25 Best College Essay Examples That'll Get You Accepted in 2021

Pin it on Pinterest

Writing your college essays is difficult.

And in 2021, with many schools dropping test scores from their application, your essays are even more important for your success.

In other words, there's a whole lot of opportunity for students without the best SAT/ACT score or grades to boost their chances by writing outstanding essays.

And one of the best ways to write your own successful essays is to read and learn from past essays that worked.

In this article, you'll find 25 of our favorite essay examples from top schools on a variety of college essay topics. On the rest of this website, you can check out more than 200 essays that worked from top 20 schools and schools you're applying to.

Common App Essay Prompts

According to the 2021-22 Common Application, there are seven essay prompts that you can choose to respond to in 650 words or less.

  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.

Personal Statement Essay Examples

Here are some of the best Common App essay examples that have gotten students into top colleges.

Below are some of our favorite Common App essay examples from the Ivy League and other top-20 colleges.

Want to read more outstanding Common App essays? Here's our handpicked list of 10 of the best Common App essay examples.

College Essay Example #1: "Chasing Your Dreams"

This Common App essay was accepted into Brown University. Want to read more essays for Brown? Check out our list of Brown essays that worked.

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

(100-650 words)

If you are not the first, you are one of the rest. I always thought this was the key to happiness. Even when I was an infant, my mom used to say that I chose the people who could carry me. There were only two people: my mom and my sister, not even my dad. Growing up, I always wanted to be the best in everything. And I was for the most part. I have a bunch of certificates: first in elocution competition, debates, patriotic song competitions, fancy dress, story narration, top 1% in the Macmillan math Olympiad, etc. In all the parent-teacher meetings, every teacher would say that my parents were blessed to have such a child and no one else stood a chance.

Everything went great until I came second in the fifth grade in the annual examination. I just could not admit that I got defeated, that someone else was better than me. As the middle school period is when “who is the prettiest girl in class” came up, I lost there as well. Since that mattered a lot during the puberty stage, that cost me my confidence. I stopped talking to my friends because I thought they had this perception of me being ugly. It went to such an extent that I thought my parents felt the same way, so I’d never let them attend the parent-teacher meetings. I stopped participating in many activities.

Then the ultimate burst: my sister, the one whom I’d let hold me, moved to the United States. That was the rock bottom; I felt so lonely and lost. I just isolated myself because I felt so insecure. I was afraid to be with myself. Still, I lingered on and immersed myself in something I knew I was good at and did not have to be social: academics. Then came the eighth grade. This was the most crucial period of my life. Just keep reading and you’ll know why.

This was when I was introduced to programming, and since I was always inclined to problem-solving and logical analysis, I was fascinated. When I could solve the problems my tutor gave me, I felt like I was solving problems in my real life and started to regain control (as I was when I was a baby). That’s how my passion for programming started. I delved further into this. This made me come out of that pitch-black pit. In my tenth-grade board exam, I was one among the few to get the perfect score in computer science. But I wasn’t ready to let this go after the tenth grade. I gave up a relaxed life for the Android development classes during my tenth-grade summer vacations.

When I published my first app in the Google play store, I realized that this was the happiest I had ever been. So, does it make you happy if you are the best at everything? When was I the happiest— when I was the best at everything or when I was programming? The truth is that the former happiness was fleeting. It was for those few words of my teachers or my peers, but the latter was real. It’s true, that was harder to achieve but when I did come past all those little runtime errors and crashes, it made my day. So, the answer to the question is ‘no’. What makes you happy is you pursuing your passion.

The outcome: my attitude towards life changed. Nothing could pull me down anymore. Even if I didn’t top my class, I was happy because I knew my happiness was independent. The sheer spirit of chasing my dreams makes me happy. I will work hard to achieve them. You create your own destiny.

College Essay Example #2: "Camping"

This Common App essay was accepted into Dartmouth College.

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.

(100-650 words)

I am a person of the woods, and every summer when I come back from my canoe tripping camp, I have transformed from the city dweller that defines ten months of my year to the wilderness man my friends jokingly call me. Canoe tripping is so much more than carrying a canoe or a pack, or paddling lakes bigger than my whole city; it’s about the people you’re with, the friendships you create, learning about yourself, and your relationship with your surroundings.

I have spent every summer since I was seven at Camp Pathfinder, building friendships with people who were so different than me each year. Pathfinder has a way of bringing people together from different backgrounds, sides of the continent, even countries, and bonding them for life. I have friends all the way across my continent in Los Angeles, friends who I’d never seen before who actually live on my street, and even friends who live in Spain. Going across the trails with packs half our size and more than half our weight, or canoes sixteen feet, you get to know each other well and deeply. My friends range from seven years old to sixty-three. At Pathfinder, everyone is equal and everyone is in the same boat, or canoe for that matter.

When I first went to camp, I loved being on the island, but hated canoe tripping. Being forced to carry a pack and traveling by canoe was awful. Where was the fun in sleeping in small tents with an absurd amount of mosquitoes and aching after portaging? I came home crying that first summer, but for some odd reason, I was drawn back. It took four years until, finally, I understood. I went on a twelve day canoe trip and it clicked; I had the time of my life, and I was hooked. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate not only learning about the people I am with, but the environment that surrounds me. The sunsets in Algonquin Park are the most beautiful on Earth, seeing water at the end of an arduous portage feels greater than spying land from the lake, the sound of a loon has an unmatched purity, and the fog on the water draws you to it. My friend Aidan has taught me to push myself harder than I thought possible; Tate taught me there is no rest until we have made the trip as good as it can be for the younger campers; Gabe showed me that laughter is the best way out of any situation. From Rohan I’ve learned there is always a solution, and from Grady I’ve learned that it IS possible to encompass all of the ideals that define each of us. From me, they say they have learned leadership, and I hope that is true.

Anywhere I go, I can meet someone with some strange connection to Pathfinder and this common ground alone allows us to talk on a more intimate level, passing the “get-to-know-you” stage of acquaintances. We bond over past staff, mutual friends, canoe trips, lakes in the park, and our beautiful, red, cedar-strip, canvas canoes. Pathfinder has jokingly been referred to as a cult because of the way we religiously worship our “sacred” island. The scary part is, this is true. We worship the canoes that allow us to travel and we thank the great spirit, who constantly watches over us. In reality, it is more similar to one large family with thousands who share the one hundred five years of its history. Our days of canoe tripping and pushing each other connects us deeply. When we sit around the fires at the end of the day, we don’t need to talk; we just need to relax and enjoy one another’s company. And as we lay down our heads, on our soft balsam beds, we thank the great spirit that our blood runs Pathfinder red.

College Essay Example #3: "Seeds of Immigration"

This Common App essay was accepted into Dartmouth College.

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.

(100-650 words)

The three, small, purple seeds sat on the brown soil. Ten feet from me I could see my grandpa with his yunta and donkeys. They were in unison: the two donkeys, the plow, and him. My grandpa commanded; the donkeys obeyed. I began to feel tired. Exhausted. My neck was being pierced by the Mexican sun as I dropped seeds for hours.

I can’t complain; I wanted to do this.

I placed three tiny seeds, imagining the corn stalk growing while the pumpkin vines wrapped around it; both sprouting, trying to bear fruit. I clenched a fistful of dirt and placed it on them. “Más,” my grandpa told me as he quickly flooded the seeds with life-giving dirt.

Covered. Completely trapped.

My grandfather has been doing this ever since he was a little boy. Fifty-five years later and he still works hard on the field. There isn’t much else to in the small town of Temalac, Guerrero. All he could do was adapt; something my parents never did. They sacrificed everything and left their home, never to return again. With no knowledge of what would come tomorrow, with only their clothes on their backs, they immigrated to the US. They had to work on unknown soil, hoping their dedication will help sprout the new seeds they’d soon plant. They did this for me. They wanted me to worry about my education, not if there would be enough rain to satisfy the thirst of the crops.

I have a thirst.

A thirst to be the vessel for my family into a better future. I must be the crop that feeds them. All these thoughts rushed into my soul as I looked back down the aluminum bucket. I could never be a farmer. I’m grateful my parents were.

They planted a seed. A tiny seed with no instructions but to succeed. I’m the first-born son of two immigrant parents. I had a clean sheet to become anything. I could’ve fallen into my town’s influence, joined a gang, and become another statistic. Regardless of the dirt I come from, I began to sprout. Ever since I was eight years old I was entrusted with responsibilities.We were lucky that school was a three-minute walk; yet it was a stressful journey for a child. I had to wake up my brother, give him breakfast, make sure his clothes were ready, and that he was doing well in school.

Growing up, I was always fell behind in school. I had to take summer classes to match my peers’ intellect; while others were reading to learn, I was merely learning to read. My parents weren’t able to teach me English; I grew up solely developing my Spanish accent. My bilingual brain hadn't yet matured and lacked the English tongue. Entrusting a child to be the translator-of-all-matters for his parents robs him of his childhood. I had to help my parents navigate an English system unknown to them. From the day I learned to speak I had to learn to advocate not just for myself, but for my parents.

I’m the type of person my family tree hasn’t seen. Staying in high school, getting good grades, and being a responsible individual are aspects that make people around me think that I have sprouted. But I have not yet bloomed into the being I wish to become. In fact, I have merely tunneled my roots onto the Earth; roots that have been solidified by the determination my parents instilled in me as a child. Nothing I ever accomplished was handed to me. It’s the fact that I have come this far without the advantages other students have that fills me with pride.

College Essay Example #4: "Football Manager"

This Common App essay was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

(100-650 words)

When I watched the Patriots and Falcons play in the Super Bowl in February of 2017, I had no idea that the next time I watched a football game I would be on the sidelines, right in the middle of all the action. However, that’s exactly what happened, and my experience as a football manager is not one that I will ever forget.

At the end of my junior year, the head football coach, Coach Cotter (who was also my AP Government teacher), asked me if I wanted to be a manager for the football team. He told me I would have to be at all the practices and games during the summer and throughout the school year. He made a compelling offer, but I turned him down because I didn't think I would have enough time during the summer with my classes, work, and vacation. One of my friends, however, took him up on his offer. In the middle of July, after hearing her talk about how much she enjoyed it, I asked her if she thought I would be able to join. After we spent a little bit talking about it, she asked if I wanted to go with her and see what it was like. I agreed, and I loved it. I asked Coach Cotter if he would mind if I joined, and I can still hear him saying, "Absolutely, the more the merrier!" in my head. The weeks of practice that followed, and then eventually the long Friday nights, proved to be an unforgettable experience.

The job of a football manager does not sound glamorous. Being at football practice for six hours every day during the summer and then three hours after school, surrounded by 47 sweaty football players and seven coaches who are constantly shouting is not how I planned to spend my summer and the fall of my senior year. But there was no way for me to know that this experience would teach me valuable lessons about life, regarding teamwork, hard work, and discipline.

In late July it was evident that some of the players were new and unsure of what to do. I watched as day after day the upperclassmen helped them learn their positions and become better players. This demonstration of teamwork impressed me, because instead of laughing at the younger players for not knowing what to do, they helped them become the best players they could be to make the team stronger. Once, three of our seniors got in trouble for some off field activities, and they had to sit out the first game, along with losing their helmet stickers that are given out for exceptional performances. I witnessed the effect that the consequences had on these players, and I heard one of our coaches after we lost the game tell them “Now you see how the consequences of your actions affected the entire team. Don't ever underestimate your importance to this team.” After that game, I saw the hard work that those boys put in to earn back their reputations and their helmet stickers. They taught me that even if I make mistakes, I will always learn from them no matter how much hard work it takes.

We managers go by many names: watergirls, team managers, hydration specialists. But none of these monikers can capture the rush of emotion I feel after a hard fought game, or the feeling of connectedness that comes every time we celebrate as a team after a victory, ringing our bell and blasting “Party in the USA.” My sense of school spirit has never been stronger. Throughout the summer, the three hours after school, and the seven hours I spend on game days with the players, I have learned lessons and developed relationships that I will never forget.

College Essay Example #5: "Student Government"

This Common App essay was accepted into Columbia University. Need more Columbia essay examples? Check out our list of more Columbia essays that worked.

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?

(100-650 words)

“Ice cream Fridays!” “Two hours of recess!” 500 middle schoolers stood and cheered, pounding their feet on the bleachers. Declan was the popular star quarterback and my opponent for school president. He looked like an adult in a tailored suit, gesturing with his hands, never checking his notes, casting looks at the girls sitting in the front row. He had long wavy hair, a smooth complexion, and charisma. I sat in my polyester blue blazer and rumpled khakis. I was becoming more emasculated and filled with self-doubt with each chant.

I had the best platform ideas and my aunt helped paint two dozen campaign posters. The year before, I carried the weight in student council while Declan skipped half our meetings. I was sure I could win. I clomped to the mic in my dad’s dress shoes. I read my long speech from my notes without enthusiasm. My only applause came from a couple of friends who felt bad for me.

Later, in high school, math and programming made sense to me — people didn’t. At a Model UN meeting, confident upperclassmen talked about the power of persuasion and public speaking. I felt like I didn’t belong, but their command of the stage made me want to be a part of it.

At my first conference, representing Brazil’s humanitarian policies, I had developed what I thought was a brilliant proposal. I was confident and was the first to raise my placard. I had so many ideas but when I took the mic, I didn’t know where to start. I rambled on about background and never got to my main points. I felt foolish for thinking I was going to be so effective. My highwater pants and my sleeves hanging over my fingers added to my insecurity.

I continued this pattern of my speaking skills not matching my confidence in the quality of my ideas. To compensate, I increased the intensity of my preparation. I’d fill a binder with hundreds of research documents, I immersed myself in my roles. I mistakenly assumed that good ideas alone would be enough to win. At one conference, two delegates asked me to join their bloc to get access to my ideas with no intention of giving me a meaningful role. They saw me purely as a policy wonk.

My fascination with geopolitical and economic issues were what kept me committed to MUN. But by the end of sophomore year, the co-presidents were fed up. “Henry, we know how hard you try, but there are only so many spots for each conference...” said one. “You’re wasting space, you should quit,” said the other.

Nevertheless, I persisted. My junior year I ran for club secretary. Automating attendance and quantitative projects were my inclination. But members saw me as a younger, less intimidating officer, and started coming to me for guidance. When Gabby, a freshman, came to me for advice, I tried to pass her off to the co-presidents. She was terrified of speaking at conferences, and I didn’t know how to express my empathy. “They aren’t going to take me seriously, I don’t have charisma, I’m too short!” I saw my own insecurities in her. I didn’t feel like I was qualified to help, but I reminded her of the passion she had shown in meetings. Gradually, I became a mentor to her and many others. I was enjoying supporting them and was gratified by guiding their growth as delegates. One sophomore even anointed me “MUN soccer mom.”

On the bus to her first conference, Gabby was in a panic, but throughout the day I saw her confidence grow. When she won Outstanding Delegate, beyond anyone’s expectations, our whole row erupted in wild cheers. When my name was also called shortly after, it felt anticlimactic. I was far more proud of succeeding in my new role as a mentor than I was of my own award.

College Essay Example #6: University of Virginia

This essay was accepted into the University of Virginia.

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.

(100-650 words)

The most beautiful part of my day is when I walk. Every morning before school, I put on my grandmother’s plush red coat, tie my white Keds, and begin on a fifteen minute journey. The rhythmic motion of my limbs, the caress of the sunlight upon my skin, this is what guides my mind to achieve clarity. My mental acuity allows me to conceive fascinating ideas, to spill through the infinitudes of philosophical reflection, and experience captivating intrigue.

Growing up, walking was used as a means of attaining peace in a time of instability. When it became painful to hear my mother fight with men I was supposed to love, my outdoor solace distracted the pain from amplifying. While gazing upon some classic Virginia evergreens, I questioned.

Why do some stars end up as black holes? What makes my eyes dark blue? How do owls turn their heads all the way back? I dared to find explanations, letting my tiny fingers tear through pages of astrophysics books and biology encyclopedias. I drowned in documentaries about the stars and studied YouTube videos of violinists playing Paganini. And when my grandparents came to visit me during times of hardship, I asked them about ballet and music and DNA, thirsting to discover my breathtaking world. As a result of my flourishing inquisitiveness, I inevitably developed a fascination with my family that encouraged me to learn about my family’s walks. These were not walks in the purely literal sense, but rather walks generated by journeying life itself.

My mother and grandmother’s encounter with oppression and assault while living in Iran aroused in me a fierce fervor for combating evil. Yet my adoptive father and grandfather’s encounters with plummeting aircrafts and chemical weapon attacks instilled an intense wonder about the psychological and moral implications of war. Moreover, these experiences intensified my thirst for learning and a desire to become a positive contributor to our ever-competitive global society. To quench this thirst, I submerged myself in my own ocean of intellectually invigorating walks.

These walks have provided me invaluable experiences: I have toured the streets of Nuremberg with Hegel, idolizing his ideas on human consciousness. But I have glided across the glossy tiles of Hwa Chong Institute with my Singaporean research partners, latching onto the scientific complexity that drips from their lips. I have trudged past the mud-brick houses of Tehran with my great-uncle, marvelling at the blossoming political intellectualism within Iranian artists. Yet I have shrunk my frame into the dimensions of my pHEMA-VP hydrogel nanoparticles, exploring its polymeric networks with excitement and awe.

My movement has fueled my hunger to learn more about biology, my desire for my cosmetic business to excel, my romance with learning political philosophy. This movement, this is what defines me. Indeed, my walks have also taught me how my intellectual endeavors satiate my love for the journey more than for the destination. For it is the pursuit of knowledge, with all its undulations, which electrifies the lover of wisdom more than the knowledge itself.

In fact, arriving at my destinations have often provided my spirit a sharp, bittersweet sting. Like the stub end of a cucumber, I have tasted the unpleasantness of departing the people who have taught me and the experiences which have coached me: time has grinned at me with a gleam of schadenfreude. But I have also savored the sweet, ironic enlightenment that destinations provide: there is no end to my experiments in life.

I will never cease to develop inwardly. My life is one that has converted the pursuit of intellectual endeavors from the machine of my destiny into the servant of my will. Walks have taught me to be patient, but to also live passionately and authentically. With my plush red coat and white Keds, I walk onward, for the wisdom of life is gained by walking through life itself.

College Essay Example #7: Washington University in St. Louis

This essay was accepted into Washington University in St. Louis.

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.

(100-650 words)

My drooping eyes fluttered, biding time before my inevitable descent into a well-deserved slumber. My hand scratched on with determination as I reflected on the past VEX robotics season in my engineering notebook. As I penned my final entry, the once heavy strokes of ink regressed into nothingness, and the cartridge breathed its last, one final victim of my notebook. With an internal salute, I disposed of the pen and retrieved another to finish my reflection. When finally content with my writings, I clicked my pen shut and let out a deep sigh of closure before sauntering up to my bed. As I lay down, I realized that my dedication to my engineering notebook had concluded a crucial leg in my journey toward further education and adulthood. My mind wandered back to the beginning.

Going into my freshman year, my high school's VEX Robotics program personified the proverbial David facing other organizations’ Goliaths. With only one adviser, our poorly funded team struggled to compete with the private clubs who could access high-tech engineering rooms stocked abundantly with building materials. Despite the program’s frugality, my team successfully qualified for the Wisconsin State Championship in my freshman and, then, sophomore year. During those years we earned respect throughout the VEX community, but we never procured any awards that would solidify our program’s competitiveness. To win awards, teams must document their robotics progress in an engineering notebook. During my junior year, with the desire to improve my VEX club’s prestige, I volunteered to create the notebook. At the time, I feared the commitment, never anticipating the unforeseen rewards.

As I progressed through my junior year, I crafted the engineering notebook assiduously; I set timetables, documented brainstorming sessions, and sketched potential designs all in hopes of winning an award to validate my team. With the first competition approaching, my team spent countless hours building and coding the robot, constantly overcoming the challenges presented by our lack of building materials. In spare moments between schoolwork and VEX, I worked feverishly on the notebook. When competition day arrived, I worried that all our hard work would be unavailing. Despite my apprehensions, we performed exceptionally, and we went on to win the tournament. Furthermore, my team won the Design Award, which recognizes the best engineering notebook. I felt momentarily overjoyed, but I realized that perseverance could potentially multiply our success. Upon arriving home, I withdrew to my room and continued my meticulous work in my engineering notebook. By the time the State Championship arrived, teams from around Wisconsin respected our program. We were no longer underdogs; rather, we were fierce competitors. At State, we won the CREATE Award for a well-documented and creative design solution, and we qualified for the CREATE US Open Championship. Representing Wisconsin at the national level was the greatest honor of my life.

Reshuffling my pillow, my reverie ceased as I considered how my experience creating the engineering notebook taught me invaluable life lessons of tenacity and diligence. I thought about how I no longer bore a childish fear of commitments; instead, I embraced new challenges. Moreover, I realized the notebook enhanced my time management skills both in the short-term and in the long-term. I often worked ahead on homework to leave time for writing, and I learned to make decisions about the overall timeline of our project. Above all, however, the notebook helped me realize that I should study business instead of following the typical VEX participant’s engineering path. I found my niche when I focused on project management with the notebook instead of concentrating on the specifics of the robot. In a final wink of consciousness, I felt true happiness knowing that my hard work had paid off. Then I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

College Essay Example #8: Pomona College

This essay was accepted into Pomona College.

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.

(100-650 words)

An obnoxiously red banner with Chinese characters hangs in front of a small, unassuming diner close to home. I stroll inside Grand Lake, this bustling hive with waitresses scuttling hurriedly and tables shaking lightly, the din of laughter from families mixing with the aromas of Chinese food. A lady with a notepad impatiently beckons my family to sit at one of the free tables, and as soon as we’re all settled in, she begins addressing me in Mandarin - possibly asking what I wanted for a drink. I look at her blankly, and she returns the confused expression. “I don’t speak Chinese,” I laugh forcibly after a tense moment. She doesn’t find the humor in my apology.

From thereafter, our order is taken in broken English, our chopsticks switched out for the standard fork and knife, and I feel the burning gaze of the waitresses judging my family as we eat our Sunday brunch in silence.Cultural confusion is commonplace. Being born in Peru and raised in Venezuela makes no difference in how most people see and treat us.

Focusing on my slanted, almond eyes and ebony hair, I’m automatically pegged as an Asian wherever I go. Touring Peruvian artisan markets is always a test of wit and cleverness, as vendors try to over-price items we’re interested in simply because we look Asian, and therefore must also have Crazy Rich Asian bank accounts. Pulling out a simple credit card at a Caracas mall once got us chased by three armed motorcyclists on the highway, and my mother risked collision as she wove in and out of the cramped lanes like a Formula One race car driver.

Since when did my appearance jeopardize my life?

My ancestry traces back to both Chinese and Japanese roots, its imprint burrowed deep in my face and DNA. But I’m a third generation, Peruvian-born girl with the fire to prove it. Over time, our Asian culture diluted and was replaced with a vibrant, Latino lifestyle. With each generation, the immigrant language faded, folktales blurred, spices dulled, and all things Asian abandoned. I celebrated Noche Buena as a kid, not Chinese New Year’s. My favorite childhood dishes were anticuchos and papa huancaína, not onigiri rice balls or sushi rolls. Everyone assumes that I am a math prodigy, shy and antisocial, a black belt karate master, and a laughingstock on the dance floor. But actually, I struggle hardest in my math class, studying twice as much as others for the same grade. My personality, although sweet, is bold and gregarious. I am a three-year kickboxer and a five-year Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor. Turn on Marc Anthony and I may just get a spot on So You Think You Can Dance.I’m Latina, just packed in a cute, little Bento box.

There is one Asian stereotype that I fit into, even though its backstory is completely misguided: playing the piano. In reality, piano musician culture was not developed in any Asian region, rather in European countries with pioneers such as Bach and Haydn. Statistically, there is an equal amount of Asian and non-Asian musicians in the professional world. I came across the piano through my own curiosity and will, not through my parents bludgeoning me to play it like it’s portrayed with all young Asians. I actually studied South American music for an international piano competition in Peru, finished as a finalist, and grew to love the radiant and eccentric style of Latino modern music. But I digress—my potential should be evaluated separately from my appearance.

I am a musician born by passion, not by race. I am a human defined by my achievements and experiences, not physical assumptions. Leave your preconceptions by the welcome mat and size me up by the sound of my Rachmaninoff sonata or Enrique Iturriaga solos, and let my character sing your first and final impressions of me.

College Essay Example #9: Tulane University

This essay was accepted into Tulane University.

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.

(100-650 words)

Piano Man plays on repeat in Used To Be’s Island Eatery, a high-volume bar and restaurant in the town of Mantoloking on the Jersey shore. Balding men and blonde women sway to the song as they sit on the wooden barstools, chatting and laughing about their lives. From my hostess stand I can see it all. To my left is the restaurant portion of the building. It is dimly lit but there is enough light to see the customers’ expressions, from the time I seat them until their plates have been cleared. It’s fascinating to watch how much people change from the time they approach me at the stand, hungry and impatient, to when they are smiling and telling me to have a good night, plucking a mint from the silver bowl as they leave.

I’ve learned that the demeanors of the staff shape the mood of the restaurant. When the waitresses have come from the beach and have plans with their friends later that night, there is a sense of calmness and ease among the staff and the customers. On the other hand, when one waitress trudges in fifteen minutes late on a rainy afternoon and recites her endless list of the day’s unfortunate experiences, the entire mood drops. I’ve discovered that restaurants are all about putting on a happy face, even if you’re secretly envisioning hurling a rude customer's plate across the restaurant like a frisbee and watching ravioli spray across the room.

My dad has always told me to be positive, but I never really understood how truly meaningful that was until I started working as a host. I’ve learned that positivity and friendliness are crucial to making any situation more enjoyable, and especially in making stressful ones more bearable. So, even if I have eighteen reservations and a dozen takeout orders to handle, I plant a smile on my face and ask the elderly couple that walks in the door how they are doing. What I’ve discovered is that when they smile back at me and ask me about myself, it brightens my mood, and I end up having a simple and sweet conversation with complete strangers. Their kindness is uplifting, and I love hearing about a couple’s recent vacation, or talking and laughing with the father of a baby who just tried to eat a lemon.

I was anxious about starting my first job. However, I quickly found that hosting not only suited my strengths, but also taught me more about myself and how others behave in stressful environments. Hosting requires perception, observation and organization, qualities that play to my strengths. While the waitresses are distracted taking orders or bringing food, I’m the one who watches over the entire restaurant, making sure that tables are cleaned and little kids have paper and crayons. On the other hand, this job also taught me that sometimes I need to keep my mouth shut and deal with issues on my own, even if it means defusing an uncomfortable conversation with a customer who has had too much to drink. This response is generally counterintuitive to what I’ve been taught in school, which is to speak up and seek help from peers or teachers. In this business, one is often told to “figure it out yourself” or “just fix it”. Initially this was challenging, but I soon discovered that it taught me to have faith in myself and be more independent.

I absolutely loved this job. I discovered how much I enjoy working with and learning from other people. Hosting taught me the value of being totally engaged and fully present, which allowed me to commit myself to the people and environment around me. This job took me out of my comfort zone, but I have no doubt that what I learned will help me in every stage of my life, including when I go back next summer.

College Essay Example #10: Colby College

This essay was accepted into Colby College.

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?

(100-650 words)

The night before I climb to the summit, I pack my bag carefully, making sure all my equipment is in its rightful place. Headlamp in the left pocket. Clif Bar (nauseating but necessary) next to my sleeping bag. Three unlocked carabiners on my harness.

Extra layers, ropes, and ice axes diligently packed away. After a few hours of sleep, I wake up under the midnight moon, my brain foggy in the high altitude and grateful for the extra preparation.

Although I would love to say this sense of organization comes naturally, it only became habit after my first major mountaineering expedition.

The summer after freshman year, I flew to Washington to climb Mt. Adams, a lofty 12,000-foot peak in the shadow of Rainier. My backpacking, rock climbing, and skiing experience gave me the technical skills I would need for mountaineering, which is essentially a combination of those three sports. But physical skills alone could not compensate for the logistical skills I lacked.

Just twenty minutes before starting the climb, I scrambled to pack under the faint beam of my headlamp. My one a.m. brain betrayed me; I left all my food at base camp. I climbed as far as I could, but had to descend to camp before long. It was not safe for me to continue on without food.

This anecdote was not unique to one summit attempt, or the outdoors in general. In middle school, I constantly neglected to make flashcards and write down homework, and my grades, though good, suffered as a result.

I left behind a trail of forgotten ski coats and misplaced textbooks, and few were surprised when parent-teacher conferences revolved around the word "careless." But after that failed summit attempt, I created organizational systems for every subsequent kayaking, hiking, and mountaineering trip, and began to apply them beyond the trailhead.

While high school isn’t exactly comparable to climbing mountains, I pack my backpack the night before, make flashcards weeks before tests, and always stash extra snacks for cross country. The preparation steals a few precious minutes of sleep, but in return, means honors societies and academic excellence.

These processes have led to academic success, but weren’t without flaw. I spent hours preparing for each challenge, and in return expected an A on every test and a successful summit of each mountain. I felt that the outcome should be in exact proportion to my effort.

I failed to recognize that I can’t control every variable. Heading into a difficult summit attempt of Mount Olympus, the tallest peak in Washington’s Olympic Range, I was certain it would go my way. I was in great shape, had practiced all my knots and rope skills, and, of course, had packed the night before. Despite it being the most difficult mountain, I had attempted, I thought that due to the work I had put in, it was my right to summit.

I was wrong. The glacier leading up to the summit was calving, or shedding ice, too quickly. These glacial avalanches would be deadly, there was no other way to the summit, and it was totally out of my control. I was devastated.

We ate Snickers, normally enjoyed on the summit, on the glacier staring up at the peak. Below our feet, swimming through the glacial crevasses, were ice worms: tiny, endemic invertebrates. I transformed my disappointment into an opportunity to slow down and research glaciers and their tiny microorganisms. Looking back, I’m not upset I didn’t summit.

I learned about ice worms and watermelon snow algae, but more importantly that while I can’t control every outcome, I can always control my attitude. I won’t reach the peak of every mountain, ace every test, or win every cross-country race, no matter how hard I prepare. But I can do my best, enjoy the process, and embrace the outcome, even if it’s not exactly what I expected.

College Essay Example #11: Oberlin College

This essay was accepted into Oberlin College.

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.

(100-650 words)

Younger Anna,

My advice is not scientifically-proven, mother-tested, or kid-approved. However, I think it will make your life easier. But take this advice — as anyone would from a 17 year old — with a grain of salt. It is only as reliable as my own experiences. So here it is:

1. Speak Portuguese. It’s frustrating to know that I lost such a valuable skill because I deemed it too “embarrassing” to use in front of my kindergarten classmates. Fluency in another language is not only uncommon, but it also would have allowed you to communicate with your Brazilian relatives.

2. Don’t live your life as if you're constantly being watched and criticized. Chances are, no one is even paying attention to you.

3. Experiment with your interests early. Now is the perfect time to try different interests and see which ones you like. Take up something that pushes you out of your comfort zone: bagpipes, rock climbing, musical theater, literally anything. Eventually, you will find something you love.

4. Sing.

5. Take comfort in the fact that no matter what obstacle you encounter, it’s happened to everyone. You’re not the first person to get a 70 on your paper, trip in public, or rip your pants. Although, try to keep the pants-ripping to minimum.

6. You don’t need to be exactly like your father. I am a spitting image of him. I may have inherited his intelligence, but that came with his ego as well. You can learn just as much from his mistakes as his achievements.

7. Wear your retainer.

8. Empathy makes your life easier. People who are inexplicably cruel are suffering just as much as the recipients of their abuse. Understanding this makes your interactions with these people less painful.

9. Skip the “I want to be an anesthesiologist” phase — you don’t.

10. Comparing yourself to your classmates is counterproductive. Sometimes you will forge ahead, other times you will lag behind. But ultimately, you’re only racing yourself.

11. Your intelligence is not defined by your grades and test scores.

12. I am passive aggressive when I lack the confidence to express something that upsets me. Learn to communicate effectively. It saves you from the endless “what if” contemplations that keep you awake at night. If you are successful, tell me how.

13. Speak up to your stepmom.

14. Try not to identify too strongly with material items. I ran into this issue when my hair defined me: friends often stated that they just couldn’t imagine me without my large and poofy hair. When it started falling out after a stressful period, I had to reestablish the image my hair had made.

15. Always eat the cake. I couldn't tell you how many times I’ve turned away a slice of cake, only to regret it the next day. If you really can’t commit, do yourself a favor and take a slice home with you.

16. Recognize and appreciate your privilege. There is no limit to the opportunities you have and that amazes me.

17. Cherish your grandparents.

18. Forgive your mother. Harboring resentment hurts you just as much as her. All the time I spent being angry at her could’ve been spent discovering her strengths.

19. Cut off worried thoughts with “what if things work out?” In periods of change, acknowledge the fact that things may go according to plan. This isn’t an ignorant overlook of reality. Anticipate that this change will be bring some good with it.

20. Accept inevitable truths: You will get older. Your friends will come and go. You will struggle and triumph. You will encounter heartache, joy, and everything in between. This list will continue to grow.

Want to read more Common App essay examples?

If you're looking for more outstanding Common App essays, check out our full list of Common App essays for a ton more personal statement examples.

University of California Essay Examples

Want to read tons of the best UC personal insight question answers? Be sure to check out our UCLA essays and UC Berkeley essays for our favorite essay examples that got accepted into schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley

Supplemental Essay Examples

In addition to your Common App or Coalition App personal statement essay, many colleges also require students to respond to their writing supplement. These responses are often essays or short-answer questions that are specific to each college and may change year-to-year.

A common supplemental question is the "Why this college?" question. You can read outstanding examples of "Why" essay examples for Northwestern University and Brown University by clicking here.

Here is a list of successful college writing supplement essays that have helped get students into top colleges. Be sure to check out these essays that worked and learn how to best answer each colleges' writing supplement.

College Essay Example #12: Cornell University

This essay was accepted into Cornell University.

Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.

(650 words max)

I was thirteen sitting in my eighth grade geometry class, when I first heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem. We were discussing Pythagorean triples, whole number solutions to the Pythagorean Theorem, and conversation arose about the possibility of solving for exponents larger than two. What about three, four, or five?

Eventually, this led to the teacher saying, “This is called Fermat’s Last Theorem. You won’t learn about it until you are much older.” With a dismissal like that, I naturally spent the whole night researching it instead of reading A Separate Peace for English. My fascination for this theorem was two-fold. The theorem is a seemingly simple concept, while on the other hand, it is notorious for being one of the most difficult proofs in all of mathematics. Fermat, himself, claimed he knew how to prove it, but promptly died leaving no evidence to back up his assertion. For over three and a half centuries, mathematicians were stumped by a seemingly impossible problem. Until it wasn’t.

Fermat’s Last Theorem was the impossible math proof, but overtime, collective mathematical knowledge grew. In 1993, British mathematician Andrew Wiles combined others’ theorems and conjectures to show that Fermat’s Last Theorem was a special case of semi-elliptical curves and that the theorem was a modular form. As a result, Fermat’s Last Theorem was proven to be correct. Consequently, once the mathematical community reviewed Wiles’ proof, it was widely agreed that Fermat could not have proven the theorem, because the general mathematical understanding in 1637 was not developed enough yet. Though the story of its eventual solution is exhilarating, to me, this episode underscores a more important lesson that is as true in science and engineering as it is in mathematics: it is not through individual genius, but collective effort and exploration that impossible problems become solvable.

Impossibilities surround us in the world. Here’s my impossibility—developing a solution to the global management of heart disease. Every year, millions die of cardiovascular complications, but nobody has a large-scale solution. My father’s death opened my eyes to the limited treatment options for cardiovascular disease, in that medicine can diagnose the disease, but current preventative measures are inefficient, as it is still the leading cause of death in America.

Like Fermat’s Last Theorem, however, this problem does not have to remain unsolvable. Biomedical engineering applications enable us to foresee biological and physiological phenomena, and conceive system-oriented solutions to problems that have previously been treated symptomatically. I aspire to find new ways to track the growth of arterial plaque and blood clots throughout the body to better maintain blood flow, reducing, maybe someday eliminating, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and strokes.

I see Cornell as my next step towards accomplishing this aspiration. My brother, Matt, went to Cornell Engineering for his B.S. (2006) and M.S. (2007), and his accomplishments are what initially drew me to the College of Engineering. He was a member of the DARPA Robotics team that built an autonomous vehicle. Cornell’s theoretical approach to systems allowed him to find new ways of visualizing the world when solving problems. Although my brother and I have differing interests, I see through him how a Cornell education fosters a mindset not just to improve the status quo, but to reimagine it.

Cornell researchers are already pioneering the future of cardiovascular engineering, where professors and students are researching “heart-assist technology” to discover better solutions to pediatric heart problems. That project is already seeking answers to many of the questions that motivate me, and I’m excited about the prospect of joining the effort.

The college’s theoretical approach combined with its project teams offers a way for students like me to not just learn how to build things, but to understand the conceptual principles underlying each problem. With this two-pronged method, Cornell Engineering will allow me to solve my personal Fermat’s Last Theorem of developing better methods to combat heart disease.

College Essay Example #13: Cornell University

This essay was accepted into Cornell University.

Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests?

(650 words max)

Since seventh grade, I’ve been obsessed with making others smile. That year was tough on my 12-year-old, bewildered self. It was the first time I’d struggled through anything major in my life. Someone important in my life passed away. Several relationships were beaten up and broken down. My once-straight-A grades took a turn for the worse as the magnet school experience bore down upon me. And ever since I was forced to be that one kid who cried through lunch with her head down on the table, I decided to make sure nobody else would have to be that kid.

I’ve tried everything to hear someone’s laugh, from biting sarcasm to the pain of a bad pun. But when I think about when my friends and I are laughing the most, it’s all together, in a call at midnight. We’re playing computer games and listening to silly music and laughing at the expense of each other as we die at the hands of the enemy team in the most ridiculous ways.

I started playing League of Legends late last year. It was a way for me to feel strong and unstoppable when I felt powerless in reality. The gameplay was what initially hooked me, but everything else about the game was equally, if not more, fascinating. The design of the maps, champions, and skins. The precise animations and detail in every interaction. The engrossing theme songs and background music, especially ones like Aurelion Sol’s intro (highly recommend, by the way; it’s a beautifully written, insistent orchestral piece). The concept of worldbuilding and forever expanding upon the backstories of over a hundred characters and their universe. The way gaming brings all sorts of people together and lets them really laugh.

I once read a throwback article, called “Total Recall, or: That Time We Disabled Ranked,” that was written by product managers, designers, and producers. It covered an intensive bug that forced the company to work nearly 28 hours straight in order to restore the game and discussed the processes behind bugfixing. It was this article that truly incensed my interest in game design. When reading about the majors and programs that Cornell provides, I felt a rare yet very real spark of excitement for college and my future. I’d heard of the notoriety of the Computer Science major at Cornell, but the option to follow the major within the School of Arts and Sciences eased my mind. As a right-brained student, I’ve always felt the struggle to succeed academically, especially within maths and sciences, while still pursuing my artistic interests. The BA CS major gives the ability to major in what I want to do while also getting exposure to a larger breadth of courses in other schools. I believe that Cornell will be able to reconcile my passions and style of learning by providing an environment in which I can thrive.

But what caught my eye the most was the specific game design minor that I could pursue alongside a major in computer science. It seems pretty unique to the school and is exactly what I’ve been wanting from a prospective school. Through this route, I’d be able to further my current understanding of programming and learn how to apply this to the world of design and animation. I’d be worlds closer to not only bringing my ideas to life, but also bringing the same happiness, excitement, and immersion that I feel to other gamers like me.

Gaming is what brings a smile to my face, as it does to millions of other people around the globe. I want my efforts to inspire happiness and infectious laughter to reach the world by doing what I love. And now, it truly feels as though Cornell has given me a real chance at being able to make someone smile by doing what they love.

College Essay Example #14: University of Pennsylvania

This essay was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania.

How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying.

(650 words max)

When I first started seriously thinking about college during sophomore year, I didn’t want to go anywhere outside of Ohio. I thought I would be too far away from home. But the more mail I received from different colleges, the more I realized that some of my best opportunities were going to come from outside of my comfort zone, from outside of Ohio. One pamphlet from the University of Pennsylvania in particular caught my eye, and although I was a bit skeptical at first, as I did my research I realized that the University of Pennsylvania is a top tier university that holds many unique opportunities for its students.

One of the first things I noticed when I began to research Penn was their emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. This appealed to me because I have never been interested in only one subject. The fact that a third of my classes would be taken outside of the Wharton School tells me that I will be able to explore a variety of classes in virtually any subject. For example, although I do not want to major in it, I have always been interested in computer coding. Hopefully I will able able to take some introductory level computer programming or coding classes at Penn even though it is not directly related to finance, my potential concentration.

I am also excited about the availability of foreign languages at the University of Pennsylvania. I started learning French in eighth grade, and since my school only offers four years of French, I wasn’t able to take it my senior year, and I really miss it. I also started learning Portuguese during high school because I want to travel to Brazil one day. I want to continue learning both of these languages at the University of Pennsylvania. I am very excited about the opportunities that the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies will give me at Penn.

Another aspect of Penn that I found fascinating was their different programs regarding political science. At one point, I wanted to major in political science. But when I took an Introduction to Global Politics class at the Ohio State University during the summer before my senior year, I didn’t know if I could honestly see myself studying that for four years. However, during my time researching political science at Penn, I found out about an amazing program that I could participate in: Penn in Washington. Political science is currently my second choice major, and if I decide that’s what I want to major in, it would be with a concentration in American Politics, so the Penn in Washington program would be perfect for me to find an internship and learn about how the different parts of government work together in the heart of America’s government. However, if I choose not to major in political science, I would still be interested in the American Public Policy minor, which is offered through the political science department in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, which is where I will possibly be pursuing a degree in finance. Penn seems to match perfectly with what I want to study in college.

I am really excited for the opportunities that the University of Pennsylvania will give me. From the interdisciplinary studies to the foreign languages and political science programs, I will have plenty of chances to explore my diverse interests here at the University of Pennsylvania.

College Essay Example #15: Dartmouth College

This essay was accepted into Dartmouth College.

The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself.

(300 words max)

My name is Eoin and my entire life, no one has ever pronounced my name correctly. My genealogy is Irish and my name is spelled this way because every male in my family, for the past seven generations, has been named John. Since my older brother's name is John, my dad decided to honor his heritage, which gives me my dual citizenship, and name me the old Gaelic for John: Eoin.

I am the youngest of six which brings with it the never-ending comparisons, teasing, and constant bickering; add to that being small for my age until the age of twelve, and you can imagine my household. We have all been raised to be independent, to love nature (except Princess Ali), and to work our hardest at everything we do.

I have always loved math, playing hockey (ice or floor), matzah ball soup, the Beatles and Queen. As a kid, I was into Percy Jackson and a series of books with titles that all ended in “-ology,” the churros at the hockey rink in Jamestown, Bang party snaps, t-shirts by Tobuscus, and my two stuffed cats - one with a mortarboard, and the other with a Star of David on its front left paw. I have dreamt of being a biomedical engineer and creating a glass eye that can see, knowing the intricacies of the human body and its responses to environmental and internal stimuli, and performing surgery on the brain.

I have celebrated Chanukah and Christmas, honoring my Jewish mother and my Catholic father, but not truly affiliating with either. I am a liberal thinker who follows current events closely, and I am eager to explore the world outside of Buffalo, NY, participate in an academic environment that will challenge me, and live among a community of learners.

College Essay Example #16: Columbia University

This essay was accepted into Columbia University.

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community.

(150 words max)

Filled with activity around the clock. A place to come home to. Loving.

Trying to get past locked doors (literal and metaphorical). Offering intellectual freedom and curiosity, without forcing specialization. Accommodating students who are unwilling to wait to make a difference. Willing to look critically at itself. Socially conscious and politically active.

Firey.

Never taking its eye off the national or global stage.

Buzzing with so much life it flows beyond the campus into the outside world.

So much life that sometimes it intimidates, that it yearns for more hours in the day. With too many options to choose from, Too much to do in four years.

Filled with clever eyes that see new ideas in the lessons of history.

Diverse.

Diverse of origin, of culture, of opinion, of religion, of personality, Diverse like an international center of thought and ideas and passions. An urban wonderland.

Supporting of extraordinary ambitions.

College Essay Example #17: Columbia University

This essay was accepted into Columbia University. To read more exceptional Columbia essays, be sure to check out our list for more Columbia essay examples.

For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.

(300 words max)

Studying computer science gives me the opportunity to be in a field that evolves so quickly I can always be on the forefront and do cutting-edge work. This summer at an ad-tech company, I moved the data science team’s analysis programs to a novel cluster-computing engine (Kubernetes), which can manage and distribute tasks across thousands of computers at once. Kubernetes is so new that barely any information has circulated about it. Because of this novelty, I was able to publish the first existing documentation of a data science pipeline in Kubernetes.

Computer science can also automate the manual drudgery of life. For example: to manage my clubs, I’ve written a program that checks for emails from members with excuses for missing meetings and automatically logs their absences.

Since computers have become the platform for every science, coding allows me to contribute to numerous fields. When I started at Einstein College of Medicine last year, I knew nothing about computational biology. Our project showed me that basic programming was all I needed to find fascinating results in the mostly unstudied mountains of genomic data.

As a person, I’m drawn to seemingly impossible challenges, in particular, the quest to teach machines and create mechanical consciousness. When I started taking online courses in AI, I became fascinated by the gradient descent method in machine learning. The method casts complex input data (e.g. photos) as thousand-dimensional surfaces and attempts to descend to the lowest points (minima) of those surfaces. It works best on data with underlying patterns, like pictures of human faces. This indicates that, in some way, the very nature of what a ‘face’ is, what unique structure is shared by nearly all faces, is found in the minima that AI models descend towards. My dream is to do foundational artificial intelligence research.

College Essay Example #18: UNC

This essay was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Want to read more UNC essay examples? Check out our list of the best UNC essays for this year.

We hope you’ll share with us the activities that you’ve found especially worthwhile. We also hope you won’t feel compelled to tell us everything you’ve ever done or, worse yet, to do things that mean little to you just because you think we want you to do them. We also hope you’ll remember—because we never forget—that low-profile pursuits can be just as meaningful as ones that draw more attention, and that fewer activities can be just as good as more, and sometimes even better. Although starting a new club, for example, can be a great experience and helpful to others, so can caring for siblings, parents, or grandparents, or working outside the home to put food on the table, or being a good and caring friend. We hope you won’t feel as though you have to do the former, especially if your doing so will keep you from doing the latter. For all these reasons, although we’re glad to receive complete résumés, we don’t require or encourage them.

Instead, if you choose to submit something that goes beyond what you’re providing through your Common Application, we encourage you to keep it brief; focus less on including everything than on choosing and explaining the things that have meant the most to you; and upload it here.

(500 words max)

Everywhere I looked, I saw a sea of white coats and scrubs; there was constant beeping of the heart monitors, and the smell of disinfectant was strong.

There I stood - a diminutive, awkward high school kid - lacking in experience and confidence, ready to begin volunteering at Vidant Medical Center. Perhaps the very same qualities that made me nervous were what put patients at ease. Many patients, especially younger ones who were uncomfortable speaking with medical professionals, seemed much more comfortable in my presence. I have learned this quality is how I have been able to make a difference - by connecting with many of the younger patients who were nervous just like me. I’ll always remember the two eight-year-old brothers who were waiting as their father got an MRI. In some ways, they were also like me - they loved sports, and had an interest in math and science. As they were waiting, we talked about everything, from who they thought would win the NBA championship title to me giving them tips on how to remember their multiplication tables. This interaction put them at ease and kept them from becoming restless.

Every time I step into the hospital, I strive to connect with people. I find that I am able to make a difference not strictly due to my tasks of escorting and discharging patients but because of connection and rapport that I establish with them.

My initial nervousness about whether or not I would be able to assist sick and injured patients soon gave way to relief and gratification as I learned that I was indeed able to help them, by bringing a smile to those I escort, discharge, or deliver meals . I’ve met people I might never have met otherwise, and we’ve shared our thoughts and talked about our experiences. I have come to look forward to their company, who, despite their conditions, are still able to smile every day and enjoy engaging in conversation with me - and vice versa.

Even when volunteering in areas of the hospital where I’m not in contact with patients as often, such as doing food preparation, I always make sure to visit the patients I escort after my shift, to talk to them and uplift their spirits. Volunteering at a hospital reminds me every day how fortunate I am to be in good health and of the rewards of helping those who aren’t. While my job as a volunteer at the hospital may not result in the discovery of a cure for cancer, I am happy to have had an opportunity to contribute to improving the experiences of the children and young adults coping with their hospital stays.

College Essay Example #19: CMU

This essay was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University. Want to read more essays that worked for CMU? Check out our list of Carnegie Mellon essays that worked.

Why Carnegie Mellon?

(650 words max)

As a child who hid behind her parents and never uttered a word whenever strangers were near, I was no stranger to people deeming me shy. As I got older, however, I found my voice more comfortably through music, through art, and through writing.

Playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto in the Kennedy Center, for instance, unleashed a swell of emotions through the intricate art of storytelling with my violin. I was drawn to writing stories and sharing ideas with my peers, starting my editor career in fifth grade. Five years later, I co-founded my high school’s literary magazine, Muses, which provides a platform for all voices while fostering connections among students.

I was twelve years old when a HTML class through John Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program introduced me to a modern language of communication: computers and the Internet. Falling in love with coding and website design, I utilized my newfound knowledge to design a website for my National History Day project, which won the school competition. In high school, I joined programming club, took the rigorous computer science classes, and designed Muses’ website. This year, I created a conceptual online boutique store, which won first place in Maryland Future Business Leader Association’s E-business competitive event.

In the summer of 2016, I interned in a NCI melanoma research lab. This experience completed changed how I viewed the importance of technology to modern communication. We had obtained genotypes from thousands of melanoma patients and controls, but a new question arose: how could we extract the useful information from a massive data file, akin to finding a needle in a haystack? Under the guidance of a bioinformatician, I performed an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome to identify the risk loci that might affect patient survival.

Catering to the needs of the scientists, I wrote an app by R code that organizes and manages melanoma genotype information; extracting the information of a particular genotype and its association with melanoma was now a couple clicks away. From this work, I learned how to translate large data into solutions, while using the correct data format and data structure. I realized that modern technology not only helps us communicate more efficiently, but also provides a system upon which we can solve global problems.

With a strong background in computer science and communications, I hope to incorporate both into a future career of building data systems, conducting research, and consulting for organizations that serve underrepresented citizens.

One project I want to tackle is the modification of social media algorithms so that media created by minorities and/or for minorities will appear on users’ radars. The algorithm would analyze the user’s demographics and deliver news relevant to those traits, such as discoveries about Asian health issues showing up on Asian users’ feeds. Carnegie Mellon’s encouragement of interdisciplinary studies under the Information Systems major would allow me to accomplish this and so much more. As someone who attacks calculus and creative writing with equal enthusiasm, IS’ objective of providing students with a broad background in the humanities and sciences is very appealing. As someone who learned to work as a team in a research lab, CMU’s emphasis on collaboration and student innovation would push me to further improve my teamwork and problem-solving skills.

In particular, I hope to take advantage of CMU’s Technology Consulting in the Global Community program, receiving guidance from both CMU’s renowned faculty and international technology experts. To that end, the Social and Decision Sciences major, my second choice, would also prepare me to utilize similar decision-making and analysis skills to solve social problems.

We live in a world where communication through technology connects communities across the globe, more so than ever before. The future of exploration and innovation requires us to develop efficient ways of communication - we need a combination of scientific expertise and knowledge grounded in the humanities to accurately convey ideas, solve problems and make the planet a better home for us all. An education at Carnegie Mellon would propel me in this endeavor.

College Essay Example #20: NYU

This essay was accepted into New York University.

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study?

If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU's global network; regardless, we want to understand - Why NYU?

(400 words max)

Living in a suburb my whole life, I've always felt as if I lived in a two-dimensional plane. I can go left, right, forward, and backward. In a suburb, however, it is nearly impossible to get any meaningful altitude.

Upon visiting New York City during the summer before my senior year, however, I found myself gazing up at the skyscrapers soaring high above me. I've always loved the views mountains and buildings; both from above and below.

I also have spent time studying Mandarin, and Shanghai would offer a unique opportunity to further my linguistic studies while engaging in cultural immersion. Beyond settings, NYU has the capacity and the resources available for me to engage in research in quantum computation.

Playing video games got me into math and science beyond just playing with my calculator as a baby. There were practical applications of the numbers, and I wanted to understand how it all worked in order to get the best equipment and maximize ammo efficiency.

I would watch "Mythbusters" and try to come up with my own hypothesis and see if it matched their conclusion. In 8th grade, I figured out that I loved science along with math, but I didn't exactly know what science I loved.

At the time I was in "physical science" and I did enjoy the class a lot, but I always thought of physics as "speed distance time" triangles which were no fun at all. I was convinced to take AP Physics in my junior year with my friends, and I loved it.

It was almost every week we would learn something that completely altered my perception of the universe. Once I learned about quantum physics and how it basically destroys our understanding of everything, I knew I wanted to pursue it further, and be at the forefront of quantum research. At NYU, not only can I take courses to learn about the subject, but I can also participate in research through the "Center for Quantum Phenomena".

Taking advanced courses and conducting research in a new setting, such as New York or Shanghai, can offer me a new perspective and a breath of fresh air. Conversely, I can help over NYU a new perspective on critical thinking and problem-solving. I chose to apply to NYU because NYU is fit for me, and I am fit for NYU.

College Essay Example #21: Pomona College

This essay was accepted into Pomona College.

For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way.

(600 words max)

Inside every bedroom is the Swiss Army knife of the sleeping world: blankets.

You can take them with you anywhere and they always come in handy. My blankets are dark blue with square tribal patterns, knitted from the finest pima cotton by Peruvian artisans. I fluff them up for a soft snuggle, throw them over myself to deter the monsters under the bed, or use them as a ShamWow for tears.

Yet they also helped me overcome the biggest obstacle—the moving target— in my life. I’ve moved within and between countries ten times. I’ve changed schools so often that I’ve never been in a classroom for more than two years. I have felt loneliness and isolation, while my classmates had playdates and tea parties in a language I struggled to speak.

Nothing was mine, not in school where local kids decorated their lockers, not in our rented house where everything belonged to the landlord, and not in the bedroom I slept in, where furniture and wall colors constantly switched from cream to light tan to stale beige. The only thing that followed me from house to house were my two blankets.

As I started middle school, I began to resent moving. I took my anger out on my parents, despising them for ripping me away from newly made friends, the eighth-grade boyfriend who held my hand and gifted me Godiva chocolates, and the bedroom overlooking the Via Paloma, whose bare, white walls and street noises were beginning to feel familiar. I had no safe space or anchor to rely on when new cultures and languages overwhelmed me. As I finished middle school, my dark blue blankets were brimming with tears of anger and frustration.

One night I rolled myself up into a pitiful cocoon of ill-thoughts and sadness, closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply. The scent of clean cotton swirled inside my lungs, relaxing me. Memories morphed: The spacious apartment in the Andes mountains of Venezuela, the cozy cabin in the hills of Peru, and the lush single story homes in Palm Beach and Miami.

Each stop carried its own memories like a distinctive aroma. I remembered the first hike along the Andean mountains in Caracas, sliding down the sand dunes in Lima, and savoring deep fried Oreos at the South Florida Fair. A nostalgic smile formed on my face as I continued to remember.

In retrospect, moving was my passport to exciting new ideas, tastes, and hobbies. I lived through vastly different cultures, and over the course of my country-hopping journey, I blended them to create a unique lifestyle of arroz con pollo, salsa, and Costco bulk shopping. I was exposed to new angles on belief and opinions, which opened my eyes to the diverse perspectives of the world.

Changes of place, language and altitude have gifted me with an open-minded and thoughtful nature. My blankets have followed me to every new home, to every new bedroom. They were my emotional anchors when I felt adrift, they were my safe harbors. They reminded me that it’s not important to own everything around you to feel in control of your own life. It’s okay for things to change, as long as you hang on to your values.

The battle between bare white and dark blue has shaped me into a person that can accept and adapt to unfamiliar situations. I’ll haul my weathered blankets to new adventures and apartments, hopefully to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the gritty streets of East LA. Wherever I go, I can count on them to wrap me in their familiar arms, making the undiscovered feel like home.

College Essay Example #22: Pomona College

This essay was accepted into Pomona College.

Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or Undecided!) that you have listed.

(250 words max)

I’m sitting backstage at my first international piano competition, anxiously awaiting my turn to perform. Unconsciously, I massage my right wrist, still recovering from a recent injury.

The young man beside me feels my nervousness and starts a conversation. As we whisper, I notice him rub his hands together uncomfortably.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, quickly leaving my own wrist alone. He suppresses a nervous laugh, then quietly details the long and unsuccessful surgery that shattered his dream of becoming a professional musician. His hands were permanently damaged. “Alessandra Fang,” the judges call. I stand up, walk to the main stage and look back to see him encourage me with a stiff, crooked thumbs-up. As my fingers dance on the keys, I observe the fragile muscles and ligaments under my skin.

I realize in that moment that it is not in a massive concert hall where I wanted to change people’s lives, but on a smaller stage: an operating room. As an artist who has had her share of painful, music-related injuries, my goal is to become a musician’s physician, and blend my greatest two passions so that I might bring relief to those around me, while understanding their musical and anatomical plight. I wish to pursue both Biology and Music programs at Pomona College. I want to become a hand surgeon while still developing my artistry on the piano. After all, surgery also has its own cadence, complexity and composition.

College Essay Example #23: Tulane

This essay was accepted into Tulane University.

Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University.

(600 words max)

What starts with the letter P and is distinct to Louisiana and not the other forty-nine states? This question stumped my fifth-grade class when our resource teacher was giving a lesson on Louisiana culture.

Among hands that threw out guesses, such as ports and Lake Pontchartrain, my minuscule fingers, like unwrapping a Christmas present, unveiled the correct response: parishes. It was this moment that sparked my awakening of Louisiana’s profoundly unique traditions and history, ranging the gamut of culture, such as food, music, and holidays.

From Gumbo to Zydeco to Mardi Gras, these distinctions made Louisiana my home when I emigrated at the age of three from Mexico, which, like Louisiana, shared the status of owning an inimitable culture; from an early age, I took comfort in this common characteristic. Basking in rich traditions, Tulane joins Louisiana and my Hispanic background to form a trio of diversity.

With staple practices, such as swinging beads into a tree or Crawfest, Tulane fosters a living and learning experience that is grounded in unparalleled traditions, offering enlightening and invigorating undergraduate opportunities to explore social milestones. In its liberation from normal college practices, Tulane encourages students to kindle a life that is eccentric but indicative of the individual beliefs of a student. Because of Tulane’s vigorous ties to special traditions, I would be humbled to have Tulane advise me in crafting my art piece adorned with decorations, my life adorned with personal values.

In addition to the customs on Tulane’s campus, another reason I want to attend Tulane is because of the university’s integration with the most vivid city in the United States: New Orleans. Inside this bright, bustling city, Tulane students participate in myriad festivals and celebrations, cultivating a new social perspective.

Aside from the social revelations, New Orleans is Tulane’s classroom, inviting students to apply classroom discussions and academic theories to the neurons of interactions between individuals, businesses, agencies, and other entities. Tulane returns the favor to New Orleans through community service, serving as a catalyst for students to aid a city often decimated by natural or social injustices. Moreover, Tulane emphasizes its commitment to community service throughout its undergraduate population.

As a Louisiana resident, I am invested in Louisiana’s unique physique, whether it is being ecstatic for a super bowl win secured by the Saints or being sympathetic to victims of flooding. Heeding the advice of a stockbroker, it is wise to invest in a system that will provide a generous, satisfying return.

Therefore, I would like to make an investment of my leadership potential, my academic excellence, my service dedication, and my social experiences into Tulane University. This investment would reap mutualistic rewards because I would be the beneficiary of a robust education and Tulane would be the beneficiary of a loyal student, who is pious to the university’s commitments to diversity, learning, and service.

College Essay Example #24: Oberlin

This essay was accepted into Oberlin College.

How did your interest in Oberlin develop and what aspects of our college community most excite you?

(250 words max)

“Give Oberlin a look” my father suggested. A school I knew little about. I casually added Oberlin to the long list of schools of which Tufts was perched atop. My father had gone to Tufts and I had convinced myself that I should follow.

Adding Oberlin to my list begat the serendipitous series of events that ultimately saw a fly-in invitation to Oberlin in my email inbox. My father encouraged me to go; “It doesn’t hurt to listen”.

The most influential component of Oberlin were the people. My host, Estrella, like every Oberlin student I met, was generous with her time and her experiences. It wasn’t 24 hours before I could imagine myself laughing with friends at the 10 pm dinner, dozing off on a swing bench in Tappan square, spending late nights at the library in a womb chair, or petting kittens in some little art store.

Sharing a day with these people who were clearly in the right place brought some force to my mind that Oberlin was the right place for me. My short trip revealed that Oberlin offered me both the academic rigor I seek and the visceral experience of living in a community of people with broadly varying backgrounds─an experience that I had in this small Ohio town and nowhere else. I don’t know whose essay I’d be writing right now if this opportunity had never presented itself, but I am very grateful it did.

College Essay Example #25: Emerson and Ithaca

This essay was accepted into Emerson College and Ithaca College.

As you know, the academic programs at Emerson College are focused on communication and the arts. Please tell us what influenced you to select your major. If you're undecided about your major, what attracted you to Emerson's programs?

— OR —

Please tell us why you selected this specific academic program and what other academic programs interest you.

(200 words max)

Recording devices have been banned from the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court Building since 1946. Therefore, when the Court makes a landmark decision, interns must hand-deliver paper copies of the ruling to news organizations.

The quarter-mile sprint from the Court building to the area where networks ​await ​is no easy feat. But the interns dress with this mind, often pairing running shoes with their business attire.

When I first saw photographs of “The Running of the Interns”, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to ​be​ one of those people. I wanted to feel my running shoes beating against the limestone sidewalks, to feel sweat staining my suit.

Why did a tradition centered around dashing through D.C. attract me to journalism? Because it reminded me that the news is a race, a constantly-changing collection of stories shaping social and political development.

This, I think, defines both what it means to be a journalist and why I want to be a journalist: When I become a journalism major at Emerson, and, later, a part of the press—perhaps a running intern—I get to be a contender in the race to change the world.

Want to read more EssaysThatWorked?

Check out these other lists of accepted college essays for top schools. If you want to read more accepted for the schools you're applying to, we've gathered the best essays that worked for colleges like:

Summary

With the number of applicants to top schools skyrocketing, it’s becoming more and more difficult for students to get accepted. To stand out from the crowd, you'll need to write interesting essays.

In this article and on our site, we've compiled hundreds of successful college essay examples so that you can see how other students got accepted and learn exactly what to do in order to help make your application a success too.

In this post you can learn from successful essays from Ivy League universities and other top schools like:

  • University of Pennsylvania (#4, #14)
  • Dartmouth College (#2, #3, #15)
  • Cornell University (#12, #13)
  • Brown University (#1)
  • Columbia University (#5, #16, #17)
  • University of Virginia (#6)

What schools are you applying for? Let me know— I'm happy to help find successful essay examples for that school!

Pin it on Pinterest