Good college essay topics enable concise, transparent, honest, and meaningful writing. Because personal statements should differentiate applicants from their peers, topics should include compelling details and anecdotes.
Students should think carefully before writing about a negative experience or personal weakness. A college essay should portray the applicant positively, and dwelling on difficult or taboo topics could detract from your strengths.
You might look for college application essay examples to help you brainstorm topics. Students can also consider asking family members and peers to comment on their strengths and unique qualities. They may have insight to offer about what makes an applicant a good fit for a particular major or area of study.
Below are some examples of good college essay topics:
- A Defining Moment, Experience, or Realization: An experience that changed your perspective; a strong belief you no longer hold
- Someone Who Has Greatly Influenced You: Your most important mentor; a person who changed your life for the better
- A Key Part of Your Identity: An important aspect about you that you wish more people knew; your best characteristic
- Your Biggest Passion: A cause for which you have sacrificed; how your passion helped shape your identity
- A Problem You Solved: A significant obstacle you overcame; a solution you developed that achieved results
- A Unique Hobby: Your most enjoyable pastime; a time when your hobby taught you a valuable lesson
How to Write a Personal Statement for College: 6 Tips
A key characteristic of an excellent college application essay is writing quality. The personal statement can weigh heavily on some admission decisions. With this in mind, students can employ several strategies to make their essays stand out.
1. Pick a Meaningful Topic
Compelling college essay topics enable applicants to tell memorable and relatable stories. Students choosing subjects that hold personal meaning for them will likely write with more authenticity and enthusiasm, maintaining readers' interest.
Applicants should focus more on writing something they care about rather than what they think will impress admissions officers.
2. Keep the Focus on You
Unlike test scores or letters of recommendation, good college essay topics give students considerable control over how they express their best selves. Therefore, the essay should focus on them and not on other people.
Even personal statements that discuss an influential teacher or mentor should keep the story's focus on the applicant, such as how that person drove you to change or take action.
3. Use Specific Details and Examples
College essays ideally illustrate students' potential by outlining their achievements. These statements should include detailed descriptions and examples that portray experiences rather than future goals.
For instance, students who want to convey their leadership skills might describe specific incidents when they inspired others or helped a group achieve a tangible output.
4. Reveal Something Unique About Yourself
A student should write a college application essay that distinguishes them from other applicants. For example, writing about playing a niche instrument or winning an Olympic medal can help students stand out from other applicants. Doing so also demonstrates how your distinctive qualities will add to campus life.
5. Tell a Story
Students should use their college admissions essays to tell stories, striving for quality instead of quantity. In other words, you should avoid discussing your entire life and instead focus on one or two strong anecdotes that reveal your true self.
Applicants may write about specific hobbies or work experiences that highlight their values, skills, or proficiencies.
6. Edit and Proofread
Editing involves fine-tuning a draft to improve its organization and clarity. Proofreading typically follows editing and entails checking for errors. Once applicants have edited and proofread their essays, they'll benefit from at least one more read-through.
You should also strongly consider asking someone else to review your draft to catch additional errors and provide constructive feedback.
What Should You Avoid in Your Personal Essay for College?
Although a personal essay for college can demonstrate excellent writing and topic choice, it can still leave an unfavorable impression if it contains inappropriate or repetitive information. Here are some examples of topics to leave out of your statement.
Your Grades, Test Scores, and Academic Achievements
Successful college essays typically include information that does not appear anywhere else in the application. When reviewing other submission documents, admissions officers can learn about students' grades, previous courses, and scholarly achievements. As such, the essay should not focus on these kinds of details.
Your Life of Privilege
Steer clear of topics that highlight a privileged lifestyle. For example, framing a relatively common athletic injury as the hardest challenge you've faced may not demonstrate resilience as effectively as you'd like it to. It also suggests a lack of awareness of more serious obstacles others your age have faced.
In your eyes, Fido and Fluffy may be the most amazing creatures on the planet. But we all love our pets. You want your college essay to stand out by focusing on a topic or experience that's unique to you rather than something universal.
Cliches and Trite Quotations
A college admissions essay presents an opportunity for students to express their creativity and originality of thought. Using cliches and trite expressions makes writers appear lazy or unimaginative. Also, some sayings may be relevant to specific cultures, alienating or confusing some readers.
Your Criminal Record
Everybody admires an underdog who overcomes adversity, but illuminating past missteps with the law isn't exactly the best way to make a good first impression on college admissions officers. While you shouldn't sanitize reality for the benefit of your readers, choose a college essay topic that at the very least presents you in a positive light.
Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Knowing how to write a college application essay includes detecting spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. Error-free personal statements go far to illustrate applicants' excellent writing skills. Students might ask teachers, mentors, or others they trust to read their essays to catch any mistakes before submitting them.
College Application Essay Example
I planned my high school career carefully: marching band, honors courses, and three dual-credit college classes. My senior year should have been a smooth glide to graduation, with multiple electives to fill out the seven-hour day.
As a member of the Class of 2011, however, I became part of the first group of students to fall under the Texas Education Agency's new "4x4 plan." High school graduation requirements for Texas students expanded to include four years of four core subjects: mathematics, social studies, English, and science.
Under the new plan, despite careful planning, I was one year short on science. Due to the limited curriculum options of my small school, the only course on my prescribed registration list was Biology II. Enrolling in Biology II meant participating in the final project: dissecting cats.
I had avoided the course in the past for this exact reason. Being a longtime animal lover and advocate, there was simply no way I would — or could — take a scalpel to the body of a nameless shelter cat — killed in a gas chamber, its limbs stiff, fur matted with embalming fluid.
If all else failed, I was ready to sacrifice my 4.0 GPA. I was prepared to sit out for the project and take a dozen failing grades.
But first, I decided to put up a fight.
I drafted a formal letter to the principal and the biology teacher, discussing my reservations. I sent a second letter to the school's anatomy teacher. Her courses were over capacity, strictly limited to students interested in pursuing a health major in college, and the only other science option available at my grade level.
I let them know how the sudden introduction of the 4x4 plan felt like a punishment to students like me who had painstakingly planned their high school years from the start. I told them of my compassion for all living creatures, my concern with the use of cruel carbon monoxide euthanasia in Texas shelters, and the availability of modern computer programs that required no desecration of beloved companion animals.
When my senior year arrived, I had a seat in the crowded anatomy classroom — a future music major, alongside two dozen students with their eyes set on nursing, physical therapy, and medical school.
Presenting my views in a clear, respectful way prompted three adults in authority to make a positive change on my behalf. I was further informed that, in the years to follow, shelter cats would be phased out of Biology II and replaced with virtual dissection labs.
Feature Image: fotostorm / E+ / Getty Images
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College Essays That Worked: See Examples
Experts say a good college essay features a student's voice and personality.
Students should know themselves and write authoritatively so they can share a sense of their lives with admissions officers. (Getty Images)
Many college applications require a personal essay, which can be daunting for students to write.
But a few simple tips, some introspection and insight into what admissions officers are looking for can help ease the pressure. U.S. News has compiled several college essay examples that helped students get into school. Shared by admissions staff or referenced from admissions websites, these essays stand out, they say, because the student voices shine, helping the school get to know the applicants.
"Students can get caught in the trap of overthinking it and write the essay that's going to impress the admissions committee," says Andrew Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College . "The best essays, the ones that really pop, are the ones that come across as authentic and you really hear the student's voice."
The essay gives schools a feel for how a student writes, but it's the content of the essay that matters most, admissions professionals say. In other words, while it's important to showcase sound grammar and writing, it's even more important to showcase your character and personality.
"I care more about their stories than if it is a perfect five paragraph essay," David Graves, interim director of admissions at the University of Georgia , wrote in an email.
Many schools give students a wide range of topics to choose from, which experts say can be beneficial in helping students find their voice.
While you want your voice to be apparent, it's wise to be aware of your tone, says Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, an admissions consulting company that works with students to craft and revise their college essays. The goal of the essay is to make a strong case for why you’re different from all the other applicants, not necessarily why you’re better, he adds.
"You have to pass the genuine likability test. Sometimes kids are so busy trying to brag or tell their story that they’re forgetting they have to sound like a likable person. That’s a very simple test, but it’s really important."
Good essays tend to be "positively emotional," he says. It's best to avoid using sarcasm because it tends to fail on college essays.
Any humor used "really has to be a very positive, witty humor, not sarcastic," which he says can be hard to pick up on in an essay.
The Perils of Using AI for Essays
Choosing the right tone can be a challenge for many students, but admissions pros encourage them not to take shortcuts to completing their essay.
Though some college professors have embraced artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT in their classrooms, Strickler says he's begun to stress in recent talks with high school audiences the importance of original work and avoiding the use of AI tools like ChatGPT to craft college essays. While it might produce a technically well-written essay and save time, your unique voice will be stripped away, and it may leave a bad impression on admissions offices as well as prevent them from truly getting to know you, he says.
Instead, Graves says, start early and take time to write it yourself, then "actually read it out loud to someone ... to listen to the rhythm and words as they are 'read.'"
Each spring on his admissions blog , Graves shares an enrolling student's essay and why it was strong. The essay excerpted below, shared with the permission of the University of Georgia, uses descriptive word choice and gives the admissions office deep insight into the student's life, their love for writing and their connection to their family, Graves says.
It was chosen as an example "to show our applicant pool how to express themselves through similes, sensory language (words that capture the senses of the reader), and emotion," Graves wrote on the blog.
Here's how the essay opened:
If you asked me what object I’d save in a burning fire, I’d save my notebook. My notebook isn’t just any notebook, it’s bubble gum pink with purple tie dye swirls, and has gold coil binding it together. But more importantly, it’s the key that unlocked my superpower, sending me soaring into the sky, flying high above any problems that could ever catch me. However, my notebook is simply the key. My real power rests in the depths of my mind, in my passion for writing. But to know how my powers came to be (not from a spider or a special rock), I must travel back to the first spark.
Four years ago, I wrote my first 6-word memoir in my eighth-grade rhetoric class. Inspired by my father’s recently diagnosed terminal illness, I wrote “Take his words, don’t take him”. It was as if all the energy of my powers surged into six meaningful words meant to honor the man that I would soon lose to a villain known as ALS. This was the first time I felt my writing. Three years ago, my dad’s disease severely progressed. The ALS seized his ability to speak and locked it in a tower with no key. The only way we could communicate was with an old spiral notebook. ...
The essay counted down each year ("three years ago," "two years ago," etc.) and concluded with this paragraph:
One month ago, I needed my powers more than ever before. I needed them to convey who I truly am for the chance at the future of my dreams as a writer. Except this time, I didn’t need the key because my powers grew into fruition. Instead, I opened my laptop only to type out one sentence… “If you asked me what object to save in a burning fire, I’d save my notebook.”
This style of storytelling, which shows not just the triumph at the end but also the conflict, struggle and evolution in between, makes for great essays, Koh says.
"The student also used an intriguing timeline (counting down years and month) to tell their story, and showed how she had grown," Graves says.
This next essay, by an anonymous writer and shared on Connecticut College 's admissions page , "manages to capture multiple aspects of the writer's personality, while not becoming overly cluttered or confusing," writes Susanna Matthews, associate director of admission at the school.
Every person who truly knows me believes that I was born in the wrong century. They call me "an old soul" because I'm a collector, attracted to books, antiques, vinyl records and anything from the 80's. But they also think I am unique in other ways. I believe it is because of the meaningful connections to my two languages and two cultures.
When we moved into our first American house, I was excited to decorate my new room. The first thing I knew I needed was a place to organize my most cherished possessions I have collected throughout my life. I searched and finally found a bookshelf with twenty-five thick sections that I could build and organize alphabetically ... Each shelf holds important objects from different parts of my life. ...
These books are a strong connection to my Brazilian heritage. They also remind me of the time when I was growing up in Brazil, as a member of a large Italian-Brazilian family.
The writer continues on, describing the types of books on each shelf, from Harry Potter to books used to learn English. They describe the bottom of the bookshelf housing some of their most prized possessions, like an old typewriter their grandfather gave them. They wonder about the words it has crafted and stories it has told.
As I grab my favorite Elvis vinyl to play, I can only wonder about the next chapter of my life. I look forward to adding new books, new friends, and a wide variety of experiences to my bookshelf.
"By placing one subject (the bookshelf) at the center of the piece, it lends some flexibility to layer in much more detail than if they had tried to discuss a few different interests in the essay," Matthews writes. "You learn a lot about the person, in a way that isn't in your face – a great thing when trying to write a personal essay."
Some colleges require a supplemental essay in addition to the personal statement. Typically, admissions pros note, these essays are shorter and focus on answering a specific question posed by the college.
The University of Chicago in Illinois allows students to submit essay prompts as inspiration for the admissions office and gives students some latitude in how they answer them. Essay prompts range from questions about the school itself to asking students to pick a question from a song title or lyric and give their best shot at answering it.
"We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions," the school's admissions website reads. "They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between."
While the University of Chicago says there is no strict word limit on its supplemental essays, other schools prefer brevity. For example, Stanford University in California asks students to answer several short questions, with a 50-word limit, in addition to answering three essay questions in 100 to 250 words.
Georgia asks for a school-specific supplemental essay that's 200-300 words in addition to a 250- to 650-word personal essay.
"Sometimes a shorter essay response is not as polished an essay, but instead is a more casual, more relaxed essay," Graves says. "In addition, sometimes a student needs to get to the point or be concise, and this helps see if they can give us their story without overdoing it."
Other schools allow for a little more creativity in how the supplemental essay questions are answered. Babson College in Massachusetts, for example, gives students a 500-word limit to answer a prompt, or they can choose to submit a one-minute video about why they chose to apply to the school.
One student, Gabrielle Alias, chose to film a "day-in-the-life" video , which she narrated to answer the prompt, "Who Am I?"
"Visiting campus twice, I know I could see myself as one of the many interesting, innovative, and enticing students that come out of Babson," she says in the video. "But who am I you ask? I am a student. I am a reader. I am a researcher. I am a music lover. ... I am Gabrielle Alias and I am excited for who I will be as a graduate of Babson."
An essay by Babson student Bessie Shiroki, seen below, describes her experience in the school's admissions office and how she immediately felt comfortable.
I immediately smiled at the sight of my favorite board game. Babsonopoly. I love the combination of strategy and luck in this traditional family pastime. Seeing this on the wall in the admissions office gave me immediate comfort; I knew I was home.
Shiroki describes what she felt set Babson College apart from other schools, such as being surrounded by "sophisticated and mature individuals" and a tight-knit, entrepreneurial environment that would help her reach her career goals.
It is natural for me to be in a small class where more than one language is spoken. I am accustomed to discussions with diverse viewpoints, open minds, and where differences are seen as advantages. I embrace my cultural uniqueness, and I will add my voice to the community. I can’t imagine not continuing this in college.
She notes that as she toured the campus and saw students studying, she could see herself as one of them, feeding off of their studious and entrepreneurial energy. She mentions that Babson's Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship class got her attention immediately and she saw it as a launch pad for a future that included running a business.
Babson recognizes the potential of their students, and FME is a great way for young entrepreneurs like me to find our place in the business world and learn from our mistakes. I am capable of this challenge and will conquer it with tenacity. I will bring my dedication, commitment, and innovative skills to Babson College.
Now it’s my turn to pass go and collect my Babson acceptance letter. I’ve found my next challenge.
Babson College offers several tips for what make good essays, including a strong "hook" to engage the reader from the start and a topic that allows you to share something that's not as obvious on your application.
When it comes to writing a college admissions essay – whether personal or supplemental – experts advise students to follow these rules:
- Find your voice.
- Write about a topic that matters to you.
- Share your personality.
- Express yourself.
- Proofread extensively.
With both traditional essays and supplemental essays, Koh says it's best to write long and work with someone you trust to edit it down. Teachers, friends and parents can all be helpful proofreaders, but experts note that the student voice should remain intact.
A good editor can help edit a long essay to keep the main message but with fewer words. “If I see 400 words, I know I’m a dozen drafts away from getting it to 650,” he says. “If I see 1200 words, we might just be one or two away. It’s at least going to be a shorter haul.”
Strickler encourages students not to stress too much over the essay or put unnecessary weight on it as part of their college application . While a strong essay helps, he says, it doesn't make or break an application.
"There's this sense that you write the most amazing essay and it gets you over the top because it opens the door to the pathway to the Magic Kingdom," he says. "But it's just one piece of a myriad of pieces that allow us to get to know a particular student and help us figure out if they're a good fit and how they're going to contribute to our community."
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How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples
The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.
A standout essay has a few key ingredients:
- A unique, personal topic
- A compelling, well-structured narrative
- A clear, creative writing style
- Evidence of self-reflection and insight
To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.
Table of contents
Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.
While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.
Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
What do colleges look for in an essay?
Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :
- Demonstrated values and qualities
- Vulnerability and authenticity
- Self-reflection and insight
- Creative, clear, and concise writing skills
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.
Create an essay tracker sheet
If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:
- Deadlines and number of essays needed
- Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts
You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.
College essay tracker template
Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.
If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.
What makes a good topic?
- Meaningful and personal to you
- Uncommon or has an unusual angle
- Reveals something different from the rest of your application
You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:
- What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
- What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
- What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
- What makes you different from your classmates?
- What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
- Whom do you admire most? Why?
- What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?
How to identify your topic
Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:
- Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
- Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.
After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.
Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.
The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.
This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.
Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences
- Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
- Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
- Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
- Story: Broadway musical interests
- Lesson: Finding my voice
- Story: Smells from family dinner table
- Lesson: Appreciating home and family
- Story: Washing dishes
- Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
- Story: Biking with Ava
- Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
- Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.
Single story structure
The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.
Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.
Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person
- Situation: Football injury
- Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
- Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
- My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
- Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game
Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs
Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.
Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..
Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).
While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.
Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.
Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook
Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.
Option 2: Start with vivid imagery
Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.
A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .
Show, don’t tell
“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”
First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.
- What are the most prominent images?
- Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
- What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?
Be vulnerable to create an emotional response
You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.
Use appropriate style and tone
Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:
- Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
- Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
- Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
- Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
- Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).
You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:
- Summarizing what you already wrote
- Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
- Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”
Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.
Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure
The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.
In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.
Option 2: Revealing your insight
You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.
Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.
It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.
Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.
Respect the word count
Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.
Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.
Check your content, style, and grammar
- First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
- Then, check for style and tone issues.
- Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.
Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.
- Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
- Friends and family can check for authenticity.
- An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.
The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.
College admissions essay checklist
I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.
I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.
I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.
I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.
I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.
I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.
I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.
I’ve used appropriate style and tone .
I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.
I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.
I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.
Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.
Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.
You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.
You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.
If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
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Course: college admissions > unit 4.
- Writing a strong college admissions essay
- Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
- Brainstorming tips for your college essay
- How formal should the tone of your college essay be?
- Taking your college essay to the next level
- Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
- Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
- Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
- Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
- Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
- Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
- Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem
Writing tips and techniques for your college essay
Pose a question the reader wants answered, don't focus exclusively on the past, experiment with the unexpected, don't summarize, want to join the conversation.
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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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our interactive workshops—on topics like the college search process and essay preparation—will help you build your strongest application when you’re ready to apply.
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How to Write the UIUC Essays 2023-2024
UIUC is one of the best public universities in the USA, so writing strong essays is important to making your application stand out. UIUC has two required short prompts and two optional ones for all applicants, plus an additional prompt for applicants with a second-choice major.
Here’s our expert advice on responding to the UIUC Prompts
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1 (required): Explain, in detail, an experience you’ve had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. This can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else. (150 words)
Prompt 2 (required): Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from UIUC and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them. (150 words)
Prompt 3 (optional): Explain any challenges (outside of COVID-related) you have faced throughout your academic career, including the dates or timeline below. (300 words)
Prompt 4 (0ptional): If you have a low grade or a drop in grades that you have not already explained, do so below. (300 words)
All Applicants With Second-Choice Major
You have selected a second-choice major. Please explain your interest in that major or your overall academic or career goals. (150 words) (150 words)
All Applicants, Prompt 1
Explain, in detail, an experience you’ve had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. this can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else. (150 words).
At first glance, this prompt seems pretty straightforward, and there isn’t much space for extraneous storytelling.
However, what gives this prompt its difficulty is the necessity of going above and beyond. Not only do you need to identify the experiences that shaped your interest in your selected major, but you need to provide deeper reflections as to why those experiences impacted you in the way they did.
For that reason, it’s not enough to simply list the experiences that led you to your chosen major. For example, you shouldn’t just say, “I first discovered my passion for film in English class, when I had to write a take home essay about the movie adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray . I furthered my interest in film by making my own home documentary alongside a couple friends. I also started volunteering at a local arthouse cinema to understand a more commercial perspective on film…”
Rather, it’s better to go deeper with a given example and provide insights into what motivates your passions. Instead of simply listing experiences related to film, you might instead say, “My English teacher assigned our class a take-home essay, where we analyzed the movie adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray . Looking at the movie through a closer lens gave me a deeper appreciation for the small decisions directors make and the big impacts they can have…”
The admissions readers at UIUC want to see that you have the necessary experiences under your belt to thrive in your chosen course of study, and they also want to see that you will be passionate and motivated while doing so! Make sure to show them both your experiences and your deeper insights about those experiences, and you’ll have a strong essay on your hands.
All Major Applicants, Prompt 2
Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from uiuc and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them. (150 words).
The trick to this prompt is making sure you convey a clear personal or career goal, while also relating your intended course of study to that goal.
Thus, you should acknowledge the following main points while answering this prompt:
- What are your future personal or career goals?
- How will your chosen major help contribute towards those goals?
Let’s address each of these points separately.
1. What are your future personal and/or career goals?
The prompt plainly states that your response needs to identify your future personal or career goals. If you have a clear idea of what your goals are, that will make this part easy. In that situation, you would have presumably chosen a course of study that will serve as a stepping stone towards your longer-term ambitions.
On the other hand, UIUC knows that your interests will change over the next four years, and that nothing is set in stone. If you’re uncertain about your career goals, it’s also okay to identify a few possible career paths that interest you. Another option is to discuss the type of work you wish to do (e.g. helping deliver aid to marginalized communities) as opposed to the specific career title.
Keep in mind that UIUC gives you the option of specifying your personal goals as well, and not just your career goals. Your personal goals should still be related to your major, but don’t have to be as career-focused. For instance, some solid personal goals to mention would be things like becoming a stronger public speaker, learning to program in a certain coding language, doing research on a specific topic, or writing a novel.
As long as you can make a compelling case as to how your chosen major relates to your future ambitions, you will be in good shape for this essay.
2. How will your chosen major help contribute towards those goals?
Once you have identified your personal or career goals, you also need to indicate what aspects of your chosen course of study will help you achieve those goals.
This will mean both speaking about your major in broad terms, as well as identifying some features of UIUC’s course of study that serve you particularly well. This is not a “why UIUC” essay, so showing depth of research is not the top priority, but it will strengthen your response nonetheless.
While this essay does not require personal reflections in the way that many other college essays do, it is still important for your voice to come through in deeper analyses that show you understand the significance of your major-goal combination at a deeper level.
To accomplish this, make sure you are always stating why a particular aspect of your intended major serves your goals. For instance, it is not enough to say, “I hope to be a lawyer for the United Nations, so I want to take the course Governing Globalizations.” You might instead write, “Courses such as Governing Globalizations, which explore the historical, moral, socio-economic, and political dimensions of an emerging global society, will provide me with the interdisciplinary background to thrive as an international lawyer.”
All Applicants, Prompt 3 (Optional)
Explain any challenges (outside of covid-related) you have faced throughout your academic career, including the dates or timeline below. (300 words).
While we encourage applicants to respond to most optional prompts, this prompt and the following one are truly optional. You should only respond to them if you have exceptional circumstances that apply.
This prompt is not the typical Overcoming Challenges essay, where you’re asked to share examples of your resilience through a story. This is truly for major challenges that negatively impacted your academic or extracurricular history, and it should be written in a straightforward format, not narrative form.
Some examples of challenges that may apply include:
- Major illness
- Death in the family
- Job loss in the family
- Anything else that prevented you from achieving at your potential
You don’t need to take up the full word count; only use the space you need. Here’s an example:
During my entire high school career, I had to babysit for my two younger siblings right after school because my family couldn’t afford daycare. As a result, I was unable to do sports or other extracurriculars, however, these many afternoons prepping snacks and coming up with new games to play were valuable in teaching me responsibility and creativity.
All Applicants, Prompt 4 (Optional)
If you have a low grade or a drop in grades that you have not already explained, do so below. (300 words).
The same advice for the previous prompt applies here too, however, this is specific to grades. Again, don’t use this space for that one class you got a B. This is for grades that are truly out of the norm from your academic record or abilities.
Make sure you also don’t blame others for your lower grade (i.e. “the teacher was bad”). If there were factors outside of your control, explain the situation as diplomatically as possible.
In September 2021, I was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking medication for it. Prior to that, during freshman year, I was not able to do my best academically because I was unable to focus. After starting ADHD medication, I was able to follow along in class and complete all my assignments, and my grades rose significantly as a result.
You have selected a second-choice major. Please explain your interest in your second-choice major or your overall academic or career goals. (150 words)
This prompt is similar to the previous one about your first-choice major, so you should approach it in largely the same manner. The only nuance is that you don’t necessarily have to relate your second-choice major to any personal or career goals, if you don’t want to (though it’s always helpful to!).
It’s still important to ground this essay in meaningful experiences with this field. Since the essay asks about your interest in this major, it can be easy to simply write all the reasons you love the major without actually sharing more about who you are. You want to avoid that! For example, anyone could write an essay about why environmental science is so great and important, but only you can discuss how the river in your hometown was polluted by a garment factory, or how fulfilling it was to teach kids at the elementary school how to compost.
After explaining your interest, make sure to share how this second-choice major relates to your future goals. Since it’s a second-choice major, you may not have as concrete of an answer, and that’s okay, but UIUC still wants to know how you might make an impact with this major should you study it. For the hypothetical student interested in environmental science, they may want to work in environmental policy to prevent pollution, or become a teacher so that the younger generation learns to love and care for the earth.
Where to Get Your University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your UIUC essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. 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!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay
College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.
When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.
Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.
So, what does this mean for you?
Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.
Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.
More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.
Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.
Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.
Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.
Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.
Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.
Grab the Reader From the Start
You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.
Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.
Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.
Focus on Deeper Themes
Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.
College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.
They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.
Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?
Show Don’t Tell
As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.
The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.
Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.
Try Doing Something Different
If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?
If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.
You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.
However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.
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Write With the Reader in Mind
Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.
Use transitions between paragraphs.
Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?
Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?
Write Several Drafts
Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.
Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.
Read It Aloud
Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.
If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.
Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.
Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.
Ask Others to Read Your Essay
Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.
Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.
Pay Attention to Form
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.
In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.
End Your Essay With a “Kicker”
In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.
It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.
So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.
While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.
Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!
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About the Author
Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”
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20 Successful College Essay Examples + Why They Worked (2023)
Today I'm going to show you 20 essays that worked that will help inspire you and start you on your way to writing your own successful essays.
In this post, I've included:
- Personal Statement examples
- Supplemental essay examples
- University of California essays
- Links to hundreds more essay examples
If you're looking for college essay examples, you've found the right place.
Let's get started.
Writing your college essays can be challenging.
And in 2023, with many schools dropping test scores from their application, your college essays are one of the most important parts of your application if you want to get accepted.
That means there's a whole lot more opportunity for students without the best SAT or ACT scores to boost their chances of admission by writing outstanding essays.
20 of My Favorite EssaysThatWorked
One of the best ways to write your own successful essays is to read and learn from past essays that worked.
Here's 20 of our favorite college essays examples. From Personal Statement examples to "Why this college?" supplements, find any type of essay you're looking for.
I've chosen these examples because they represent almost every type of essay you'll need to write.
Plus, they are all high-quality examples that have an authentic voice , one of the most important parts of a great essay.
Table of Contents
Personal statement essay examples.
- 1. The Itch
- 2. Paint Dance
- 3. Football Manager
- 4. Restaurant Job
Additional Personal Statement Examples
Additional Common App Essay Examples
University of California Essay Examples
- 5. Summer Counselor
- 6. Teaching Talent
- 7. Linguistics
- 8. Linguistics Society
- 9. New Perspectives
Supplemental Essay Examples
- 10. Fermat's Last Theorem
- 11. Bug Fixing
- 12. Why UPenn?
- 13. Story of My Name
- 14. Ideal College Community
- 15. Why Computer Science
- 16. Volunteering at Hospital
- 17. Why Carnegie Mellon
- 18. Why NYU?
- 19. Moving Places
- 20. Double Major
Ready to get inspired to write the next great admissions essays?
Let's jump right in.
Part 1: Personal Statements That Stand Out
Your Personal Statement essay is arguably the most important essay you'll write.
Since it's sent to every college you apply to, you need to carefully choose how you use your 650 words.
In this section, I'll show you several examples of successful Common App essays accepted into the most selective colleges.
Let’s dive right in.
Most students write their personal statement essay on their Common Application.
That's why it's called your Common App essay .
If you're having trouble starting your essay, be sure to check out some Common App inspiration .
Here are some of the best Common App essay examples that have gotten students into top colleges.
Below are some of our favorite personal statement essay examples from the Ivy League and other top-20 colleges.
College Essay Example #1: The Itch
This Common App personal statement was accepted into Stanford University .
Common App Prompt #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. (250-650 words)
Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.
Why This Essay Works:
This essay is all based upon the metaphor of "the itch" representing a desire to understand the world. By using a central theme, such as a metaphor, you can create a thread of ideas that run throughout your essay. If you want to use a metaphor, make sure it clearly relates to the idea you're trying to express, rather than choosing one just because it is a creative or unique approach. In this case, there is perhaps no better metaphor than "the itch" which would capture their main idea, so it works well.
Instead of "telling" their ideas, this essay does a lot of fantastic "showing" through specific anecdotes. Sentences like "I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words..." capture a lot about the author's character and background without having to say it outright. By showing the reader, you allow them to draw their own conclusions rather than just having to accept what you're telling them. Using specific language also creates a more vibrant and interesting essay. Rather than saying "I loved learning as a kid," this student shows it using a concrete example: "my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums".
Writing about other people in your essay can be a great way to tell things about yourself. Known as a literary "foil," by describing other people you can show your own values without stating them plainly. In this essay, the author shows their value (of being passionate about learning) by first recognizing that value in somebody else, "Kikki" in this case. By writing about people in your life, you can also create a sense of humility and humanity. Nobody is an "island," meaning that everyone is influenced by those around us. Showing how you draw inspiration, values, or lessons from others will show more about your character than simply telling admissions would.
In general, listing activities in your essay is a bad strategy, because it is repetitive of your activities list and comes across boring. However, this essay manages to list their activities in the 3rd-to-last paragraph by connecting them to a central idea: how their newfound passion for learning sparked all these new engagements. Listing activities can be okay, but only if they have a clear purpose in doing so. In this case, the purpose is to show how these activities are representative of their new passion for learning. But the purpose for listing activities could also be to show a specific value, provide examples for your idea, demonstrate your new perspective, etc.
College Essay Example #2: Paint Dance
This Common App personal statement was accepted into Williams College .
Common App Prompt #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? (250-650 words)
This student uses figurative language, particularly personification, which makes their writing more engaging. Rather simply telling a story plainly, implementing aspects of creative writing such as metaphors, personification, and symbolism, can engage the reader in your story.
This essay deals with their struggles—particularly in overcoming fear of failure while painting. By showcasing your challenges, you not only create a more relatable persona, but it makes your successes far more impactful. Everyone has struggles, and reflecting upon those challenges is what will help you convey self-growth.
What They Might Improve:
Although this student reflects on the concept of fear, they don't go much deeper than surface-level reflections. This essay does pose some interesting questions, like "Why was I afraid of something I had not yet encountered?" but these questions are cut short and not satisfyingly explored. Admissions officers are impressed with genuine, deep reflection. To get there, you need to push past surface-level takeaways and try taking your ideas always one step further.
"Fear" is a central theme of this essay, but the main idea of overcoming fear is repeated excessively, without adding new ideas. It is important that your essay "goes somewhere" and doesn't stay stuck at the surface of your ideas. You want to go deep into your ideas, which means avoiding repetition at all costs, and only referencing a previous idea if you're adding something new: a new perspective, context, nuance, broader application, etc.
College Essay Example #3: Football Manager
This Common App personal statement was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania .
Common App Prompt #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. (250-650 words)
This essay has lighthearted moments in it, such as recognizing how being a football manager "does not sound glamorous" and how "we managers go by many names: watergirls..." Using moments of humor can be appropriate for contrasting with moments of serious reflection. Being lighthearted also shows a sense of personality and that you are able to take things with stride.
The reflections in this essay are far too generic overall and ultimately lack meaning because they are unspecific. Using buzzwords like "hard work" and "valuable lessons" comes off as unoriginal, so avoid using them at all costs. Your reflections need to be specific to you to be most meaningful. If you could (in theory) pluck out sentences from your essay and drop them into another student's essay, then chances are those sentences are not very insightful. Your ideas should be only have been able to been written by you: specific to your experiences, personal in nature, and show deep reflection.
Although this essay uses the topic of "being a football manager," by the end of the essay it isn't clear what that role even constitutes. Avoid over-relying on other people or other's ideas when writing your essay. That is, most of the reflections in this essay are based on what the author witnessed the football team doing, rather than what they experienced for themselves in their role. Focus on your own experiences first, and be as specific and tangible as possible when describing your ideas. Rather than saying "hard work," show that hard work through an anecdote.
More important than your stories is the "So what?" behind them. Avoid writing stories that don't have a clear purpose besides "setting the scene." Although most fiction writing describes people and places as exposition, for your essays you want to avoid that unless it specifically contributes to your main point. In this essay, the first two paragraphs are almost entirely unnecessary, as the point of them can be captured in one sentence: "I joined to be a football manager one summer." The details of how that happened aren't necessary because they aren't reflected upon.
In typical academic writing, we're taught to "tell them what you're going to tell them" before telling them. But for college essays, every word is highly valuable. Avoid prefacing your statements and preparing the reader for them. Instead of saying "XYZ would prove to be an unforgettable experience," just dive right into the experience itself. Think of admissions officers as "being in a rush," and give them what they want: your interesting ideas and experiences.
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College Essay Example #4: Restaurant Job
This Common App personal statement is an accepted Tulane essay .
Common App Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (250-650 words)
Piano Man plays on repeat in Used To Be’s Island Eatery, a high-volume bar and restaurant in the town of [Location] on the Jersey shore. Balding men and blonde women sway to the song as they sit on the wooden barstools, chatting and laughing about their lives.
Rather than "telling," it's important to always back up your points by "showing." This means using anecdotes, examples, and specific references to help the reader come to the same conclusion as you. Anybody can "tell" things, but by showing them you are giving proof, which makes your points more convincing and compelling.
An effective strategy for having interesting ideas is to reflect upon what you've learned as the result of an activity or experience. Lessons are important because they show self-growth, which admissions officers are looking for. It can also be a good idea to compare and contrast your lessons with other areas of your life. For example, how do your lessons from an extracurricular activity differ or translate over to your academics? Or vice versa?
One of the most common "mistakes" in essays is to not go deeper into your ideas. Most students gravitate towards surface-level ideas, which can be a good starting point, but should ideally be taken further. Admissions officers have read thousands of essays, so it's important that your ideas are unique, specific to you, and interesting. To get to those "deeper" ideas, keep asking yourself questions. For example, if you start with the idea of "positivity is key for this job," then keep asking yourself "Why?" Repeat that process many times and think critically, and eventually you'll come to more interesting and compelling ideas.
Avoid writing like fiction books, which have lots of descriptions that build a world or environment. Instead, only describe the things that matter to your main point. Since you have a limited number of words to use, it is vital that each sentence has a clear purpose. In this essay, many descriptions are ultimately unnecessary to their main point. Does it matter that "balding men and blonde women sway to the song as they sit on the wooden barstools"? No, and this only distracts from what is ultimately more valuable: your ideas and reflections.
Want to read more Common App essay examples?
If you're looking for more outstanding Common App essays, check out our Common App guide with examples.
For more, check out our list of top personal statement examples .
Part 2: UC Personal Insight Questions
Your UC essays are more important in 2022, now that UC's have dropped SAT and ACT scores from your application.
And if you're looking to write great UC essays, the best place to start is by learning from essays that worked in the past.
If you're looking for tons of UC essay examples, you're in the right place.
Every student applying to University of California must write four Personal Insight Questions. Each short essay must be fewer than 350 words each.
Check out our guides and examples for UCLA essays and UC Berkeley essays .
Within those posts, you'll be able to read dozens of the best UC Personal Insight Questions.
College Essay Example #5: Summer Counselor
This essay was accepted into UCLA .
UC PIQ #1: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words max)
Each summer for the last eight years, I have attended a four-week residential summer camp on Orcas Island, first as a camper and more recently as a staff member. As a counselor-in- training last summer, my role shifted from one centred around my own enjoyment to one catering to the fulfilment of others. I welcomed this change of pace gladly, as the ability to positively impact the next generation of campers in a similar way to how my own counselors impacted mine thrilled me.
At first, I was unconvinced that I was being the role model I had envisaged of myself, as I was daunted by my new responsibility as staff. However, my uncertainty dissipated when one of the campers I had worked closely with in the sailing classes I taught wrote me a heartfelt letter towards the end of the session claiming that spending time with me had been one of the highlights of his summer. This small affirmation struck me deeply, and I was incentivised to continue putting all my energy into hopefully similarly affecting as many others as I could.
One of the most challenging parts of the summer was when I acted as an assistant counselor to a group of six 2nd-grade boys for a week, living with and supervising them for the whole time. I recall one particular moment when all six started yelling over the minor grievance of whose turn it was to take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen that meal. I tried diffusing the situation peacefully but, in the end, it required a firmer stance to get them to calm down. It was tough for me to take a harder line with them, but it was a valuable lesson that being assertive, yet still kind, is an effective method for future situations.
I cannot wait to apply for a full counselor position next summer, as each year I learn more from camp about what it is to be a compassionate leader, a convincing role model, and a team player.
- Specific Example : For UC essays, it's important to directly and clearly answer the prompt. This student does a good job of using a specific moment that clearly answers the prompt.
- Honest About Challenges : You don't have to present yourself as a perfect human being. Instead, by showing your flaws and challenges, it makes you more relatable. This student does that well by admitting: "I was unconvinced that I was being the role model I had envisaged of myself."
What They Might Change:
- Give More Details : In addition to stating "...it required a firmer stance to get them to calm down," it's better to show this. How did you act in that moment? How can you illustrate that assertiveness, without just stating it?
College Essay Example #6: Teaching Talent
UC PIQ #3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)
My greatest talent is teaching. I love the opportunity to help others and seeing them develop and improve as a result of my input is always so rewarding.
My principle teaching outlet is as a diving coach. My favourite part about this job is that it is so dynamic, and each session is different. Some days the divers are in a great mood, dive impressively, and will jest with you nonstop which, being extroverted, fills me with energy and is a genuinely enjoyable evening. These sessions are so easy to coach as you can present yourself as a friend to the divers and deepen the trust that exists between you. However, other nights the kids are tired and unenthusiastic and coaching becomes far more challenging. I have to be stricter with them while simultaneously finding ways to motivate them, such as introducing little competitions or rewards for training hard. Over time, I have gotten much more confident at adjusting my coaching attitude towards the signals I pick up from the divers and it has made my job significantly easier.
This year, I have taken on the additional responsibility of leading the Learn to Dive squad, the largest group of divers at my club. At first, it was tough for me to adjust to my new role as it entailed more work with other coaches, helping them to develop their own coaching ability and monitoring the progression of their divers, as well as with kids of my own. However, I have grown to love this new element of my job, despite the challenge of instructing coaches older than myself, as it has forced me to develop my teaching ability in new ways. I have had to analyse my own teaching methods in order to explain them to other coaches and this both helped them to understand how to improve, but also allowed me to refine and develop how I coach my own divers.
Teaching is such an important part of my life because it allows me to learn and increase my own knowledge while making a positive impact on others.
College Essay Example #7: Linguistics
This Personal Insight Question essay was accepted into UCLA among others.
UC PIQ #6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (350 words max)
While reading Tolkien's The Silmarillion , I was struck by the elegance of the Elvish script he included. Upon further research, I discovered that he had created an entire language – Quenya – to accompany the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The idea that a language could be crafted and cultivated like a piece of art was both illuminating and inspiring to me. I had heard of Esperanto previously, but I believe Tolkien wasn’t trying to change the world with his creation. His goal was simply to create a language for the pleasure of it, and to enrich his storytelling and worldbuilding.
The revelation that language could be more than just a tool for communication triggered a love for linguistics that persists to this day. I voraciously tore through reference grammars and college textbooks alike, including An Introduction to Historical Linguistics by Lyle Campbell.
I even tried to emulate Tolkien and create a language of my own. Whether at school taking classes in Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek, or at home studying the phonology of Brazilian Portuguese on my own, languages excited and motivated me to learn more. I was awarded the Arthur Beatty award for outstanding linguist in the year as a result of my dedication to the language program at school.
Watching Game of Thrones reintroduced me to conlanging in the form of Dothraki and rekindled my interest, prompting me to write my IB extended essay on the historical etymology of Spanish. It was a challenging project, but I loved every minute of my research. While my friends were lamenting their boredom at poring over endless journals on topics they didn’t enjoy, I was studying a subject for which I am truly passionate. I hope to continue my study of language in university, and one of my goals in life is to be trilingual. I have no doubt that languages will continue to inspire me throughout life, and I hope to be able to share some of this passion with others along the way.
College Essay Example #8: Linguistics Society
Here's another UCLA essay that worked.
UC PIQ #7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)
Throughout my time at school, I have tried to share my passions and interests with others in various ways.
With the help of a friend, I reinvigorated and reinvented the school linguistics society, transforming it from a dull discussion of past exam questions to a seminar-style session where I have presented and analysed various interesting aspects of language. We have covered topics ranging from phonetics to historical sound change, and it has attracted a loyal troop of linguists who relish the weekly meetings almost as much as I do.
I have also channelled my passion for teaching into volunteering as a Spanish teacher at another local elementary school. Leading a class of thirty students can be a challenge, mainly as that many students are often hard to control. Nevertheless, I have planned and carried out lessons there each week for the last three years and have learnt a lot from it. I have found that as my confidence has grown, so the students have started to listen to and respect me more. They gain more from the lessons, as is evident from their progress at the end of each semester, and my enjoyment and fulfilment has risen. I am glad to have had a positive impact on their learning, and that I have been able to teach a subject that genuinely interests me.
Finally, I was appointed as a school prefect for senior year. In this role, I have been involved with a number of charity initiatives, such as organising bake sales and sponsored sporting events to raise money for the Make a Wish foundation, as well as various pastoral activities such as mentoring incoming freshman and guiding prospective parents around the campus. I love being a prefect as it allows me to give something back to the school that has been a huge part of my life for the last several years. I hope my legacy is that students feel more comfortable and confident in the school environment, and that they are inspired to become leaders as I have been to give back to the community in turn.
College Essay Example #9: New Perspectives
This essay was accepted into UC Berkeley .
Seconds after our teacher announced our project groups I heard the familiar, pitchy voice of the most irritating person in the class yell my name. Just like my worst nightmare, I had been put in a group to work with Eva; the annoying girl who had a weird obsession with horses. At that moment, I knew that it was going to be the longest project of my life.
Eva was extremely difficult to work with; she would always interrupt me, stubbornly stuck to what she wanted, and did not listen to a thing I said. Two weeks of tension and no progress flew by until one day during class, Eva went on another ramble about her horses.
Although I wasn't ready to hear her talk about horses again, I let her continue. What was another rant about horses turned into a conversation about the mental disorders Eva faced and how she relied on horse riding as therapy. After that conversation, our progress took a complete 180. I was eager to learn more, and we finished the project with more purpose and meaning. My perspective changed entirely.
I was moved by Eva’s passion for horse riding and encouraged her to start a club on campus where she could share her passion with others. Beyond this project, I helped Eva defend her riding center during city council meetings because it was on the verge of being shut down. In exchange, working with Eva taught me how to be more open-minded, more patient, more understanding; values of which I personally lacked my entire life. I began to cooperate with people with a more accepting and considerate mentality, understanding that people work in different ways.
I’m glad I chose to work through the project with Eva because I grew as a leader in a way that I would have never expected. I know I could have easily done the project by myself, but instead, I worked through our disagreements and bickering. Sharing this experience with Eva unearthed my ability to lead using patience and understanding, which are now essential assets to my leadership capabilities.
Part 3: Supplemental Essay Examples
Many top colleges require students to supplemental essays.
Each school may ask different prompts or none at all. And often your answers will be more specific and directly about the school.
In this section, you'll find supplemental essay examples from top universities. I've included a variety of prompts to cover common supplemental prompts, from "Why this college?" to major and area of study questions
Let's jump into the essays.
In addition to the your personal statement or statement of purpose (SOP), many colleges also require supplements.
These supplemental essays are often specific to the school and ask you to answer a specific question, such as "Why this college?" or "Why this major?"
In this section, you'll find supplemental essay examples from top universities. I've included a variety of prompts to cover common supplemental prompts that you may encounter.
College Essay Example #10: Fermat's Last Theorem
This supplemental essay was accepted into Cornell University .
Prompt: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in. (250-650 words)
For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to show ways you imagine being involved on campus. This student does a great job of showing that they've done their research about Cornell, by connecting their passion for studying heart disease to specific initiatives already taking place on campus. Try researching what events, research, or programs are being conducted. By referencing those specifics, you can create convincing reasons of why this school is fit for you.
When discussing your intended area of study, one effective strategy is to identify a problem that you see. This problem can be in the field itself, your community, or the world. Then, you can connect this problem to yourself by showing how you'd want to help solve it. Don't try to tackle it entirely yourself, but show how you'd "take bites" out of this larger problem. It is also important that you identify potential solutions to the problem. You definitely don't (and shouldn't) have all the answers, but what do you see as potential steps for combatting the issue?
Using technical language, such as referencing "semi-elliptical curves" and "modular form" in this essay, will help show your in-depth knowledge and passion. Don't be afraid to use technical jargon like this, and don't worry if admissions officers may not know all the terms. As long as they have context and knowing the terminology isn't critical to understanding your point, including "nerdy" language will make your essay more engaging and demonstrate your intelligence.
If you have personal connections to the school you're applying to (such as legacy, family members who work there, students or faculty you're close with), it can be a good idea to reference those connections. Showing personal connections to the school makes admissions think, "They're already practically one of us!" Just make sure that these connections aren't contrived: only write about them if you have a clear purpose within your essay for introducing them. In this essay, the student references their brother who attended Cornell, but does so in a way that naturally ties into the rest of their reasons for "why Cornell."
College Essay Example #11: Bug Fixing
Here's another Cornell essay that worked .
Prompt: Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests? (650 words max)
College Essay Example #12: Why UPenn
If you enjoyed the UPenn Common App essay , here's a supplement that was also accepted into the University of Pennsylvania .
Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (650 words max)
This essay does a great job of conveying a thoughtful and candid applicant. Their phrasing, although verbose in some places, comes across genuine because the author walks you through how they learned about the school, what they're looking for in a school, and why the school would offer those specific things. Phrases like "I didn't know if I could honestly see myself studying that" are conversational and natural-sounding, which help create a sincere tone.
By referencing specific programs, like "Penn in Washington" as well as various minors and concentrations, it is clear this student has done their research about the school. One of the most important aspects for a "Why Us" essay is to find specific and unique opportunities and name them in your essay. These could be things like specific professors and their work, campus and its location, interesting classes, unique internship/study-abroad/job programs, special events, and many more. The key is referencing things that are entirely unique to the school and not many other schools too. Avoid broad terms like "renowned faculty" or "interdisciplinary studies" because virtually all colleges offer things like this, and these are some of the most over-used and artificial reasons used in "Why Us" essays.
This essay has many moments of repetition that are unnecessary. In general, avoid repeating your ideas and when editing, ask yourself of each sentence: does this add something distinctly new and important to my essay? There are two common mistakes that often create repetition: prefacing your ideas and summarizing your ideas. Unlike academic writing, you don't need to "prepare" the reader for what you're going to say, and you don't need to conclude it with a summary. By doing so, you only create unnecessary repetition and take up words which could otherwise be used to include new specific details or ideas.
This essay spends nearly half of its words explaining the "interdisciplinary" opportunities at UPenn. However, this reason is quite superficial and not at all unique to Penn, as almost all colleges offer some sort of interdisciplinary study (i.e. combining your interests or studying multiple fields). Talking about "interdisciplinary study" is one of the most common reasons students use in their "Why Us" essay, and it often comes across as generic and unoriginal. Instead, look for offerings that no other (or very few other) schools provide. Narrow down your reasons "why" to make them more specific to the school, even if they are smaller scale. You can mention things like "interdisciplinary studies" or "diverse student body" briefly as a reason why, but don't make them one of your primary reasons why, unless you have something particularly unique about it.
College Essay Example #13: Story of My Name
This interesting essay is a Dartmouth essay that was admitted. Enjoy!
Prompt: The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself. (250-300 words)
My name is Eoin Hourihane and my entire life, no one has ever pronounced my name correctly. My genealogy is Irish and my name is spelled this way because every male in the Hourihane family, for the past seven generations, has been named John. Since my older brother's name is John, my dad decided to honor his heritage, which gives me my dual citizenship, and name me the old Gaelic for John: Eoin.
I am the youngest of six which brings with it the never-ending comparisons, teasing, and constant bickering; add to that being small for my age until the age of twelve, and you can imagine my household. We have all been raised to be independent, to love nature (except Princess Ali), and to work our hardest at everything we do.
I have always loved math, playing hockey (ice or floor), matzah ball soup, the Beatles and Queen. As a kid, I was into Percy Jackson and a series of books with titles that all ended in “-ology,” the churros at the hockey rink in Jamestown, Bang party snaps, t-shirts by Tobuscus, and my two stuffed cats - one with a mortarboard, and the other with a Star of David on its front left paw. I have dreamt of being a biomedical engineer and creating a glass eye that can see, knowing the intricacies of the human body and its responses to environmental and internal stimuli, and performing surgery on the brain.
I have celebrated Chanukah and Christmas, honoring my Jewish mother and my Catholic father, but not truly affiliating with either. I am a liberal thinker who follows current events closely, and I am eager to explore the world outside of Buffalo, NY, participate in an academic environment that will challenge me, and live among a community of learners.
College Essay Example #14: Ideal College Community
This supplement was accepted into Columbia University .
Prompt: List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words max)
Filled with activity around the clock. A place to come home to.
Trying to get past locked doors (literal and metaphorical).
Offering intellectual freedom and curiosity, without forcing specialization. Accommodating students who are unwilling to wait to make a difference. Willing to look critically at itself.
Socially conscious and politically active.
Never taking its eye off the national or global stage.
Buzzing with so much life it flows beyond the campus into the outside world.
So much life that sometimes it intimidates, that it yearns for more hours in the day. With too many options to choose from, Too much to do in four years.
Filled with clever eyes that see new ideas in the lessons of history.
Diverse of origin, of culture, of opinion, of religion, of personality, Diverse like an international center of thought and ideas and passions. An urban wonderland.
Supporting of extraordinary ambitions.
College Essay Example #15: Why Computer Science
This essay was accepted into Columbia University . To read more exceptional Columbia essays, be sure to check out our list for more Columbia essay examples .
Prompt: For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words max)
Studying computer science gives me the opportunity to be in a field that evolves so quickly I can always be on the forefront and do cutting-edge work. This summer at an ad-tech company, I moved the data science team’s analysis programs to a novel cluster-computing engine (Kubernetes), which can manage and distribute tasks across thousands of computers at once. Kubernetes is so new that barely any information has circulated about it. Because of this novelty, I was able to publish the first existing documentation of a data science pipeline in Kubernetes.
Computer science can also automate the manual drudgery of life. For example: to manage my clubs, I’ve written a program that checks for emails from members with excuses for missing meetings and automatically logs their absences.
Since computers have become the platform for every science, coding allows me to contribute to numerous fields. When I started at Einstein College of Medicine last year, I knew nothing about computational biology. Our project showed me that basic programming was all I needed to find fascinating results in the mostly unstudied mountains of genomic data.
As a person, I’m drawn to seemingly impossible challenges, in particular, the quest to teach machines and create mechanical consciousness. When I started taking online courses in AI, I became fascinated by the gradient descent method in machine learning. The method casts complex input data (e.g. photos) as thousand-dimensional surfaces and attempts to descend to the lowest points (minima) of those surfaces. It works best on data with underlying patterns, like pictures of human faces. This indicates that, in some way, the very nature of what a ‘face’ is, what unique structure is shared by nearly all faces, is found in the minima that AI models descend towards. My dream is to do foundational artificial intelligence research.
College Essay Example #16: Volunteering at Hospital
This essay was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . Want to read more UNC essay examples? Check out our list of the best UNC essays for this year.
Prompt: We hope you’ll share with us the activities that you’ve found especially worthwhile. We also hope you won’t feel compelled to tell us everything you’ve ever done or, worse yet, to do things that mean little to you just because you think we expect them.
Low-profile pursuits can be just as meaningful as ones that draw more attention, and fewer activities can be just as good, and sometimes even better, than more activities. For example, although starting a new club can be a great experience and helpful to others, so can caring for siblings, parents, or grandparents, working outside the home to put food on the table, or being a good and caring friend.
For these reasons, although we’re glad to receive complete résumés, we don’t require or encourage them. Instead, if you choose to submit something that goes beyond what you’re providing through your Common Application, keep it brief; focus less on including everything and more on choosing and explaining the things that have meant the most to you; and upload it here. (650 words max)
Everywhere I looked, I saw a sea of white coats and scrubs; there was constant beeping of the heart monitors, and the smell of disinfectant was strong.
There I stood - a diminutive, awkward high school kid - lacking in experience and confidence, ready to begin volunteering at Vidant Medical Center. Perhaps the very same qualities that made me nervous were what put patients at ease. Many patients, especially younger ones who were uncomfortable speaking with medical professionals, seemed much more comfortable in my presence. I have learned this quality is how I have been able to make a difference - by connecting with many of the younger patients who were nervous just like me. I’ll always remember the two eight-year-old brothers who were waiting as their father got an MRI.
In some ways, they were also like me - they loved sports, and had an interest in math and science. As they were waiting, we talked about everything, from who they thought would win the NBA championship title to me giving them tips on how to remember their multiplication tables. This interaction put them at ease and kept them from becoming restless.
Every time I step into the hospital, I strive to connect with people. I find that I am able to make a difference not strictly due to my tasks of escorting and discharging patients but because of connection and rapport that I establish with them.
My initial nervousness about whether or not I would be able to assist sick and injured patients soon gave way to relief and gratification as I learned that I was indeed able to help them, by bringing a smile to those I escort, discharge, or deliver meals . I’ve met people I might never have met otherwise, and we’ve shared our thoughts and talked about our experiences. I have come to look forward to their company, who, despite their conditions, are still able to smile every day and enjoy engaging in conversation with me - and vice versa.
Even when volunteering in areas of the hospital where I’m not in contact with patients as often, such as doing food preparation, I always make sure to visit the patients I escort after my shift, to talk to them and uplift their spirits. Volunteering at a hospital reminds me every day how fortunate I am to be in good health and of the rewards of helping those who aren’t. While my job as a volunteer at the hospital may not result in the discovery of a cure for cancer, I am happy to have had an opportunity to contribute to improving the experiences of the children and young adults coping with their hospital stays.
College Essay Example #17: Why Carnegie Mellon
This essay was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University . Want to read more essays that worked for CMU? Check out our list of Carnegie Mellon essays that worked .
Prompt: Why Carnegie Mellon? (650 words max)
With a strong background in computer science and communications, I hope to incorporate both into a future career of building data systems, conducting research, and consulting for organizations that serve underrepresented citizens.
Specific details and anecdotes will almost always be more compelling than less specific ones. In this essay, the student does a great job of including specific, "nerdy" details, such as "an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome." These details demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of an area and make your essay more engaging.
This essay does a fantastic job of addressing real-world problems and emphasizing the "bigger picture" impact of their studies. Rather than just explaining what they want to study, this student explains how their education will help them have an impact on the world. Make an argument for what problems you see in the world and how you could potentially help solve them.
For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to reference unique aspects to the school. Almost all colleges have strong academics, great faculty, etc. So instead of referencing those points, reference what makes the school unique and different. In this essay, the student talks about "CMU's Technology Consulting in the Global Community" program, which is both highly specific to CMU and relevant to their own interests.
In general, you should avoid simply listing your achievements. This student has many remarkable activities and experiences, but it comes across less interesting because the first half of the essay is simply describing these accomplishments.
For "Why Us?" essays, it is also a good idea to reference the values the school represents. Each school has a different "culture" and type of student body, and admissions wants to know how you will fit in.
College Essay Example #18: Why NYU?
This essay was accepted into New York University . Writing your NYU essays doesn't have to be stressful if you get inspired by these examples.
Prompt: Why NYU?
We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand - Why NYU? (400 words max)
Living in a suburb my whole life, I've always felt as if I lived in a two-dimensional plane. I can go left, right, forward, and backward.
In a suburb, however, it is nearly impossible to get any meaningful altitude. Upon visiting New York City during the summer before my senior year, however, I found myself gazing up at the skyscrapers soaring high above me. I've always loved the views mountains and buildings; both from above and below. I also have spent time studying Mandarin, and Shanghai would offer a unique opportunity to further my linguistic studies while engaging in cultural immersion.
Beyond settings, NYU has the capacity and the resources available for me to engage in research in quantum computation. Playing video games got me into math and science beyond just playing with my calculator as a baby. There were practical applications of the numbers, and I wanted to understand how it all worked in order to get the best equipment and maximize ammo efficiency. I would watch "Mythbusters" and try to come up with my own hypothesis and see if it matched their conclusion.
In 8th grade, I figured out that I loved science along with math, but I didn't exactly know what science I loved. At the time I was in "physical science" and I did enjoy the class a lot, but I always thought of physics as "speed distance time" triangles which were no fun at all. I was convinced to take AP Physics in my junior year with my friends, and I loved it. It was almost every week we would learn something that completely altered my perception of the universe.
Once I learned about quantum physics and how it basically destroys our understanding of everything, I knew I wanted to pursue it further, and be at the forefront of quantum research.
At NYU, not only can I take courses to learn about the subject, but I can also participate in research through the "Center for Quantum Phenomena". Taking advanced courses and conducting research in a new setting, such as New York or Shanghai, can offer me a new perspective and a breath of fresh air. Conversely, I can help over NYU a new perspective on critical thinking and problem-solving. I chose to apply to NYU because NYU is fit for me, and I am fit for NYU.
College Essay Example #19: Moving Places
This essay was accepted into Pomona College . Check out this Pomona supplement that worked.
Prompt: For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way. (650 words max)
In supplements where they aren't specifically asking you to write about the school, it can still be a good idea to connect to the school subtly. In this prompt, Pomona isn't asking for "Why Pomona," but the author still manages to imply their interest in the school by referencing Pomona's location near the "San Gabriel Mountains" and "East L.A." This is a subtle way of making the essay feel targeted for Pomona specifically, rather than this essay being reused for other schools, without answering the prompt in a way they aren't looking for.
This essay starts off with a strong metaphor, comparing a "Swiss Army knife" to blankets, which implies the many uses of blankets. This is a captivating hook because it is creative and makes sense when thought about, but isn't something immediately obvious. Throughout the essay, "blankets" become a symbol of being able to adapt to new locations and environments. By using "blankets" as a common thread through the essay, it makes their writing about various locations still feel connected. Even though the prompt is asking for "a location," this manages to work because "blankets" becomes the unifying symbol that ties together multiple locations.
By describing the luxurious-sounding places they've traveled, this essay could come across as privileged. Although coming from privilege isn't necessarily a bad thing for applying to colleges, emphasizing that privilege (especially nonchalantly) could come across as "entitled." This essay doesn't necessarily come across that way, but over-emphasizing your privilege could come across as not recognizing that privilege or "out of touch" with others who may come from less privilege. Instead, it may be better to acknowledge your privilege and show gratitude—emphasizing how those opportunities have allowed you to make a positive impact on others.
College Essay Example #20: Double Major
Here's another liberal arts essay that worked, again for Pomona College .
Prompt: Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or undecided!) that you have listed. (250 words max)
I’m sitting backstage at my first international piano competition, anxiously awaiting my turn to perform. Unconsciously, I massage my right wrist, still recovering from a recent injury. The young man beside me feels my nervousness and starts a conversation.
As we whisper, I notice him rub his hands together uncomfortably. “What’s wrong?” I ask, quickly leaving my own wrist alone. He suppresses a nervous laugh, then quietly details the long and unsuccessful surgery that shattered his dream of becoming a professional musician. His hands were permanently damaged.
“Alessandra Fang,” the judges call. I stand up, walk to the main stage and look back to see him encourage me with a stiff, crooked thumbs-up. As my fingers dance on the keys, I observe the fragile muscles and ligaments under my skin.
I realize in that moment that it is not in a massive concert hall where I wanted to change people’s lives, but on a smaller stage: an operating room. As an artist who has had her share of painful, music-related injuries, my goal is to become a musician’s physician, and blend my greatest two passions so that I might bring relief to those around me, while understanding their musical and anatomical plight.
I wish to pursue both Biology and Music programs at Pomona College. I want to become a hand surgeon while still developing my artistry on the piano. After all, surgery also has its own cadence, complexity and composition.
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In this article and on our site, we've compiled hundreds of successful college essay examples so that you can see how other students got accepted and learn exactly what to do in order to help make your application a success too.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 53 stellar college essay topics to inspire you.
Most colleges and universities in the United States require applicants to submit at least one essay as part of their application. But trying to figure out what college essay topics you should choose is a tricky process. There are so many potential things you could write about!
In this guide, we go over the essential qualities that make for a great college essay topic and give you 50+ college essay topics you can use for your own statement . In addition, we provide you with helpful tips for turning your college essay topic into a stellar college essay.
What Qualities Make for a Good College Essay Topic?
Regardless of what you write about in your personal statement for college , there are key features that will always make for a stand-out college essay topic.
#1: It’s Specific
First off, good college essay topics are extremely specific : you should know all the pertinent facts that have to do with the topic and be able to see how the entire essay comes together.
Specificity is essential because it’ll not only make your essay stand out from other statements, but it'll also recreate the experience for admissions officers through its realism, detail, and raw power. You want to tell a story after all, and specificity is the way to do so. Nobody wants to read a vague, bland, or boring story — not even admissions officers!
For example, an OK topic would be your experience volunteering at a cat shelter over the summer. But a better, more specific college essay topic would be how you deeply connected with an elderly cat there named Marty, and how your bond with him made you realize that you want to work with animals in the future.
Remember that specificity in your topic is what will make your essay unique and memorable . It truly is the key to making a strong statement (pun intended)!
#2: It Shows Who You Are
In addition to being specific, good college essay topics reveal to admissions officers who you are: your passions and interests, what is important to you, your best (or possibly even worst) qualities, what drives you, and so on.
The personal statement is critical because it gives schools more insight into who you are as a person and not just who you are as a student in terms of grades and classes.
By coming up with a real, honest topic, you’ll leave an unforgettable mark on admissions officers.
#3: It’s Meaningful to You
The very best college essay topics are those that hold deep meaning to their writers and have truly influenced them in some significant way.
For instance, maybe you plan to write about the first time you played Skyrim to explain how this video game revealed to you the potentially limitless worlds you could create, thereby furthering your interest in game design.
Even if the topic seems trivial, it’s OK to use it — just as long as you can effectively go into detail about why this experience or idea had such an impact on you .
Don’t give in to the temptation to choose a topic that sounds impressive but doesn’t actually hold any deep meaning for you. Admissions officers will see right through this!
Similarly, don’t try to exaggerate some event or experience from your life if it’s not all that important to you or didn’t have a substantial influence on your sense of self.
#4: It’s Unique
College essay topics that are unique are also typically the most memorable, and if there’s anything you want to be during the college application process, it’s that! Admissions officers have to sift through thousands of applications, and the essay is one of the only parts that allows them to really get a sense of who you are and what you value in life.
If your essay is trite or boring, it won’t leave much of an impression , and your application will likely get immediately tossed to the side with little chance of seeing admission.
But if your essay topic is very original and different, you’re more likely to earn that coveted second glance at your application.
What does being unique mean exactly, though? Many students assume that they must choose an extremely rare or crazy experience to talk about in their essays —but that's not necessarily what I mean by "unique." Good college essay topics can be unusual and different, yes, but they can also be unique takes on more mundane or common activities and experiences .
For instance, say you want to write an essay about the first time you went snowboarding. Instead of just describing the details of the experience and how you felt during it, you could juxtapose your emotions with a creative and humorous perspective from the snowboard itself. Or you could compare your first attempt at snowboarding with your most recent experience in a snowboarding competition. The possibilities are endless!
#5: It Clearly Answers the Question
Finally, good college essay topics will clearly and fully answer the question(s) in the prompt.
You might fail to directly answer a prompt by misinterpreting what it’s asking you to do, or by answering only part of it (e.g., answering just one out of three questions).
Therefore, make sure you take the time to come up with an essay topic that is in direct response to every question in the prompt .
Take this Coalition Application prompt as an example:
What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
For this prompt, you’d need to answer all three questions (though it’s totally fine to focus more on one or two of them) to write a compelling and appropriate essay.
This is why we recommend reading and rereading the essay prompt ; you should know exactly what it’s asking you to do, well before you start brainstorming possible college application essay topics.
53 College Essay Topics to Get Your Brain Moving
In this section, we give you a list of 53 examples of college essay topics. Use these as jumping-off points to help you get started on your college essay and to ensure that you’re on track to coming up with a relevant and effective topic.
All college application essay topics below are categorized by essay prompt type. We’ve identified six general types of college essay prompts:
Why This College?
Change and personal growth, passions, interests, and goals, overcoming a challenge, diversity and community, solving a problem.
Note that these prompt types could overlap with one another, so you’re not necessarily limited to just one college essay topic in a single personal statement.
- How a particular major or program will help you achieve your academic or professional goals
- A memorable and positive interaction you had with a professor or student at the school
- Something good that happened to you while visiting the campus or while on a campus tour
- A certain class you want to take or a certain professor you’re excited to work with
- Some piece of on-campus equipment or facility that you’re looking forward to using
- Your plans to start a club at the school, possibly to raise awareness of a major issue
- A study abroad or other unique program that you can’t wait to participate in
- How and where you plan to volunteer in the community around the school
- An incredible teacher you studied under and the positive impact they had on you
- How you went from really liking something, such as a particular movie star or TV show, to not liking it at all (or vice versa)
- How yours or someone else’s (change in) socioeconomic status made you more aware of poverty
- A time someone said something to you that made you realize you were wrong
- How your opinion on a controversial topic, such as gay marriage or DACA, has shifted over time
- A documentary that made you aware of a particular social, economic, or political issue going on in the country or world
- Advice you would give to your younger self about friendship, motivation, school, etc.
- The steps you took in order to kick a bad or self-sabotaging habit
- A juxtaposition of the first and most recent time you did something, such as dance onstage
- A book you read that you credit with sparking your love of literature and/or writing
- A school assignment or project that introduced you to your chosen major
- A glimpse of your everyday routine and how your biggest hobby or interest fits into it
- The career and (positive) impact you envision yourself having as a college graduate
- A teacher or mentor who encouraged you to pursue a specific interest you had
- How moving around a lot helped you develop a love of international exchange or learning languages
- A special skill or talent you’ve had since you were young and that relates to your chosen major in some way, such as designing buildings with LEGO bricks
- Where you see yourself in 10 or 20 years
- Your biggest accomplishment so far relating to your passion (e.g., winning a gold medal for your invention at a national science competition)
- A time you lost a game or competition that was really important to you
- How you dealt with the loss or death of someone close to you
- A time you did poorly in a class that you expected to do well in
- How moving to a new school impacted your self-esteem and social life
- A chronic illness you battled or are still battling
- Your healing process after having your heart broken for the first time
- A time you caved under peer pressure and the steps you took so that it won't happen again
- How you almost gave up on learning a foreign language but stuck with it
- Why you decided to become a vegetarian or vegan, and how you navigate living with a meat-eating family
- What you did to overcome a particular anxiety or phobia you had (e.g., stage fright)
- A history of a failed experiment you did over and over, and how you finally found a way to make it work successfully
- Someone within your community whom you aspire to emulate
- A family tradition you used to be embarrassed about but are now proud of
- Your experience with learning English upon moving to the United States
- A close friend in the LGBTQ+ community who supported you when you came out
- A time you were discriminated against, how you reacted, and what you would do differently if faced with the same situation again
- How you navigate your identity as a multiracial, multiethnic, and/or multilingual person
- A project or volunteer effort you led to help or improve your community
- A particular celebrity or role model who inspired you to come out as LGBTQ+
- Your biggest challenge (and how you plan to tackle it) as a female in a male-dominated field
- How you used to discriminate against your own community, and what made you change your mind and eventually take pride in who you are and/or where you come from
- A program you implemented at your school in response to a known problem, such as a lack of recycling cans in the cafeteria
- A time you stepped in to mediate an argument or fight between two people
- An app or other tool you developed to make people’s lives easier in some way
- A time you proposed a solution that worked to an ongoing problem at school, an internship, or a part-time job
- The steps you took to identify and fix an error in coding for a website or program
- An important social or political issue that you would fix if you had the means
How to Build a College Essay in 6 Easy Steps
Once you’ve decided on a college essay topic you want to use, it’s time to buckle down and start fleshing out your essay. These six steps will help you transform a simple college essay topic into a full-fledged personal statement.
Step 1: Write Down All the Details
Once you’ve chosen a general topic to write about, get out a piece of paper and get to work on creating a list of all the key details you could include in your essay . These could be things such as the following:
- Emotions you felt at the time
- Names, places, and/or numbers
- Dialogue, or what you or someone else said
- A specific anecdote, example, or experience
- Descriptions of how things looked, felt, or seemed
If you can only come up with a few details, then it’s probably best to revisit the list of college essay topics above and choose a different one that you can write more extensively on.
Good college essay topics are typically those that:
- You remember well (so nothing that happened when you were really young)
- You're excited to write about
- You're not embarrassed or uncomfortable to share with others
- You believe will make you positively stand out from other applicants
Step 2: Figure Out Your Focus and Approach
Once you have all your major details laid out, start to figure out how you could arrange them in a way that makes sense and will be most effective.
It’s important here to really narrow your focus: you don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) discuss every single aspect of your trip to visit family in Indonesia when you were 16. Rather, zero in on a particular anecdote or experience and explain why and how it impacted you.
Alternatively, you could write about multiple experiences while weaving them together with a clear, meaningful theme or concept , such as how your math teacher helped you overcome your struggle with geometry over the course of an entire school year. In this case, you could mention a few specific times she tutored you and most strongly supported you in your studies.
There’s no one right way to approach your college essay, so play around to see what approaches might work well for the topic you’ve chosen.
If you’re really unsure about how to approach your essay, think about what part of your topic was or is most meaningful and memorable to you, and go from there.
Step 3: Structure Your Narrative
- Beginning: Don’t just spout off a ton of background information here—you want to hook your reader, so try to start in the middle of the action , such as with a meaningful conversation you had or a strong emotion you felt. It could also be a single anecdote if you plan to center your essay around a specific theme or idea.
- Middle: Here’s where you start to flesh out what you’ve established in the opening. Provide more details about the experience (if a single anecdote) or delve into the various times your theme or idea became most important to you. Use imagery and sensory details to put the reader in your shoes.
- End: It’s time to bring it all together. Finish describing the anecdote or theme your essay centers around and explain how it relates to you now , what you’ve learned or gained from it, and how it has influenced your goals.
Step 4: Write a Rough Draft
By now you should have all your major details and an outline for your essay written down; these two things will make it easy for you to convert your notes into a rough draft.
At this stage of the writing process, don’t worry too much about vocabulary or grammar and just focus on getting out all your ideas so that they form the general shape of an essay . It’s OK if you’re a little over the essay's word limit — as you edit, you’ll most likely make some cuts to irrelevant and ineffective parts anyway.
If at any point you get stuck and have no idea what to write, revisit steps 1-3 to see whether there are any important details or ideas you might be omitting or not elaborating on enough to get your overall point across to admissions officers.
Step 5: Edit, Revise, and Proofread
- Sections that are too wordy and don’t say anything important
- Irrelevant details that don’t enhance your essay or the point you're trying to make
- Parts that seem to drag or that feel incredibly boring or redundant
- Areas that are vague and unclear and would benefit from more detail
- Phrases or sections that are awkwardly placed and should be moved around
- Areas that feel unconvincing, inauthentic, or exaggerated
Start paying closer attention to your word choice/vocabulary and grammar at this time, too. It’s perfectly normal to edit and revise your college essay several times before asking for feedback, so keep working with it until you feel it’s pretty close to its final iteration.
This step will likely take the longest amount of time — at least several weeks, if not months — so really put effort into fixing up your essay. Once you’re satisfied, do a final proofread to ensure that it’s technically correct.
Step 6: Get Feedback and Tweak as Needed
After you’ve overhauled your rough draft and made it into a near-final draft, give your essay to somebody you trust , such as a teacher or parent, and have them look it over for technical errors and offer you feedback on its content and overall structure.
Use this feedback to make any last-minute changes or edits. If necessary, repeat steps 5 and 6. You want to be extra sure that your essay is perfect before you submit it to colleges!
Recap: From College Essay Topics to Great College Essays
Many different kinds of college application essay topics can get you into a great college. But this doesn’t make it any easier to choose the best topic for you .
In general, the best college essay topics have the following qualities :
- They’re specific
- They show who you are
- They’re meaningful to you
- They’re unique
- They clearly answer the question
If you ever need help coming up with an idea of what to write for your essay, just refer to the list of 53 examples of college essay topics above to get your brain juices flowing.
Once you’ve got an essay topic picked out, follow these six steps for turning your topic into an unforgettable personal statement :
- Write down all the details
- Figure out your focus and approach
- Structure your narrative
- Write a rough draft
- Edit, revise, and proofread
- Get feedback and tweak as needed
And with that, I wish you the best of luck on your college essays!
Writing a college essay is no simple task. Get expert college essay tips with our guides on how to come up with great college essay ideas and how to write a college essay, step by step .
You can also check out this huge list of college essay prompts to get a feel for what types of questions you'll be expected to answer on your applications.
Want to see examples of college essays that absolutely rocked? You're in luck because we've got a collection of 100+ real college essay examples right here on our blog!
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll 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 that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :
Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.
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19 College Essay Topics and Prompts
Not sure what to write for your college essay? We've got you covered with a number of topics and prompts to help shape your unique story.
As part of your college application materials, you'll likely be asked to submit a college essay. These tend to be between 250 and 650 words , and are a unique opportunity to showcase your personality. Admissions panels are typically looking for students who will positively represent the school as a whole. In the end, your goal is to show them that you and the college are a good match.
When drafting your college essay, you may be expected to answer a prompt or come up with a topic on your own. In this article, we've rounded up several ideas to get you thinking—and writing.
19 college essay topics
Each school sets different requirements around the college essay, so it's important to review the expectations around every application you intend to submit. Some give you creative freedom, while others expect you to respond to a pre-developed prompt. Either way, a strong college essay conveys to the admissions team who you are, why you want to attend that particular school, and what matters to you. It's a way to personalize an application that often focuses on quantitative data, such as GPA and SAT scores.
If you're given the creative freedom to write about whatever you want, consider a college essay topic that allows you to be honest and original. We've compiled the following ideas to help you brainstorm:
What's an important issue you care about? How have you gotten involved?
Have you changed your mind about something in recent years? What was it and why?
What's a situation that caused you to grow?
Explain a time when you failed. What did you learn from that moment?
Share a surprising pastime or hobby and what interested you about it.
What extracurricular activity are you involved in that speaks to your personality?
Detail a meaningful volunteer experience.
Dive into a meaningful travel experience.
Who do you most admire and why?
If you have a unique background, share a bit about it. How did you get where you are?
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Was there ever a time when you had to stand up for something—or someone?
What's something you might change about the world to make it better?
What do you hope to accomplish by attending college?
Is there something you want to do after graduating college?
Have you ever made or created something? Talk about it.
Do you have a big idea that could potentially impact your community?
What is most valuable to you? Dive into your values and share an example.
What are you most passionate about? Why?
Pre-developed college essay prompts
Some colleges and universities will give you a series of prompts to choose from. These will vary from school to school, and can either be questions or statements. Here are a few examples of both.
Sample question prompts:
What excites your intellectual curiosity?
How has your upbringing shaped the person you are today?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Sample statement prompts:
Talk about an unusual circumstance in your life
Share how you hope to use your college education
Discuss a list of books you have read in the last year
Common App essay prompts
Common App is an online platform designed to simplify the college application process. Over 900 colleges use Common App, making it possible for you to fill out one application that's then submitted to multiple schools.
If you choose to complete the Common App, you'll have a choice of several distinctive prompts that change every academic year. Here's a sample of the 2022-2023 essay prompts [ 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.
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?
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?
Stick to the prompt.
No matter what type of prompt you receive, it's your job to stick to it. The admissions team has a lot of essays to read, so you'll have a better chance of standing out if you develop a cohesive response that stays on topic.
Start by identifying the prompt's main topic, then spend some time brainstorming to find the idea that resonates most with you. For many people, it's the topic that makes them feel some sort of emotion or reminds them of an entertaining story. Understanding what you're being asked to write about should make staying on topic throughout the entire composition easier.
5 additional college essay tips
Once you decide what you'd like to write, follow the tips below to craft a standout essay. You can also find more advice about college essays in our article College Essay Format: Writing and Editing Tips .
1. Be considerate with humor.
Showing off your sense of humor lets your personality show through your words and can make reading the essay more entertaining. Try including a few sentences that you think will bring a smile to the reader's face, or use adjectives to insert some colorful comedy.
2. Offer insight.
Beyond recounting an event, experience, or memory, a great essay shows insight aka an ability to highlight meaningful takeaways. For example, if you choose to write about your unique hobby, try to discuss what you've learned from that pastime—or how you've grown as a result of it.
3. Add details
Great essays also invite the reader to connect with the story on an emotional level. With that in mind, it can help to recount a specific memory rather than answer a prompt without those colorful details. More than discussing something on a surface level—or vaguely—you want to provide enough particulars to keep your readers engaged. For example, if you choose to write about the best advice you ever received, set the scene and take the reader back to that moment.
4. Have an editor.
Your essay should ideally be error-free. Ask a trusted friend or family member to review your essay and suggest edits. An editor can help you catch grammatical errors or points out ways to better develop your response.
Avoid passing your paper along to too many people, though, so you don't lose your own voice amid all of the edits and suggestions. The admissions team wants to get to know you through your writing and not your sister or best friend who edited your paper.
5. Revise your essay.
Your first draft is just that: a draft. Give yourself plenty of time to read and revise your first pass and make sure you fully developed your response, stayed on topic, and shared your personality.
When revising your essay, you may find it helpful to read it aloud so you hear the words as you're saying them. Some people prefer to print a copy on paper and write notes by hand. Both options give your brain a new way to process the information to catch details you may miss if you keep everything in your head and on the computer.
Watch to find out why the essay many admission counselor's favorite part of the application:
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Common App. " First-year essay prompts , https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts." Accessed February 8, 2023.
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How to Write Better Essays
9 College Essay Tips on How to Write Better Essays
Want to learn how to write better essays? We’re here to help. In this guide, we have collected the best college essay tips from our experienced team, who have guided hundreds of students through the college admissions process. Our experts have taught many students how to write better essays, helping them gain admission to some of the most competitive schools in the country.
This guide will teach you how to write better essays and provide you with 9 college essay tips to keep in mind as you write your supplemental essays and personal statements. Our admissions experts have extensive experience with college essay prompts and the college application essay format. They’ve guided hundreds of students through how to write better essays.
In addition to our college essay tips, this guide will provide insight into college essay prompts, supplemental essays, and other tips on how to write better essays overall. We’ll go over the different essay prompts you may encounter and offer some tips on tackling common essays. This guide will also detail how to use essay examples to help with your writing process. We’ll also offer tips on how to help your essays stand out. If you’re looking for college essay help, continue reading below.
College Application Requirements
While the college essay is a major part of the college admissions process, it’s not the only element to consider. Many college application requirements include transcripts, extracurriculars, recommendations, as well as supplemental essays. You may also need to submit a college resume and a separate personal statement in addition to your Common App essay . It’s important to pay attention to the college application deadlines as well. Different schools will have different college application requirements, including different college essay prompts.
Your grades and extracurricular activities can provide colleges with a great overview of your school performance. However, the best college admissions essays give schools a deeper understanding of your identity and goals. College essay prompts are designed to help admissions officers decide who may be a good fit for their campus. Many college essay tips will focus on showcasing your personality and highlighting aspects of your high school career that colleges may not know about. If you’re looking to learn how to write better essays, we’ve detailed the kinds of college essay prompts you may encounter below.
Common App essay vs. supplemental essays
Through the college admissions process, you will encounter both the Common App essay and supplemental essays. The Common App essay , sometimes known as a personal statement, has a 650-word limit. Students have a choice between seven college essay prompts, and they can send the Common App essay to multiple schools. The college application essay format allows students to highlight a personal interest, accomplishment, or important story. The best college admission essays leave a great impression on the reader and make them feel as if they know the author in a personal way. Researching college essay tips and college essay ideas can help you learn how to write better essays.
In addition to the Common App essay, you will also encounter supplemental essays. Supplemental essays are typically shorter than the Common App essay, often between 150-300 words. Supplemental essays are school specific, and are designed to see how much you know about the school you’re applying to. In the next section, we’ll detail the different kinds of supplemental essays you may encounter. We’ll also give you some college essay tips to help you learn how to write better essays.
What is a supplemental essay?
Supplemental essays are essays assigned specifically by a school. While the college application essay prompts may be similar, it’s important to make sure each essay is unique for each school. The supplemental essay allows schools to get more information about you and your interests outside of your Common App essay and overall college application. Not all schools will have supplemental essays, but it’s important to allot time to write these additional essays. Some schools will have 2-3 additional essay prompts, which could mean a lot of extra writing if you aren’t prepared.
There are many different kinds of supplemental essays. Some schools have very short essay prompts, such as Columbia . These may ask students to list influential books, movies, and ways they explore their interests. Other schools ask for additional personal statements in addition to the Common App essay, such as Harvard. Some schools will list the supplemental essays as optional, such as the Fordham supplemental essays. CollegeAdvisor recommends students complete every supplemental essay for each school on their college list . This includes all “optional” college essay prompts.
Here are some college essay tips for some of the most common supplemental college essay prompts. These college essay topics are found at many colleges, and it’s likely that you will encounter them at some point through the admissions process. Reading these tips can help you when pondering what to write your college essays about . These tips can help you learn how to write better essays and help brainstorm some college essay ideas:
Tips to Write Better Essays
1. Why School Essay
The Why School essay is one of the most common college essay prompts. This essay asks you to explain why you’re interested in that specific school. As you tackle these college essay prompts, make sure to pinpoint your exact reasons for applying.
2. Why Major Essay
The Why Major Essay is designed to help schools understand why you’re interested in your intended major. Try to explain your interest, and how that school will help you with your goals—see the UPenn supplemental essays for an example.
3. Cultural Diversity Essay
Many schools use the Cultural Diversity Essay to get to know your background better or allow you to highlight important aspects of your identity. The Tufts supplemental essays include a Cultural Diversity Essay. This prompt asks students to explain how their background has shaped who they are.
4. Personal Challenge Essay
The Personal Challenge Essay allows students to describe an obstacle they have overcome. Many of the best college essays highlight a student’s personal struggle, but it can be challenging to not overshare . Be sure to read college essay examples to help you strike the right balance.
5. Extracurricular Activities Essay
The Extracurricular Activities Essay allows you to elaborate on your college resume. It offers you an opportunity to discuss your favorite club, sport, or community project. The Yale supplemental essays include an Extracurricular Activities Essay, asking students to reflect on how they have worked to enrich their community.
6. Unique or Oddball College Essays
Some colleges are known for their unique essay prompts, such as the University of Chicago . These college essay prompts require students to get creative, and some of the best college admission essays come from a unique or oddball prompt. While these prompts may be intimidating, they can be a great opportunity for you to flex some creative muscles. They can also be a lot of fun to write, so don’t shy away from them!
7. Short Essays
Short college application essay prompts can be some of the more challenging essays to write. Learning how to write better essays can help you with the short essay prompts, as you need to be concise and thoughtful about what you include. Every word will matter in a short essay prompt. So, think carefully about what you want to say and how you will say it. This will help you write the best college admission essays possible.
You may encounter a number of different supplemental essays, but all of them have the same goal—to help admissions officers learn more about you and your goals. If you’re still feeling stuck on your essays, U.S News has a great guide on How to Write a Supplemental Essay . Harvard also has great essay writing resources, including 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay and student perspectives on the college essay. Vanderbilt has also compiled some essay writing tips, and the Smith College essay tip sheet can also come in handy.
Do colleges care about supplemental essays?
While it’s hard to say exactly how supplemental essays factor into the admissions process, we do know that colleges care about your essays. The supplemental essay is the best opportunity for you to speak directly to the colleges you’re applying to. As such, it can serve as a great way for admissions officers to get to know you better. While college essay topics can feel silly or repetitive, it’s important to dedicate time and effort to your essays.
One of the more common college essay mistakes is re-using the same essay for multiple colleges. While you can strategically re-use sentences and phrases, it’s important to make sure that each essay is unique to each college. Colleges want to ensure that the students they admit are passionate about their campus, and the best college essays effectively communicate that passion. The common college essay topics are designed to help admissions officers learn more about you, so it’s crucial to take them seriously.
Case Study: Ivy League Essays
Let’s think about two hypothetical students, Lisa and Leo. They both have similar SAT scores, GPAs, and strong recommendation letters. They both were heavily involved in extracurriculars and met the admissions criteria for many Ivy League universities . Lisa wanted to learn how to write better essays, while Leo assumed the essays wouldn’t weigh as heavily as the other parts of his application. Lisa started to research college essay tips, read college essay examples , and familiarized herself with the college application essay format. She made sure to read different articles on how to write better essays, such as this one by U.S. News and Forbes’ The Perfectionist’s Guide to the College Essay .
Leo wasn’t too concerned about college essay tips or learning how to write better essays. He did not seek college essay help and turned in the same Why Major essay to many of his top choices. While Lisa took care to make sure each of her college application essay prompts was unique and varied between each school, Leo assumed nobody would read the essays. Come Decision Day, it’s no surprise that Lisa was accepted to her top choice, and Leo was waitlisted.
You can see why Lisa would have an advantage over Leo—taking enough time and effort to learn how to write better essays can help increase your chances of admission. Developing creative and unique college essay ideas can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort. If you research common college essay tips and read different college essay examples, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn how to write better essays.
What makes a great college essay?
With so many resources and college essay tips, it can be hard to determine what makes a great college essay. When learning how to write better essays, it can be helpful to have some guidelines to keep in mind. We’ve collected 5 key components of the best college admission essays to help you learn how to write better essays:
How to Write a Great College Essay
1. Compelling Hook
A compelling hook can be the difference between a good college essay and a great college essay. If you’re wondering how to start a college essay, introducing an interesting personal story or anecdote can be a great way to set up a compelling hook in your first paragraph. Learning how to write better essays will help you develop compelling hooks to help capture the reader’s attention. Part of writing a compelling hook is to land the ending as well, so be sure to finish strong.
2. Personal detail not offered elsewhere in application
The college application essay format is designed to help you highlight details that may not be present elsewhere in your application. The best college admissions essays help add to a student’s application and offer insight that helps create a holistic profile. If you want to learn how to write better essays, then brainstorm details or stories that may be missing from your overall application.
3. Original and engaging topics
While many of the college application essay prompts will be repetitive, it’s important to make sure your essays have original and engaging topics. Think outside the box and try to approach your essays creatively. After all, learning how to write better essays can help you come up with original topics that will help your essays stand out. If you’re feeling stuck, U.S News has 10 Tips to Inspire College Essays to help. You can also read this U.S. News article on common essay topics and what admissions officers think of them.
4. Unique and personal voice
One of the biggest college essay tips is to develop your unique and personal voice. This can be the hardest part about learning how to write better essays. However, it’s crucial in making sure your essays stand out. Your essays should reflect your own voice and help the reader get to know you as an individual. Developing your own writing voice is a great skill that can take significant time and effort. If you’re struggling on developing your voice, Forbes has a great guide you can read here .
5. Grammatically sound and free of errors
It’s common to find college essay mistakes in the first, second, or even third drafts – making the proofreading process crucial. Ensuring that your college essay is free of errors, and follows all applicable grammatical rules, will make a great impression on admissions officers. Learning how to write better essays will help you catch any errors you make. U.S. News has a great guide on Grammar Do’s and Don’t for college essays if you’re concerned about using the proper rules.
Overall, the best way to incorporate these components is to invest a lot of time and effort into your essays. Make sure to ask for college essay help through proofreading, editing, and read-throughs. Having multiple teachers, mentors, and relatives read through your essays will help ensure the best versions are submitted. Learning how to write better essays takes a lot of time and practice, so the earlier you can start, the better.
How do I make my college essay stand out?
With college admissions becoming more and more competitive, it’s important for your college essay to stand out. If you’re interested in learning how to write better essays, we’ve compiled 9 college essay tips to help you. From help on how to start a college essay to breaking down the college application essay format, our college essay tips are designed to help you each step of the way.
Our essay tips are designed for students across all stages of the application process, from freshmen and sophomores looking to get a head start to seniors deep in the application season. If you’re looking for more step-by-step guides, Forbes has a great guide on How to Write A College Essay. You can read it here .
Our 9 college essay tips will help you write standout essays and help capture exactly what you want to communicate to colleges.
9 College Essay Tips
Tackling the essay portion of your college admissions process can be daunting. In this guide on how to write better essays, we have discussed a lot of useful college essay tips including college application requirements, what makes a great college essay, and how you can write the best college essays possible. Now, we’re going to give you some practical college essay tips that will apply to any prompt you’ll encounter.
Only the best college essays will rise to the top, so it’s important to know how to write better essays, especially if you apply to reach schools such as Ivy League universities . When considering how to write better essays, it’s important to look at college essay examples like the Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, and Yale supplemental essays. Additionally, always check out college admissions sites to see if they have specific tips for their essays. For example, here are some tips on the Smith College essay.
With plenty of available resources and college essay tips, like this guide on how to write better essays, you can write the best college admission essays. Our college essay tips come directly from experts who have guided hundreds of students through the college admissions process, like these tips from experts at Vanderbilt . You can also check out our Success Stories , where you can read about real CollegeAdvisor students’ journeys!
Wondering how to start a college essay and how to write better essays? Great! Because we will now discuss 9 college essay tips. These tips will show you how to write better essays that showcase your unique qualities.
#1: Start Early
Wondering how to write better essays? The first thing you need to know is to start early. You might have heard the first of our college essay tips before, but experts agree that you need to give yourself ample time to tackle college essays. This means enough time to develop college essay ideas, complete drafts, and review them multiple times. That way, you can steer clear of any college essay mistakes. This can be tedious, but it is an imperative part of writing the best college admission essays.
U.S. News suggests that students wondering how to write better essays should start writing the summer before senior year. Schools often release their college essay prompts at the end of summer. Ideally, by the fall you will have drafted your personal statement , finalized your college list, and started working on other aspects of the Common App. This ensures you have a solid foundation when college essay prompts are released. Additionally, this will make it less stressful to dive right into the writing process.
Most importantly, starting early gives you plenty of time to write multiple drafts before college application deadlines . These can be as early as October or November for those applying Early Action or Early Decision. Regular Decision deadlines are generally in December or January. So, figure out when you intend to submit your college applications. Then, make a priority list of essays in the order of their due dates.
Planning your essay strategy
In addition to your Common App essay , many colleges ask applicants to submit supplemental essays. These ask students to explain what interests them about a particular school or major. These college essay prompts are generally released in the late summer. They also tend to be shorter than the main essay. So, when budgeting your time, don’t forget about school-specific supplemental essays!
Moreover, starting early gives you ample time to familiarize yourself with college application requirements. You can review the essay requirements for each of the colleges you’re interested in on their websites. There, you will find the college essay prompts, word limits, and other college application essay format guidelines. This guarantees that you are well prepared and write the best college admission essays.
Whether you’re writing the Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or responding to the Smith College essay prompts, you’ll need to follow the school-specific guidelines. So, make sure you understand what makes each of these college essay prompts unique.
#2: Practice Writing about Yourself
College essays ask students to be personal and vulnerable in their writing, which may be unfamiliar to them. However, it’s an essential aspect of how to write better essays. Telling personal details about yourself and your goals does not mean simply restating your college resume . But, it also doesn’t mean you should overshare or “trauma dump.”
While you may excel in crafting research reports, personal writing can be challenging. There are a few contexts outside of the college admissions process where you will be asked to write about yourself. This is where the second of our college essay tips on how to write better essays comes into play: practice writing about yourself.
There are various strategies you can use to practice. First, you can begin by writing a daily journal. Inevitably, you will have to write about yourself, your thoughts, and your actions. Next, you can audio record yourself talking and write from that. This will ensure your writing captures who you are and even has a conversational tone. You might also try free-writing. Just set a timer and write until it goes off! The more often you do this, the easier it will get. And, you’re bound to find some meaningful gems among the scribblings.
Targeted essay practice
Another good way to get acclimated to writing about yourself is to look at college application essay prompts from prior years and practice responding to them. These college essay prompts will likely be similar to those in your application cycle. Finally, read college essay examples written by other students to get a feel for how to respond. These exercises are key components when considering how to write better essays.
Reading college essay tips is great, but remember that practice is key. Learning to write about yourself is a vital skill when learning how to write better essays.
#3: Familiarize yourself with the essay prompts
The most common types of supplemental essays and college essay prompts are as follows:
- Why School Essay
- Why Major Essay
- Cultural Diversity Essay
- Personal Challenge Essay
- Extracurricular Activities Essay
- Unique or Oddball College Essays
- Short Essays
College essay prompts generally fall into one of these specific college application essay format categories. So, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them in advance to know how to write better essays. By reviewing past college essay prompts and college application essay formats, you can practice your responses in order to write the best college admission essays. No matter if you’re writing Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or Smith College essays, familiarizing yourself with a wide variety of essays will give you an edge. This will increase your admissions odds at selective schools.
Reading sample college essays
Additionally, to gain a better understanding of what universities look for, it’s beneficial to read through college essay examples of why school essays. Familiarizing yourself with why school college application essay formats will provide insight into the specific aspects of the responses that admissions officers value. So, college essay examples can teach you what to expect from these sorts of college application essay prompts. This is a key component in any student’s “how to write better essays” plan.
Checking out other college application essay formats, such as examples of extracurricular activities college application essay prompts, can help you figure out how to write better essays about your own extracurriculars. Namely, you’ll want to focus on the impact they’ve had on you and, subsequently, your current path to higher education.
When preparing to write your college essays, consider the word limit of the college application essay prompts. This will determine how much or how little you can include in your writing. Sometimes, less is more. And, it’s always best to aim for the suggested word limit.
By following these college essay tips on how to write better essays, you can prepare yourself to tackle college essay prompts and craft outstanding responses. Familiarizing yourself with a variety of prompts will ensure you’re ready for anything when it comes to college essays.
#4: Take time to research
Before you start writing, you should learn more about the schools you are applying to. One of the most important college essay tips on how to write better essays is spending time researching the colleges on your list. This will allow you to uncover specific opportunities that align with your goals. And, you should want to be just as good of a fit for the school as it is for you. Moreover, a key part of how to write better essays is including school-specific details.
However, you should not only research the basic things like the college essay prompts and college application requirements. Instead, you should focus on things that are specific to the school and coincide with your interests. What major are you considering? Why is the campus setting appealing to you? What organizations do you want to get involved in? Are there professors that you’re excited to learn from? Foregrounding these details gives you a chance to prove to the admissions team that you have invested time and energy into finding the best college for you.
Learn all that you can so that you can submit a well-informed and persuasive application. Your essay should show how the college meets your needs and how you plan to contribute to the campus environment.
Make sure to mention any unique aspects of the school or curriculum that could contribute to your overall career goals . The more details you use, the better you will be able to paint a picture of why you belong at that school. Researching the college you are applying to will enable you to gather relevant information about its values and opportunities. Then, you can use the specific details that attract you to the school to write the most impactful essays.
#5: Outline your essays
Outlining your essays is one of the most crucial college essay tips in the “how to write better essays” process. Outlines allow you to organize your thoughts, structure your college essay ideas, and ensure your essays effectively convey the intended message.
Outlines are beneficial because they help you clarify your main points and maintain focus throughout your essay. They enable efficient use of your word limit and aid in college essay ideas development. Additionally, outlines contribute to the overall time management process.
It can be easy to get distracted while writing and go off on a tangent. That’s okay when it comes to free-writing practices. However, when it’s time to write your actual essay, you’ll need to be more focused and intentional with your writing. By creating a solid plan, you will set yourself up for a successful essay writing process.
#6: Never repeat yourself
Supplemental essays provide applicants with an opportunity to provide additional information to the admissions committee, highlighting why they are a strong fit for the school. That’s why the sixth of our college essay tips on how to write better essays is to never repeat yourself . Your essays should be used to expand upon different college essay topics, experiences, and perspectives.
You’ll likely run into a scenario in which the school you are applying to requires two types of supplemental essays. Let’s say you choose to write about similar or adjacent college essay topics for both. For example, you discuss your passion for community service in both essays, elaborating on different aspects within each. While this approach may seem coherent, it’s generally a better choice to write about two entirely different subjects for the essays. Writing about different topics demonstrates that you are a well-rounded applicant and would contribute to various aspects of the college community.
When elaborating on extracurricular activities listed on the Common App, you’ll need to provide additional details and deeper meaning. Be strategic and don’t restate what has already been mentioned. Instead, use this opportunity to dive deeper into specific projects, achievements, leadership roles, and personal growth.
#7: Showcase your voice
Your writing voice is the unique and distinctive style, tone, and personality that comes through in your essays. Think of it as your way of expressing your thoughts and ideas on the page. When writing your college essays, an admissions team should be able to “hear” your voice.
An important element of how to write better essays is writing with an authentic voice . Your college essays should sound like you. So, unless you frequently use Shakespearean language, avoid it in your college essays.
Use these college essay tips as tools to show who you are, what you value, and how you think. By making sure your authentic voice comes through, you can do just that. It’s vital that your essays are an authentic, personal, and vulnerable representation of who you are. Remember, you are what you write .
#8: “Show” don’t “Tell”
You’ve probably heard it before, but #8 on our college essay tips on how to write better essays reaffirms the importance of showing, not telling, in your college essays. Your college essays give you the opportunity to show the admissions team who you are beyond your academic achievements. Entertaining or intriguing anecdotes are more effective at explaining your qualities and passions than just statements.
Think about your most meaningful and favorite life stories. Do they show something about your personality, values, interests, or character? You should use relevant anecdotes in order to show the admissions officers how you embody certain traits or beliefs, as opposed to just stating you have them.
Let’s take a look at this example of “show” vs “tell” writing:
“Tell” Writing: “I am compassionate and want to help others. I have volunteered at a local homeless shelter, which has been very rewarding.”
“Show” Writing: “Last summer, as I was volunteering at the local homeless shelter, I experienced an indescribable sense of fulfillment. I served a tired-looking woman with three young children a hot plate of food. She met me with gratitude and relief in her eyes, and I met her with a warm smile. At that moment, I saw my small act of kindness make a tangible difference in someone’s life and knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would do the same.”
As you can see, the “show” writing example paints a vivid picture and engages the reader by providing specific details and descriptions. This creates a more impactful and memorable narrative while providing evidence of the argument being made: the student is passionate about helping others. If you decide to write about a common topic like service, do it because your experience has led to thought and reflection, not because you feel like it’s what admissions officers want to hear.
If you want to know how to write better essays, whether writing Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or Smith College essays, showing and not telling is key. You’ll notice it in all exceptional college essay examples.
#9: Ask for help!
You should approach the editing phase of your college essays with the same importance as the writing phase. This phase is connected to the first of our college essay tips: start early! The earlier you start planning your essays, the more time you’ll have to ask parents, teachers, and advisors for college essay help. Having an outsider look at your essay will teach you a lot. So, make sure you dedicate sufficient time to this critical phase.
When you feel like your essay is ready for review, use multiple resources to increase the chances of producing an error-free essay. Begin with writing assistant programs, like spell-check, for basic errors. Then, ideally, seek college essay help from at least two knowledgeable adults. Their feedback can help when considering how to write better essays. Additionally, look to these tips from Harvard experts and Harvard students on how to write standout college essays.
Give yourself time to receive external feedback on your college essay topics and ideas as well as grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Following these guidelines will help you to complete your college application essays before the application deadline. This will ensure you submit work that impresses admissions officers and is free of college essay mistakes. For perfectionists, this Forbes guide to the college essay may be exactly what you’re looking for.
After reading all these tips, you should now know how to start a college essay. You can always reach out to our advisors at CollegeAdvisor for college essay help by scheduling an appointment here . We also have guides on writing college essays and supplemental essays, as well as examples of college essays that worked. However, when in doubt during your writing process, revisit these tips for a reminder of how to write better essays.
Learning how to write better essays
Many students struggle with figuring out how to write better essays during the college admissions process. They may think they can’t write the best college admission essays or master the college application essay format. However, with the college essay tips listed above and good college essay help, anyone can learn how to write better essays. What makes a great college essay is a combination of practice, revision, and time.
Are you trying to master how to write better essays? Start by giving yourself enough time to work on your college application essay prompts. Many of our college essay tips require time to research, outline, and plan before you even start writing your first draft. The more time you have to revise and fix your college essay mistakes, the better your essay will be.
Following college essay tips is also important because you may not have experience with this kind of writing. College essay prompts and supplemental essays require different skills than essays for your high school classes. For example, teachers often discourage writers from being too personal in academic essays. However, college essay prompts require a great deal of personal information, and the best essays include authentic personal experiences.
When learning how to write better essays, you can always learn from past successes. Reading essays that worked is a very popular way to gain insight into the college application essay format. Moreover, they may provide inspiration for your own essays, of which there will likely be several. Many colleges ask for multiple supplemental essays, so reading widely will prepare you for the endless college essay prompts available.
Approaching Different Types of Essays
In truth, your understanding of how to write better essays for college will only deepen with practice. In other words, writing for various college essay prompts will improve your final product. Of course, reading sample essays for a variety of topics beforehand will widen your perspective and prepare you to write. With that said, you do actually have to write something—put all those tips and knowledge to good use.
Each essay will demand something different from you: extracurricular experiences, academic aspirations, and challenges faced. While the end goal remains to showcase your best sides to admissions, it can be challenging depending on the prompt. By reading and writing multiple genres of essays, you’ll figure out the best approach to any prompt.
Nowadays, there are many different college essay topics to choose from; some will be better suited to you than others. Knowing what prompts will bring out the best side of you is essential to writing great essays. And don’t worry too much about writing about a never-before-seen or wholly unique experience. Despite what some may say, common topics aren’t off-limits—you just need to fine-tune them to showcase your strengths.
Writing within a short word count is another difficult aspect of how to write better essays. Most academic essays are several pages in length, whereas some college application essay prompts allow fewer than 150 words. Short essays especially require careful word choice and, often, more than one revision. The best college essays are highly polished, refined college essay ideas—basically, start early to get ahead.
Reading College Essay Examples
One of the best ways to learn how to write better essays is to read successful college essay examples. Many college websites will post essay examples from their most recent incoming class. In these, you can see what admitted students wrote about and get some college essay ideas of your own.
With that said, beware of plagiarism. You should never copy supplemental essays that were written by somebody else. Not only is it considered plagiarism, but it also will not help you answer the college essay prompts better. Developing your authentic voice, with some inspiration gained from research, is the best technique for how to write better essays.
If you’re looking for examples for a wide range of college essay prompts, CollegeAdvisor.com has you covered there, too. We’ve compiled some of the best college essays, all written by students like you who were accepted into top colleges. These sample essays and their accompanying college essay tips are excellent models for learning how to write better essays.
Another place to find great college essay help is this article featuring 10 different essays that earned their writers’ acceptance at the end of the admissions process. This article features every possible college application essay format, including Common Application essays and different variations of supplemental essays. Regardless of your college essay prompts, you can find college essay tips for how to write better essays. Unconventional college essay topics are particularly difficult to brainstorm for, so these examples can help you figure out how to start a college essay.
More Essay Guides from CollegeAdvisor
At CollegeAdvisor.com, we know the value of looking over a variety of successful college essay examples. That’s why we’ve compiled essay guides covering the college essay prompts for over 100 of America’s top universities. From the UPenn supplemental essays to the Yale supplemental essays and Tufts supplemental essays, our guides will help you prepare for any college’s prompts.
Because each school’s essays are different, specific essay guides are an excellent place to start. If you’re seeking college essay tips for supplemental essays at a particular school, the best source is successful essays. Our articles also include guides on how to write better essays for Ivy League schools , the UC system , and much more.
What about college essay tips for non-specific essays? While each school’s supplemental essays are different, nearly all of them require some sort of personal statement . This may be through the Common Application , Coalition Application , or an alternative college application essay format. Certainly, there are many articles out there with general college essay tips, like those from U.S. News or Forbes . However, there is no better way to learn how to write better essays than reading full examples.
Use your network
Finally, don’t be afraid to consult your personal network for college essay tips. Do you have a friend, older sibling, or high school alum who attends a college on your list? You can ask them about their essay or about their experience at the school. If you live nearby, you may even be able to accompany them there to walk around campus.
Their perspective could be very valuable since they’ve already gone through the admissions process and been accepted there. Their insights into your personality can also help you consider which college essay prompts will best serve you. When looking into how to write better essays, make sure you take advantage of all the resources available to you.
Making your supplemental essays stand out
We’ve gone over a lot of advice for how to write better essays. By now, your head may be swimming with all the college essay tips and topics we provided. So let’s get back to basics and figure out the most essential things to writing great essays.
To summarize, we wanted to highlight three more college essay tips to help your supplemental essays stand out from the crowd . And, especially if you’re applying to popular schools, there will be a big crowd.
Depending on a school’s size, an admissions officer may read hundreds or thousands of applications during the college admissions process. And because college application requirements are the same for every applicant, they’re likely reading hundreds of responses to the same college essay prompts. Therefore, making your essay stand out is a great way to make a positive first impression on your application.
How to Write a Standout Essay
1. Prepare with Research
The first of our additional college essay tips is to do your research. Supplemental essays often ask students why they want to attend the school or explain how they embody the school’s values. In order to write supplemental essays on these topics, you should know what makes the school appealing to you. Consider a virtual or in-person campus tour, and definitely visit the school website. This research will provide a solid foundation for your essays. Detailed, passionate college essays whose writers did their research stand out among generic essays with only surface-level knowledge of the school. So, write about what moves you, and show that you’ve thought about pursuing those passions at that school.
2. Be Genuine
The second tip for how to write better essays is to be authentic. One of the most common college essay mistakes is writing what you think the admissions officers want to hear . Instead, use the essay as an opportunity to showcase your personality and character.
Don’t just list your accomplishments or try to cram every single accolade you’ve received into an essay. Rather, pick out some personal stories to share that answer the prompt while also providing information about you. The best college admission essays showcase qualities and tell stories not found elsewhere in your application.
3. Don’t Skimp on Time
Finally, anyone who knows how to write better essays knows that time management is paramount. These college essay tips are incredibly useful only if you allow yourself enough time to implement them, so start early! The Common Application opens on August 1st each year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start. Take some time to think about which topics are best for you, or research supplemental essays from your preferred colleges. The earlier you start, the better off you will be.
An early start means more time to edit—after all, the best college admissions essays go through several rounds of revision. Good editing requires time and patience, which is why starting on your essays early is essential. Taking the time to try several college essay ideas and choose the best ones will ensure that you submit your best work. You also need time to rest. Sometimes, learning how to write better essays means taking a few days’ break, then coming back to writing with fresh eyes!
Starting early also gives you more time to write multiple essay drafts and share them with people for feedback. In addition to giving yourself enough time, it is important to ask for help with how to write better essays. Even if you consider yourself to be a strong writer, college application essays require very specific skills. Support during the admissions process can come from family members, friends, and teachers and will take many forms. Just make sure that your editors are not writing the essay for you or making changes that undermine your own voice.
CollegeAdvisor is here to help
We have already established that the best college admission essays are written with lots of help and support from others. Personalized guidance is important when learning how to write better essays. An expert can often help you put these college essay tips into practice with your own writing. After all, the college application essay format is pretty different from other forms of writing you’re likely used to. In light of that, it helps to work with someone familiar with college essay topics and college application essay prompts.
College admissions can be extremely stressful. The sheer number of college application requirements that need to be completed for each school is daunting, even if you are a strong student. Plus, the skills and knowledge required for a college application are different from the ones high school classes call for. So, if you’re struggling with how to write better essays, know that you’re not alone. There are many resources available to help you.
Those resources include CollegeAdvisor.com. In addition to our numerous free articles, we offer personalized admissions help to hundreds of students worldwide. If you’re trying to write your best college admission essays, we can lend a hand.
Getting Help from CollegeAdvisor
At CollegeAdvisor.com, our team of 400+ Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers has helped hundreds of students approach the college admissions process with confidence. Whether you need help with how to start a college essay or already have a draft, our experts can help you create the best college application essays possible! We offer one-on-one guidance to students as they complete every aspect of their college applications, including essays. We’ll help you brainstorm topics, create drafts, edit your writing, and more so that you feel confident when you press “submit.”
In addition to your personal college advisor, we also have a dedicated Essay Editing Team whose job is helping students with how to write better essays. They work with your college advisor to provide additional college essay help. This team of specialists will receive your essay and return it within 48 hours with targeted feedback and guidance on how to write better essays. Plus, you can keep sending drafts as you revise so that the feedback you receive will evolve as your essay does.
Finally, where applicable, CollegeAdvisor offers students the chance to have an “application dress rehearsal.” Here, your full application, including essays, is reviewed by one of our former Admissions Officers. They will review the college application essay format with you, check your materials, and flag any issues they see with the application.
They’ll also provide specific feedback based on their experience in admissions offices at the top universities nationwide. They know how admissions officers think and will use that knowledge to help you with how to write better essays. In addition, these former admissions officers will help you prepare for interviews if your school requires them.
College Essay Tips – Final Thoughts
When it comes to college essay prompts, there are many different approaches for how to write better essays. Different college essay prompts will require different techniques. For example, the Fordham supplemental essays may require different skills and perspectives than the Smith college essay. However, the college essay tips we’ve compiled here can be used with a wide range of college application essay prompts. These tips for how to write better essays come from experts in the field with years of admissions experience.
Don’t be afraid to share essays with your advisor, a trusted teacher, or a family member for additional college essay help. They may be able to see errors that you missed and provide a new perspective on your writing. At the same time, since they know your personality, they can tell you if your writing is representative of your potential. In addition, seeking support from a CollegeAdvisor.com expert can give you the added confidence that the advice you are receiving is backed by years of experience.
Experts you can trust
Our experts can help you not only with how to write better essays but also with any other part of your college application requirements. Supplemental essays and college essay prompts are just one part of the admissions process where our advisors can assist you. We also offer help with financial aid, college list development, test prep, and much more.
To see all the ways that CollegeAdvisor.com can help you with your college applications, sign up here for a quick consultation with one of our experts. For even more free resources and examples of college application essays explore our site. For starters, check out this article about the Common Application essay prompts and this one for essay topic ideas.
This article was written by senior advisor, Jess Klein , Bailey Bennett, and senior advisor, Alex Baggott-Rowe . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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The Top AI Writing Tools to Help You Become a Better Writer in College
Learn about our editorial process .
Updated September 29, 2023 · 4 Min Read
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Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are revolutionizing the higher learning landscape, saving students' time and potentially boosting their grades. However, this trend is accompanied by contentious debates. Is it ethical for students to use AI tools to complete writing assignments?
While AI's defenders highlight the efficiency and personalized assistance its tools offer, critics raise concerns about overreliance, potential plagiarism, and the erosion of critical thinking skills.
In a BestColleges survey , 51% of college students say using AI tools on schoolwork is plagiarism or cheating, but about 20% use them anyway.
If you're one of the students using AI to write essays, or you plan to rely on an AI tool, consider the ethics of your choice before you begin.
The Ethics of College Students Using AI
Critics argue that AI may compromise academic integrity by fostering a dependency on machine-generated content. There's also an argument that AI essay writing leads to diminished original thinking.
Over time the line between assistance and plagiarism could start to blur, as students rely excessively on AI tools without proper understanding of the subject they are studying.
Colleges are addressing this question by emphasizing responsible AI use. Some institutions encourage faculty members to create assignments that AI cannot perform well, while others offer coursework on how to use generative AI tools to augment human creativity .
If you want to use AI writing tools ethically — to support rather than supplant your learning — consider the 10 options below.
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Best Free AI Essay Writing Tools to Help You Become a Better Writer in College
The AI-powered tools listed below each assist students who want to improve their writing skills without committing plagiarism. Each of these tools is either free or offers a limited free version of their product.
Grammarly uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze written text for context, tone, style, and grammatical correctness. The product's parent company says it influences the writing of 30 million people and 50,000 teams every day across the English-speaking population.
Grammarly offers a free version, a paid Premium option with 400 checks and features, and a business solution. These products can assist with traditional documents and emails, and can interface with other apps such as Slack and Skype.
Named for author Earnest Hemingway, this app can help tighten prose, eliminate unnecessary modifiers, and simplify verbiage — ahem, using smaller words.
To get editing help, copy your work, paste it into the application, and watch the tool highlight areas for improvement according to a color-coded legend. For example, a blue highlight indicates an adverb, while a green highlight indicates the passive voice.
The Hemingway app also scores your writing's readability. You can see the score moving in the appropriate direction as you edit your work.
This tool can create new citations or help improve a bibliography you've already developed. You can either check your paper for grammatical errors or use Citation Machine as an AI-powered plagiarism checker.
When using the citation function, enter information about the website, article, journal, or book you wish to cite, choose the style you need the citation in, and wait for the tool to generate your source in the appropriate format.
Readable helps writers improve their work by scoring it for readability. The tool uses various scoring metrics, including Flesch-Kincaid, to determine scores. Readable can also give you actionable editorial feedback. You can choose the free version or one of three paid options ranging from $4 to $69 monthly.
An AI-powered summarizer, Scholarcy simplifies and condenses articles, breaking them down into bite-sized ideas. You can use the tool to sift through far more research papers than you could ever do on your own. Alternatively, you can run your own paper through Scholarcy, seeing how the tool summarizes each piece of your work to help keep your paper focused.
More than a grammar check, myEssai is an AI essay writing tool that gives you actionable feedback just like a teacher would. This tool can review essays, resumes, job descriptions, creative writing assignments, notes for a speech, or any other written piece. myEssai does not create new content. It only reviews content you have already written.
Another essay-writing AI app, LanguagePro, helps you write faster, better, and more efficiently. This tool analyzes your writing style and makes suggestions for improving your word choices while also pointing out errors and typos.
People who speak English as a second language may also find LanguagePro helpful since it can translate content into more than 25 languages using a multilingual keyboard.
GPTionary is a free, smart thesaurus that suggests words or phrases after the user inputs a descriptive prompt.
For example, you might ask, "What is a word used to describe a feeling of great passion or intensity?" And GPTionary would reply with a suggested word, definition, synonyms, antonyms, trivia, and example sentences.
This tool is one way for students using AI to write essays without a hint of plagiarism or cheating. It can also benefit English language learners by providing new vocabulary words.
Eli5 is short for "explain like I'm five." This AI-powered tool is fueled by OpenAI, the same company that owns ChatGPT. It uses machine learning and large language models to simplify concepts, explaining complex ideas in basic terms that beginners can understand.
Students who want to learn more about artificial intelligence can benefit from this tool as can researchers in all fields.
When it comes to writing, ProWritingAid does it all. This tool improves sentence flow, checks grammar, analyzes sentence structure, and makes word-choice recommendations.
The free version offers 10 rephrases and a full array of checks on 500 words a day. Students who upgrade to the premium package get 20% off.
Frequently Asked Questions About AI Essay Writing Tools
How can i use this tool in a way that helps me learn.
Use these tools to augment your human creativity, not to replace it. AI writers do a fantastic job of generating ideas, offering research directions, checking grammar, and streamlining the writing process.
As you learn to form better queries for your AI tools , you will also discover how to make your writing tighter and more focused. Almost anything you do with AI beyond copy-and-paste jobs has the potential to teach you something.
Can Turnitin detect AI writing?
Yes, Turnitin has released an AI writing detection solution trained to evaluate text produced by GPT-3 and GPT-3 language models, including ChatGPT. Turnitin's solution cannot pinpoint machine-generated language with 100% accuracy, but it can generally determine if a human, a robot, or a combination of the two wrote the piece.
Do AI writing tools work well with different citation styles, such as APA or MLA?
The answer depends on the tool you use. Most AI writing tools can work seamlessly in whatever citation style you request. Solutions that focus on creating bibliographies and citations are especially well suited to shift to your preferred citation style.
How do AI writing tools compare to traditional grammar-checking software or writing tutors?
Traditional grammar-checking software scans human-written work for possible grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. An in-person writing tutor makes suggestions and assists as you write your copy. AI writing tools such as ChatGPT actually generate written content for you based on your input.
Can AI writing tools help with language translation or writing a language in another language other than English?
Some AI writing tools can help with language translation, and some can write in languages other than English. Google Translate, DeepL, Alexa Translations, and Taia Translations are all examples of AI writing tools that can translate from one language to another.
Page last reviewed September 16, 2023.
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My idea of ideal university.
Since long ago I have been thinking about good and bad features of modern higher education , and tried to imagine how the ideal higher educational institution , the ideal university should look like. Here I shall share some thoughts concerning this subject.
Ideal university , in my opinion, is primarily a place for studying. It may sound obvious, but in fact it is very important idea – the universities in their present condition have turned into places where students are engaged in all kind of personal and social activities except for studying. Well, maybe not except, but there is really way too much attention paid to things like socialization, extracurricular activities, clubs, sporting events and so on and so forth. They should be reduced to a minimum. A higher educational institution is a place to obtain information, not communicate.
Students, if they have to be teamed up into groups, should be grouped according to their knowledge and abilities – weak with the weak, strong with the strong, in order to ensure that every one of them can compete with those who are of roughly the same level.
And, what is most important, the curriculum. The modern curriculum of any direction shows the signs of trying to include things that have no connection with what the student is supposed to be learning. Separately these inclusions don’t occupy much time, but together they eat up a good deal of time and effort every student spends to get his degree. Because of the fact that about 90% of what is…
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Best College Essay Writing Services in 2023: Reviews of Top 5 Paper Writing Websites Your academic success is paramount, and by choosing the right website, you can ensure that your journey is supported by professional expertise and guidance
By Rohan Shastri • Sep 26, 2023
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It's that time of the semester again. Deadlines are piling up, you're knee-deep in coursework, and sleep deprivation has transformed from a mere possibility to your newest best friend. And let's not forget: those college papers won't write themselves, right? In such high-pressure situations, who wouldn't be tempted to enlist some help from a professional essay writer?
However, with the myriad of college essay writing services available online, how can you determine which one is the best fit for your needs? Fear not, dear reader. We have done the research and compiled a list of the best ones, offering you tips and guidance to help you make an informed decision.
In this article, we will explore the 5 top essay writing service providers that have a proven track record in delivering quality work, professionalism, and affordability.
The 5 Best Essay Writing Services Reviewed at a Glance:
- PaperHelp : Best College Essay Service Overall [9.8/10]
- BBQPapers : Best for College Research Papers [9.8/10]
- SpeedyPaper : Best Budget-Friendly Essay Writing Service [9.6/10]
- EssayPro : Best Selection of Professional Writers [9.5/10]
- GradeMiners : Best for Term Papers and Lengthy Assignments [9.3/10]
We have meticulously analyzed various college paper writing services based on quality, turnaround time, and pricing, and have narrowed down the top five websites for your consideration.
1. PaperHelp : Top College Paper Writing Service
Imagine you're sitting in your dorm room late at night. Each tick of the clock seems to match a beat within your chest, signaling the relentless march towards dawn—and your paper deadline. In such moments, stumbling upon a college essay writing service that promises quick turnarounds without charging an exorbitant fee can feel like salvation. But does PaperHelp truly live up to that promise?
In our experience, the answer is yes! PaperHelp can write a paper for you in as little as 3 to 6 hours. Across five orders (two of them rushed), PaperHelp's college paper writers have consistently met our deadlines—or even delivered earlier. This reliability sets PaperHelp apart from many competitors, making it the best essay writing service in the U.S. We say this because other services we've tried haven't consistently met similarly tight deadlines.
The essays provided by PaperHelp are both thorough and concise, jam-packed with insights that reveal meticulous research. In contrast to other companies where bland delivery or surface-level research are the norms, PaperHelp stands out noticeably. In the volatile sea of academic writing services, their high-quality output serves as an island of assurance.
Compared to most websites we've reviewed, PaperHelp boasts competitive pricing, offering a great deal of flexibility. For example, you can manage costs by adjusting the deadline or selecting a different level of writer expertise.
Balancing cost with quality is always challenging. While there are cheaper services out there, the superior quality of PaperHelp's work justifies the slightly higher expenditure. After all, isn't it worth investing a bit more for better grades?
However, it's not all rosy. While we appreciate the round-the-clock availability of customer support, there have been instances where different representatives provided conflicting information. This is an area they need to address.
Spot-on deadlines and exceptional quality make it stand toe-to-toe with any competitor in our book. While there is room for improvement in ease-of-use and customer service consistency, these are heavily outweighed by how robustly they deliver where it matters most.
If you're juggling impending deadlines and chasing ambitious grades on a limited budget — we wholeheartedly recommend considering PaperHelp over alternative choices due to its reliability while ensuring value-for-money.
Price: Starting at $14 per page for a 14-day deadline.
Our Experience: The paper purchased from PaperHelp demonstrated a deep understanding of the topic and provided a compelling argument supported by well-sourced evidence. We picked a "Basic Writer" and their ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources and present it in a coherent and logical manner was commendable. Writer's insights were both original and well-founded, showcasing a maturity of thought that is rare at the undergraduate level.
2. BBQPapers : Best Writing Service for Research Papers
BBQPapers is the best paper writing service that specializes in complex papers and dissertations, making it an ideal choice for college students seeking assistance in STEM subjects. Boasting a team of professional paper writers, BBQPapers is renowned for delivering superior quality and originality in their work.
One of the standout features of BBQPapers is their commitment to providing a complementary plagiarism report with each paper, ensuring that you receive original work that adheres to the highest academic standards. With their solid reputation for quality and originality, BBQPapers is a top contender for students who require specialized expertise and support for their academic assignments.
BBQPapers has proven its worth as a reliable college research paper writing service, consistently delivering well-written and original work while catering to individual needs within agreed timelines. No wonder then it found favor amidst thousands of college students in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
Price: Starting at $6.77 per 100 words (~$18.6 per page), 14-day deadline.
Our Experience: We were particularly impressed by the breadth and depth of the writer's research. Their ability to uncover and engage with a range of academic sources has added a rich dimension to the paper we ordered. Not only did an online essay writer manage to integrate these sources seamlessly into their narrative, but they also critically evaluated their relevance and reliability, demonstrating a high level of academic rigor.
3. SpeedyPaper : Best Cheap Essay Writing Service
SpeedyPaper is a legit essay writing service and a popular choice among students seeking fast delivery and affordable pricing. After using it extensively for several semesters now, we can confidently vouch for its effectiveness and affordability. But what exactly sets this service apart from its rivals? Does it live up to its promise of being speedy?
Our experience with SpeedyPaper involved ordering several essays under varying timelines and levels of complexity. In matters of speed, their name truly speaks for them! They promptly delivered each essay within the specified time frame – never compromising on quality. The grading results? Stellar A's all through.
More importantly, we were impressed by SpeedyPaper writers' professionalism throughout our interactions. Each professional writer made an effort to understand our specific requirements before setting out to work, something that is often overlooked by other services.
As with all services though, they aren't perfect either; individual writer styles can sometimes differ significantly which could throw you off if you frequently swap writers for different assignments.
Furthermore, although generally reliable in submitting their work promptly and accurately addressing any revisions needed, they do fall short on rare occasions – hence why I'd advise against treading too close to your assignment deadlines when using this service.
Price: Starting at $13 per page for a 14-day deadline.
Quality: The paper we got from SpeedyPaper was not only informative but also a pleasure to read. Writer's choice of language was sophisticated without being pretentious, and they skillfully balanced descriptive passages with analytical insights. Furthermore, the nuanced way in which they approached the topic allowed for a multifaceted exploration that is commendable.
4. EssayPro : Best College Essay Writers
EssayPro is a reputable custom essay writing service that offers flexibility, affordability, and a streamlined process for finding the best essay writer for your assignment. With an easy-to-use platform that allows clients to select professional college essay writers based on their requirements and budget, EssayPro provides a convenient and efficient solution for students in need of academic support. Thanks to the bidding nature of the service, you can hire a cheap essay writer without overpaying.
The hiring process is straightforward as writers bid against each other, enabling clients to compare profiles and pick a suitable candidate themselves rather than allocating tasks arbitrarily. To put it metaphorically — it's like picking your tailor depending on what suits you best.
In addition to their flexible writer selection process, EssayPro ensures that each writer possesses a degree in their field or a related field, guaranteeing that your assignment is in capable hands. With their fast essay completion times (less than 8 hours) and complimentary formatting, referencing, and revisions, EssayPro stands out as a reliable and efficient essay writing website for students seeking tailored academic assistance.
Price: Starts at $11.40 per page for a 14-day deadline.
Quality: The online paper writer we hired via EssayPro displayed an excellent grasp of the theoretical underpinnings relevant to the topic. Their ability to apply these theories to real-world scenarios, while critically evaluating their strengths and limitations, is indicative of a deep and well-rounded understanding.
5. GradeMiners : Best Service for Term Papers
GradeMiners is a well-known online essay writing service in the US, with a strong reputation for providing the best essay writers, fast turnaround times, and competitive rates. Catering to most academic papers, including essays, theses, and dissertations, GradeMiners offers a versatile solution for students seeking comprehensive academic support.
With little to no editing required for papers from GradeMiners, students can trust this service to deliver high-quality work that meets their specific needs. Moreover, GradeMiners is known for their ability to handle various writing projects, including bulk essay writing assignments, term papers, dissertations, and more, making it a top choice for students in need of diverse academic support.
Is it cheap? Not in comparison to some services available but considering the quality they deliver; it becomes apparent that good work isn't always cheap, and cheap work isn't often good.
Their wide range of covered subjects is also worth noting. Whether you're studying Art History or have Physics homework looming over your head — GradeMiner's vast pool of writers guarantees they've got you covered!
Price: Starts at $18 per page for a 14-day deadline.
Quality: GradeMiners' paper was structured in a manner that facilitated easy understanding, with each section flowing seamlessly into the next. The logical progression of the arguments, coupled with the clarity of the thesis statement, made for a persuasive and well-organized piece. The writer has demonstrated a clear ability to guide their reader through a complex issue with grace and precision.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Essay Writing Service
Some of the most crucial aspects to take into account include the expertise of writers, turnaround time, pricing, and discounts. By carefully evaluating these factors, you can make an informed decision and get quality college essay help at a reasonable price.
Researching the platform, verifying the support team's availability, and reviewing genuine customer feedback are also crucial in assessing an academic writing company. Furthermore, checking the guarantees for unique content and money-back, as well as ensuring full confidentiality of personal and financial details, can help you identify legit essay writing services that you can trust with your academic assignments.
Expertise of Writers
Expertise, professionalism and level of education stands as a critical aspect when choosing an essay writer service. Professional and experienced writers can produce quality work that adheres to strict academic standards and meets your specific requirements. This ensures that you receive dependable and excellent academic papers, which is why professional essay writers are so important.
Seek a service that employs writers with diverse field expertise and a proven track record of high-quality work delivery when choosing a service. This not only guarantees the quality of your paper, but also ensures that your assignment is in capable hands. By selecting a service with professional and experienced writers, you can trust that your academic journey is backed by expert support and guidance.
Fast turnaround times for assignments ensure timely submission and reduce stress. Opting for top essay writing services that provide prompt turnaround times for assignments guarantees that you can meet your deadlines and minimize any potential issues related to late submissions.
Evaluating the turnaround times of various essay writing websites and selecting one that fits your specific needs is crucial. By selecting a service with expedited delivery, you can ensure that your academic assignments are completed and submitted on time, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your academic journey.
Pricing and Discounts
Striking a balance between affordability and quality is vital when opting for a trusted essay writing service, especially if you're planning on using it regularly. While it's essential to find a service that offers competitive pricing, you should also prioritize the quality of work provided. By taking into account available discounts and loyalty programs, you can find a service that offers both affordability and top-notch work.
Comparing the pricing structures and discounts of various cheap essay writing services is crucial when evaluating them. This will help you identify services that offer the best value for your money. By considering pricing and discounts in conjunction with factors such as the expertise of writers and turnaround times, you can find a website that will continuously support your academic journey.
How to Distinguish Between Fake and Real Essay Writing Service Reviews?
In the context of essay services, concrete feedback helps discern factors such as writer competency, adherence to delivery timelines, quality control mechanisms, and overall service reliability.
However, some essay writing companies fabricate positive reviews to promote their services, while also tarnishing their competition with fake negative reviews. So, how can we distinguish genuine reviews from those that aren't based on true user experiences? Let's navigate these murky waters together.
Consistency in Experience Narratives
Legitimate reviews often detail specific instances about a user's experience with a service. This could entail nuances about placing an order, interactions with customer service, turnaround time scale or quality of the final product received. Coke is sweet; what makes it stand out is its consistent recipe! Keep your eyes peeled for consistency.
Skimpy details often earmark fake testimonials. Beware if reviews only toss generic praises without particular information about any aspect of their experience using the service; it might be just hot air in action!
Variety & Balance Among Reviews
A healthy blend of positive and negative reviews indicates authenticity. The operative word here is "balance". A service with only glowing reviews or solely terrible ones might be a red flag, signaling manipulated feedback.
Logical Time Frames & Frequency
Reviews streaming in at an unnatural pace could be orchestrated. Similarly, if every review claims exactly the same order-processing timescale irrespective of requested essay complexity, you might want to reconsider your chosen service options.
Reader Engagement and Responses
Concrete reviews typically generate engagement; other users may ask questions or share their own experiences while companies usually respond to criticisms leveled against them or thank customers for positive feedback.
Language and Tone
Pay close attention to the lingual patterns used in reviews. An unvarying tone throughout several testimonials or excessively formal language might point towards manufactured comments.
How Much Does an Essay Writing Service Cost?
There's no set standard for essay service costs across every platform. Just as it takes different amounts of time and effort to create different types of cuisine, writing unique essays calls for various levels of exertion and expertise which influence pricing.
While prices for a college paper writing service differ from website to website, a general range exists within which most services sit. The cost of hiring a professional essay writer for undergraduate level work with a turnaround time of 7–10 days is $20 – $30 per page. As deadlines shorten or academic levels increase, so do prices; reaching up to $50 – $60 per page for Ph.D. level work on a tight deadline.
Different essay writing sites base their prices on several key factors:
- Time Frame. Ever pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline or paid a premium for same-day delivery? Urgency costs. A paper needed within 24 hours will naturally demand a higher price than one with a two-week time frame due to increased workload intensity and pressure.
- Academic Level. Writing for college freshmen often involves less complexity compared to crafting content for those pursuing Masters or Doctoral degrees. Like moving through school levels, complexity increases as you climb academia's ladder — reflected in the pricing structure too.
- Length. Like trying to stuff an elephant into a mini Cooper hardly seems practical right? An Economics dissertation isn't going to fit into 500 words either! Consequently, large scale projects inherently require more work — correlating directly with cost.
- Quality. Just as people pay premiums for vintage wines or luxury cars because they value quality above all else, the same applies in essay writing. The better qualified, experienced and skilled the writer, expect to pay more for their expertise.
- The Extra Costs. Don't forget about additional costs that might sneak up on you like slippers on a tiled floor. Ask upfront whether services like revisions or title pages are included in the cost or add an extra charge.
Understanding how much an essay service might cost can help manage expectations and budget accordingly — mitigating any nasty surprises down the line! Remember though — no price can substitute the value gained by crafting your own papers. So while outsourcing may offer short term relief during particularly busy periods, always strive to develop your skills first hand where possible.
Is an Essay Writing Service Legal?
To cut through any ambiguity promptly — yes, from a purely legal standpoint, using a paper writing service isn't against the law. It's important to understand that these services exist within well-defined legal frameworks. They operate like any other online service marketplace providing customers with valuable products or services. But much like twisting spaghetti on your fork, things get a bit tangled when we delve into academic and ethical considerations surrounding these services.
Academic Regulations and Ethics
Though legally permissible to use, academic essay writing services often cross paths with academic regulations enforced by educational institutions worldwide. These rules typically discourage students from outsourcing their assignments under policies promoting intellectual honesty and originality in scholarly works.
Let's liken the situation to borrowing your friend's homework as your own - it may not be illegal per se, but it certainly isn't encouraged or deemed ethically correct by many educators. By allowing another individual to do your assignment for you, are you truly learning anything? And doesn't that infringe upon values that academic environments try to foster, like self-reliance and integrity?
So Why Do Paper Writing Services Exist?
Service providers argue that they offer "model answers" or "templates" designed as academic aids, helping students understand complex topics or grasp how a professionally crafted essay looks like. From this perspective, it's akin to getting guidance from an expert tutor who assists in crystalizing ideas which you can then recreate with original content.
Moreover, most legitimate essay-writing services clearly state in their client agreements that the work they provide must not be passed off as students' original work. Very much like a guiding manual, it should ideally serve as an aid, not a shortcut to completing assignments.
At the end of the day, it rests upon each student's personal responsibility and judgment when using such services. It closely mirrors visiting a toy store – despite being surrounded by eye-catching toys which could be taken home, one has to respect property rights and rules against thievery!
Tips for Ensuring a Plagiarism-Free Essay
Securing a plagiarism-free essay holds paramount importance for upholding academic integrity and originality of your work. To guarantee that your essay is free from plagiarism, it's essential to follow a few key strategies. These include:
- Choosing a reputable service
- Requesting a plagiarism report
- Reviewing and editing your essay to ensure it meets your requirements and adheres to academic standards.
By implementing these strategies, you can avoid potential plagiarism issues and ensure that your work is original and unique. This not only helps you maintain academic integrity, but also demonstrates your commitment to producing high-quality, original work.
With the right guidance and support from a professional essay writing service, you can achieve academic success while maintaining a plagiarism-free record.
Choose a Reputable Service
Choosing a reliable essay writing service is critical to guarantee original and plagiarism-free work. Reputable services have a proven track record of delivering high-quality work and adhere to strict academic standards. By choosing a reliable service, you can trust that your work will be original and free from plagiarism, ensuring your academic success.
To identify a reputable college essay service, it's essential to:
- Research the platform
- Read reviews from genuine customers
- Verify the availability of the support team
- Check the guarantees for unique content and money-back
- Ensure full confidentiality of personal and financial details
By following these steps, you can find a service that you can trust with your academic assignments.
Request a Plagiarism Report
Asking for a plagiarism report from your selected essay writing service is a great strategy to confirm your paper's originality. Many reputable services provide this option, typically in the order form or customer service section.
By asking for a plagiarism report, you can guarantee that your work is unique and adheres to stringent academic standards.
If the plagiarism report is unsatisfactory, it's important to take the following steps:
- Contact the academic writing service and request a refund or revision.
- This ensures that your work is original and meets your specific requirements.
- By requesting a plagiarism report and taking the necessary steps to address any issues, you can maintain academic integrity and produce high-quality, original work.
Review and Edit Your Essay
Comprehensive review and editing of your essay is a critical step towards ensuring its originality and alignment with your requirements. By carefully examining your work, you can:
- Identify any potential issues or inconsistencies
- Address them accordingly
- Ensure the originality of your work
- Guarantee that it adheres to academic standards and your specific needs.
Some recommended practices for enhancing the clarity of your essay include:
- Reading the essay in reverse order
- Employing peer reviews and checklists
- Familiarizing yourself with grammar and punctuation rules
- Having writing handbooks or resources available for reference
Additionally, these practices can help you identify errors and inconsistencies, ensuring that your work is polished and ready for submission.
The Legality and Safety of Essay Writing Services
Best paper writing services can serve as a handy tool for students grappling with their academic responsibilities. However, it's essential to be mindful of the legal implications and safety protocols when utilizing these services. To ensure you're making the right choice, consider checking out essay service reviews before making a decision on essay writing services online.
This section covers the legality and safety of using essay services, touching upon legal aspects and safety measures, aimed at aiding your decision-making process regarding their use for academic needs.
A thorough understanding of the legal and safety aspects of using essay writing companies can guide you towards a responsible decision about seeking academic support through these platforms. With the right guidance and precautions, you can ensure that your academic journey is backed by professional support and expertise while maintaining your safety and legal standing.
Paper writing companies providing custom academic papers are legally allowed, provided they are registered and follow the applicable laws. Violation of these regulations can lead to serious consequences. These businesses are trustworthy. They are intended to act as a mentor and benefit students by helping them enhance their academic performance and writing skills. By adhering to all the necessary protocols, such as paying taxes and reporting their income to the government, reputable essay writing services operate within the confines of the law.
It's vital to confirm the registration and legal adherence of the platform when using an assignment writing service. By doing so, you can trust that the service is operating legally and responsibly, providing you with high-quality academic support while maintaining your legal standing.
Certain precautions are necessary to guarantee your safety when using essay writing services. These can include:
- Researching platforms
- Reading reviews
- Checking privacy and refund policies to ensure that the service is reliable and trustworthy
- Utilizing a dummy email and account for the transaction
- Employing a VPN
- Authorizing only necessary browser cookies
These measures can help protect your anonymity and ensure a safe experience.
By taking these safety precautions, you can minimize the risk of any potential issues that may arise from using essay writing services. This allows you to focus on your academic success while ensuring that your personal and financial information remains secure and confidential. With the right guidance and precautions, you can confidently use trustworthy essay services to support your academic journey.
Why Even a Cheap Paper Writing Service is Still Better than ChatGPT
While ChatGPT is a free online tool that can generate essays, the quality of the essays is not assured, and the tool may not meet the stringent academic standards required for high-quality work.
On the other hand, essay writing services offer the following benefits:
- Access to professional writers with expertise in academic writing
- Production of high-quality papers that adhere to strict academic standards
- Assurance of 100% plagiarism-free papers
- A full money-back guarantee
By choosing a professional and cheap essay writing service, you can ensure that your academic assignments are completed to the highest standard and meet your specific requirements by partnering with a reliable essay writing company.
Best Writing Services for College Students: Summary
From the importance of selecting a reputable website and hiring a suitable college essay writer to understanding the legal and safety aspects of using these websites, we have covered all the crucial information you need to make an informed decision.
Remember that your academic success is paramount, and by choosing the right website, you can ensure that your journey is supported by professional expertise and guidance. We hope that our guide has been helpful in your quest to find the perfect college paper writing service to meet your unique needs and requirements. Good luck on your academic journey, and may you achieve the success you deserve!
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Sept. 18, 2023
Emory University continues to be ranked among the nation’s top universities, coming in 24th in U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 Best Colleges report.
The rankings also list Emory as 21st among its “Best Value” schools based on a combination of academic quality and cost.
Several undergraduate programs within Emory’s schools were also ranked. The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing ranked 3rd for “Best Undergraduate Nursing” program and Goizueta Business School ranked 13th for “Best Undergraduate Business” program.
This year’s rankings reflect one of the most significant changes in the methodology used by U.S News in decades. As a result, the year-to-year s hift in schools’ ranks are greater than in previous reports.
The new 2024 rankings appear today at www.usnews.com.
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Best Essay Writing Services: 7 Top Essay Writing Services For College Students
Hello, my dear readers and explorers of finding the best essay writing service for your needs.
Crafting essays might seem straightforward, but the complexities become apparent when it's your turn. Academic writing, as you might already know, has its nuances. There are various essays, each distinct in its intent and length.
Moreover, many students are pressed for time and can't commit to essay writing. Fortunately, specialized websites are ready to take on that task for you!
In the following sections, we'll delve into some of the premier essay writing services in the U.S., contrasting their pricing and features. These platforms are trustworthy and widely recognized places to enlist expert essay writers.
Let’s start our honest and independent review of each considered to be the best essay writing service.
7 Best Online Essay Writing Services In USA
1. EssayService.com - Best for quality essays
2. DoMyEssay.com - Unbeatable speed
3. EssayPro.com - Best for direct communication with writers
4. EssayHub.com - Best for price affordability
5. Studyfy.com - Best reputation online
6. WritePaper.com - Best customer service
7. PaperWriter.com - Easy to use order form
These platforms were evaluated based on the standard of papers, client support, and pricing.
Let’s take a close look at each best online essay-writing services.
First service reviewed is EssayService.com. It has carved a niche as a prominent academic writing platform, catering to a vast clientele of over 700,000 students worldwide. Recognized not only for its impressive volume of satisfied customers, EssayService's commitment to quality and excellence is consistently echoed in testimonials from reputed review platforms like SiteJabber and Reviews.io.
With a balance of affordability and high-quality output, this platform has emerged as a reliable ally for students grappling with academic challenges, ensuring impeccable content and timely delivery.
Let’s dive deeper to understand what makes EssayService a preferred choice for many among top essay writing services.
As I explored, this one of the best essay writing websites offers a vast spectrum of subject expertise, ensuring there's something for everyone. EssayService has an eclectic mix of writers, each bringing a unique academic flavor. So, when you seek their assistance, you can pick a specialist who's academically aligned with your subject. A glance at their writer profiles reveals an educated bunch: while some hold Bachelor's degrees, a significant majority flaunt their Master's and even Ph.D. qualifications.
As for prices, charges for essay guidance, homework tasks, and various essay categories commence at $11.4 per page. For assistance with research papers, the rate begins at $12.35 per page and can increase based on complexity.
Why to turn to EssayService
On the best essay writing services, there's a handy calculator to help you gauge the overall cost of your order. The essays this service delivers adhere strictly to the provided requirements. They offer many complimentary services, including a plagiarism report, edits, proper formatting, an outline, and even the title page.
Throughout the essay development process, the writer maintains consistent communication, promptly addressing your feedback. It's worth mentioning that every writer on the platform is a thoroughly vetted native English speaker, hailing from either the United States or Canada.
EssayService masterfully balances cost-effectiveness and stellar paper quality, evident from our trial orders. This combination of value and excellence makes it an especially appealing choice for many students. I can recommend this service, according to all the features this site poses.
Secondly comes DoMyEssay. This service has stood the test of time, establishing itself as a platform that delivers remarkable value for the dollar. This accolade can largely be attributed to their skilled essayists, who consistently showcase their depth of knowledge and proficiency through the quality of their output.
If you're scouting for a reliable partner in academic endeavors, look no further than DoMyEssay. They offer various services, from penning admission and college essays to crafting detailed book and lab reports and even delving into research and term papers.
DoMyEssay frequently appears as a commendable writing service in various discussions. Having witnessed the glowing testimonials from students and after personally vetting their offerings, I can confidently affirm their top-tier service quality.
Navigating DoMyEssay is a breeze. With a concise three-step order process, all you have to do is set things in motion, then sit back and await your finished essay.
Their on-site calculator provides transparency in pricing, letting you gauge the cost upfront. Moreover, their pricing structure is tailored to reward volume — the more you commission, the more significant your savings.
Starting prices for academic essay writing hover around $10.80 per page. Should you require help with an essay, expect the rate to exceed $12 per page. For other offerings like proofreading, editing, and rewriting, the rates kick off at $3, $5, and $7.99 for each page, in that order.
Why to turn to DoMyEssay
As I found on this website, they offer a comprehensive suite of services, spanning from admission essays to term papers. Impressively, they also provide swift delivery options, featuring a three-hour urgency choice that doesn't skimp on quality.
The platform itself is both intuitive and user-centric, highlighted by a straightforward order form. Plus, they generously include fundamental features such as formatting, an outline, a title page, and a plagiarism report at no additional cost.
Hands down, DoMyEssay stands out as the reigning titan in this domain. After meticulously weighing elements like cost-effectiveness, variety in services, top-tier paper standards, and prompt deliveries, it's clear that DoMyEssay takes the crown for the finest writing service out there.
Its knack for harmonizing these vital components distinguishes it from the rest, further cementing its stellar reputation.
When the weight of a tight deadline bears down, or the intricacies of a significant term paper become overwhelming, EssayPro is a beacon of hope.
This platform has set itself apart with its unwavering commitment to quality and swift turnarounds.
The most important thing is the promptness of EssayPro is nothing short of remarkable; they can whip up an assignment in just six hours.
While it's usually best to give writers ample time for in-depth research and meticulous writing, I put EssayPro to the test by setting them a challenging 6-hour time frame.
EssayPro is a comprehensive best essay writing service for all your writing challenges. With a team that excels in crafting academic content, they stand ready to tackle any homework or paper you throw their way.
What sets EssayPro apart is their dedication to custom-crafted content and originality. They have a steadfast stance against plagiarism and even provide a complimentary plagiarism report to underscore their commitment to authenticity.
One standout feature is their rating system. Each writer's profile comes with reviews from past tasks, allowing you to gauge their expertise before selecting your ideal research paper assistant.
A notable strength of EssayPro's writers is their rigorous approach to research. In a nursing essay I commissioned, the writer not only cited recent studies but ensured it was evidence-based, hitting our set criteria of relevance and integrity spot-on.
Prices may vary based on the complexity of your essays, with custom writing starting at $12.4 per page.
Why to turn to EssayPro
I discovered that EssayPro has established itself as a writing service with a stellar reputation and a consistent track record of success. Catering specifically to common college assignments, they offer a plethora of benefits.
Their skilled team of writers hails from the United States and Canada, ensuring top-notch quality. Despite the exceptional work they deliver, their pricing remains reasonable. Additionally, they allow customers to request customized writing services, accommodating a wide variety of paper requirements.
EssayPro offers premium writing services at an affordable price. What sets them apart is their impressive speed in fulfilling orders without compromising on the quality of their writing.
Another standout I've identified is EssayHub. It's a favorite among Reddit users, particularly for its swift response to urgent tasks. Perfect for those last-minute assignments or when the clock is ticking, they offer a turnaround as short as just 6 hours. Moreover, you have the freedom to chat about deadline specifics with both the support team and your chosen writer. Indeed, timeliness stands as one of their core promises.
At first glance, EssayHub might seem akin to many other prominent services. They pledge punctual order deliveries and underscore the superior quality of their papers. Moreover, they offer 24/7 customer support and are lauded for speedy replies. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find that EssayHub sets itself apart. Their prime focus is on delivering unmatched customer satisfaction tailored for students in the U.S. Their expertise is rooted in a profound understanding of the U.S. and Canada, including the unique academic standards that colleges and universities in these regions uphold.
With prices kicking off at $11.4 a page, EssayHub caters to your academic needs, be it literature reviews or essays. Should you want your current document reworked, the charges start at a modest $7.98 per page. And if it's editing you're after, expect a starting rate of $5.7 for each page.
Why to turn to EssayHub
I was impressed that the platform boasts writers who are native English speakers hailing from the United States and Canada, guaranteeing top-tier writing quality.
They possess deep expertise tailored to the standard requirements of U.S. academic institutions, ensuring precise alignment with college and university expectations. Their excellent customer support is dedicated to fostering a seamless and positive user experience.
Moreover, they offer an expansive array of assignment options, encompassing everything from book reports to intricate essays. Notably, they have specialists spanning diverse fields, including law and nursing.
EssayHub as one of the best online essay writing services stands out by providing top-notch, customized academic help. Their dedication to understanding each student's unique needs and their writers' professional touch truly distinguishes them. EssayHub shines as a prime choice for students searching for bespoke academic support.
Boasting a team of over 400 experts, Studyfy ticks all the boxes to be recognized as a dependable platform that stands by its promises. They proudly highlight having accomplished over 98,000 tasks, boasting a noteworthy average quality score of 9.5 out of 10 (as of this writing).
Unlike top essay writing service that levy extra charges for revisions when initial instructions aren't met, Studyfy adopts a different approach. They offer the assurance of unlimited, free revisions. This ensures the final product aligns with your expectations, and if it falls short, the writer will refine it until it matches your vision.
What further caught our attention was Studyfy's exemplary customer support. Always on standby, they can be reached via chat anytime or night. Should you have any doubts, their team is prompt in offering clarity.
Additionally, there's the convenience of directly communicating with the writers. Whether it's for discussing your guidelines or seeking answers to specific queries, they're always ready to engage and assist.
I discovered that Studyfy offers a favorable pricing framework, especially given the intricacies of doctoral-level tasks. Services range from writing at $11.4, rewriting at $7.98, editing at $5.7, to crafting research papers at $12.35 per page.
Why to turn to Studyfy:
Their pricing structure is both affordable and tailored to fit most budgets. To my delight, in just under a day, I received my carefully crafted paper.
As an added bonus, they supplied a detailed plagiarism report without any extra charge.
Furthermore, they showcased versatility by offering an extensive array of formatting styles.
Studyfy stands out prominently in the realm of academic aid, especially when it comes to crafting theses and essays. Their blend of quick turnarounds, reasonable pricing, and commitment to authenticity makes them a reliable go-to for Ph.D. students seeking seasoned writing help.
Meet WritePaper, a comprehensive one of the best custom essay writing service with an array of offerings. Their skilled team is ready to help you craft, revise, or polish your essay. From thesis writing to engaging an essay expert for reviews and tweaks, they've got you covered.
The writer I communicated with with a WritePaper wasn't just well-educated and specialized in essay writing, guaranteeing top-tier assistance.
With expertise across numerous fields, WritePaper is a comprehensive solution for essay tasks.
While my engagements with their customer support occasionally showed a slightly delayed response, especially during late hours, they consistently proved attentive and resourceful in addressing my essay-related queries.
Considering the intricacy of essay writing, the service presents a commendable value for money, with rates beginning at $12.35 per page.
Why to turn to WritePaper:
What I discovered was that WritePaper boasts an impressive price-to-quality ratio, particularly for essay writing. They offer a variety of secure payment methods for enhanced safety.
Plus, their support team, available round-the-clock, is always ready to address any essay-related questions.
WritePaper shines as a trustworthy and adept choice for Ph.D. essay writing in various subjects. With an emphasis on excellence, know-how, and client contentment, it's an excellent pick for anyone seeking specialized help with their essays.
Though PaperWriter is a newer entrant in the market, it has quickly established its unique space. The platform's specialists are adept at crafting theses, revising drafts, and polishing existing essays.
What distinguishes PaperWriter from its competitors is its commendable speed in delivering quality essays.
PaperWriter's efficiency is remarkable. When I requested an urgent paper, they delivered a freshly written and meticulously proofread piece within a day! This service is a game-changer if you're up against a tight deadline.
While PaperWriter predominantly focuses on academic writing, its scope isn't restricted to a single field. It's your one-stop shop for research papers across various subjects, ensuring each piece is tailored to your requirements.
Engaging with a writer is a breeze. Complete the order form and select a writer based on their profile and feedback. You'll be all set in a mere 10 minutes.
Prices for this one of the best essay-writing sites begin at $10.80 a page. The rate starts at $12 a page if you require essay services. Meanwhile, for proofreading, editing, and rewriting, you'll be looking at costs of $3, $5, and $7.99 per page, respectively.
Why to turn to PaperWriter:
The platform boasts a wide coverage of subjects. One of its strengths is the fast turnaround time for assignments. They also have a robust quality assurance system in place. Additionally, users will appreciate their user-friendly interface. You can interact directly with the writer and provide them with any materials you'd like incorporated into your essay. If you give a writing sample, the specialist can mimic your style.
PaperWriter shines as a dependable essay assistance platform, offering a seamless user experience alongside a dedicated support team. Their unwavering focus on punctuality and top-notch customer service elevates their overall value proposition.
For countless students, their convenience-driven service ranks them among the top choices.
Questions You May Have
Which is the best essay writing service.
Amidst a sea of proficient writing services, singling out the finest can prove challenging. The top-tier essay writing services mentioned here have earned their leadership status through years of delivering consistently high-quality work backed by exceptional customer support and enticing discount opportunities.
Different students have distinct needs; some may seek rapid three-hour delivery, while others prioritize affordability over time constraints when selecting a writing service.
Is it possible for the best essay writing website to compose an essay instead of me?
The answer is yes. Writing services enlist proficient writers, often holding advanced degrees, adept at tackling demanding college tasks. These writers possess the understanding to handle intricate assignments effectively. Moreover, when you engage their services, you can provide supplementary materials or specific instructions to aid the writers.
Their knack for mirroring your writing style and crafting original content is noteworthy. With their vast experience, they've honed their craft and can even assist students in improving their writing skills.
Can Turnitin detect essays bought online?
Usually, a genuinely original essay won't register on Turnitin's radar. Turnitin is designed to assess the similarity of essays, and when crafted by a competent writer, plagiarism remains undetectable.
When papers are authentically original, plagiarism checkers cannot discern whether they were acquired online or not.
Nonetheless, reviewing your college's policies regarding seeking writing assistance is crucial. Regulations can vary among institutions.
So, if your school prohibits obtaining writing aid, the consequences can be severe if you're caught. However, it's important to note that this is unrelated to the services offered by the companies mentioned above.
What's the typical timeframe for completing my essay on my behalf?
I have to say that most of these academic services require a minimum deadline of three hours or sometimes a six-hour minimum deadline.
Nevertheless, placing your assignment request as early as possible is advisable. Expecting a swift and high-quality completion of a 30-page research assignment within three hours or less is impractical.
However, for shorter assignments with last-minute urgency, the writing services featured in our list are well-equipped to deliver.
What if I am not satisfied with my essay?
Rest assured, it's entirely normal to have concerns when purchasing essays and research papers online. Nobody wants to invest their hard-earned money only to be dissatisfied with the final product.
The good news is that every top essay writing service mentioned in this article offers a revision service. In other words, if you're not content with the paper, you can provide feedback to the writer, and they will make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
You can explore each company's revision policy on their website for added peace of mind. By comparing their policies, you can select the best fit for your needs. Examining these policies can instill confidence when using a professional essay writing service for the first time.
What are the payment methods offered by the best essay writing services?
When you decide to procure an essay online, you'll typically need to make an initial payment, which is refundable once you approve the final paper.
Should you be dissatisfied, you can request revisions at no extra cost, ensuring you get the total worth of your investment and exceptional quality work. Writers receive payment only upon your satisfaction with the outcome.
Various websites offer different payment methods, but most securely accept credit or debit cards. Ensuring the security of your data is paramount.
The platforms I recommend all provide money-back guarantees, so if you're not satisfied, you can request a refund.
In conclusion, I have meticulously curated and assessed the best essay writing service usa tailored to meet students' diverse needs. I aimed to identify a harmonious blend of exceptional quality and affordability.
Each platform is dependable and advantageous, although some may excel in specific niches or subjects.
Our recommendations stem from comprehensive evaluations of reviews, paper assessments, and team capabilities, ensuring the provision of reliable essay writing services. If you seek a trustworthy service, consult this guide for your requirements.
All the recommended services consistently meet deadlines, uphold their commitments, prioritize data security, and offer equitable pricing.
This guide is designed to aid students in discovering a dependable online platform for their college assignments.
Navigating the digital realm for services can be daunting, but our team has diligently scrutinized and tested all facets of these seven platforms to ensure quality.
Therefore, you can confidently select any of these recommended options whenever you require assistance with your paper.
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