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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

essay for joining university

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.

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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.

  • 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 .

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  • College essay

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

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

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

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

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

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

Table of contents

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

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

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

What do colleges look for in an essay?

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

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

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

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

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

Create an essay tracker sheet

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

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

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

College essay tracker template

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

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

What makes a good topic?

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

Brainstorming questions

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

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

How to identify your topic

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

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

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

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

Vignettes structure

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

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

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

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

Single story structure

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

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

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

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

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

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

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

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

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

Show, don’t tell

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

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

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

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

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

Use appropriate style and tone

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

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

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

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

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

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

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

Option 2: Revealing your insight

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

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

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

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

Respect the word count

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

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

Check your content, style, and grammar

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

Get feedback

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

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

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

College admissions essay checklist

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

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

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

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

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

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

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

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

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

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

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

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

Congratulations!

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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Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

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

Want free help with your college essay?

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

 alt=

Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

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

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

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

Taking your college essay to the next level

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

Student Stories

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Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

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

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

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

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

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

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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Writing a strong college admissions essay
  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
  • How formal should the tone of your college essay be?
  • Taking your college essay to the next level
  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
  • Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem

Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

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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  • College Application

32 College Essay Examples That Worked

College Essay Samples

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

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

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

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents 54 min read

Why a college essay matters.

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

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

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

How to Structure Your College Essay

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

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

Great content requires a solid structure to really shine:

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

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

6 Tips for Effective Essay Writing

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

1. Do not plagiarize.

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

2. Say it with feeling.

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

3. Show, don’t tell.

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

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

5. Proofread your work.

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

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

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

6. Read that prompt one last time!

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

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

College Essay Examples #1/32: Harvard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #2/32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #4/32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College essay examples #5/32: cornell.

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #6/32:

School: Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

School: Cornell College of Arts and Sciences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #8/32: Princeton

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #9/32:

School: Princeton University 

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #11/32:

School: Stanford University

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

Dear future roommate,

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #12/32:

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

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

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

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

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College essay examples #13/32:.

School:  Stanford University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #15/32: University of Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #16/32:

School: University of Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

College essay examples #17/32: yale university.

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

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

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

School: Yale University 

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

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

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

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

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

College essay examples #19/32: columbia university.

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #20/32:

School: Columbia University

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #21/32:

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #23/32:

School:  Brown University

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

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

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

College essay examples #24/32:.

School:  Tulane University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #26/32:

Common App Essays

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #27/32:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Essay Examples #29/32:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample College Essay #30

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

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

Sample College Essay #32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jonathan Walker

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

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Jonathan! Thanks for your comment! Good luck!

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

Hello Sussy! Thanks for your comment.

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essay for joining university

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Application Essays

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs.

Before you start writing

Because the application essay can have a critical effect upon your progress toward a career, you should spend significantly more time, thought, and effort on it than its typically brief length would suggest. It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program. Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. At the same time, don’t be afraid. You know most of the things you need to say already.

Read the instructions carefully. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions. If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program. Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length. The essay may take two forms:

  • A one-page essay answering a general question
  • Several short answers to more specific questions

Do some research before you start writing. Think about…

  • The field. Why do you want to be a _____? No, really. Think about why you and you particularly want to enter that field. What are the benefits and what are the shortcomings? When did you become interested in the field and why? What path in that career interests you right now? Brainstorm and write these ideas out.
  • The program. Why is this the program you want to be admitted to? What is special about the faculty, the courses offered, the placement record, the facilities you might be using? If you can’t think of anything particular, read the brochures they offer, go to events, or meet with a faculty member or student in the program. A word about honesty here—you may have a reason for choosing a program that wouldn’t necessarily sway your reader; for example, you want to live near the beach, or the program is the most prestigious and would look better on your resume. You don’t want to be completely straightforward in these cases and appear superficial, but skirting around them or lying can look even worse. Turn these aspects into positives. For example, you may want to go to a program in a particular location because it is a place that you know very well and have ties to, or because there is a need in your field there. Again, doing research on the program may reveal ways to legitimate even your most superficial and selfish reasons for applying.
  • Yourself. What details or anecdotes would help your reader understand you? What makes you special? Is there something about your family, your education, your work/life experience, or your values that has shaped you and brought you to this career field? What motivates or interests you? Do you have special skills, like leadership, management, research, or communication? Why would the members of the program want to choose you over other applicants? Be honest with yourself and write down your ideas. If you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own (and not argue about immediately). Ask them to give you examples to back up their impressions (For example, if they say you are “caring,” ask them to describe an incident they remember in which they perceived you as caring).

Now, write a draft

This is a hard essay to write. It’s probably much more personal than any of the papers you have written for class because it’s about you, not World War II or planaria. You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Try freewriting. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping. What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? What do you want them to feel? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. Just get out the ideas you have. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming .

Now, look at what you’ve written. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. Eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“I’m a people person”, “Doctors save lives”, or “Mr. Calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application. Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. Eliminate irrelevant issues (“I was a track star in high school, so I think I’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“My faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “Lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).

Often, writers start out with generalizations as a way to get to the really meaningful statements, and that’s OK. Just make sure that you replace the generalizations with examples as you revise. A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one. If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.

Applications that have several short-answer essays require even more detail. Get straight to the point in every case, and address what they’ve asked you to address.

Now that you’ve generated some ideas, get a little bit pickier. It’s time to remember one of the most significant aspects of the application essay: your audience. Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants. This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.

With this in mind:

  • Do assure your audience that you understand and look forward to the challenges of the program and the field, not just the benefits.
  • Do assure your audience that you understand exactly the nature of the work in the field and that you are prepared for it, psychologically and morally as well as educationally.
  • Do assure your audience that you care about them and their time by writing a clear, organized, and concise essay.
  • Do address any information about yourself and your application that needs to be explained (for example, weak grades or unusual coursework for your program). Include that information in your essay, and be straightforward about it. Your audience will be more impressed with your having learned from setbacks or having a unique approach than your failure to address those issues.
  • Don’t waste space with information you have provided in the rest of the application. Every sentence should be effective and directly related to the rest of the essay. Don’t ramble or use fifteen words to express something you could say in eight.
  • Don’t overstate your case for what you want to do, being so specific about your future goals that you come off as presumptuous or naïve (“I want to become a dentist so that I can train in wisdom tooth extraction, because I intend to focus my life’s work on taking 13 rather than 15 minutes per tooth.”). Your goals may change–show that such a change won’t devastate you.
  • And, one more time, don’t write in cliches and platitudes. Every doctor wants to help save lives, every lawyer wants to work for justice—your reader has read these general cliches a million times.

Imagine the worst-case scenario (which may never come true—we’re talking hypothetically): the person who reads your essay has been in the field for decades. She is on the application committee because she has to be, and she’s read 48 essays so far that morning. You are number 49, and your reader is tired, bored, and thinking about lunch. How are you going to catch and keep her attention?

Assure your audience that you are capable academically, willing to stick to the program’s demands, and interesting to have around. For more tips, see our handout on audience .

Voice and style

The voice you use and the style in which you write can intrigue your audience. The voice you use in your essay should be yours. Remember when your high school English teacher said “never say ‘I’”? Here’s your chance to use all those “I”s you’ve been saving up. The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences. By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea. Look at this anecdote:

During the night shift at Wirth Memorial Hospital, a man walked into the Emergency Room wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. He seemed confused and was moaning in pain. One of the nurses ascertained that he had been swinging from tree branches in a local park and had hit his head when he fell out of a tree. This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.

An interesting tale, yes, but what does it tell you about the narrator? The following example takes the same anecdote and recasts it to make the narrator more of a presence in the story:

I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. I could tell he was confused and in pain. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees. Like many other patients I would see that year, this man suffered from an illness that only a combination of psychological and medical care would effectively treat. I realized then that I wanted to be able to help people by using that particular combination of skills only a psychiatrist develops.

The voice you use should be approachable as well as intelligent. This essay is not the place to stun your reader with ten prepositional phrases (“the goal of my study of the field of law in the winter of my discontent can best be understood by the gathering of more information about my youth”) and thirty nouns (“the research and study of the motivation behind my insights into the field of dentistry contains many pitfalls and disappointments but even more joy and enlightenment”) per sentence. (Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style .)

You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language. But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place. Your audience may be smart, but you don’t want to make them turn to a dictionary or fall asleep between the first word and the period of your first sentence. Keep in mind that this is a personal statement. Would you think you were learning a lot about a person whose personal statement sounded like a journal article? Would you want to spend hours in a lab or on a committee with someone who shuns plain language?

Of course, you don’t want to be chatty to the point of making them think you only speak slang, either. Your audience may not know what “I kicked that lame-o to the curb for dissing my research project” means. Keep it casual enough to be easy to follow, but formal enough to be respectful of the audience’s intelligence.

Just use an honest voice and represent yourself as naturally as possible. It may help to think of the essay as a sort of face-to-face interview, only the interviewer isn’t actually present.

Too much style

A well-written, dramatic essay is much more memorable than one that fails to make an emotional impact on the reader. Good anecdotes and personal insights can really attract an audience’s attention. BUT be careful not to let your drama turn into melodrama. You want your reader to see your choices motivated by passion and drive, not hyperbole and a lack of reality. Don’t invent drama where there isn’t any, and don’t let the drama take over. Getting someone else to read your drafts can help you figure out when you’ve gone too far.

Taking risks

Many guides to writing application essays encourage you to take a risk, either by saying something off-beat or daring or by using a unique writing style. When done well, this strategy can work—your goal is to stand out from the rest of the applicants and taking a risk with your essay will help you do that. An essay that impresses your reader with your ability to think and express yourself in original ways and shows you really care about what you are saying is better than one that shows hesitancy, lack of imagination, or lack of interest.

But be warned: this strategy is a risk. If you don’t carefully consider what you are saying and how you are saying it, you may offend your readers or leave them with a bad impression of you as flaky, immature, or careless. Do not alienate your readers.

Some writers take risks by using irony (your suffering at the hands of a barbaric dentist led you to want to become a gentle one), beginning with a personal failure (that eventually leads to the writer’s overcoming it), or showing great imagination (one famous successful example involved a student who answered a prompt about past formative experiences by beginning with a basic answer—”I have volunteered at homeless shelters”—that evolved into a ridiculous one—”I have sealed the hole in the ozone layer with plastic wrap”). One student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. Another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. Her essay was risky because it called on the reader to infer things about the student’s character and abilities from the story.

Assess your credentials and your likelihood of getting into the program before you choose to take a risk. If you have little chance of getting in, try something daring. If you are almost certainly guaranteed a spot, you have more flexibility. In any case, make sure that you answer the essay question in some identifiable way.

After you’ve written a draft

Get several people to read it and write their comments down. It is worthwhile to seek out someone in the field, perhaps a professor who has read such essays before. Give it to a friend, your mom, or a neighbor. The key is to get more than one point of view, and then compare these with your own. Remember, you are the one best equipped to judge how accurately you are representing yourself. For tips on putting this advice to good use, see our handout on getting feedback .

After you’ve received feedback, revise the essay. Put it away. Get it out and revise it again (you can see why we said to start right away—this process may take time). Get someone to read it again. Revise it again.

When you think it is totally finished, you are ready to proofread and format the essay. Check every sentence and punctuation mark. You cannot afford a careless error in this essay. (If you are not comfortable with your proofreading skills, check out our handout on editing and proofreading ).

If you find that your essay is too long, do not reformat it extensively to make it fit. Making readers deal with a nine-point font and quarter-inch margins will only irritate them. Figure out what material you can cut and cut it. For strategies for meeting word limits, see our handout on writing concisely .

Finally, proofread it again. We’re not kidding.

Other resources

Don’t be afraid to talk to professors or professionals in the field. Many of them would be flattered that you asked their advice, and they will have useful suggestions that others might not have. Also keep in mind that many colleges and professional programs offer websites addressing the personal statement. You can find them either through the website of the school to which you are applying or by searching under “personal statement” or “application essays” using a search engine.

If your schedule and ours permit, we invite you to come to the Writing Center. Be aware that during busy times in the semester, we limit students to a total of two visits to discuss application essays and personal statements (two visits per student, not per essay); we do this so that students working on papers for courses will have a better chance of being seen. Make an appointment or submit your essay to our online writing center (note that we cannot guarantee that an online tutor will help you in time).

For information on other aspects of the application process, you can consult the resources at University Career Services .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Asher, Donald. 2012. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice , 4th ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Curry, Boykin, Emily Angel Baer, and Brian Kasbar. 2003. Essays That Worked for College Applications: 50 Essays That Helped Students Get Into the Nation’s Top Colleges . New York: Ballantine Books.

Stelzer, Richard. 2002. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School , 3rd ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson Peterson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  • Sample Essays

Sample College Admission Essays

Applying to college can be very exciting, but also require a lot of dedication, research, and hard work. One key piece of your application that should be given plenty of time and attention is the college admission essay. Before you write your first draft read our sample essays to get a few tips on writing your perfect admission essay.

This section contains five examples of good college essays.

College Essay Sample One

College essay sample two, college essay sample three, college essay sample four, college essay sample five.

State University and I possess a common vision. I, like State University, constantly work to explore the limits of nature by exceeding expectations. Long an amateur scientist, it was this drive that brought me to the University of Texas for its Student Science Training Program in 2013. Up to that point science had been my private past time, one I had yet to explore on anyone else’s terms. My time at UT, however, changed that. Participating for the first time in a full-length research experiment at that level, I felt more alive, more engaged, than I ever had before. Learning the complex dynamics between electromagnetic induction and optics in an attempt to solve one of the holy grails of physics, gravitational-waves, I could not have been more pleased. Thus vindicated, my desire to further formalize my love of science brings me to State University. Thanks to this experience, I know now better than ever that State University is my future, because through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion for science and engineering.

In addition to just science, I am drawn to State University for other reasons. I strive to work with the diverse group of people that State University wholeheartedly accommodates – and who also share my mindset. They, like me, are there because State University respects the value of diversity. I know from personal experience that in order to achieve the trust, honesty, and success that State University values, new people are needed to create a respectful environment for these values. I feel that my background as an American Sikh will provide an innovative perspective in the university’s search for knowledge while helping it to develop a basis for future success. And that, truly, is the greatest success I can imagine.

This emphasis on diversity can also be found in the variety of specialized departments found at State University. On top of its growing cultural and ethnic diversity, State University is becoming a master at creating a niche for every student. However, this does not isolate students by forcing them to work with only those individuals who follow their specific discipline. Instead, it is the seamless interaction between facilities that allows each department, from engineering to programming, to create a real learning environment that profoundly mimics the real world. Thus, State University is not just the perfect place for me, it is the only place for me. Indeed, having the intellectual keenness to absorb every ounce of knowledge presented through my time in the IB program, I know that I can contribute to State University as it continues to cultivate a scholarly climate that encourages intellectual curiosity.

At the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at State University, I will be able to do just that. In a department where education and research are intermixed, I can continue to follow the path that towards scientific excellence. Long-mesmerized by hobbies like my work with the FIRST Robotics team, I believe State University would be the best choice to continue to nurture my love for electrical and computer engineering. I have only scratched the surface in this ever evolving field but know that the technological potential is limitless. Likewise, I feel that my time at State University would make my potential similarly limitless.

This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of science. Where others see the engineering, experimentation, and presentation of science as a chore, I only see excitement. Even as a child I constantly sought it out, first on television with Bill Nye and The Mythbusters, then later in person in every museum exhibit I could find. Science in all its forms fascinated me, but science projects in particular were a category all to themselves. To me, science projects were a special joy that only grew with time. In fact, it was this continued fascination for hands-on science that brought me years later to the sauna that is the University of Alabama in mid-June. Participating in the Student Science Training Program and working in their lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Just the thought of participating in a project at this level of scientific rigor made me forget that this was supposed to be my summer break and I spent the first day eagerly examining every piece of equipment.

Even at first, when the whole research group sat there doing rote calculations and others felt like they were staring down the barrel of defeated purpose, I remained enthusiastic. Time and time again I reminded myself of that famous phrase "great effort leads to great rewards," and sure enough, soon my aspirations began to be met. This shift in attitude also coincided with a shift in location: from the computer desk to the laser lab. It was finally time to get my hands dirty.

Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.

In the end, although the days were long and hard, my work that summer filled me with pride. That pride has confirmed and reinvigorated my love for science. I felt more alive, more engaged, in that lab than I have anywhere else, and I am committed to returning. I have always dreamed of science but since that summer, since my experiment, I have dreamed only of the future. To me, medical science is the future and through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion. After all, to follow your passion is, literally, a dream come true.

In addition to its use of clear, demonstrative language, there is one thing that makes this an effective essay: focus. Indeed, notice that, although the question is broad, the answer is narrow. This is crucial. It can be easy to wax poetic on a topic and, in the process, take on too much. Instead, by highlighting one specific aspect of his personality, the author is able to give the reader a taste of his who he is without overwhelming him or simply reproducing his résumé. This emphasis gives the reader the opportunity to learn who the writer is on his terms and makes it a truly compelling application essay.

The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.

I come from a small, economically depressed town in Northern Wisconson. Many people in this former mining town do not graduate high school and for them college is an idealistic concept, not a reality. Neither of my parents attended college. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant environment permeated my mind, and yet I knew I had to graduate high school; I had to get out. Although most of my friends and family did not understand my ambitions, I knew I wanted to make a difference and used their doubt as motivation to press through. Four days after I graduated high school, I joined the U.S. Army.

The 4 years I spent in the Army cultivated a deep-seated passion for serving society. While in the Army, I had the great honor to serve with several men and women who, like me, fought to make a difference in the world. During my tour of duty, I witnessed several shipmates suffer from various mental aliments. Driven by a commitment to serve and a desire to understand the foundations of psychological illness, I decided to return to school to study psychology.

In order to pay for school and continue being active in the community, I enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard as a Medic. Due to the increased deployment schedule and demands placed on all branches of the military after September 11, my attendance in school has necessarily come second to my commitment to the military. There are various semesters where, due to this demand, I attended school less than full time. Despite taking a long time and the difficulty in carving separate time for school with such occupational requirements, I remained persistent aiming towards attending school as my schedule would allow. My military commitment ends this July and will no longer complicate my academic pursuits.

In college, as I became more politically engaged, my interest began to gravitate more towards political science. The interest in serving and understanding people has never changed, yet I realized I could make a greater difference doing something for which I have a deeper passion, political science. Pursuing dual degrees in both Psychology and Political Science, I was provided an opportunity to complete a thesis in Psychology with Dr. Sheryl Carol a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Texas (UT) This fall I will complete an additional thesis as a McNair Scholar with Dr. Ken Chambers, Associate Professor in Latin American studies in the UT Political Science Department.

As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.

This fall I will embark on writing an additional honors thesis in political science. While the precise topic of my thesis is undecided, I am particularly interested in Mexico and its development towards a more democratic government. Minoring in Spanish, I have read various pieces of literature from Mexico and have come to respect Mexico and Latin American culture and society. I look forward to conducting this research as it will have a more qualitative tilt than my thesis in psychology, therefore granting an additional understanding of research methodology.

My present decision to switch from social psychology to political science is further related to a study abroad course sponsored by the European Union with Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UT. Professor Mitchell obtained a grant to take a class of students to Belgium in order to study the EU. This course revealed a direct correlation between what I had studied in the classroom with the real world. After spending several weeks studying the EU, its history and present movement towards integration, the class flew to Brussels where we met with officials and proceeded to learn firsthand how the EU functioned.

My interest in attending the University of Rochester in particular, relates to my first semester at OU and the opportunity to take an introductory course in statistics with the now retired Dr. Larry Miller. Through the combination of a genuine appreciation and knack for statistics and with his encouragement, I proceeded to take his advanced statistics class as well as the first graduate level statistics course at OU. I continued my statistical training by completing the second graduate statistics course on model comparisons with Dr. Roger Johnson, a Professor in the Psychology Department. The model comparison course was not only the most challenging course I have taken as an undergraduate, but the most important. As the sole undergraduate in the course and only college algebra under my belt, I felt quite intimidated. Yet, the rigors of the class compelled me to expand my thinking and learn to overcome any insecurities and deficits in my education. The effort paid off as I earned not only an ‘A’ in the course, but also won the T.O.P.S. (Top Outstanding Psychology Student) award in statistics. This award is given to the top undergraduate student with a demonstrated history of success in statistics.

My statistical training in psychology orientates me toward a more quantitative graduate experience. Due to the University of Rochester’s reputation for an extensive use of statistics in political science research, I would make a good addition to your fall class. While attending the University of Rochester, I would like to study international relations or comparative politics while in graduate school. I find the research of Dr.’s Hein Goemans and Gretchen Helmke intriguing and would like the opportunity to learn more about it through the Graduate Visitation program.

Participation in the University of Rochester’s Graduate School Visitation Program would allow me to learn more about the Department of Political Science to further see if my interests align with those in the department. Additionally, my attendance would allow the Political Science department to make a more accurate determination on how well I would fit in to the program than from solely my graduate school application. Attending the University of Rochester with its focus on quantitative training, would not only allow me to utilize the skills and knowledge I gained as an undergraduate, but also would expand this foundation to better prepare me to conduct research in a manner I find fascinating.

From attending S.E.R.E. (Survival/POW training) in the military and making it through a model comparisons course as an undergraduate, I have rarely shied away from a challenge. I thrive on difficult tasks as I enjoy systematically developing solutions to problems. Attending the University of Rochester would more than likely prove a challenge, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would not only succeed but enable me to offer a unique set of experiences to fellow members of the incoming graduate class.

My handwriting didn’t become jittery until the third round. The number of competitors in the Midwest Spelling Bee had dropped from 100 to the thirty-some who remained after two waves of preliminaries, a group I was awed to be in. The third round would likely be the last one carried out with pencil and paper. A sole word stood between me and the oral competition to follow. My nerves soared at the thought that a mere handful of syllables from the pronouncer’s mouth would offer me a chance to compete in the apex of orthography: the regional bee finals. Yet, when I heard the word “Wagner,” the degree of my confusion was only rivaled by that of my disappointment upon elimination.

My approach to academic success in middle school consisted of rote memorization and stodgy study habits. Fortunately for my sanity and social life, I have since discovered that learning derived from experience can introduce an invaluable layer of reality to otherwise useless knowledge. My hinge moment came near the end of eighth grade when I was stumped by “Wagner” and its ensuing definition: “a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas.” To my credit, the phonetic vocalization of Wagner is something like “BAHG-nur,” with the ever ambiguous bee/vee sound. But, an error is an error, and my misspelling of the word earned me a disheartening dismissal from the Midwest Spelling Bee. I immediately resolved to learn about the man whose name was responsible for cheapening my years of poring over vocabulary lists and etymology guides. Upon learning that Richard Wagner was one of the most prolific opera composers in history, I had to investigate. Along my inquisitive quest, I encountered two newfound passions: opera music and the pursuit of stimulating information.

I am an unabashed classical music aficionado. My enthusiasm came gradually over years of imposed piano lessons that eventually became voluntary as my interest in the activity piqued. I came to sense the profound communion with notes on a page arising from tinkering out the same rhythms and melodies that were manuscripts by musical geniuses centuries ago. However, because I could not perform it, I never thought to explore opera. Without my keen interest in Wagner, I may have never encountered the awe-inspiring blend of visual and musical mastery that constitutes his interpretation of the genre. Opera swiftly captured my eye and ear for insightful art. For instance, in his landmark opera, Tristan und Isolde, Wagner unleashed a then-revolutionary tonal system which paved the way for twentieth century classical music. As I unearthed the beauty of opera, my awareness of all the remarkable, groundbreaking themes of Wagner’s productions became embodied by the word “Wagner.” In this striking moment, I could not help but feel the value of connecting my learning to purposeful interaction.

Fueled by my frustration with the outcome of the bee, I searched for the source of my failure. In uncovering the works of Wagner, I gleaned a sense of the vast droves of information that can lie behind a seemingly simple word. I suddenly became aware of my incapacity to seek out the surprising insights that the world might have been waiting to reveal. Thanks to a reevaluation triggered by a failure, I garnered a new appreciation for experiential learning. Since my underwhelming performance nearly four years ago, I have become well versed in the mysterious, gritty art of inquiry. Rather than perceiving my environment to be a sterile list of terms with a neat pronunciation guide to boot, I am now eager to take in the uncommon wisdoms of everything from the innovative operatic tropes of Wagner to the fickle nature of bees—both the pollinating insects and their manmade homonyms.

The exclusiveness portrayed in Mean Girls led me to expect that high school would consist of like-minded cliques. Rather, in high school I found that a single commonality can unite a seemingly random sampling of people. Through marching band, this idea was embodied in a desire to perform music. UChicago’s community is similarly bonded by a serious passion for learning which satisfies my desire to become a thoughtful citizen of tomorrow.

The hierarchy of authority in marching band is one I have come to love, and not only because I achieved the top student position in it as a drum major. In that role, I watched younger members hone their skills in an effort to contribute to the collective performance. The value of a uniform training followed by opportunities to lead is exemplified by the ambitious and talented student leaders produced. At UChicago, The Core serves a comparable purpose in preparing students for exhaustive academic exploration. I am enticed by the intensive inquiry and groundbreaking research that students partake in. Yet, I appreciate the benefit of undergoing the rigorous Core first. UChicago emphasizes experiential learning, even in the College, which appeals to my desire to collaborate with other brilliant learners. When I visited campus, two specific encounters struck me. Initially, the Institute of Politics attracted me with its hands-on approach to policy issues through programs like Student Civic Engagement projects. Even more alluring was the Politics & Policy class I sat in on. Following a lecture on bureaucracy that may have droned over the heads of less inspired students, I was surrounded by a hubbub of engaged thinkers convening through discussion. UChicago’s intellectual atmosphere is animated by the common thirst for knowledge that characterizes every student.

Through marching band, I discovered a passion for influencing others. My dream is that by drawing from UChicago’s empowering community, my drive will transfer to pertinent global issues like human rights in the Middle East. UChicago is my ideal learning environment, for as Wayne Booth stated while he was Dean of the College, UChicago empowers tomorrow’s intellectual leaders to “see through the guff.” During high school, I have grown from an uncertain ninth grader into the capable leader I am today, leaving me optimistic for how I may develop in the next four years.

A travel through my room reveals almost everything about me. The walls are splashed with two tones of eye-burning pink, fairies dance across the vibrant wallpaper sprinkled with sparkles, a white-washed dresser covered in knick-knacks, and an overflowing toy box fit perfectly in this Technicolor dream room.

In one corner of my room, a paint-by-numbers portrait that my grandfather created in a World War II hospital silently tells its story. My grandfather, an Italian barber, raised six children in Bayonne, NJ with my grandmother. My grandparents worked hard to deliver the most American of promises – that your kids will have a better standard of living than you. In that regard, my mother, who put herself through college to become an engineer, made good, affording to give me my own room, a luxury she never knew.

The next corner of my room contains a nondescript desk and laptop, the same as anyone’s room. Who would guess that this desk is also the launching pad of myYearbook.com, a 1.6 million member social networking site that I created? Layers of spec sheets, Post-Its, and emails form a sea of productivity that I find comforting. Scribbled telephone numbers and names remind me of deals I did and didn’t do, reporters who did and didn’t write on me, and technology worries I never stop trying to resolve. Half-drunk coke cans tell the tale of a dozen all-nighters, and someone who is at her most creative at night.

The desk is not all business though. My calculus and economics texts bookend my laptop, and a bouquet of dead flowers from my boyfriend rest in peace on my shelf, revealing a morbid sentimentality. Although the flowers have long died and the water completely evaporated, the card and its words “Jeg synes a du er fantastik og du er det beste ting i mit verden,” are the only reason the flowers never made it to the garbage. In Danish, the sentence translates to, “I think you are fantastic, and you are the best thing in my world.” Ever since I started dating him, I have been learning more and more about his Danish culture, and I plan to go to Denmark twice this year.

The third corner holds my well-worn, folded-up gymnastics floor beam and barely used grips. Unlike many gymnasts though, I prefer not to wear the grips on bars because they make it harder to feel the bar. I started gymnastics when I was five, and since then my hands have earned their calluses, and I am proud of them. You won’t find me moisturizing my hands except to keep them from splitting on the bars.

In the last corner hangs a painting I bought while organizing an online Tsunami Aid Art Project. It was my first significant project online and helped give me a sense of the power of the Internet to connect people. As part of the artist community WetCanvas.com, myself and two other members organized a tsunami-related art project with all proceeds donated to charity. We raised $10,000 in funds, and had about 100 pieces of work donated from artists in nine countries.

Sadly, I know this will not always be my room. The pink fairies will give way to adult- sized possessions and responsibilities. The knick-knacks will break, and the sanctuary of my childhood will soon seem so childish. But, for now, I will embrace the pink, the fairies, and the simplicity of life in my mom’s house. I will look forward to the possibilities of creating another space, as uniquely my own as this one, and as uniquely a part of my past as this room will always be.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a stand-out "why columbia" essay.

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College Essays

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One of the essays you'll have to write when applying to Columbia University is the "Why Columbia" essay. In this essay, you'll need to convince the admissions committee that Columbia is your dream school and that you'd be a great fit on the campus.

The "Why Columbia" essay question can be intimidating for students. You might be wondering: what should I mention in it? What does the admissions committee want to hear from me?

In this article, we'll break down the "Why Columbia" essay, explaining what the prompt asks and what the committee wants to hear. We'll also show you a real, successful "Why Columbia" essay example and explain why it works. Finally, we'll suggest potential topics for your essay and offer tips on how to write your own college admissions essays.

The 411 on the "Why Columbia" Essay Prompt

Here's the current "Why Columbia" essay prompt for the 2023-2024 application cycle :

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (150 words or fewer)

As you can see, the "Why Columbia" essay prompt asks a specific question: why do you want to attend Columbia University over any other school?

The admissions committee wants to see that you are genuinely interested in attending Columbia specifically and that you value it more than all other colleges out there.

As an applicant, you might be thinking that everyone applies to Columbia for the same reason: it's an Ivy League school and one of the best universities in the world.

The admissions committee knows all these facts about Columbia and knows that all applicants will know these facts, too.

What the Columbia admissions committee wants to learn is why you specifically want to go to Columbia rather than another amazing university.

From their perspective, students who really want to go to Columbia are more likely to enroll when they're accepted. This increases the university's yield rate and ensures that the freshman class will be full. If you can show in your essay that you’ve carefully considered the unique things about Columbia that make it the perfect school for you, you’ve got a good shot at getting an acceptance letter!

What Is the Purpose of the "Why Columbia" Essay?

Why does Columbia require applicants to answer this essay question? And what is the admissions committee really looking for in your answer? Let's analyze the "Why Columbia" essay prompt.

No matter which schools you're applying to, "Why This College" essays are perhaps the most common essay prompts you'll find on college applications because colleges want to see that you really want to attend their school.

But why exactly do colleges care that you want to go to their school?

Students who are passionate about their college or university are more likely to feel that the school is a good fit for them. They'll be more likely to commit to their studies, participate in on-campus activities, and become an active alum after graduation.

Therefore, if you show in your essay that you really love Columbia, it will make admissions officers feel more confident that you're going to have a significant and positive impact on their school.

If your reasons for attending Columbia are vague or even plain wrong (for instance, say you claim you'd like to take a major that isn't actually offered at Columbia), the admissions committee will think that you don't care about the school and aren't really interested in it.

Basically, the purpose of the essay is to suss out whether your interest in Columbia is genuine and to see whether you're ready to take advantage of Columbia's many opportunities.

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What Should You Write About in Your "Why Columbia" Essay?

There are a number of different topics you can pursue for your "Why Columbia" essay. Ideally, you'll want to explore specific topics that you can talk about in-depth.

Here are some suggested topics for your essay:

  • Majors or classes you're interested in (look for class names in the online course catalog)
  • Professors whose research you're interested in
  • Extracurriculars that you'd be interested in joining (you can likely find these online, too)
  • Current and past Columbia students you've met before and whom you admire
  • Volunteer opportunities  you'd like to get involved in 
  • Financial aid opportunities Columbia offers that make it possible for you to attend
  • Professional development opportunities Columbia offers

When it comes down to it, make sure to choose something about Columbia that no other school offers.

For instance, Columbia is in New York City and therefore has relationships with lots of businesses and organizations in the area. You could use your essay to examine how these Columbia-specific opportunities in New York will positively affect your education.

What you don't want to do, however, is wax on about how you love city-living— you need to make sure to describe how Columbia's specific relationship with NYC will help you to further your goals.

Match opportunities at Columbia to specific goals you have. For example, you could talk about how a particular professor's course aligns with your career objectives.

You need to be very specific in your answer: every single thing you say should relate back to a certain feature of Columbia. The entire focus of your essay should be what Columbia offers and how you'll take advantage of the school's academics and activities to get the best college education possible.

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4 Tips for a Great Response to the "Why Columbia" Essay

Regardless of how you decide to answer this prompt, there are four tips everyone should keep in mind to ensure that they are fully answering the question, giving the information Columbia wants to see, and standing apart from other applicants.

#1: Do Your Research

Before you begin writing your response to this essay prompt, you should know exactly why you want to attend Columbia University. There are multiple ways you can do this research:

  • Visit the school website or browse the list of departments, programs, and courses
  • Check out the school newspaper, schedule a campus visit (virtual or in-person!), or set up a meeting with an alum, current student, or professor to get a feel for the campus

Every college campus has its own vibe, and visiting is the best way to get a sense of how Columbia might work with your personality as a student.

#2: Be Specific

From your research, you should have come up with specific reasons why Columbia is a great school for you. The more specific you can be when answering this prompt, the better.

Don't say Columbia has great academics, caring professors, and an interesting student body. The vast majority of schools have that!

Instead, try to mention opportunities only Columbia can provide, such as specific professors, courses, extracurricular activities, or research opportunities.

The things you discuss should be things your other top schools don't offer—things that really make Columbia stand out.

#3: Show Your Passion

Columbia wants students who care a lot about their studies and their school, so be sure this comes across in your response.

A bland statement such as "I am impressed by Columbia's strong engineering program" doesn't tell the school anything about you or help you stand apart from other applicants. Show your passion by naming specific professors or features of the program.

You've done your research to mention certain qualities Columbia has that have enticed you, and now it's time to discuss specific qualities about yourself, too. Why does the engineering program make you so excited? What do you want to get out of it? Be detailed, specific, and honest.

#4: Proofread

Your Columbia essay should be the strongest possible example of your writing skills. Before you turn in your application, take time to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your "Why Columbia" essay, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend.

Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure that you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it can be.

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Here's a little taste of what a good "Why Columbia" essay looks like.

"Why Columbia" Essay Example

If you're stuck on what to write for your own essay, looking at "Why Columbia" essays that actually worked can be helpful. Below, we examine one "Why Columbia" essay that got a student accepted to Columbia and talk about what specifically made this piece of writing so strong.

The following essay comes to us from an accepted Columbia 2020 student via AP Study Notes :

At a college visit this year, I met a Columbia alumnus named Ayushi, whose stories helped me develop a thorough understanding of Columbia. Ayushi told me that Columbia funded both her summer trip to Syria to interview refugees and her seed money for a start-up she launched. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I'm impressed by a university that encourages students to pursue their own independent creations instead of simply offering the option to work on faculty projects. Columbia's four entrepreneurship organizations, among them the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, provide a dynamic start-up community for me to launch my own business.

In addition, when I explored Columbia online, the emphasis put on interdisciplinary studies particularly excited me. The Columbia Engineering website is rich with stories of engineering students who are also involved in Shakespeare troupes, service projects, and multicultural groups. In my opinion, diverse experiences are the foundation of creative thinking. At Columbia, I will continue to diversify my experience by not just joining the Parliamentary Debate Team, but also by making new friends on the intramural soccer field and starting a cultural club for Italian heritage students who wish to learn more about Italian history, language, food, and current events.

Columbia Engineering stands uniquely apart from other programs by incorporating several in-depth humanities and writing classes into the graduation requirements. I believe that looking at critical issues with an open mind and sophisticated grasp of the humanities is extremely important to being an engineer. For example, I could not imagine exploring the future of quantum cryptography without considering the political ripple effects of Edward Snowden, the moral ramifications of the quantum encryption revolution, and the relationship between technology and income inequality. I am confident that I will thrive in the Columbia culture of passionate engagement and vibrant, energetic conversation.

Why does this essay work?

It answers the prompt specifically.

This essay gives examples of personal experience with the school and proves that the applicant did their research: they present clear evidence as to how engineering students are involved on campus and talk about specific academic courses.

There are many impressive details in this essay, and the section that addresses extracurriculars is cleverly written to showcase the applicant's diverse interests. This student's mention of certain extracurriculars they want to do indicates that they looked at many facets of Columbia University, not just the engineering department.

It's clear from this essay just how the author views their fit at Columbia. They've talked about specific organizations they would like to be a part of, such as the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, while also showing why they want to join that organization.

Additionally, the applicant mentions a Columbia University student they spoke with, which means they took getting to know the student body seriously and really wanted to find out what Columbia students were like to see whether they, too, would fit in.

The conversation with the Columbia alum also emphasizes the applicant's initiative: they're willing to go above and beyond to learn about the school.

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Conclusion: Writing a Great "Why Columbia" Essay

The purpose of the "Why Columbia" essay is for you to prove to the admissions committee that Columbia is the best school for you

In your essay, you could write about multiple topics that are specific to Columbia, such as academics, the student body, extracurriculars, and research opportunities.

When writing your "Why Columbia" essay, make sure to research the school extensively and be specific about activities and opportunities that really make you want to attend.

If you're stuck on how to proceed, analyzing a successful "Why Columbia" essay example might help you get inspiration for what to write.

What's Next?

How tough is it to get into Columbia? For answers, read our expert guide on how to get into Columbia and the Ivy League , written by a Harvard alum!

Should you apply early or regular decision to college? Find out the pros and cons of early decision .

Want to see some more college essay examples? We have links to 100+ great college essays that includes our expert analysis on how you can write a stand-out essay of your own.

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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Gre prep online guides and tips, 7 successful statement of purpose examples.

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Not sure what graduate schools are looking for in a statement of purpose? Looking at successful graduate school statement of purpose samples can help! In this guide, we’ll orient you to what makes a great statement of purpose or letter of intent for graduate school. Then we’ll provide you with four successful statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. We’ll also provide analysis of what makes them successful. Finally, we’ll direct you to even more helpful examples that you can find online!

The Graduate School Statement of Purpose: An Overview

A statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or a research statement) introduces your interests and experience to the admissions committee. For research-focused programs, like most PhDs and many master’s degrees, your statement of purpose will focus primarily on your past research experience and plans. For more professionally-focused graduate programs, your statement of purpose will primarily discuss how your pursuit of this professional program relates to your past experiences, and how you will use the skills from the program in your future career.

A statement of purpose for grad school is also where you sell the admissions committee on why you belong in their program specifically. Why do you fit there, and how does what they offer fit your interests?

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What’s in a Great Grad School Statement of Purpose?

Here are the essential elements of a strong graduate school statement of purpose:

Clear Articulation of Goals and Interests

A strong statement of purpose will clearly and specifically lay out your goals in undertaking the program and what you hope to accomplish with the degree. Again, for a research-focused program, this will focus primarily on the research project(s) you want to undertake while you are there. For a more professional program, discuss what interests you within the professional field and what skills/knowledge you hope to gain through the program.

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You should be as specific as possible in discussing what interests you. Use examples of particular phenomena, tools, or situations that you find exciting. If you are vague or say that everything in the field interests you, you run the risk of seeming unfocused or not actually that passionate.

Don’t worry that being too specific will box you into a particular research area or subfield during your entire tenure in graduate school. Your program understands that interests change—they won’t be pulling out your research statement to cross-reference with your dissertation proposal!

Evidence of Past Experience and Success

A great graduate school statement of purpose will also show programs that you have already been successful. They want applicants that will be able to follow through on their research/professional plans!

To this end, you’ll need to provide evidence of how your background qualifies you to pursue this program and your specific interests in the field. You’ll probably discuss your undergraduate studies and any professional experience you have. But be sure to draw on specific, vivid examples.  You might draw on your thesis, major projects you’ve worked on, papers you have written/published, presentations you’ve given, mentors you’ve worked with, and so on. This gives admissions committees concrete evidence that you are qualified to undertake graduate study!

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Interest and Fit With the Program

The third essential ingredient to a great statement of purpose is to clearly lay out why you and the program are a good fit. You should be able to identify both specific reasons why your work fits with the program and why the program suits your work/interests! Are there particular professors you’d like to work with? Does the department have a strong tradition in a certain methodology or theory you’re interested in? Is there a particular facet to the curriculum that you’d like to experience?

Showing that you and the program are a match shows that you chose the program thoughtfully and have genuine interest in it. Programs want to admit students who aren’t just passionate about the field. They want students who are genuinely enthused about their specific program and positioned to get the most out of what they have to offer.

Strong Writing

The final essential piece of a strong statement of purpose or letter of intent is strong writing. Writing skills are important for all graduate programs. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in a way that flows logically. Additionally, you should show that you know how to write in a way that is descriptive but concise. A statement of purpose shouldn’t ever be longer than two pages, even without a hard word limit.

Admissions committees for humanities programs may be a little more focused on writing style than admissions officers for STEM programs. But even in quantitative and science-focused fields, written communication skills are an essential part of graduate school. So a strong statement of purpose will always be effectively written. You’ll see this in our statement of purpose for graduate school samples.

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Real, Successful Statement of Purpose Samples

In this section, we’ll present four successful graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts, along with a brief commentary on each statement. These statements come from a diverse selection of program types to show you how the core essentials of a statement of purpose can be implemented differently for different fields.

Note: identifying information for these statements have been changed—except for example four, which is my statement.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample One: Japanese Studies MA

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This statement of purpose is notable for its great use of space and its vivid descriptions. The author is able to cram a lot into about a page. She discusses how she came to her two primary research interests (and how they are connected). She integrates this discussion of her interests with information on her past experiences and qualifications for pursuing the course of study. Finally, she includes details on her goals in pursuing the program and components of the program that interest her. Her examples are specific and fleshed-out. There’s a lot very cleverly included in a small amount of page space!

Additionally, the language is very vivid. Phrases like “evocative and visceral” and “steadily unraveling,” are eye-catching and intriguing. They demonstrate that she has the writing skills necessary to pursue both graduate study and her interest in translation.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Two: Music MM

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This sample is fairly long, although at 12 point Times New Roman it’s under two pages single-spaced. The length of this statement is partially due to the somewhat expansive nature of the prompt, which asks what role music has played in the applicant’s life “to date.” This invites applicants to speak more about experiences further in the past (in the childhood and teen years) than is typical for a statement of purpose. Given that this is for a master’s degree in music, this is logical; musical study is typically something that is undertaken at a fairly young age.

This statement does an excellent job describing the student’s past experiences with music in great detail. The descriptions of the student’s past compositions and experiences performing new music are particularly vivid and intriguing.

This statement also lays out and elaborates on specific goals the student hopes to pursue through the program, as well as features particular to the program that interest the student (like particular professors).

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  • Statement of Purpose Sample Three: Economics PhD

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One of the first things you’ll likely notice about this statement is that it’s a little on the longer side. However, at 12 point Times New Roman font and single-spaced, it still comes in under 2 pages (excluding references). It makes sense for a PhD statement of purpose sample to be longer than a master’s degree statement of purpose—there’s more to lay out in terms of research interests!

The writing style is fairly straightforward—there’s definitely a stronger focus on delivering content than flashy writing style. As Economics is a more quantitative-focused field, this is fine. But the writing is still well-organized, clear, and error-free.

The writer also gives numerous examples of their past work and experience, and shows off their knowledge of the field through references, which is a nice touch.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Four: History of the Book MA

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This is actually my statement of purpose. It was for a program that I got accepted to but did not end up attending, for a Master’s in the History of the Book. You’ll notice that the two essay prompts essentially asked us to split our statement of purpose into two parts: the first prompt asked about our research interests and goals, and the second prompt asked about our relevant experience and qualifications.

I’ll keep my comments on this graduate school statement of purpose sample brief because I’ll do a deep dive on it in the next section. But looking back at my statement of purpose, I do a good job outlining what within the field interests me and clearly laying out how my past experiences have qualified me for the program.

Obviously this statement did its job, since I was accepted to the program. However, if I were to improve this statement, I’d change the cliche beginning  (“since I was a child”) and provide more specificity in what about the program interested me.

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Deep Dive Analysis of a Sample Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Next, we’ll do a paragraph by paragraph analysis of my statement, statement of purpose sample four. I’ll analyze its strengths and suggest ways I could shore up any weaknesses to make it even stronger.

Essay 1: Academic Interests

To refresh, here’s the first prompt: Please give a short statement that describes your academic interests, purpose, objectives and motivation in undertaking this postgraduate study. (max 3500 chars – approx. 500 words)

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Paragraph 1

Since I was a child, my favorite thing has always been a book. Not just for the stories and information they contain, although that is a large part of it. Mostly, I have been fascinated by the concept of book as object—a tangible item whose purpose is to relate intangible ideas and images. Bookbindings and jackets, different editions, the marginalia in a used book—all of these things become part of the individual book and its significance, and are worth study and consideration. Books and their equivalent forms—perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus—have long been an essential part of material culture and are also one of our most significant sources of information about the human historical past. Through both the literal object of the book, the words contained thereon, and its relationship to other books—forms of context, text and intertext—we are able to learn and hopefully manage layers of information with which we would otherwise have no familiarity.

First, the good: this paragraph does a good job introducing my academic interest in the book-as-object, and shows off pre-existing knowledge both of the study of material culture and literary theory. Additionally, the language is engaging: the juxtaposition of “tangible” and “intangible” in the beginning and phrases like “perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus” lend life to the writing and keep the reader engaged.

If I were to go back and improve this paragraph, first, I would absolutely change the first sentence to something less cliche than talking about my childhood. I might try something like “My love of books is a multifaceted thing. I don’t only love them for the stories and….” Second, I would chill out on the em dashes a little bit. Three sets in one paragraph is a little excessive. Finally, I might actually cut this paragraph down slightly to make more room word-wise later in the statement to discuss what specific things about the program interest me.

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Paragraph 2

Furthermore, blogs, webcomics, digital archives, e-readers, and even social media sites like tumblr and Facebook have revolutionized the concept of the book by changing how we share and transmit ideas and information, just as the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the book all those years ago in the fifteenth century. Once again there has been an explosion both in who can send out information and who can receive it.

This paragraph briefly and effectively introduces my other main academic interest: how new technology has changed the concept of the book-as-object. The tie-back to the printing press is a nice touch; it’s a vivid example that shows that I’m aware of important historical moments in book history.

Paragraph 3

I am deeply interested in the preservation of the physical book, as I think it is an important part of human history (not to mention a satisfying sensory experience for the reader). However I am also very concerned with the digitization and organization of information for the modern world such that the book, in all of its forms, stays relevant and easy to access and use. Collections of books, archives, and information as stored in the world’s servers, libraries and museums are essential resources that need to be properly organized and administered to be fully taken advantage of by their audiences. My purpose in applying to the University of Edinburgh’s Material Culture and History of the Book is to gain the skills necessary to keep all forms of the book relevant and functional in an age when information can move more radically than ever before.

This paragraph actually has a focus problem. Since it covers two topics, I should split it into two paragraphs: one on the integration of my two interests, and one on my goals and interests in the program. I could also stand to expand on what features the program has that interest me: professors I’d like to work with, particular aspects of the curriculum, etc.

In spite of these things, however, this paragraph does a good job clearly integrating the two academic interests related to the book I introduced in the first two paragraphs. And the language is still strong —“satisfying sensory experience” is a great phrase. However, I’ve been using the word “information,” a lot; I might try to replace with appropriate synonyms (like “knowledge”) in a couple of places.

Paragraph 4

Additionally, I intend on pursuing a PhD in Library and Information Sciences upon completion of my master’s and I feel that this program while make me uniquely suited to approach library science from a highly academic and interdisciplinary perspective.

This final paragraph offers just quick touch on my future goals beyond the program. It’s typically fine for this to be relatively brief, as it is here, just so long as you can clearly identify some future goals.

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Essay 2: Relevant Experience

The second prompt just asked me to describe my relevant knowledge, training, and skills.

As a folklore and mythology student, I have gained a robust understanding of material culture and how it relates to culture as a whole. I have also learned about the transmission of ideas, information, stories and pieces of lore among and between populations, which is an important component of book history. Folklore is also deeply concerned with questions of the literary vs. oral lore and the tendency for text to “canonize” folklore, and yet text can also question or invert canonized versions; along with this my studies in my focus field of religion and storytelling have been deeply concerned with intertextuality. One of my courses was specifically concerned with the Heian-period Japanese novel The Tale of Genji and questions of translation and representation in post-Heian picture scrolls and also modern translations and manga. In addition to broader cultural questions concerned with gender and spirituality both in historical Japan and now, we considered the relationships between different Genji texts and images.

This is a strong, focused paragraph. I relate my academic background in Folklore and Mythology to my interests in studying the book, as well as showing off some of my knowledge in the area. I also chose and elaborated on a strong example (my class on the Tale of Genji ) of my relevant coursework.

I also have work experience that lends itself to the study of the book. After my freshman year of college I interned at the Chicago History Museum. Though I was in the visitor services department I was exposed to the preservation and archival departments of the museum and worked closely with the education department, which sparked my interest in archival collections and how museums present collection information to the public. After my sophomore year of college and into my junior year, I worked at Harvard’s rare books library, Houghton. At Houghton I prepared curated collections for archival storage. These collections were mostly comprised of the personal papers of noteworthy individuals, categorized into alphabetical folders. This experience made me very process-oriented and helped me to understand how collections come together on a holistic basis.

This paragraph also has a clear focus: my past, relevant work experience. Discussing archival collections and presenting information to the public links the interests discussed in my first statement with my qualifications in my second statement. However, if I were to revise this paragraph, I would add some specific examples of the amazing things I worked on and handled at Houghton Library. In that job, I got to touch Oliver Cromwell’s death mask! An interesting example would make this paragraph really pop even more.

Finally, in my current capacity as an education mentor in Allston, a suburb of Boston, I have learned the value of book history and material culture from an educational perspective. As a mentor who designs curriculum for individual students and small groups, I have learned to highly value clearly organized and useful educational resources such as websites, iPad apps, and books as tools for learning. By managing and organizing collections in a way that makes sense we are making information accessible to those who need it.

This final paragraph discusses my current (at the time) work experience in education and how that ties into my interest in the history of the book. It’s an intriguing connection and also harkens back to my discussion of information availability in the paragraph three of the first statement. Again, if I were to amp up this statement even more, I might include a specific example of a book-based (or book technology-based) project I did with one of my students. I worked on things like bookbinding and making “illuminated manuscripts” with some of my students; those would be interesting examples here.

This statement is split into two parts by virtue of the two-prompt format. However, if I were to integrate all of this information into one unified statement of purpose, I would probably briefly introduce my research interests, go in-depth on my background, then circle back around to speak more about my personal interests and goals and what intrigues me about the program. There’s not really one correct way to structure a statement of purpose just so long as it flows well and paragraphs are structured in a logical way: one topic per paragraph, with a clear topic and concluding sentence.

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More Statement of Purpose Examples

We’ve provided you with four great graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. However, if you’re looking for more, there are other sample letters of intent and statements of purpose for graduate school online. We’ve rounded up the best ones here, along with some strengths and weaknesses about each example.

Majortests Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a fairly straightforward, clearly written statement of purpose sample for a biology program. It includes useful commentary after each paragraph about what this statement of purpose is accomplishing.

  • This statement of purpose sample is well-organized, with clear topic sentences and points made in each paragraph.
  • The student clearly identifies what interests her about the program.
  • The student proactively addresses questions about why she hasn’t gone directly to graduate school, and frames her professional research experience as a positive thing.
  • She gives a tiny bit of color about her personality in a relevant way by discussing her involvement with the Natural History Society.
  • In general, discussing high school interests is too far back in time unless the anecdote is very interesting or unusual. The detail about The Theory of Evolution is intriguing; the information about the high school teacher seems irrelevant. The student should have condensed this paragraph into a sentence or two.
  • While this statement is cogently written and makes the candidate sound competent and well-qualified, it’s not exactly the most scintillating piece of writing out there. Some of the constructions are a little awkward or cliche. For example, the “many people have asked me” sentence followed by “the answer is” is a little bit clunky. This is probably fine for a STEM program. But just be aware that this statement is not a paragon of writing style.

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UC Berkeley History Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a graduate school statement of purpose example from the UC Berkeley History department’s PhD program, with annotations from a professor as to why it’s a successful statement.

  • The author is able to very clearly and articulately lay out her research interests and link them to past work she has successfully completed, namely, her thesis.
  • She is able to identify several things about the program and Berkeley that indicate why it is a good fit for her research interests.
  • She addresses the time she spent away from school and frames it as a positive, emphasizing that her use of time was well-considered and productive.
  • Her writing is very vivid, with excellent word choice and great imagery.

While very well-written and engaging, this sample statement of purpose for graduate school is a little bit on the long side! It’s a little over two single-spaced pages, which is definitely pushing the limits of acceptable length. Try to keep yours at 2 pages or less. Some of the information on the thesis (which comprises over half of the statement of purpose) could be condensed to bring it down to two pages.

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Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent Sample

This is not technically a sample letter of intent for graduate school because it’s actually for a pharmacy residency program. However, this example still provides illumination as to what makes a decent graduate school letter of intent sample.

  • This is a serviceable letter of intent: the writer clearly lays out their own goals within the field of pharmacy, what qualifications they have and how they’ve arrived at their interests, and how the program fits their needs.
  • The writing is clearly structured and well-organized.
  • The main weakness is that some of the writer’s statements come across as fairly generic. For example, “The PGY-1 Residency Program at UO Hospitals will provide me with the opportunity to further develop my clinical knowledge, critical thinking, teaching, research, and leadership skills” is a generic statement that could apply to any residency program. A punchier, more program-specific conclusion would have amped up this letter.
  • While the writer does a decent job providing examples of their activities, like working as a tutor and attending the APhA conference, more specificity and detail in these examples would make the statement more memorable.
  • There’s a typo in the last paragraph —a “to” that doesn’t belong! This is an unprofessional blip in an otherwise solid letter. Read you own letter of intent aloud to avoid this!

NIU Bad Statement of Purpose Example

This is an ineffective graduate school statement of purpose example, with annotations on why it doesn’t work.

As you might imagine, the main strength in this document is as an example of what not to do. Otherwise, there is little to recommend it.

  • The annotations quite clearly detail the weaknesses of this statement. So I won’t address them exhaustively except to point out that this statement of purpose fails at both content and style. The author includes irrelevant anecdotes and lists without offering a decisive picture of interests or any particular insight into the field. Additionally, the statement is riddled with grammatical mistakes, awkward sentence structures, and strange acronyms.
  • You’ll note that the commentary advises you to “never start with a quote.” I agree that you should never start with a freestanding quote as in this example. However, I do think starting with a quote is acceptable in cases like the Berkeley history example above, where the quote is brief and then directly linked to the research interest.

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Graduate School Statement of Purpose Examples: 4 Key Points

Graduate programs ask for statement of purpose to hear about your interests and goals and why you think you and the program would be a good fit.

There are four key elements to a successful statement of purpose:

  • A clear articulation of your goals and interests
  • Evidence of past experiences and success
  • Interest and fit with the program
  • Strong writing

We’ve provided you with four successful statement of purpose samples from our graduate school experts!

We also provided additional statement of purpose samples (and a sample letter of intent) for graduate school from other sources on the internet. Now you have all kinds of guidance!

What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more information on graduate school , see our guide to what makes a good GPA for grad school .

Not sure if you need to take the GRE ? See if you can get into graduate school without GRE scores .

Want more information about the GRE? We can help you figure out when to take the GRE , how to make a GRE study plan , and how to improve your GRE score .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

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Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

essay for joining university

Become a Writer Today

Essays About University: Top 6 Examples and 6 Prompts

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

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

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

6 Examples of Essays About University

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

  • 5. ​My University Experience by Jenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. ​ My University Experience by Jenny

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

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

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

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

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

6 Helpful Writing  Prompts on Essays About University

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

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

Essay About University: How did you grow throughout university?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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California State University student workers vote to unionize, creating largest such union in country

FILE - Students walk past the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex at the California State University, Los Angeles campus on April 25, 2019. Undergraduate student workers at California State University voted to join a union to negotiate better pay, sick time, paid parking and other benefits with the university, officials announced Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

FILE - Students walk past the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex at the California State University, Los Angeles campus on April 25, 2019. Undergraduate student workers at California State University voted to join a union to negotiate better pay, sick time, paid parking and other benefits with the university, officials announced Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

FILE - People walk on campus at San Diego State University, in San Diego on Sept. 2, 2020. Undergraduate student workers at California State University voted to join a union to negotiate better pay, sick time, paid parking and other benefits with the university, officials announced Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Student assistants at the largest four-year university system in the country last April submitted a petition with thousands of signatures asking state authorities to approve their union election and organized get-out-the-vote campaigns at the university’s 23 campuses. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Undergraduate student workers at California State University voted to join a union to negotiate better pay, sick time, paid parking and other benefits with the university, creating the largest such union in the country, officials announced Friday.

The California Public Employment Relations Board said 7,252 student workers submitted electronic ballots between Jan. 25 and Feb. 22, with 7,050 voting in favor of joining the California State University Employees Union, or CSUEU.

Student assistants at the largest four-year university system in the country last April submitted a petition with thousands of signatures asking state authorities to approve their union election and organized get-out-the-vote campaigns at the university’s 23 campuses.

The university’s 20,000 student assistants will join CSUEU/SEIU Local 2579, which already represents 16,000 university staff members.

People gather to mourn the loss of Laken Riley during a vigil for the Augusta University College of Nursing student at the Tate Plaza on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Ga., Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University's Athens campus, was found dead Thursday, Feb. 22, after a roommate reported she didn't return from a morning run in a wooded area of the UGA campus near its intramural fields. Students also gathered to pay tribute to a UGA student who committed suicide last week. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

The student workers say they are underpaid and unappreciated. They get paid $16.25 an hour, which is the state’s minimum wage, don’t get paid sick leave, and are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week.

“Many of us will only be here for four years. But we know that this isn’t just for us, this is for every student worker who comes after us,” Gem Gutierrez, a student assistant at Sacramento State, said during a Zoom meeting after the vote results were announced.

CSU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Leora Freedman said in a statement the university respects the student assistants’ decision to unionize and “looks forward to bargaining in good faith with the newly formed CSUEU student assistant unit.”

Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry told the students Friday they are making history as the largest undergraduate student worker union in the country. “I’m here to tell you that your victory will reverberate, inspiring change for millions all across the country as the next generation of leaders in our movement,” she said.

Emilio Carrasco, a junior majoring in Liberal Studies at California State University, Fresno, works 20 hours as an administrative assistant in the dean’s office of the Department of Education at his university. He gets financial aid and some help from his parents, but he still needs to work help pay rent and buy food.

He said he is lucky to only need one job but that other student assistants have two or three jobs to make ends meet.

“The CSU says that their goal is to help the student body to make sure they’re set up for success. But it’s kind of hypocritical in a way because they’re not paying many of the student assistants enough to even support themselves, to pay their rent, pay for food, pay for bills,” he said.

Last month, California State University faculty members reached a tentative contract agreement with the university the same day that nearly 30,000 professors, librarians, coaches and other workers went on strike. Members of the California Faculty Association suspended their planned weeklong walkout and returned to work the following day.

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How to Write the American University Essays 2023-2024

essay for joining university

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

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

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

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

All Applicants Prompt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American University Special Program Essay Prompts

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

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

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some examples of strong topics would be:

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

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

The prompt is meant to assess a few things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AU Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

Brainstorming your topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for writing your essay:

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

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

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

Mistakes to avoid:

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

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

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

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lincoln Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

Brainstorming your essay:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics, Policy and Law Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Health Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Health Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sakura Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This response is very effective for a number of reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

Sakura Scholars Program Applicants, Prompt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Note About the AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Prompts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants, Prompt 3

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

AU Emerging Global Leader Scholarship Applicants, Prompt 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Get Your American University Essays Edited

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

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

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    Don't summarize. Avoid explicitly stating the point of your essay. It's far less effective when you spell it out for someone. Delete every single "That's when I realized," "I learned," and "The most important lesson was...". It's unnecessary, unconvincing, and takes the reader out of the moment.

  11. 32 College Essay Examples That Worked

    In this blog, we have 32 awesome college essay examples from some of the top universities in the world, including Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, UPenn, Yale, and more! Plus, you will learn how to craft an outstanding college essay step by step, so that your own personality and experiences will really shine.

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    Essay Example #7: Boston University Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what specifically has led you to apply for admission. Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) attracts me because of its support of interdisciplinary study among its wide array of majors.

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  15. Baylor University Essay Example by an Accepted Student

    If the writer had a better mix of sentence openers, the essay would have a smoother rhythm. For example, instead of saying "I plan to major in management information systems and minor in business administration or entrepreneurship," the student could say "Baylor's major in Management Information Systems, and minors in Business ...

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    We hope you will join us for the HR Liaisons Meeting on Friday morning. Meetings are held virtually on the second Friday of the month. Friday, February 9, 2024 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. MT Zoom: Link is sent in the registration confirmation email. Please note: Slides will be sent following the meeting. If you are unable to attend, a recording will be ...

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