Best College Essay Examples

best college essay examplesOne of the hardest things to write on your college application is the
personal statement. The personal statement is the most abstract section of
the form as it has little to no guidance on how to fill it in and is the
most open-ended of all sections. If you are struggling to write the
admission essay, the best guidance would be from the essays of students who
were accepted previously. They were accepted into the college so their
admission essays must have worked, and there are blueprints for what the
colleges are looking for from a candidate. They have achieved the success
you are looking to replicate and can form the basis of your essay.

This article will look at the criteria that generally makes for a great
personal statement while giving you a huge list of successful essays that
have been accepted at a number of different institutions. By breaking down
these example essays, this article will examine why they were successful,
and how you can employ these techniques yourself.

The Common Features Successful College Essay Contain.

A Clear Structured Plan.

Having a clear and structured plan is the basis for any good piece of
writing, and a college essay is no different. Sit down, think about the
story you want to write. Write in bullets, and expand from there.

Start Small – Then Expand.

It is best to have a narrow, and focused start to the essay. This will
provide you with a solid foundation to build from. This narrow focus is
common and formulaic in most successful applications. The writer begins
with a detailed story that describes an event, a person or a place. These
descriptions usually have heavy imagery. The essay then extends outward
from this foundation. It uses this scene and connects it to the author’s
present situation, state of mind, or newfound understanding.

Story Telling

These authors know how to tell a tale. Only a very few of them relate to a
once in a lifetime event. Most focus on mundane events that happen in
everyday life. The trick is to set yourself apart by telling the story in
an interesting way. Let us take on of the most mundane and awful tasks on
the planet – ironing – how would you construct an interesting tale around
that? Would you increase the drama by giving yourself a strict deadline you
have to meet or invent an impossible struggle against a difficult shirt you
need as flat as a pancake? Would you look at how to present it in a funny
and interesting way like a time your ironing board broke, and you had to
find inventive ways to flatten out your clothes such as sitting on them?
Would you write a harrowing tale about how you were doing it for charity?
Think about how you want to present yourself, and what the essay says about
your life. When reading the sample essays always analyze them with this in
mind.

 

Hook them with the First Sentence

A killer first sentence will draw the reader in from the start. You have
their attention and investment from the get-go. The punchier the sentence,
the better it is. The best sentences act as teasers to make the reader
progress. To make them want to read what comes next. Think of them as
cliffhangers that introduce an exciting scene or a bizarre situation that
has no logical conclusion. Here are

twenty-two of the best hooks Stanford applicants

have to offer. Don’t you want to know how they ended?

Find Your Voice

Writing is a method of communicating and building a rapport with the
reader. The reader, in this case, is an underpaid and overworked admissions
officer who has to slog through thousands of essays a day. You should aim
to have an interesting and entertaining statement that makes you stand out
from the crowd, and doesn’t bore your reader to death. You need to grab
their attention and the best way to do that is by writing in your own
voice. Use interesting and unique descriptions, describe the world as you
see it, avoid clichés, idioms, and frozen metaphors – when you read the
essay you should think, yes – that’s me.

Be Technically Correct

Your personal statement should be a thing you’ve slaved over and cherished.
As such it should read like it has been proofread a few thousand times.
Make sure it has no spelling mistakes, the grammar is correct, the syntax
flows in the right order and punctuation is used correctly. The best way to
spot errors is by getting someone else to read your work. Have your
parents, teachers, mentors, and even your friends check over the work to
help eliminate those pesky comma splices. Colleges advise getting the
application checked over by others, as they know how hard it is to spot
your own mistakes.

Published Essay Collections

Colleges regularly publish accepted essays as an example and guideline for
students to use when they are formulating their own college applications.
Find a few links below for some of the best essays we found online. These
articles are a great resource for you to use when you are crafting your
personal statement.

It is important to note that some of these statements may be using prompts
that are no longer accepted by colleges. Here are some of

the Common Application Prompts taken from Common App

another great resource to use:

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is
so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without
it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

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? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or
idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
[Revised]

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It
can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma –
anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its
significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a
solution. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that

sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself
or others.

[Revised]

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?

[New]

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.

[New]

These questions are regularly updated or revised, so it is best to check
the current questions yourself.

Carleton College

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is known for its strange and oddball approach to
supplementary questions. Here is a collection of thoughtful answers to
these questions.

Connecticut College

Hamilton College

Johns Hopkins

These applications are answers to former prompts from both the Common
Application and the Universal Application as John Hopkins accepts both.

Smith College

Smith College gives its applicants a prompt for a 200 words essay. The
prompt varies each, and this collection of essays comes from 2014’s prompt:
“Tells us the about the best gift you’ve ever given or received.”

Tufts University

Tufts asks applicants to answer three short essay questions in addition to
the Common Application essays. Two of these questions are mandatory and the
other one is selected from a list of prompt questions.

Here is the writing supplement list for the class of 2022

.

And here are some previous answers to these writing supplements.

If the school you are applying to is not listed above, do not despair.
Check their website and see if they have published any admission essays for
you to read through and analyze.


How to Analyze Admission Essays to Help Your Personal Statement

This section will examine two essays from the examples that were collected
above so we can pull them apart and investigate the criteria that make for
a great college application essay. We’ll dissect each case and examine what
makes these essays tick.

Example One


A Johns Hopkins Admission Essay by Stephen entitled ‘Breaking into
Cars’

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.

An Amazing Hook

‘I had never broken into a car before.’

This has everything we talked about earlier, in the Hook Section. It
describes a scene – he is standing next to a car, and he is about to break
in, it has a hint of danger and drama – he is making a transgression – and
then there is cliffhanger too – how will it turn out, will he get caught?

Strong Visual Language

‘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.’

Stephen uses extremely detailed language to build up a visual scene that
really makes this experience come to life. He used specific language to
provide details rather than use general words; for example, we know it’s
‘Texas BBQ’ which will invoke the reader’s senses more than a more general
term such as food or take out. We can smell the BBQ. The ‘author’ describes
how the ‘coat hanger’ comes from a dumpster making this more a crime of
opportunity than careful planning. Stephen also chooses strong verbs that
have strong connotations and creates a visual image such as ‘Jiggles.’
These strong words do not need adverbs, and this creates a concise, flowing
sentence that is easy to read.

These details aid us in imaging the emotions of the people in the scene.
Stephen is given the coat hanger, and then that person takes a few steps
back – it shows that he isn’t just nervous but afraid and looking for
someone else to take charge. Stephen also captures the tone of a teenager
in the dialogue he has written. It grounds the piece in reality and makes
it so easy to picture and visualize in your mind.

Insightful Analysis of the Situation

‘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 demonstrates his inventiveness and resourcefulness in two ways
here. Firstly, in a practical way – his resourcefulness has resulted in him
unlocking the car door. Secondly, he demonstrates it by his clever usage of
‘click’ which plays on the word having two different meanings. In this
playful way, he is changing the situation from the narrow story to the
broader deeper aspects. The insight he has gained from it. His personal
growth.

Ground Abstract terms by Using Concrete Examples.

‘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.’

That section opens up with very abstract terms ‘Unpredictability and
chaos.’ Abstract terms can be interpreted in a number of ways, and could
quite possibly mean anything from living in an atmosphere of violence to
dealing with issues of abandonment (or even living with some kind of mental
instability). Stephen clarifies what he means in the next sentence which
limits the number of inferences the reader can make by providing a detailed
and visual scene of the chaos: ‘family of seven’ and ‘siblings arguing, dog
barking, phone ringing.’ It is easy to see the abstract notions Stephen is
describing.

Humor to Entertain the Reader

‘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 humor relaxes the reader and actually draws them closer to the essay writer
while providing details about the author’s life. Learning how to clear
burning oil from the water surface isn’t a skill most nine-year-old
children need to know, and Stephen plays on this by using a flippant
statement – ‘in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.’ This
tongue in cheek tone makes the reader aware he is okay with the strict
environment, and in fact, makes fun of it.

The ‘you know’ is really important too, as it makes the statement sound
more like a spoken informal conversation but introducing colloquial
phrases. Another thing to take notice of is that this type of humor and
phrasing is kept to a minimum in the statement, and is only used around
topics where the reader could feel discomfort to relax them. The moderate
amount of humor helps keep the prose meaningful and serious rather than
flippant.

Insightful About His Own Behavior

‘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.’

Stephen ends his essay by reflecting on how his life has prepared him to
deal with the future. His dad’s approach to parenting and the chaos of his
family life has given him the skills to succeed in an unpredictable world
that he cannot control.

Stephen connects his past experience to his current maturity through
self-knowledge. All great personal essays contain this key element.
Maturity and awareness of your own behavior is something that all colleges
desire in their applicants. They indicate that a student will be able to
adapt to the independence that is required in college classes, will be
responsible for their own lives and actions.

How This Essay Could Have Been Better

No piece of writing is ever perfect. Most writers would be happy revising
pieces of writing for the rest of their life if there was a deadline they
had to meet. So, what would you have done differently with this essay? What
would you change to give it that little extra piece of oomph?

Cliched Language Usage

Stephen uses a lot of prefabricated language in his essay such as idioms
and common phrases examples are – ‘twists and turns’ and ‘don’t sweat the
small stuff.’ Remember what we said about creating a unique voice,
describing the world as you see it? These block phrases work against this
and dampen the author’s unique voice to just one among the crowd. This can
make your writing tired and predictable if used in large amounts.

More Examples

The essay demonstrates how Stephen is adaptable to the situation and that
he is not afraid to use his inventiveness to adapt to and thrive in
difficult situations. This is a great example, and very well used.

Stephen also makes several claims later in his essay that he did
substantiate through examples. Remember to make abstract claims concrete,
so the reader knows exactly what you mean. We are left wondering what he
truly meant when he claimed ‘he was different things to different people.’
By providing us with examples of this it would have given us some context
and a way to visualize and understand the roles he plays.

Example Two

An Untitled Tufts University Admission Essay by Bridget Collins

‘I have always loved riding in cars. After a long day in first grade, I
used to fall asleep to the engine purring in my mother’s Honda Odyssey,
even though it was only a 5-minute drive home. As I grew, and graduated
into the shotgun seat, it became natural and enjoyable to look out the
window. Seeing my world passing by through that smudged glass, I would
daydream what I could do with it.

In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to be
Emperor of the World. While I sat in the car and watched the miles pass by,
I developed the plan for my empire. I reasoned that, for the world to run
smoothly, it would have to look presentable. I would assign people, aptly
named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that needed fixing. That old man down
the street with chipping paint on his house would have a fresh coat in no
time. The boy who accidentally tossed his Frisbee onto the roof of the
school would get it back. The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother
managed to hit every single day on the way to school would be filled-in. It
made perfect sense! All the people that didn’t have a job could be
Fixer-Uppers. I was like a ten-year-old FDR.

Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalk
cracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I’m doing so from the driver’s
seat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won’t become Emperor
of the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride
imaginings. Or do they? I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man in
an orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a
deep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.

Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one
who paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover what
I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. A self-admitted
Phys. Ed. addict, I volunteered to help out with the Adapted PE class. On
my first day, I learned that it was for developmentally-disabled students.
To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn’t had too much interaction with
special needs students before, and wasn’t sure how to handle myself around
them. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping out
in APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis
summer program. I love working with the students and watching them
progress.

When senior year arrived, college meetings began, and my counselor asked me
what I wanted to do for a career, I didn’t say Emperor of the World.
Instead, I told him I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst.
A BCBA helps develop learning plans for students with autism and other
disabilities. Basically, I would get to do what I love for the rest of my
life. He laughed and told me that it was a nice change that a
seventeen-year-old knew so specifically what she wanted to do. I smiled,
thanked him, and left. But it occurred to me that, while my desired
occupation was decided, my true goal in life was still to become a
Fixer-Upper. So, maybe I’ll be like Sue Storm and her alter-ego, the
Invisible Woman. I’ll do one thing during the day, then spend my off-hours
helping people where I can. Instead of flying like Sue, though, I’ll opt
for a nice performance automobile. My childhood self would appreciate
that.’

Compare and Contrast

When you compare Bridget’s essay to Stephen’s, the two approaches are very
different. The main thing they have in common is they use lifetime event
language to build an engaging and interesting narrative. And they are the
two keys to any great essay.

A Simple Flowing Structure.

The story told in the essay unfolds in chronographic order. His stead
unfolding of time is signed post at the of each paragraph:

  • Paragraph 1: “after a long day in first grade”
  • Paragraph 2: “in elementary school”
  • Paragraph 3: “seven years down the road”
  • Paragraph 4: “when I was a freshman in high school”
  • Paragraph 5: “when senior year arrived”

This flow natural structure lets the reader know when they are, and
understand the narrative with simplicity and ease.

One Central Conceit and Theme

‘I would assign people, aptly named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that
needed fixing. That old man down the street with chipping paint on his
house would have a fresh coat in no time. The boy who accidentally tossed
his Frisbee onto the roof of the school would get it back.

[…]

Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalk
cracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I’m doing so from the driver’s
seat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won’t become Emperor
of the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride
imaginings. Or do they? I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man in
an orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a
deep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.

[…]

I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst. A BCBA helps develop
learning plans for students with autism and other disabilities. Basically,
I would get to do what I love for the rest of my life. He laughed and told
me that it was a nice change that a seventeen-year-old knew so specifically
what she wanted to do. I smiled, thanked him, and left. But it occurred to
me that, while my desired occupation was decided, my true goal in life was
still to become a Fixer-Upper.’

The way Bridget takes an idea she had during childhood and crafts it into a
metaphor for her future desires makes this admission essay an entertaining
read. This metaphor is not only clear, but it demonstrates self-knowledge.
She knows what she wants to be as she has always known since childhood. She
wants to make a difference in the community, and a person’s life by
tackling their problems one fix at a time.

A Unique Voice

Bridget uses techniques that build a rapport with the reader. Through the
course of the narrative, we get to know her, and her perspective on the
world. She becomes someone we like, and believe is genuine. There are three
main techniques:

Bridget pokes fun at herself and the childish notions she had about the
world. This highlights her growing maturity as she is starting to
understand how simplistic her childhood dream was, and how complex the
world really is. Not only she is mature enough to realize this, she doesn’t
abandon that dream but merely redefines in a way that both makes sense, and
remains true to her vision. The fact she is able to see the funny side
portrays her as open-minded and adaptable.

‘In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to be
Emperor of the World.’

‘All the people that didn’t have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like a
ten-year-old FDR.’

Bridget invents her own terminology and uses it throughout the essay. By
using terms like ‘Fixer-Ups’ instead of something more generic like helpers
or assistants it creates a unique voice and style that makes her stand out
from the crowd. It also gives a greater connotation to the idea of mending
something that was broken in her eyes, of healing that more generic terms
would miss. These terms give us a greater view of how Bridget perceives the
world and lets us understand her actions towards it. These childish terms
are charming and iconic. These terms are central to the essay, providing it
with its key concept and holding its theme together.

Bridget switches the structure, length, and syntax of a sentence. The
majority of the essay uses standard English and English grammar. By doing
something slightly unorthodox with language, Bridget makes the reader pay
attention to her story.

‘The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother managed to hit every single
day on the way to school would be filled-in. It made perfect sense! All the
people that didn’t have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like a
ten-year-old FDR.’

Here she narrates the thoughts she had as a child. She switches her style
with the unexpected short sentence ‘It made perfect sense!’ This serves to
reflect this realization was sudden and indicates it was a rationalization
she had made on the spot. The use of the exclamation mark gives the
sentence that Eureka moment.

‘As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won’t become Emperor of
the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride
imaginings. Or do they?.

A similar shift in sentence length is used when she begins to discuss her
present-day aspirations. Bridget inserts a tiny question ‘Or do they?’ into
the narrative. This emphasizes her doubts, or how she is trying to
reconcile how her childish aspirations relate to the adult world. It
highlights her determination and invention to find a way to fulfil her
desires of being a ‘Fix-Upper.’

‘Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a deep love for
Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me.’

Here the metaphor is directly mapped on Bridget for the first time. Here
the comparison between a ‘Fixer-up’ who corrects the worlds physical
problems are directly mapped onto the disability specialist. This key
concept is emphasized through a parallel sentence structure, a rhetorical
device that is commonly used in literature to create links between segments
of a text and create emphasis.

‘To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn’t had too much interaction with
special needs students before, and wasn’t sure how to handle myself around
them. Long story short, I got hooked.’

A short sentence is used to create the emotional resolution of the
admission essay. Here Bridget goes from being nervous about helping
students with disabilities to being hooked. The short sentence ‘Long story
short, I got hooked’ takes away a lot of the potential for a cliched and
cheesy moment. The slang also emphasizes this area of the letter. So, by
changing the sentence structure, Bridget is emphasizing her feelings and
drawing attention to her personality and emotional drive. This endows the
admission essay with a fantastic and unique voice.

How could this essay have been better?

Even though Bridget’s essay is extremely well written, there are still a
few tweaks that could improve it.

The Car Connection

Bridget starts her essay by telling us about her loves of car rides, but
this doesn’t seem to be connected to much the essay – which is centered
around the idea of ‘Fixer-Uppers.’ Nor does the car seem connected to the
idea of working with disabled children. To make the hook work better,
Bridget needed to explain why cars were connected to the idea more or maybe
have deleted the thing about cars and used the space from some more
relevant.

Give More Details Around Teaching Experience

The crux of the essay is this experience that gave her the confidence and
knowledge of what she wanted to help fix in the world. Despite this Bridget
glosses over the what it was about the experience that made her feel this
way, and what the experience really entailed in the essay. Where she could
have impressed the admission officer with her drive or understanding of the
satisfaction she derived from her experience, she says ‘Long story short’
which leaves us wondering – what exactly did she enjoy? What exactly was
her experience here?

Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

Are you wondering how this resource and the stockpile of old letters can
make your own admission essay better? Here are some ideas on how to use the
information we have provided here.

Here is a checklist of questions that will help you analyze and think about
the other essays that we have collected. By learning to take things apart
and critique, you’ll also learn how to write the statements better.

Checklist Questions

  • Examine the opening sentence and explain why it works so well? How
    does it hook you and make you want to read on?

  • How does the author describe the anecdote? What senses does the
    author use to convey the story? Do these sensual descriptions make
    the story visual?

  • Where does the narrow anecdote expand into the larger perspective
    of the author? How does the author connect the narrow experience to
    the larger picture? And what trait, characteristic or skill does
    the anecdote emphasis and how?

  • What is the tone of the essay? And how does it evoke this tone? Is
    it funny – if so where does the humor come from? Is it sad and
    moving? Can you find the imagery that describes this feeling? How
    does the word choices add to the tone of the piece?

  • How would you improve the essay? Is it missing something? Is the
    voice unique? If they were asking you for advice, how would you
    advise them?

These essays rely on creating an emotional connection with the reader by
the author describing a scene from their life in great detail. It doesn’t
matter if the scene is dramatic or from a slice of everyday life; it should
be personal and revealing about you. It should make your individuality
shine through, and the reader should see you through it.


It may sound strange but writing isn’t about writing, but more about
editing. The best pieces of writing only emerge when something has been
rewritten a few thousand times. As such it best to start writing your
admission letters early. I’d advise finishing your first draft a couple of
months before the admission deadline. This way you have time to pass it
around, get feedback and rewrite.

The best advice when editing anything is to put in a drawer for a few days
and just forget about it and come back to it with fresh eyes. Read through
it and use the checklist above to dissect and analyze as if it was someone
else’s work. Is there anything that isn’t needed? Is there something that
is needed? Is there anything that’s in the wrong place? Does everything
make sense? Are the words strong? Is your voice there? Edit it, put away
for a few days and repeat the cycle.


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