Sample College Admission Essays
This section contains two examples of good college essays.
- College Essay One
- College Essay Two
- College Essay Three
College Essay One
Prompt: Please submit a one-page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen State University and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s).
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.
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College Essay Two
Prompt: What motivates you?
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.
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College Essay Three
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.
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Sample MBA Application Essay - After
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Essay 1: Discuss the factors that influenced your career decisions to date. Also discuss your career plans and why you want to obtain an MBA.
Early in my childhood, the Internet became more than just a luxury--it became a necessity. My father moved from Singapore to Indonesia to start a textile company when I was four years old, leaving me alone with my mother. To alleviate the pressures of separation, I developed the computer skills needed for electronic communication and was able to remain in close contact with my father. This experience solidified my interest in information technology and exposed me to the enormous potential of this developing field.
In the summer of 1992, I exploited my knowledge of IT to help those in my community. I volunteered at a local library, helping people with computer and Internet-related questions. Also at that time, my father's business had launched many technological changes that led to the automation of its production line. These improvements had saved his company from bankruptcy. Visiting him and seeing how the new system had increased his profits heightened my interest in IT. I now live in Canada, where computers continue to play a large role in my daily affairs. I use electronic mail and Internet chats to communicate with both parents, and have chosen management information systems as my course of study. Information technology fascinates me not only because it makes companies more competitive, but also because it can bridge great distances to bring people together. I have much respect for and interest in the IT industry.
Personal satisfaction also plays a key role in my career decision. While monetary rewards are of practical importance, true job satisfaction springs from the opportunity to grow and learn within an industry. I enjoy acquiring new skills and information, which help me to adapt to the fast-changing world, as well as pique my interest in innovation. In addition, a career with open prospects would give me constant incentive to improve myself and to gain more knowledge. I currently volunteer for an on-campus organization, Job Web, in which I am responsible for posting employment opportunities on the World Wide Web, answering questions and preparing informative handouts. This position has broadened my computing abilities and has improved my interpersonal skills, which are crucial to any business endeavor. I enjoy the sense of productivity and usefulness I gain from the work, and feel it is a valuable experience for future employment.
Given the confluence of my personal and professional interests, my goal is to obtain a master's degree and then to work in an IT-related industry, either with a consulting firm or as a systems analyst with a financial institution. In addition to this, I plan to use my private time to attend computer programming courses in order to maintain a competitive knowledge of technology. When I have gathered enough experience and skills, I plan to launch a consulting company of my own.
Attending a Master's of Science program will smooth the path to these goals. Such a program will deepen my expertise and broaden my perspectives. Moreover, the MIS option will help me to hone my skills in IT areas that I have not yet encountered. As I have attended the University of Toronto for four years, I am familiar with and have confidence in the faculty professors whom I believe can help me become an IT professional.
Essay 2: Describe two events in your life to date that demonstrate your ability to do well in business.
My classmates called me "the alien," and they avoided me like the plague. As a young boy, I suffered from severe dermatitis, which filled my limbs with ulcers and scars. The true pain of my condition, however, was social; I was alienated from my classmates and lived a life of loneliness and isolation. Doctors predicted that I would never fully recover, but my parents refused to accept this. They encouraged me to hope for the future, teaching me that any obstacle could be overcome. I therefore took an active role in my health, trying many medications and herbs.
Approaching my loneliness with bravery, I came to view it as a challenge to be overcome. The summer after I graduated from primary school, my disease improved dramatically. Although my body remained riddled with scars, the ulcers vanished. The self-confidence I regained was profound; I realized that my personal will had led to this improvement. I began to seek out friendships at school, and I took part in activities like volleyball, Girl Guide, and Art Club. Through it all, my attitude toward challenges remained the same. In every examination or competition, I told myself that I could easily excel since nothing could be more difficult than what I had already overcome. By the time I moved to Canada, I had fully recovered both socially and physically. Moreover, I had learned to be confident and never to fear failure. This credo echoes through my personal life and gives me the inner resolve to succeed at any endeavor, including my professional pursuits.
Like my personal battle with dermatitis, I learned a great deal about leadership by overcoming adversity. While enrolled in an ESL program in Canada, I joined the Culture Club as a Special Event Director. I managed a group of six individuals in organizing various functions. I was the most advanced ESL student among the group, and I therefore assumed myself to be the most capable. I quickly learned my mistake. While preparing our first function, I was strict with my team members and often rejected their ideas in favor of my own. I performed most of their tasks myself, allowing them to assist me only in minor details. As a result, the function was not very successful. Few people attended, and we had problems with decorations and presentation. The setback disheartened me, and I spoke of it to the club's supervisor. She responded that she trusted my ability to succeed in the future. This comment filled me with surprise, for I realized that I had never trusted my own team members. Although they were weak in English, they had many valuable talents. I immediately changed my policy, allowing team members to choose the tasks they desired and to complete them on their own.
Meetings evolved into group brainstorming sessions, which yielded many good ideas. Most importantly, the atmosphere among us improved dramatically. We were happier and more eager to devote time to the program. I learned what true leadership is, and the experience undoubtedly improved my ability to handle challenging business situations.
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Click Here for the Edited Version.
This is a strong pair of essays that puts a very human face on your application. You come across as an engaging and likeable IT professional, and the details you provide about your personal life are both interesting and informative.
However, there were ways in which these essays could be improved.
The major problem I noticed with these essays was the length of your paragraphs. It is necessary to break your discussions into easily digestible segments so that the reader is not overwhelmed by the breadth of your observations. I have substantially reworked the structure of these essays to make them more accessible to the reader.
Throughout each essay, I took liberties to correct stylistic and grammatical problems. My changes largely took the form of making sentence transitions smoother and more compelling, varying sentence structure to keep the reader interested, and pruning unnecessary words to increase sentence comprehension and coherence. I consciously tried to leave your own voice and ideas intact.
Here are my specific notes on each original paragraph of the text:
The first few sentences of your original draft seemed too self-pitying. It is essential to begin your essay with something that captures the reader's interest. I have provided a new introduction that illustrates the unique role that the Internet played in your family dynamic.
In addition, it is useful to separate the introduction proper from the rest of the first paragraph. I have provided a strong transition that illustrates the relevance of your volunteer IT experience.
Finally, the new second paragraph that I have adapted from your original text incorporates extensive sentence-level adjustments to improve your diction.
"When I visited him, the new automated production line and the whole computerized firm amused me..."
It is best to omit this detail since it suggests that you failed to appreciate the difficulty of your father's work. See the alternative treatment of this idea I have proposed in the revised essay.
I provided a stronger transition to this sentence, which encapsulates your main motivation for pursuing a career in IT. Your original paragraph was a bit too general, so I anchored your assertions in concrete fact to make them more compelling.
"Although monetary reward is practically important in reality..."
This is redundant. I suggest the following: "While monetary rewards are of practical importance..."
"I like learning new skills and acquiring up-dated information, because they can help me adapt the fast-changing world, enrich my experiences, explore my interest, and give me higher self-esteem as I am a valuable person."
This is too effusive. I have provided a shorter version of this idea below.
I have improved the diction of this paragraph to make it more compelling.
"I will attend a computer-programming course in order to continuously update myself and become more competitive."
This construction is slightly awkward. You can rephrase this idea as follows: "I plan to use my private time to attend computer programming courses in order to maintain a competitive knowledge of technology."
I have adjusted the tone of this paragraph to use a more confident voice. For instance, I replaced the phrase, "the program can deepen expertise," with, "such a program will deepen my expertise." This adjustment is subtle, but it makes a big difference.
Your original introduction failed to introduce your subject to the reader in an adequate fashion or to engage his attention. Rather than summarizing your arguments in an essay this short, it is better to provide a "hook" that draws your reader into the piece. See my suggestion in the text.
This paragraph was too wordy, and many of your arguments were redundant. I have streamlined your discussion to make it more direct, and I have separated this paragraph into two parts to make it more readable.
In addition, it was necessary to reduce the graphic description of your physical ailment. It is better to focus on how you overcame adversity rather than to dwell on how you suffered as a child.
"...full of ulcers, sores, bandages and scars. I always felt itchy and painful, and I dared not play with others. Moreover, my hairs had never been longer that two inches..."
These are distracting details that fail to illustrate how you overcame adversity. I suggest reducing these descriptions to a minimum.
"During every examination and competition, I told myself that I was able to do the best because nothing was tougher than the time when I was in the primary school."
This is a very powerful argument that does a great job of illustrating your resolve. I have highlighted and expanded upon this idea in the revised essay.
This paragraph is also best divided into two separate parts. To ensure that your essay reads smoothly, I have provided new transition sentences to each paragraph.
"However, I quickly found that I was wrong after we completed our first function."
This is a good place to vary sentence length for dramatic effect. I propose the following: "I quickly learned my mistake."
"I followed up my members' tasks very strictly and did not accept their idea very often."
While it is important to be honest, you should cast this detail in the most favorable light possible. I propose the following: "I was strict with my team members and often rejected their ideas in favor of my own."
With all the changes I have proposed, you will have to use your judgment and accept only those which you think are best.
Overall, these essays now do a very good job of putting a human face on your application. I wish you the best of luck in the application process.
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