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## 15.3: Sample Student Essays

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The essays below are intended as models for students' own writing in college.

• Sample summary "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample summary "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" accessible version with notes in parentheses
• Sample summary "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample summary "Typography and Identity" accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Summary and Assessment Essays (Critical Analyses)

• Sample assessment "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample assessment "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" accessible version with notes in parentheses
• Sample assessment "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample assessment "Typography and Identity" accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Summary, Assessment, and Response Essays

• Sample response paper "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample response paper "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" accessible version with notes in parentheses
• Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Compare-and-Contrast Essays

The essay "Contested Territory" compares and contrasts two arguments on immigration: "Wouldn't We All Cross the Border" by Anna Mills and "The Weight of the World" by Saramanda Swigart. Annotations point out how the author structures the comparison.

• Sample compare-and-contrast essay "Contested Territory" in PDF version with margin notes
• Sample compare-and-contrast essay "Contested Territory" accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Argument Analysis Essays (Rhetorical Analysis)

The brief essay "Henig's Perspective on the Gender Revolution" by student Jun Stephens can serve as an example of argument analysis.

• Sample argument analysis essay "Henig's Perspective on the Gender Revolution" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample argument analysis essay "Henig's Perspective on the Gender Revolution" accessible version with notes in parentheses

The essay "Argument Analysis of Cory Doctorow’s 'Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either)'" can serve as an example.

• Sample argument analysis essay "Argument Analysis of Cory Doctorow’s “Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either) " in PDF with margin notes
• Sample argument analysis essay "Argument Analysis of Cory Doctorow’s “Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either) " accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Visual Argument Analysis Essays

The essay "An Image Is Worth a Thousand Calls to Arms" by Saramanda Swigart analyzes a visual argument.

• Sample visual argument analysis essay "An Image Is Worth a Thousand Calls to Arms" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample visual argument analysis essay "An Image Is Worth a Thousand Calls to Arms" accessible version with notes in parentheses

## Research Papers

Research-based definition arguments.

• Sample definition essay "Defining Stereotypes" in PDF version with margin notes
• Sample definition essay "Defining Stereotypes" accessible version with notes in parentheses .
• “ Trust ” by Chris Thurman . This five-paragraph student essay defines the concept of trust and discusses its fragility and complications.  (CC BY-SA)
• “ Mass Incarceration: The Real Trends of the United States Justice System ” by Darius Porter. This nine-paragraph student essay defines the concept of justice through the lens of America’s war on drugs resulting in mass incarcerations. The author discusses the impact of mandatory sentencing laws designed to target people based on race and/or income level in order to enrich the current private prison industry. Source:  Successful College Composition  by   Kathryn Crowther et al., provided by Galileo, Georgia's Virtual Library.  CC-NC-SA-4.0 .

## Research-Based Evaluation Arguments

• Sample evaluation essay "Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States" in PDF version with margin notes
• Sample evaluation essay "Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States" accessible version with notes in parentheses

“ The Story of My Working Thesis Malfunction ” by Amanda Kenger. The author walks the reader through her process of writing a thesis on Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. The author wrote four essays trying to define the focus of the final essay: A proposal essay, a critique essay, an antithesis essay, and a categorization essay. The author discusses the development of research skills and evaluates the writing process and final thesis. (CC BY-NC-SA)

## Research-Based Causal Arguments

The article "Climate Explained: Why Carbon Dioxide Has Such Outsized Influence on Earth’s Climate" by Jason West, published in The Conversation , explains why scientists are convinced that carbon dioxide causes climate change. Annotations point out how the author uses several causal argument strategies.

• Sample causal essay "Climate Explained: Why Carbon Dioxide Has Such Outsized Influence on Earth’s Climate" in PDF version with margin notes
• Sample causal essay "Climate Explained: Why Carbon Dioxide Has Such Outsized Influence on Earth’s Climate" accessible version with notes in parentheses

“ Effects of Video Game Addiction .” This six-paragraph student essay focuses on the potential negative impact of excessive video game playing. Concerns mentioned are disruption in the player’s career, decline in overall health and hygiene, and a loss of valuable socialization. While video game players may perceive that they are involved in e-based communities, the author points out that these forms of communication rarely translate to face-to-face social interaction. ( English Composition I: Rhetorical Methods-Based,  CC BY-NC-SA)

“ Crossing the Line: Remembering September 11 ” by Theresa Henkes. This seven-paragraph student essay discusses the negative impact of commercialization of September 11th by the entertainment industry. The author mentions special features, movies, magazines, and video games all designed to make money rather than help the nation mourn and heal. In contrast, voluntary and reverent memorials and museums offer the opportunity to reflect on the tragedy without the motive of financial gain. ( Excelsior OWL , CC BY 4.0)

## Research-Based Proposal Arguments

The sample essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" by student Laurent Wenjun Jiang makes a brief, general proposal argument. Annotations point out how Jiang uses several proposal argument strategies.

• Sample proposal essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" in PDF with margin notes
• Sample proposal essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" accessible version with notes in parentheses
• “ Rethinking Recycling: Why Reusing Needs to Be User Friendly ” by Emily Hanna. This seven-paragraph student essay, in APA format, proposes colleges and communities adopt a recycling approach currently being used by the University of Maryland. This approach uses numerous color-coded bins, in a uniform manner across the entire campus, making the process of recycling easier thereby attracting more participants. Citing the cost of resources to produce new materials and the lack of landfill space, the author encourages other colleges to adopt a similar recycling approach. ( Excelsior OWL , CC BY 4.0)

List and essay descriptions by Cynthia Spence and Anna Mills, licensed CC BY NC 4.0 .

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

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

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

## What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

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

## Visible Signs of Planning

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

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

## Stellar Execution

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

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

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

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

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

## Links to Full College Essay Examples

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

## Common App Essay Samples

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

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

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

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

Connecticut college.

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

## Hamilton College

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

## Johns Hopkins

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

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

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

## Other Sample College Essays

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

## Babson College

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

## Emory University

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

## University of Georgia

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

## Smith College

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

## Books of College Essays

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

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

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

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

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

## Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

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

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

I had never broken into a car before.

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

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

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

"Why me?" I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

## What Makes This Essay Tick?

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

## An Opening Line That Draws You In

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

## Great, Detailed Opening Story

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

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

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

## Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

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

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

## Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

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

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

## Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

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

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

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

## An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

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

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

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

## What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

## One Clear Governing Metaphor

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

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

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

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

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

## An Engaging, Individual Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

## 4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

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

## #1: Get Help From the Experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

## #4: Start Early, Revise Often

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

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

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

## What's Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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## College Essay

College essay generator.

Most universities screen their potential students during admissions. In this academic process, candidates are not only expected to send their application for ms , answer entrance examinations and show up during scheduled interviews. Upcoming college students may also be asked to write a college essay as a part of their initial requirements.

Writing a college essay is a way for students to present themselves or even their ideas in a unique manner. There are different forms and types of college essays which depend on the regulations followed by the school where you would like to be accepted for enrollment. Before you start writing your college essay, you may want to view the essay examples  that we have listed for you, so you can have more idea on what to put in the college essay that you will create.

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## Reminders When Writing a College Essay

A college essay can help your bid for enrollment be realized. There are universities that only accept a specific number of students per school year, and your college essay might just be that document which can help you be noticed by your school of choice. Before you even start writing the content of your college essay, there are some essay writing basic guide that you should always keep in mind. As an applicant, you need to ensure that you are aware of the following:

• It is very important for you to read and follow college essay writing  instructions.  Some applicants tend to be overwhelmed by the admission processes of universities. There are also some who think that they are fit candidates and are sure to get a spot for enrollment. These instances can lead to rush decisions like writing a college essay right away without reading the instructions that are created by the academic institution. Creating a great college essay can lose its purpose if the content of what you have written is not what the university is asking for.
• The content of your college essay should be different from that in your application form . A lot of college essays ask candidates to share something about themselves. A common mistake that candidates do is that they repeat basic information about them which are already found in the application form. You have to utilize and maximize the usage of all the documents that you will submit. As much as possible, veer away from repeating the items that you have already stated in the other documents that you have created.
• College essays are different, may it be in terms of topics or structures. Different universities have different ways on how they would like candidates to write a college essay. This will depend on the information that they want to know or the specific kind of candidates that they are looking for. Just because you have already written a college essay for one university does not mean that it can also apply on your next applications.

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## Tips in Creating the Content of Your College Essay

If you want to create a college essay that works, you need to give importance on the content that you will provide the admissions officer of your target university with. Here are some tips that you may follow when creating the content of your college essay:

• Always be organized. Your college essay is a reflection of who you are. Maintain organization when presenting yourself so that your discussion can easily be followed by the person who will review your college essay.
• It will be best if you will brainstorm and thoroughly think of what you will put in the college essay. Not everything that comes to your mind first is helpful for your application. You have to make sure that the information that you will share in your college essay can help you be accepted for enrollment.
• Create an outline of your desired content. We suggest you to use an outline or a draft that can initially show you the flow of your essay. If you have this tool on hand, you can easily improve specific parts of the essay before finally writing the college essay that you will submit.
• Write an engaging introduction. With the number of applicants that send their applications each year, it is essential for you to get the attention of the university that you want to be enrolled in. A catchy and appealing introduction can help you engage the people who will review your college essay. If strongly created, the way you start your essay can make your college essay stand out from the others.
• Provide reasons on why you are one of the best candidates for admissions. When writing a college essay, think of how the school can benefit from you. It is not always about what you can get from the school. You need to present yourself as an asset or an added value so the university can be more convinced to accept you as a student.
• Know what matters to you and how you would like to be perceived.  If you will keep the content of your college essay both personal and professional, academic institutions can have a perception that you can balance things accordingly which is a sign of great attitude and ethics. Always state information from your own point of view and relay the message in a formal manner.
• Make the content of your college essay precise, concise and direct to the point. Your college essay should contain information that are relevant to the instruction given to you. If you will include details that can directly hit the needs of the school, then you can easily get the approval that you need to be accepted for enrollment.

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## What Not to Do When Writing a College Essay

Aside from the things that you should always keep in mind, there are also some items that you should not do when creating the content of your college essay. Being knowledgeable of the pitfalls of college essay writing can help you come up with a more impressive essay. Listed below are a few  common essay mistakes that you need to avoid when writing your college essay.

• Creating a lengthy essay without substance. There are college essays with strict word count requirements. In this case, try to hit the minimum words required and ensure that the essay that you will write is packed with relevant information and helpful details. The length of your essay is not what universities look for. More than the words that you can put in your essay, your writing style, and substance are those that are being generally rated.
• Trying to impress the school too much. Presenting yourself in an outstanding manner is far different from providing too much information that can already be considered as a form of boasting. Know when to stop when listing down your achievements and/or credentials.
• Using jargon and words that are not commonly used in the field of academics.   As much as possible, write a college essay using simple words. You can easily relay your message if your choice of words are understandable.
• Pretending to be someone who you are not. Do not lie when writing a college essay. Remember that you will be subjected with a background check before the university finally gives you the signal for enrollment. Always be yourself.

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## How to Use College Essay Samples

If writing a college essay is unfamiliar territory, then using samples and templates as references can help you a lot. Here are some ways on how you can maximize the usage of college essay samples:

• Refer to college essay samples but do not copy their content. As discussed above, there are different kinds of college essays. The samples available online may not always be fit for the essay that you are required to write. Referring to college essay samples should only give you an idea of what to write and not what to plagiarize.
• Look at the structures of different college essay samples. Once you are already familiar with different kinds of content structures and formats, then it will be easier for you to create a college essay from scratch. The content of your college essay can also be more highlighted and given focus with if you can use a structure that is organized and comprehensive.
• Find inspiration from the best college essay samples. The greatest thing about reviewing college essay samples is that you can get a lot of inspiration on how to create a college essay in different ways. This inspiration can help you be a better writer which can positively affect the kind of college essay that you can come up with.

Do not underestimate the benefits of having a well-formatted and informative college essay. This document may only be a sheet of paper or a digital document but it can greatly affect your college admissions application.

May it be a last minute essay writing or a planned and prepared college essay creation, make sure that you can make the most out of using a college essay by always remembering the guidelines and tips that we have shared with you.

Text prompt

• Instructive
• Professional

Write a College Essay about a project or work you are particularly proud of and why.

Describe in a College Essay a travel experience that changed your perspective on the world.

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

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## Social Media

1. PDF Sample Student Paper

Sample Student Paper paper title, 2.4, 2.27, Table 2.1, Figure 2.4 parenthetical citation of a work with two authors, 8.17 parenthetical citation of a work with one author, 8.17 group author, 9.11 use of first person, 4.16 italics to highlight a key term, 6.22 narrative citation in parenthetical running text, 8.11 repeated citation needed, 8.1

Strategies for Essay Writing: PDFs Strategies for Essay Writing--Complete. description. Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt. description. Asking Analytical Questions. description. Thesis. description. Introductions. description. What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common? description. Anatomy Of a Body Paragraph.

3. PDF Writeplacer Sample Essays

WritePlacer. assesses the writing skills of new college students. Test scores help colleges determine whether a student is ready for college-level coursework or would benefit from developmental instruction before taking credit-bearing courses. Students taking WritePlacer are presented with a prompt and asked to write an essay of approximately ...

4. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

Harvard College Writing Center 8 Thesis Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is

5. PDF Essay Outline Template

Offer some more specific background information (as needed). 3. Provide the title of the piece and the author's name if the essay is about a specific book/poem/article/passage. C. Thesis Statement 1. State your topic and position. Remember that a thesis = claim + reasons. 2. Outline your main points and ideas.

6. Sample papers

The following two sample papers were published in annotated form in the Publication Manual and are reproduced here as PDFs for your ease of use. The annotations draw attention to content and formatting and provide the relevant sections of the Publication Manual (7th ed.) to consult for more information.. Student sample paper with annotations (PDF, 4.95MB)

7. Sample Essays: Writing with MLA Style

The following essays were selected for the 2023 edition of Writing with MLA Style. The 2023 selection committee was composed of Ellen C. Carillo, University of Connecticut (chair); Rachel Ihara, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York; and Tarshia L. Stanley, Wagner College. PDF. Caroline Anderson (Pepperdine University)

8. PDF This is "Readings: Examples of Essays", chapter 15 from the

15.1 Introduction to Sample Essays. LEARNING OBJECTIVES. 1. Identify the role of reading in the writing process. 2. Read examples of the rhetorical modes. This chapter contains quality samples of the rhetorical modes described inChapter 10 "Rhetorical Modes". While you read these essays, remember the purpose of the writing and pay attention to ...

9. PDF SAMPLE PERSUASIVE ESSAY

Please note that this is a sample essay to help inspire and guide your own original writing of a persuasive essay assignment. Be sure to review your assignment instructions and grading rubric, complete each task in the instructions, and contact your instructor with assignment questions. SAMPLE PERSUASIVE ESSAY

10. 15.3: Sample Student Essays

Sample proposal essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" in PDF with margin notes; Sample proposal essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" accessible version with notes in parentheses "Rethinking Recycling: Why Reusing Needs to Be User Friendly" by Emily Hanna. This seven-paragraph student essay, in APA format, proposes colleges and ...

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

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

12. PDF Accuplacer-WritePlacer-ESL Sample Essays

The writing sample is typically characterized by short, choppy, simple sentences. The writing sample exhibits little or no control of grammatical forms. Sentence punctuation is omitted or used incorrectly. Below are sample essays that received a score of 1. The annotations explain why the essay received the indicated score.

13. PDF WritePlacer® Guide with Sample Essays

Students taking WritePlacer are presented with a prompt and asked to write an essay of 300 to 600 words. A prompt consists of a short passage. Following the passage is an assignment that requires the student to focus on the issue addressed in the passage. WritePlacer prompts are carefully designed to allow the student to respond quickly and in ...

14. PDF Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay is a good tool of persuasion because you show the reader: 1) You have considered both sides of the argument before choosing your position 2) You are able to anticipate and refute any opposing arguments. Before you organize your essay, make sure that you have brainstormed both sides of the issue.

15. PDF Sample Essay Structure (MLA)

The sample essay portion of the handout provides you with basic suggestions for how you should organize your thoughts in order to write an effective essay. Always keep in mind that your instructors may have given you specific instructions on where to place certain ideas and statements, so be sure to follow their instructions primarily.

16. PDF Sample College Admissions Essays

SAMPLE ESSAY NUMBER 1. She struggled to find the seat belt buckle, her left hand frantically pushing down on different places on the seat. She giggled nervously, but graciously smiled to hide her panic. After a few failed attempts, my mom pressed the button for her. The seat belt snapped back into place.

17. PDF WritePlacer Guide DRAFT v1

The prompts are designed to stimulate critical thinking and are relevant to any number of fields and interests. Students will be asked to draw on a broad range of experiences, learning and ideas to support their point of view on the issue in question. Scores on WritePlacer range from 1 to 8. An essay that is too short to be evaluated, written ...

18. Common App Essays

What is the Common Application essay? The Common Application, or Common App, is a college application portal that is accepted by more than 900 schools.. Within the Common App is your main essay, a primary writing sample that all your prospective schools will read to evaluate your critical thinking skills and value as a student. Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any ...

19. PDF Sample Essay (800 words)

Sample Essay (800 words) For the assignment question and analysis, see Sample essay 1 Education means considerably more than just teaching a student to read, write, and manipulate numbers. Computers, the Internet, and advanced electronic devices are becoming essential in everyday life and have changed the way information is gathered.

20. PDF B2 First for Schools Writing Part 1 (An opinion essay) Summary

• Learn useful techniques for planning your own essay. • Evaluate two examples of a Writing Part 1 essay. • Practise and evaluate your own answer to a Writing Part 1 task. Review: Writing Part 1 . The B2 First for Schools Writing paper has two parts. Part 1 has only one task, which you . must. answer. You will: be given the essay title.

21. PDF Writing an Expository Essay

An essay is a piece of writing made up of a number of paragraphs. Each paragraph has a speciﬁ c role in an essay. In a ﬁ ve-paragraph essay, the ﬁ rst paragraph is an introduction; the second, third, and fourth paragraphs form the body of the essay; and the ﬁ fth paragraph is a conclusion (see diagram on page 4).

22. PDF Sample Informative Essay

Opiate Painkiller Epidemic in Healthcare. caused by an excessive over prescription of these medications. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, 2017, p. 2). Volkow indicated "more than 300,000 Americans have died of an opioid overdose". since 2013 (Federal Efforts to Combat the Opioid Crisis, 2017, p.2). According to Perez-Pena.

23. Free Essay

Free Essay. Embark on your essay writing journey with our comprehensive guide, rich in diverse essay examples. This guide is crafted to assist students, educators, and writing enthusiasts in mastering the art of essay composition. From structure to style, it covers all facets of essay writing, supplemented with illustrative essay examples for ...

24. PDF Expository Essay Handout SP2020

In short, the main difference between the expository and argumentative essays is that one is objective (expository) while the other is subjective. (argumentative). Argumentative. Expository. Chooses a position either for or against something. Explores multiple viewpoints of a topic in a neutral way. May be written in the first person (as ...

25. College Essay

Create an outline of your desired content. We suggest you to use an outline or a draft that can initially show you the flow of your essay. If you have this tool on hand, you can easily improve specific parts of the essay before finally writing the college essay that you will submit. Write an engaging introduction.

26. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Teachers and trainers may use this material for in-class and out ...

27. PDF American Library Association

American Library Association

28. Home

Show colleges you're ready. Learn about the SAT Suite of Assessments, which includes the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9.