So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you. Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well. Test Your College Knowledge! You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.
Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:. Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn't need to be convinced they are influential people. Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you.
Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you. Your answer should not be a book report. Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you?
How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you? Again, be honest in answering this question—don't choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn't inspire you.
Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable.
If this sounds like you, then please share your story. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 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. 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? 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. These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Universal Application, both of which Johns Hopkins accepts.
I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.
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. More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. I actually succeeded in springing it. 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.
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. 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: 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. 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. It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives.
Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why! I had never broken into a car before. In just eight words, we get: Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight? Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one.
Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability.
Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: The humor also feels relaxed. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant. There's been an oil spill! This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays.
Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due.
But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring. Stephen's first example breaking into the van in Laredo is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation.
PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. By writing a stellar personal essay as part of your college admissions application.
It may be only words — or sometimes only words — but the admissions essay s portion of a college application can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. How you write your personal essay shows the admissions committee why you are different from other applicants. It provides information about you that test scores, grades, and extracurricular pursuits just cannot.
You can use the essay to describe a favorite activity, to tell a story about yourself, or even a story about your dog, but make sure to really use it — in a way that captures the readers attention and shows that you are exceptional. So how do you write a college application essay? Writing the college application essay can be one of the most daunting parts of applying to college. For access to free sample successful admissions essays, visit EssayEdge.
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