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What Excellent College Essays Have in Common
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Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay

Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it. Want to write the perfect college application essay?

Get professional help from PrepScholar. Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges. Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now: Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over of these plus some essay excerpts!

The current Common App prompts are as follows:. 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.

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. Each of those trips was like a new chapter of a history book I wanted to devour. After Spain, at the age of nine, I moved to Miami. Miami is definitely the most culturally diverse city I have ever lived in, but somehow, people still manage to judge.

During my first year here, the kids used to make fun of me for having a British accent because of my studies in a British school in Madrid. I even got made fun of for my Spanish accent when I spoke Spanish because of the lisp the Spanish have when they speak compared to many of the local Cubans. In the other countries, I was judged for the people I spent my time with. But in the United States, I was the source, and it felt different.

After all my travels, the only place I truly feel happy and unbothered is Brazil. Maybe it is the comfort my family provides me or perhaps I have not been around to see that racism is present there as well.

Whatever it is, I wish I could spread that into every country I have lived in and show people that, at the root, everybody actually is the same. The final draft is easier and more interesting to follow. The "message" of the essay is clear from the start, but it doesn't read like the thesis in a five paragraph essay for English class.

The final draft reads like a story he would be telling you and is more clearly a reflection of this student's world view, based on the people he's met and the specific experiences he's had. One thing seems to naturally flow from the next. The final draft really allows us to peek into his world and the depths of his experiences.

His world view not to mention his essay is more believable after he's shared with us where he comes from, philosophically and literally. The essay works because he really lets us into his world by lifting the veil on the rich details of his beliefs and his life experiences.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" website. To score an acceptance letter, experts say the essay must stand out from the crowd.

Personal Essay Tips and Tricks The main college essay should be personal and tell some story about the applicant, Norman says. Sample Personal Essay Draft 1 Below is the first draft and a final draft of a student's college essay, with Norman's comments below. Sample Personal Essay Final Before I was 10 years old, I had already lived in four different countries, allowing me to learn about many different cultures and make many observations about people and places, more generally.

Manafort plea deal includes 'broad' cooperation with Mueller. Bin Laden raid commander resigns from Pentagon board after criticizing Trump. Kavanaugh denies sexual misconduct allegation. Memes poke fun at men accused of poisoning ex-spy. Officials work to pinpoint cause of 'Armageddon'-like blasts in at least 39 homes. Why some people in Florence's path are staying put. Death sentence for ex-doctor who killed 4 people in Nebraska. South Korean president to fly to North Korea for 1st time to continue nuclear talks.

SpaceX changes plans to send tourists around the moon. As Trump threatens election meddlers, Russia says 'so what? How presidents have handled tricky disaster politics. Kavanaugh denies high school assault allegation. Andrew Cuomo triumphs in closely watched primary against Cynthia Nixon. Federal court rules against DeVos in for-profit fraud case. Storm brews over Trump's death toll claims.

It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores.

However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. You have a unique background, interests and personality. This is your chance to tell your story or at least part of it. The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through.

Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers.

You don't need to have started your own business or have spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class.

It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life.

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Other Resources for College Essay Writing. Writing the Personal Statement The Purdue Online Writing lab offers a guide to writing all kinds of personal statements. UC Berkeley Has a Say Check out the University of California at Berkeley’s guide to writing the personal statement.

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How To: Write Your Personal Essay. Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Wednesday, September 11, in Application Process, General Information, The College Essay.. While we still have a few more days until the official beginning of fall, around here it feels a lot like the season has already begun.

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Your essay can give admission officers a sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills. Try these tips to craft your college application essay. Your essay can give admission officers a sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills. The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable.

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The main college essay should be personal and tell some story about the applicant, Norman says. It's the student's space to introduce themselves to the school, and tell the admissions officers. In addition to standardized test scores and transcripts, a personal statement or essay is a required part of many college applications. The personal statement can be one of the most stressful parts of the application process because it's the most open ended.