• Search All Scholarships
  • Exclusive Scholarships
  • Easy Scholarships to Apply For
  • No Essay Scholarships
  • Scholarships for HS Juniors
  • Scholarships for HS Seniors
  • Scholarships for College Students
  • Scholarships for Grad Students
  • Scholarships for Women
  • Scholarships for Black Students
  • Scholarships
  • Student Loans
  • College Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarship Winners
  • Scholarship Providers

Student-centric advice and objective recommendations

Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.

Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here .

How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

Lisa Freedland

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

Learn about our editorial policies

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Student completes a personal statement she has been writing for a college application

The personal statement. It’s one of the most important parts of the entire college application process. This essay is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. But writing a good personal statement isn’t exactly easy. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to nail your personal statement, complete with example essays . Each essay was reviewed and commented upon by admissions expert Bill Jack. Let’s dive in!

Related: How to write an essay about yourself  

What is a personal statement? 

A personal statement is a special type of essay that’s required when you’re applying to colleges and scholarship programs. In this essay, you’re expected to share something about who you are and what you bring to the table. Think of it as a chance to reveal a side of yourself not found in the rest of your application. Personal statements are typically around 400 – 600 words in length. 

What can I write about? 

Pretty much anything, as long as it’s about you . While this is liberating in the sense that your writing options are nearly unlimited, it’s also overwhelming for the same reason. The good news is that you’ll probably be responding to a specific prompt. Chances are you’re applying to a school that uses the Common App , which means you’ll have seven prompts to choose from . Reviewing these prompts can help generate some ideas, but so can asking yourself meaningful questions. 

Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask yourself during the brainstorming process. For each of the following questions, spend a few minutes jotting down whatever comes to mind. 

  • What experiences have shaped who you are? 
  • What’s special or unique about you or your life story? 
  • Who or what has inspired you the most? 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
  • What are your goals for the future? How have you arrived at those goals? 
  • If your life was a movie, what would be the most interesting scene? 
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life? How did you respond and what did you learn? 

The purpose of these questions is to prompt you to think about your life at a deeper level. Hopefully by reflecting on them, you’ll find an essay topic that is impactful and meaningful. In the next section, we’ll offer some advice on actually writing your essay. 

Also see:  How to write a 500 word essay

How do I write my personal statement? 

Once you’ve found a topic, it’s time to start writing! Every personal statement is different, so there’s not really one formula that works for every student. That being said, the following tips should get you started in the right direction:  

1. Freewrite, then rewrite 

The blank page tends to get more intimidating the longer you stare at it, so it’s best to go ahead and jump right in! Don’t worry about making the first draft absolutely perfect. Instead, just get your ideas on the page and don’t spend too much time thinking about the finer details. Think of this initial writing session as a “brain dump”. Take 15-30 minutes to quickly empty all your thoughts onto the page without worrying about things like grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. You can even use bullet points if that helps. Once you have your ideas on the page, then you can go back and shape them exactly how you want. 

2. Establish your theme 

Now that you’ve got some basic ideas down on the page, it’s time to lock in on a theme. Your theme is a specific angle that reflects the central message of your essay. It can be summarized in a sentence or even a word. For example, let’s say you’re writing about how you had to establish a whole new group of friends when you moved to a new city. The theme for this type of essay would probably be something like “adaptation”. Having a theme will help you stay focused throughout your essay. Since you only have a limited number of words, you can’t afford to go off on tangents that don’t relate to your theme. 

3. Tell a story

A lot of great essays rely on a specific scene or story. Find the personal anecdote relevant to your theme and transfer it to the page. The best way to do this is by using descriptive language. Consult the five senses as you’re setting the scene. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell? How were you feeling emotionally? Using descriptive language can really help your essay come to life. According to UPchieve , a nonprofit that supports low income students, focusing on a particular moment as a “ revised version of a memoir ” is one way to keep readers engaged. 

Related: College essay primer: show, don’t tell  

4. Focus on your opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph should grab your reader’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your essay. In most cases, this is the best place to include your anecdote (if you have one). By leading with your personal story, you can hook your audience from the get-go. After telling your story, you can explain why it’s important to who you are. 

Related:  How to start a scholarship essay (with examples)

5. Use an authentic voice 

Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn’t try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn’t use fancy words just to show off. This isn’t an academic paper, so you don’t have to adopt a super formal tone. Instead, write in a way that allows room for your personality to breathe. 

6. Edit, edit, edit…

Once you’re done writing, give yourself some time away from the essay. Try to allow a few days to pass before looking at the essay again with fresh eyes. This way, you’re more likely to pick up on spelling and grammatical errors. You may even get some new ideas and rethink the way you wrote some things. Once you’re satisfied, let someone else edit your essay. We recommend asking a teacher, parent, or sibling for their thoughts before submitting. 

Examples of personal statements 

Sometimes viewing someone else’s work is the best way to generate inspiration and get the creative juices flowing. The following essays are written in response to four different Common App prompts: 

Prompt 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.”

When I was eight years old, I wanted a GameCube very badly. For weeks I hounded my dad to buy me one and finally he agreed. But there was a catch. He’d only get me a GameCube if I promised to start reading. Every day I played video games, I would have to pick up a book and read for at least one hour. At that point in my life, reading was just something I had to suffer through for school assignments. To read for pleasure seemed ludicrous. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this proposed agreement. But I figured anything was worth it to get my hands on that shiny new video game console, so I bit the bullet and shook my dad’s hand. Little did I know that I had just made a life-changing deal. 

At first, the required hour of reading was a chore — something I had to do so I could play Mario Kart. But it quickly turned into something more than that. To my complete and utter surprise, I discovered that I actually enjoyed reading. One hour turned into two, two turned into three, and after a while I was spending more time reading than I was playing video games. I found myself captivated by the written word, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Lord of the Rings , Percy Jackson , Goosebumps — you name it. I was falling in love with literature, while my GameCube was accumulating dust in the TV stand. 

Soon enough, reading led to writing. I was beginning to come up with my own stories, so I put pen to paper and let my imagination run wild. It started out small. My first effort was a rudimentary picture book about a friendly raccoon who went to the moon. But things progressed. My stories became more intricate, my characters more complex. I wrote a series of science fiction novellas. I tried my hand at poetry. I was amazed at the worlds I could create with the tip of my pen. I had dreams of becoming an author. 

Then somewhere along the way my family got a subscription to Netflix, and that completely changed the way I thought about storytelling. My nose had been buried in books up until then, so I hadn’t really seen a lot of movies. That quickly changed. It seemed like every other day a pair of new DVDs would arrive in the mail (this was the early days of Netflix). Dark Knight, The Truman Show, Inception, Memento — all these great films were coming in and out of the house. And I couldn’t get enough of them. Movies brought stories to life in a way that books could not. I was head over heels for visual storytelling. 

Suddenly I wasn’t writing novels and short stories anymore. I was writing scripts for movies. Now I wanted to transfer my ideas to the big screen, rather than the pages of a book. But I was still doing the same thing I had always done. I was writing, just in a different format. To help with this process, I read the screenplays of my favorite films and paid attention to the way they were crafted. I kept watching more and more movies. And I hadn’t forgotten about my first love, either. I still cherished books and looked to them for inspiration. By the end of my junior year of high school, I had completed two scripts for short films. 

So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to turn my love of storytelling into a career. I’m not totally sure how to do that yet, but I know I have options. Whether it’s film production, creative writing, or even journalism, I want to find a major that suits my ambitions. Writing has taken me a long way, and I know it can take me even further. As I step into this next chapter of my life, I couldn’t be more excited to see how my craft develops. In the meantime, I should probably get rid of that dusty old GameCube. 

Feedback from admissions professional Bill Jack

Essays don’t always have to reveal details about the student’s intended career path, but one thing I like about this essay is that it gives the reader a sense of the why. Why do they want to pursue storytelling. It also shows the reader that they are open to how they pursue their interest. Being open to exploration is such a vital part of college, so it’s also showing the reader that they likely will be open to new things in college. And, it’s always fun to learn a little bit more about the student’s family, especially if the reader can learn about how the students interacts with their family. 

Prompt 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?”

I remember my first impression of Irvine: weird. It was foggy, stock-full of greenery and eucalyptus trees, and reminded me of my 5th grade trip to a “science camp” which was located in the San Bernardino mountains. Besides Irvine, that was one of the few places in Southern California where you’d find so many non-palm trees. 

Of course, perhaps my initial impression of Irvine was biased, motivated by a desire to stay in my hometown and a fear of the unknown. While that was true to an extent, Irvine was certainly still a little peculiar. The city itself was based on a “master plan” of sorts, with the location of each of its schools, parks, shops, and arguably its trees having been logically “picked” before the foundation was poured. Even the homes all looked roughly the same, with their beige, stucco walls almost serving as a hallmark of the city itself.

Thus, this perfectly structured, perfectly safe city seemed like a paradise of sorts to many outsiders, my parents included. I was a little more hesitant to welcome this. As I saw it, this was a phony city – believing that its uniformity stood for a lack of personality. My hometown, although not as flawlessly safe nor clean as Irvine, was where most of my dearest memories had occurred. From the many sleepovers at Cindie’s house, to trying to avoid my school’s own version of the “infamous” cheese touch, to the many laughs shared with friends and family, I shed a tear at the prospect of leaving my home.

Moving into the foreign city, remnants of the hostility I held towards Irvine remained. Still dwelling in my memories of the past, I was initially unable to see Irvine as a “home.” So, as I walked into my first-ever Irvine class, being greeted by many kind, yet unfamiliar faces around me, I was unable to recognize that some of those new faces would later become some of my dearest friends. Such negative feelings about the city were further reinforced by newer, harder classes, and more complicated homework. Sitting in the discomfort of this unfamiliar environment, it started to seem that “change” was something not only inevitable, but insurmountable.

As the years went on, however, this idea seemed to fade. I got used to my classes and bike racing through Irvine neighborhoods with my friends, watching the trees that once seemed just a “weird” green blob soon transform into one of my favorite parts of the city. While I kept my old, beloved memories stored, I made space for new ones. From carefully making our way over the narrow creek path next to our school, to the laughs we shared during chemistry class, my new memories made with friends seemed to transform a city I once disliked into one I would miss. 

Through this transformation, I have come to recognize that change, although sometimes intimidating at first, can open the door to great times and meaningful connections. Although Irvine may have once seemed like a strange, “phony” place that I couldn’t wait to be rid of, the memories and laughs I had grown to share there were very real. As I move onto this next part of my life, I hope I can use this knowledge that I have gained from my time in Irvine to make the most of what’s to come. Even if the change may be frightening at first, I have learned to embrace what’s on the other side, whether green or not.

One huge plus to writing an essay that focuses on a place is that you might have it read by someone who has been there. Yet, what’s really helpful about this essay is that even if someone hasn’t been there, a picture is painted about what the place is like.  Admission officers have the hard task of really understanding what the student sees, so the use of adjectives and imagery can really help.  It’s also really clever to see that the green that’s mentioned at the beginning is mentioned at the end.  It’s a nice way to bookend the essay and tie it all together.

Prompt 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?”

I like getting lost. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Whether it be in the story of a love song by Taylor Swift, or in the memories brought back by listening to my favorite childhood video game’s background music, I’ve always appreciated music’s ability to transport me to another place, another time, another feeling. 

Alas, I cannot sing, nor have I practiced an instrument since my middle school piano class days. So, perhaps Kurt Vonnegut was right. As he puts it, “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.” While I cannot speak for others, I have certainly not debunked his theory. Writing allows many, including myself, to attempt to mimic the transformative power of music – even if our singing voices aren’t exactly “pleasant.” Just as you can get lost in music, you can do so in a story. Whether it is in George Orwell’s totalitarian Oceania, or Little Women’s Orchard House, the stories outlined in novels can provide an amazing look into the lives and worlds of others, and an escape from the worries and problems of those in your own.

While I am certainly not claiming to have the storytelling abilities of the Orwells or Alcotts before me, I’ve had fun trying to recreate such transformative feelings for others. When I was nine, I attempted to write a story about a little girl who had gotten lost in the woods, only managing to get a couple pages through. As I got older, whenever I was assigned a creative writing assignment in school, I wrote about the same pig, Phil. He was always angry: in my 8th grade science class, Phil was mad at some humans who had harbored his friend captive, and in my 9th grade English class, at a couple who robbed him. 

Thus, when I heard about a writing club being opened at my school in 11th grade, I knew I had to join. I wanted to discern whether writing was just a hobby I picked up now and then, or a true passion. If it was a passion, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how I could improve. Although my high school’s writing club certainly wasn’t going to transform me into Shakespeare, I knew I could learn a lot from it – and I did. The club challenged me to do many things, from writing on the spot, to writing poetry, to even writing about myself, something that’s hopefully coming in handy right now. 

From then on, I started to expand into different types of writing, storing short ideas, skits, and more in appropriately-labeled Google Drive folders. At around the same time, I became interested in classic literature, which largely stemmed from a project in English class. We had been required to choose and read a classic on our own, then present it to the class in an interesting way. While my book was certainly interesting and unique in its own right, nearly everyone else’s novels seemed more captivating to me. So, I took it upon myself to read as many classics as I could the following summer.

One of the books I read during the summer, funnily enough, was Animal Farm, which starred angry pigs, reminiscent of Phil. I had also started going over different ideas in my head, thinking about how I could translate them into words using the new skills I learned. While the writing club helped reaffirm my interest in writing and allowed me to develop new skills, my newfound affinity for classics gave me inspiration to write. Now, I am actually considering writing as part of my future. In this endeavor, I hope that Phil, and the music I inevitably listen to as I write, will accompany me every step of the way.

Admission officers might read 70 (or more!) essays in one day. It’s not uncommon for them to start to blend together and sound similar. This essay might not make you laugh out loud. But, it might make the reader chuckle while reading it thanks to the subtle humor and levity. Being able to incorporate a little humor into your essay (if it is natural for you to do… do not force it), can really be a great way to shed additional light into who you are. Remember, the essay isn’t merely about proving that you can write, but it should also reveal a little bit about your personality.

Prompt 5: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

I learned a lot of things during the summer I worked at Tropical Smoothie. I discovered the value of hard work. I figured out how to save money. I even mastered the art of the Mango Magic smoothie (the secret is lots of sugar). But most importantly, I learned the power of perspective. And I have Deja to thank for that. 

Deja was my shift supervisor, and one of Tropical Smoothie’s best employees. She was punctual, friendly, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She knew the store from top to bottom, and could handle pretty much any situation thrown her way. She made everyone around her better. On top of all that, she was four months pregnant! I was always impressed by Deja’s work ethic, but I gained an entirely new level of respect for her one day.

It was a Friday night, and Deja and I were working the closing shift together. It was very busy, and Deja and I were the only ones on shift. We managed to get by, but we were exhausted by the end of the evening. After wiping down the counters and mopping the floors, we closed up shop and went our separate ways. I was eager to get home. 

I walked a couple blocks to where I had parked my car. Well, it wasn’t my car actually. It was my dad’s ‘98 Chevy pickup truck, and it was in rough shape. It had no heat or A/C, the leather seats were cracked beyond repair, and the driver’s side door was jammed shut. I sighed as I got in through the passenger side and scooted over to the driver’s seat. The whole reason I was working at Tropical Smoothie was to save up enough money to buy my own car. I was hoping to have something more respectable to drive during my senior year of high school. 

I cranked the old thing up and started on my way home. But soon enough, I spotted Deja walking on the side of the road. There was no sidewalk here, the light was low, and she was dangerously close to the passing cars. I pulled over and offered her a ride. She got in and explained that she was on her way home. Apparently she didn’t have a car and had been walking to work every day. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was complaining about my set of wheels, while Deja didn’t have any to begin with.

We got to talking, and she confessed that she had been having a tough time. You would never know from the way she was so cheerful at work, but Deja had a lot on her plate. She was taking care of her mother, her boyfriend had just lost his job, and she was worried about making ends meet. And of course, she was expecting a baby in five months. On top of all that, she had been walking nearly a mile to and from work every day. The whole thing was a real eye opener, and made me reconsider some things in my own life. 

For one, I didn’t mind driving my dad’s truck anymore. It was banged up, sure, but it was a lot better than nothing. My mindset had changed. I appreciated the truck now. I began to think about other things differently, too. I started making mental notes of all the things in my life I was thankful for — my family, my friends, my health. I became grateful for what I had, instead of obsessing over the things I didn’t. 

I also gained more awareness of the world outside my own little bubble. My encounter with Deja had shown me first-hand that everyone is dealing with their own problems, some worse than others. So I started paying more attention to my friends, family members, and coworkers. I started listening more and asking how I could help. I also gave Deja a ride home for the rest of the summer. 

These are all small things, of course, but I think they make a difference. I realized I’m at my best when I’m not fixated on my own life, but when I’m considerate of the lives around me. I want to keep this in mind as I continue to grow and develop as a person. I want to continue to search for ways to support the people around me. And most importantly, I want to keep things in perspective.

Too often we can be focused on our own problems that we fail to realize that everyone has their own things going on in their lives, too.  This essay showcases how it’s important to put things in perspective, a skill that certainly will prove invaluable in college… and not just in the classroom.  Another reason I like this essay is because it provides deeper insight into the student’s life.  Sure, you might have mentioned in your activities list that you have a job.  But as this essay does, you can show why you have the job in the first place, what your responsibilities are, and more.

A few last tips

We hope these essay examples gave you a bit of inspiration of what to include in your own. However, before you go, we’d like to send you off with a few (personal statement) writing tips to help you make your essays as lovely as the memories and anecdotes they’re based off of. Without further ado, here are some of our best tips for writing your personal statements:

1. Open strong

College admissions officers read many, many essays (think 50+) a day, which can sometimes cause them to start blending together and sounding alike. One way to avoid your essay from simply fading into the background is to start strong. This means opening your essay with something memorable, whether an interesting personal anecdote, a descriptive setting, or anything else that you think would catch a reader’s attention (so long as it’s not inappropriate). Not only might this help college admissions officers better remember your essay, but it will also make them curious about what the rest of your essay will entail.

2. Be authentic

Perhaps most important when it comes to writing personal statement essays is to maintain your authenticity. Ultimately, your essays should reflect your unique stories and quirks that make you who you are, and should help college admissions officers determine whether you’d truly be a good fit for their school or not. So, don’t stress trying to figure out what colleges are looking for. Be yourself, and let the colleges come to you!

3. Strong writing

This one may seem a little obvious, but strong writing will certainly appeal to colleges. Not only will it make your essay more compelling, but it may show colleges that you’re ready for college-level essay writing (that you’ll likely have to do a lot of). Just remember that good writing is not limited to grammar. Using captivating detail and descriptions are a huge part of making your essay seem more like a story than a lecture.

4. Proofread

Last but not least, remember to proofread! Make sure your essay contains no errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. When you’re done proofreading your essay yourself, we would also recommend that you ask a teacher, parent, or other grammatically savvy person to proofread your essay as well.

Final thoughts 

With those in hand, we hope you now have a better sense of how to write your personal statement. While your grades and test scores are important when it comes to college admissions, it’s really your essays that can “make” or “break” your application. 

Although this may make it seem like a daunting task, writing an amazing personal statement essay is all about effort. Thus, so long as you start early, follow the advice listed above, and dedicate your time and effort to it, it’s entirely possible to write an essay that perfectly encapsulates you. Good luck, and happy writing!

Also see:  Scholarships360’s free scholarships search tool

Key Takeaways

  • It may take some people longer than others to know what they want to write about, but remember that everyone, including you, has something unique to write about!
  • Personal statements should be personal, which means you should avoid being too general and really strive to show off what makes you “you”
  • Time and effort are two of the most important things you can put into your personal statement to ensure that it is the best representation of yourself
  • Don’t forget to ask people who know you to read your work before you submit; they should be able to tell you better than anyone if you are truly shining through!

Start your scholarship search

  • Vetted scholarships custom-matched to your profile
  • Access exclusive scholarships only available to Scholarships360 members

Frequently asked questions about writing personal statements 

How do you write a powerful personal statement, what makes an amazing personal statement, how do you start an amazing personal statement, scholarships360 recommended.

Student sits in a classroom in the 1970's with other students typing on typewriters

10 Tips for Successful College Applications

Female college student leaning over a computer on a desk as she studies coalition vs common app information

Coalition vs. Common App: What is the difference?

Female student wearing headphones seated at desk looking at list of college application deadlines on computer notebook

College Application Deadlines 2024-2025: What You Need to Know

Trending now.

Photo of a student using our GPA converter to calculate her GPA from her grades

How to Convert Your GPA to a 4.0 Scale

Student filling in bubbles on the PSAT, with the words

PSAT to SAT Score Conversion: Predict Your Score

Photo of a building on the campus of a Public Ivy which is covered in ivy

What Are Public Ivy League Schools?

3 reasons to join scholarships360.

  • Automatic entry to our $10,000 No-Essay Scholarship
  • Personalized matching to thousands of vetted scholarships
  • Quick apply for scholarships exclusive to our platform

By the way...Scholarships360 is 100% free!

PrepScholar

Choose Your Test

  • Search Blogs By Category
  • College Admissions
  • AP and IB Exams
  • GPA and Coursework

177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

author image

College Admissions , College Essays

body-typewriter-writing-desk-cc0

The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

body-frog-cc0

Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We 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 to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

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.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

body-library-cc0-2

Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

body-writing-notebook-student-cc0

Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

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.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

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!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. 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.

body_coathangers

Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

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.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

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.

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: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

body-oil-spill

An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. 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.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

body_fixers

An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

body-crying-upset-cc0

Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

body-gears-cogs-puzzle-cc0

#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

body_next_step_drawing_blackboard

What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

Trending Now

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Get Your Free

PrepScholar

Find Your Target SAT Score

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

How to Get a Perfect SAT Score, by an Expert Full Scorer

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading and Writing

How to Improve Your Low SAT Score

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading and Writing

Find Your Target ACT Score

Complete Official Free ACT Practice Tests

How to Get a Perfect ACT Score, by a 36 Full Scorer

Get a 36 on ACT English

Get a 36 on ACT Math

Get a 36 on ACT Reading

Get a 36 on ACT Science

How to Improve Your Low ACT Score

Get a 24 on ACT English

Get a 24 on ACT Math

Get a 24 on ACT Reading

Get a 24 on ACT Science

Stay Informed

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Follow us on Facebook (icon)

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Essays That Worked

personal essay for university admission example

The essays are a place to show us who you are and who you’ll be in our community.

It’s a chance to add depth to something that is important to you and tell the admissions committee more about your background or goals. Below you’ll find selected examples of essays that “worked,” as nominated by our admissions committee. In each of these essays, students were able to share stories from their everyday lives to reveal something about their character, values, and life that aligned with the culture and values at Hopkins.

Read essays that worked from Transfer applicants .

Hear from the class of 2027.

These selections represent just a few examples of essays we found impressive and helpful during the past admissions cycle. We hope these essays inspire you as you prepare to compose your own personal statements. The most important thing to remember is to be original as you share your own story, thoughts, and ideas with us.

personal essay for university admission example

Ordering the Disorderly

Ellie’s essay skillfully uses the topic of entropy as an extended metaphor. Through it, we see reflections about who they are and who they aspire to be.

personal essay for university admission example

Pack Light, But Be Prepared

In Pablo’s essay, the act of packing for a pilgrimage becomes a metaphor for the way humans accumulate experiences in their life’s journey and what we can learn from them. As we join Pablo through the diverse phases of their life, we gain insights into their character and values.

personal essay for university admission example

Tikkun Olam

Julieta illustrates how the concept of Tikkun Olam, “a desire to help repair the world,” has shaped their passions and drives them to pursue experiences at Hopkins.

personal essay for university admission example

Kashvi’s essay encapsulates a heartfelt journey of self-discovery and the invaluable teachings of Rock, their 10-year-old dog. Through the lens of their companionship, Kashvi walked us through valuable lessons on responsibility, friendship, patience, and unconditional love.

personal essay for university admission example

Classical Reflections in Herstory

Maddie’s essay details their intellectual journey using their love of Greek classics. They incorporate details that reveal the roots of their academic interests: storytelling, literary devices, and translation. As their essay progresses, so do Maddie’s intellectual curiosities.

personal essay for university admission example

My Spotify Playlist

Alyssa’s essay reflects on special memories through the creative lens of Spotify playlists. They use three examples to highlight their experiences with their tennis team, finding a virtual community during the pandemic, and co-founding a nonprofit to help younger students learn about STEM.

More essays that worked

We share essays from previously admitted students—along with feedback from our admissions committee—so you can understand what made them effective and how to start crafting your own.

personal essay for university admission example

Application Workshops

Our interactive workshops—on topics like the college search process and essay preparation—will help you build your strongest application when you’re ready to apply.

REGISTER FOR AN APPLICATION WORKSHOP

Application tips in your inbox

Join our mailing list to receive insights from our admissions committee, event invites, and other resources for your college journey.

Join our mailing list

Be the first to know about upcoming events, deadlines, and tips on crafting your best application.

Quick Links:

  • Majors, Minors & Programs
  • Application Deadlines & Requirements
  • College Planning Guide

Important Addresses

Harvard Campus Map

Harvard College

University Hall Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard College Admissions Office and Griffin Financial Aid Office

86 Brattle Street Cambridge, MA 02138

Social Links

If you are located in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway (the “European Economic Area”), please click here for additional information about ways that certain Harvard University Schools, Centers, units and controlled entities, including this one, may collect, use, and share information about you.

  • Application Tips
  • Navigating Campus
  • Preparing for College
  • How to Complete the FAFSA
  • What to Expect After You Apply
  • View All Guides
  • Parents & Families
  • School Counselors
  • Información en Español
  • Undergraduate Viewbook
  • View All Resources

Search and Useful Links

Search the site, search suggestions, the personal essay.

Photograph of blank Microsoft Word document titled "The Most Awesome College Essay Ever"

Unlike the rest of your application, which primarily consists of filling in boxes, the personal essay gives you the freedom to essentially write about whatever you want. No rules! Show who you are! Which sounds pretty cool, until you’re sitting there looking at a blank Word document.

Photograph of blank Microsoft Word document titled "The Most Awesome College Essay Ever"

While the personal essay is a great opportunity to infuse your voice into the application, I think some people (cough, me, cough) can get overwhelmed by it to the point where they don’t know how to begin. What do I write about? What makes me stand out? How can I explain all of this in only a few hundred words?

Well, as someone who eventually managed to get some words down on that blank document and turn out a decent college essay, here are a few words of advice.

1. Start by writing something.

I know, that sounds really obvious. But sometimes the hardest part of writing is just getting started – if you spend too much time criticizing your ideas before you write anything down, you won’t get anywhere. Write a few sentences, jot down some random ideas, note a couple anecdotes that might be interesting… just get something on paper that you can look back to. Maybe one of those ideas will catch, and BOOM you have an essay – or maybe you’ll look back to this list after a few weeks and think of something else that you would rather write about. That’s fine! The beginning of the creative process involves coming up with ideas, judging them comes later. Trust me, I took a class on this (really: it was a psych class called “Creativity: Madmen, Geniuses, and Harvard Students.”)

2. Think about something that has some significance to you.

Many students feel like they have to write about some huge, life-changing, important event in their lives. If you have something like this that you want to write about, that’s great! However, you can also write an awesome essay about something other than The Most Important Thing Ever. It can be the littlest things, if you explain their significance well, that actually stand out. In my case, somewhere in my essay I mentioned that I got up at 5:37am (rather than 5:30 or 5:45) because I liked prime numbers – and the first thing my admissions officer said when I walked into the room for my interview was, “So, prime numbers, huh?” That being said, remember that this is a college essay, so keep this audience and goal in mind as you write. When they finish reading, what do you want the admissions officers to know about you? Does this essay demonstrate something about who you are and what you care about? If not, you might want to go back to the drawing board.

3. Don’t be afraid to start over.

After finishing my first draft, I was glad to have something, but I wasn’t completely happy with it either. A week or two later, as I was reading over my essay again, I had an idea for a totally different topic - so I opened another document and completely started over. The second attempt was so much better, and I felt happy with how it turned out. It can be hard to scrap an initial attempt after spending so much time on it, but think of that time as just part of the process of getting to what you really want to write about.

4. Get an outside perspective.

One of the most useful things I did while working on my college essay was asking a couple people to read it over. At the time, I had two drafts that I was choosing between, and I wasn’t sure which one captured “me” better. When I asked my parents and teacher what they thought, they unanimously picked one option over the other. In the end, it’s important to have an essay that you are happy with – but sometimes having a fresh set of eyes can help you see what that is.

This is an important step! Both you, and perhaps someone who knows you well, should read over your essay and make sure it is in tip-top shape before you turn it in. There should be no grammatical or spelling mistakes – that gives the impression that you did not take your time on it. I know you’ve spent a long time on it by this point, but those last edits are super important!

The personal essay is a snippet of who you are and where you’re coming from – a snapshot for the admissions officers to look at as they read your application. It will never be able to capture everything about you, but you want to make sure that you’re giving them your best angle. So sit down, smile, and get to writing!

Halie Class of Alumni

personal essay for university admission example

Student Voices

Dear homesick international student at harvard college.

David Class of '25

A photo of a man in sunglasses looking at blue ocean waters.

My Harvard Monomyth

Denzel Class of '24

personal essay for university admission example

Applying to Engineering Fellowships?

Denzel Ekes and Astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew pictured together smiling at the camera.

personal essay for university admission example

  • SUGGESTED TOPICS
  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences

How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

personal essay for university admission example

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

Ascend logo

Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

Partner Center

  • About WES Home
  • Get an Evaluation
  • International Students, Immigrants & Job Seekers
  • Evaluations & Fees
  • Required Documents

WES Advisor Blog

  • Degree Equivalency
  • WES iGPA Calculator®
  • For Refugees & Displaced Persons
  • WES Gateway Program
  • Institutional Professionals
  • Higher Education
  • Licensing Bodies
  • Tools for Partners
  • WES Global Talent Bridge®
  • IMPRINT Coalition
  • Skilled Immigrant Integration Program
  • Global Talent Leadership Network
  • WES Global Talent Bridge® Blog
  • Global Higher Education Institutions
  • Training & Events
  • Philanthropy
  • About the Fund
  • Partner with the Fund
  • Insights Blog
  • World Education News & Reviews
  • Research Reports
  • WES Global Talent Bridge Blog
  • WES Mariam Assefa Fund Blog
  • Important WES Notices

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

How to Write Personal Essays for U.S. Universities

Friday | March 22, 2019 | by Mariel S. Tavakoli

how to write personal essays

Mariel S. Tavakoli is a WES Expert Ambassador who recently graduated from the University of Oxford. Her studies focused on helping international students prepare personal statements in English.

Below, she provides essential insights about how to prepare a personal essay that will improve your chances of earning admission to a college or university in the United States.

When you are applying for an undergraduate program, graduate program, or scholarship, the written portion of the application requires you to reflect on your past experiences and connect them to your future goals. This portion might be called a personal statement, personal essay, or statement of purpose.

But no matter what it is called, and no matter what topic you are assigned, the true inspiration for your personal essay will always be the same: you.

Every admissions officer really wants to hear your unique voice, story, and vision. So, while there is no wrong way to approach an essay topic (which might also be referred to as a “prompt,” or come in the form of a question), there are ways to make the writing process more manageable—and the end result more powerful.

Here are some essential tips that will help you prepare an excellent personal essays for colleges and universities in the United States.

Give Yourself Time

The most important thing you must remember to do is give yourself enough time to write.

Many U.S. high school students begin writing their essays in the spring or summer—about six months before the application deadline. If this is the first academic essay you are writing in English, or your first time writing for an audience that is based in the United States, the most important thing you can do is to start thinking, researching, and writing in advance.

The process of writing a personal essay begins long before you grab a pen and paper.

Here are a few steps that will help you prepare:

First: Start by reading! The more that you read examples of personal essays in English, the more likely it is that you will figure out how to express your unique voice clearly in this language. This will also help you discover the appropriate level of academic expression and formality. Of course, you will need to do some research to find a variety of successful sample essays to study. Do not forget to consider that when planning the total time you will need.

Next: Identify teachers, parents, and friends who are fluent in written English and/or know what is expected of personal essays in the United States. Ask if they will agree to give you feedback. Sometimes, there is a designated staff member at your target school in the U.S. who can send you specific resources or provide more direct help; it is always worth asking the admissions office if this is the case for international applicants. You should be in touch with all of these potential candidates before you start writing; do not wait until you are ready to hand them something to read! (You will follow up and ask for their feedback once you complete your first draft.)

Now: Start writing! With plenty of time to understand, plan, write, and revise, you will write the best personal essay possible. This also helps you prevent stress during the application process.

Related Reading How to Get Into Graduate Schools in the U.S.

Understand Your Audience

Have you heard the following terms when reading about the personal essay?

  • Tell your story

In order to understand these terms and your audience—university admissions officers—it is important to understand the admissions process.

U.S. universities have traditionally taken a holistic approach to admissions. In other words, your admissions decision is not based on your marks or test scores alone. Rather, admissions officers attempt to get a 360-degree understanding of who you are and how you would align with the other students and the university culture as a whole. This is what is meant by a “good fit” with a university.

To understand what an admissions officer might be looking for, your first stop is the university itself. Check out its website, follow its social media pages, read testimonies from alumni, get in touch with current students, read the university’s strategic plan. As you do, make note of common phrases and shared language. Store it away for when you are reflecting and writing later on.

While a holistic admissions process is a great way to get to know applicants, it also means that admissions officers have to read hundreds of applications in a day. Your personal story must therefore “stand out” from the competition. Although it can be uncomfortable, articulating your strengths and highlighting your most important accomplishments will make a strong impression, even on the most tired admissions officer. Use direct language and specific examples to showcase the most original things about your personality, personal history, and future ambitions.

But no matter what, the best way to appeal to admissions officers is by being truthful and genuine. So next, let us dive into an entire section dedicated to “telling your story”…

Learn More: Get the E-Guide Funding Your Education in the U.S.

Find Your Story

“Telling your story” to an unknown admissions officer is not an easy task. A personal essay requires you to be personal and professional at the same time. You also have to weave your experiences and goals together into a cohesive narrative.

The first step is to take an inventory of your life thus far. You might already have a lot of this information organized on your CV. Use this to group your experiences into categories: job titles, responsibilities, lessons learned, types of impact, special skills, hobbies and interests, and so on.

However, your personal essay should not read like a list or résumé. To avoid this, choose one or two experiences that relate to the topic of your personal essay and excite you the most. Explore how you can connect other strong points from different categories back to it. Begin thinking about how you might weave these together into one compelling narrative.

For example, pay attention to how one experience may have led to a realization, inspired a behavior, or triggered a memory. Even the smallest personal details can be a gateway or framework to the rest of your essay.

It is important for your personal essay to balance authenticity (what is important to you) with what admissions counselors might expect from a viable applicant. To start, any leadership roles or times when you went above and beyond your responsibilities are important to highlight. Then, think back to your research on the university and what language people used to describe the campus or community. Do any of your experiences fit with these qualities?

Again, do not be afraid to show off these accomplishments and impress those admissions officers!

Next Steps: Watch the Webinar Understanding the Admissions Process in the U.S.

Write It Down

There is not one right way to structure your personal essay. By giving yourself plenty of time to rearrange your thoughts with different words, sentences, and paragraphs, you will write an essay that represents your ability to think critically, as well as your ability to express yourself in writing. Both of these are essential skills and they are highly valued by admissions officers.

In the United States, it is important to follow basic concepts of essay organization. Make sure to group your thoughts into cohesive paragraphs, and use effective transitions between different ideas. Again, because your reader is tired and overwhelmed, it is important to make sure that your essay structure and specific word choices guide them through your statement.

Lastly, focus on your language. You should use your best academic English, and leave plenty of time at the end to refine and proofread. This is when you should contact the people that you identified in your research phase—the friends, family, and professionals who agreed to read your first draft.

Instead of asking for general feedback, ask them to share their thoughts on three specific things:

  • Your language use (word choice)
  • Your essay’s content (theme, story)
  • Your essay’s structure (organization of ideas)

Envision Your Future

The personal essay portion of your application is a challenge. But it is also a great academic exercise. Writing your personal essay prepares you for all of the writing you will do as part of your education in the U.S.

This is also a great time for personal reflection and growth. Take this time to explore your history, motivation, and goals—and get excited about your future studies in the United States!

personal essay for university admission example

Mariel S. Tavakoli, a WES Ambassador , is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).

Home

Essays and Short Answer Prompts

The Penn application process includes a personal essay —which is sent to most schools you apply to—as well as a few short answer prompts . We read your words carefully, as they are yet another window into how you think, what you value, and how you see the world. Through your writing, we get a glimpse of what you might bring to our community—including your voice and creativity. 

Remember, you are the expert on your story. This is an opportunity for you to reflect and understand who you are now, and who you want to be in the future. You have the agency to choose the information you want to share. This is your story: your experiences, your ideas, your perspective.   

A Few Writing Tips

  • Review the prompts thoroughly.  Be sure you’re answering the question or prompt being asked. Topics are chosen because the Admissions Committee wants to know specific things about you. If you don’t address them directly, we are left to make decisions regarding your application with incomplete information. 
  • Consider your response carefully.  We understand that you may be writing responses for different schools and you may want to reuse material, but be sure to read through your response to make sure it is relevant to the prompt. 
  • Double-check your writing.  Give yourself time to revisit your response. Try to avoid rushing your writing process so you have time to revise your work. Ultimately, it is up to you to polish and proofread your writing before you submit. 
  • Do your research. Are there classes you’re eager to take? Research opportunities you’d love to pursue? A group or club you want to be a part of? This kind of specificity shows us you’re serious about Penn and have thought about how you’d spend your time here. 

2023-24 Short Answer and Essay Prompts

When answering these prompts, be precise when explaining both why you are applying to Penn and why you have chosen to apply to that specific undergraduate school. Some of our specialized programs will have additional essays to complete, but the  Penn short answer prompts should address your single-degree or single-school choice.  

  • Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words, not required for transfer applicants) 
  • How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective, and how your experiences and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words) 
  • The school-specific prompt is unique to the school to which you are applying. (For example, all applicants applying to the College of Arts and Sciences will respond to the prompt under the “College of Arts and Sciences” section). Considering the undergraduate school you have selected for your single-degree option, please respond to your school-specific prompt below.  

Transfer Essay (required for all transfer applicants): Please explain your reasons for transferring from your current institution and what you hope to gain by transferring to another institution. (4150 characters) 

Undergraduate School-Specific Short Answer Prompts

For students applying to coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question about your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay.  

Penn Nursing intends to meet the health needs of society in a global and multicultural world by preparing its students to impact healthcare by advancing science and promoting equity. What do you think this means for the future of nursing, and how do you see yourself contributing to our mission of promoting equity in healthcare? (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about  Penn Nursing’s mission and how we promote equity in healthcare . This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of our values and how they align with your own goals and aspirations. 

The flexible structure of The College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum is designed to inspire exploration, foster connections, and help you create a path of study through general education courses and a major. What are you curious about and how would you take advantage of opportunities in the arts and sciences? (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about the  academic offerings within the College of Arts and Sciences .  This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of how the study of the liberal arts aligns with your own goals and aspirations. 

Wharton prepares its students to make an impact by applying business methods and economic theory to real-world problems, including economic, political, and social issues.  Please reflect on a current issue of importance to you and share how you hope a Wharton education would help you to explore it.  (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about  the foundations of a Wharton education . This information will help you better understand what you could learn by studying at Wharton and what you could do afterward. 

Penn Engineering prepares its students to become leaders in technology, by combining a strong foundation in the natural sciences and mathematics, exploration in the liberal arts, and depth of study in focused disciplinary majors. Please share how you hope to explore your engineering interests at Penn. (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about  Penn Engineering and its mission to prepare students for global leadership in technology . This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of academic pathways within Penn Engineering and how they align with your goals and interests. 

Coordinated Dual Degree and Specialized Program Essay Prompts

For students applying to coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer the program-specific essay below. 

** Numbers marked with double asterisks indicate a character count that only applies to transfer students applying through Common App.  

Why are you interested in the Digital Media Design (DMD) program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words / 3575 characters**) 

We encourage you to learn more about the DMD: Digital Media Design Program . 

The Huntsman Program supports the development of globally minded scholars who become engaged citizens, creative innovators, and ethical leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the United States and internationally. What draws you to a dual-degree program in business and international studies, and how would you use what you learn to contribute to a global issue where business and international affairs intersect? (400-650 words) 

The LSM program aims to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the life sciences and their management with an eye to identifying, advancing, and implementing innovations. What issues would you want to address using the understanding gained from such a program? Note that this essay should be distinct from your single degree essay. (400-650 words) 

  • Explain how you will use the M&T program to explore your interest in business, engineering, and the intersection of the two. (400-650 words) 
  • Describe a problem that you solved that showed leadership and creativity. (250 words) 

Describe your interests in modern networked information systems and technologies, such as the internet, and their impact on society, whether in terms of economics, communication, or the creation of beneficial content for society. Feel free to draw on examples from your own experiences as a user, developer, or student of technology. (400-650 words / 3575 characters**) 

Discuss your interest in nursing and health care management. How might Penn's coordinated dual-degree program in nursing and business help you meet your goals? (400-650 words) 

How do you envision your participation in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) furthering your interests in energy science and technology? Please include any past experiences (ex. academic, research, or extracurricular) that have led to your interest in the program. Additionally, please indicate why you are interested in pursuing dual degrees in science and engineering and which VIPER majors are most interesting to you at this time. (400-650 words) 

If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

To log in and use all the features of Khan Academy, please enable JavaScript in your browser.

College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Writing a strong college admissions essay
  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
  • How formal should the tone of your college essay be?
  • Taking your college essay to the next level
  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
  • Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem

Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

personal essay for university admission example

Pose a question the reader wants answered

Don't focus exclusively on the past, experiment with the unexpected, don't summarize, want to join the conversation.

  • Upvote Button navigates to signup page
  • Downvote Button navigates to signup page
  • Flag Button navigates to signup page

Good Answer

Have a language expert improve your writing

Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • College essay
  • College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn’t

College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't

Published on November 8, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 14, 2023.

One effective method for improving your college essay is to read example essays . Here are three sample essays, each with a bad and good version to help you improve your own essay.

Table of contents

Essay 1: sharing an identity or background through a montage, essay 2: overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative, essay 3: showing the influence of an important person or thing, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

This essay uses a montage structure to show snapshots of a student’s identity and background. The writer builds her essay around the theme of the five senses, sharing memories she associates with sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

In the weak rough draft, there is little connection between the individual anecdotes, and they do not robustly demonstrate the student’s qualities.

In the final version, the student uses an extended metaphor of a museum to create a strong connection among her stories, each showcasing a different part of her identity. She draws a specific personal insight from each memory and uses the stories to demonstrate her qualities and values.

How My Five Senses Record My Life

Throughout my life, I have kept a record of my life’s journey with my five senses. This collection of memories matters a great deal because I experience life every day through the lens of my identity.

“Chinese! Japanese!”

My classmate pulls one eye up and the other down.

“Look what my parents did to me!”

No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention to my discomfort, anger, and shame. How could he say such a mean thing about me? What did I do to him? Joseph’s words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.

Soaking in overflowing bubble baths with Andrew Lloyd Webber belting from the boombox.

Listening to “Cell Block Tango” with my grandparents while eating filet mignon at a dine-in show in Ashland.

Singing “The Worst Pies in London” at a Korean karaoke club while laughing hysterically with my brother, who can do an eerily spot-on rendition of Sweeney Todd.

Taking car rides with Mom in the Toyota Sequoia as we compete to hit the high note in “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera . Neither of us stands a chance!

The sweet scent of vegetables, Chinese noodles, and sushi wafts through the room as we sit around the table. My grandma presents a good-smelling mixture of international cuisine for our Thanksgiving feast. My favorite is the Chinese food that she cooks. Only the family prayer stands between me and the chance to indulge in these delicious morsels, comforting me with their familiar savory scents.

I rinse a faded plastic plate decorated by my younger sister at the Waterworks Art Center. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. I actually don’t mind this daily chore.

I taste sweat on my upper lip as I fight to continue pedaling on a stationary bike. Ava’s next to me and tells me to go up a level. We’re biking buddies, dieting buddies, and Saturday morning carbo-load buddies. After the bike display hits 30 minutes, we do a five-minute cool down, drink Gatorade, and put our legs up to rest.

My five senses are always gathering new memories of my identity. I’m excited to expand my collection.

Word count: 455

College essay checklist

Topic and structure

  • I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me.
  • My essay reveals something different from the rest of my application.
  • I have a clear and well-structured narrative.
  • I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

Writing style and tone

  • I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
  • I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of tells.
  • I’ve used appropriate style and tone for a college essay.
  • I’ve used specific, vivid personal stories that would be hard to replicate.
  • I’ve demonstrated my positive traits and values in my essay.
  • My essay is focused on me, not another person or thing.
  • I’ve included self-reflection and insight in my essay.
  • I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

Making Sense of My Identity

Welcome to The Rose Arimoto Museum. You are about to enter the “Making Sense of My Identity” collection. Allow me to guide you through select exhibits, carefully curated memories from Rose’s sensory experiences.

First, the Sight Exhibit.

“Chinese! Japanese!”

“Look what my parents did to me!”

No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention as my lip trembles and palms sweat. Joseph couldn’t have known how his words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.

Ten years later, these same eyes now fixate on an InDesign layout sheet, searching for grammar errors while my friend Selena proofreads our feature piece on racial discrimination in our hometown. As we’re the school newspaper editors, our journalism teacher Ms. Riley allows us to stay until midnight to meet tomorrow’s deadline. She commends our work ethic, which for me is fueled by writing一my new weapon of choice.

Next, you’ll encounter the Sound Exhibit.

Still, the world is my Broadway as I find my voice on stage.

Just below, enter the Smell Exhibit.

While I help my Pau Pau prepare dinner, she divulges her recipe for cha siu bau, with its soft, pillowy white exterior hiding the fragrant filling of braised barbecue pork inside. The sweet scent of candied yams, fun see , and Spam musubi wafts through the room as we gather around our Thankgsiving feast. After our family prayer, we indulge in these delicious morsels until our bellies say stop. These savory scents of my family’s cultural heritage linger long after I’ve finished the last bite.

Next up, the Touch Exhibit.

I rinse a handmade mug that I had painstakingly molded and painted in ceramics class. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. For a few fleeting moments, as I continue my nightly chore, the pressure of my weekend job, tomorrow’s calculus exam, and next week’s track meet are washed away.

Finally, we end with the Taste Exhibit.

My legs fight to keep pace with the stationary bike as the salty taste of sweat seeps into corners of my mouth. Ava challenges me to take it up a level. We always train together一even keeping each other accountable on our strict protein diet of chicken breasts, broccoli, and Muscle Milk. We occasionally splurge on Saturday mornings after interval training, relishing the decadence of everything bagels smeared with raspberry walnut cream cheese. But this is Wednesday, so I push myself. I know that once the digital display hits 30:00, we’ll allow our legs to relax into a five-minute cool down, followed by the fiery tang of Fruit Punch Gatorade to rehydrate.

Thank you for your attention. This completes our tour. I invite you to rejoin us for next fall’s College Experience collection, which will exhibit Rose’s continual search for identity and learning.

Word count: 649

  • I’ve crafted an essay introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

This essay uses a narrative structure to recount how a student overcame a challenge, specifically a sports injury. Since this topic is often overused, the essay requires vivid description, a memorable introduction and conclusion , and interesting insight.

The weak rough draft contains an interesting narrative, insight, and vivid imagery, but it has an overly formal tone that distracts the reader from the story. The student’s use of elaborate vocabulary in every sentence makes the essay sound inauthentic and stilted.

The final essay uses a more natural, conversational tone and chooses words that are vivid and specific without being pretentious. This allows the reader to focus on the narrative and appreciate the student’s unique insight.

One fateful evening some months ago, a defensive linebacker mauled me, his 212 pounds indisputably alighting upon my ankle. Ergo, an abhorrent cracking of calcified tissue. At first light the next day, I awoke cognizant of a new paradigm—one sans football—promulgated by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.

It’s been an exceedingly taxing semester not being able to engage in football, but I am nonetheless excelling in school. That twist of fate never would have come to pass if I hadn’t broken my ankle. I still limp down the halls at school, but I’m feeling less maudlin these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, emboldened by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.

Five months ago, right after my ill-fated injury, my friends’ demeanor became icy and remote, although I couldn’t fathom why. My teachers, in contrast, beckoned me close and invited me on a new learning journey. But despite their indubitably kind advances, even they recoiled when I drew near.

A few weeks later, I started to change my attitude vis-à-vis my newfound situation and determined to put my energy toward productive ends (i.e., homework). I wasn’t enamored with school. I never had been. Nevertheless, I didn’t abhor it either. I just preferred football.

My true turn of fate came when I started studying more and participating in class. I started to enjoy history class, and I grew interested in reading more. I discovered a volume of poems written by a fellow adventurer on the road of life, and I loved it. I ravenously devoured everything in the writer’s oeuvre .

As the weeks flitted past, I found myself spending my time with a group of people who were quite different from me. They participated in theater and played instruments in marching band. They raised their hands in class when the teacher posed a question. Because of their auspicious influence, I started raising my hand too. I am no longer vapid, and I now have something to say.

I am certain that your school would benefit from my miraculous academic transformation, and I entreat you to consider my application to your fine institution. Accepting me to your university would be an unequivocally righteous decision.

Word count: 408

  • I’ve chosen a college essay topic that’s meaningful to me.
  • I’ve respected the essay word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

As I step out of bed, the pain shoots through my foot and up my leg like it has every morning since “the game.” That night, a defensive linebacker tackled me, his 212 pounds landing decidedly on my ankle. I heard the sound before I felt it. The next morning, I awoke to a new reality—one without football—announced by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.

My broken ankle broke my spirit.

My friends steered clear of me as I hobbled down the halls at school. My teachers tried to find the delicate balance between giving me space and offering me help. I was as unsure how to deal with myself as they were.

In time, I figured out how to redirect some of my frustration, anger, and pent-up energy toward my studies. I had never not liked school, but I had never really liked it either. In my mind, football practice was my real-life classroom, where I could learn all I ever needed to know.

Then there was that day in Mrs. Brady’s history class. We sang a ridiculous-sounding mnemonic song to memorize all the Chinese dynasties from Shang to Qing. I mumbled the words at first, but I got caught up in the middle of the laughter and began singing along. Starting that day, I began browsing YouTube videos about history, curious to learn more. I had started learning something new, and, to my surprise, I liked it.

With my afternoons free from burpees and scrimmages, I dared to crack open a few more of my books to see what was in them. That’s when my English poetry book, Paint Me Like I Am , caught my attention. It was full of poems written by students my age from WritersCorps. I couldn’t get enough.

I wasn’t the only one who was taken with the poems. Previously, I’d only been vaguely aware of Christina as one of the weird kids I avoided. Crammed in the margins of her high-top Chuck Taylors were scribbled lines of her own poetry and infinite doodles. Beyond her punk rock persona was a sensitive artist, puppy-lover, and environmental activist that a wide receiver like me would have never noticed before.

With Christina, I started making friends with people who once would have been invisible to me: drama geeks, teachers’ pets, band nerds. Most were college bound but not to play a sport. They were smart and talented, and they cared about people and politics and all sorts of issues that I hadn’t considered before. Strangely, they also seemed to care about me.

I still limp down the halls at school, but I don’t seem to mind as much these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, excited by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.

My broken ankle broke my spirit. Then, it broke my ignorance.

Word count: 512

This essay uses a narrative structure to show how a pet positively influenced the student’s values and character.

In the weak draft, the student doesn’t focus on himself, instead delving into too much detail about his dog’s positive traits and his grandma’s illness. The essay’s structure is meandering, with tangents and details that don’t communicate any specific insight.

In the improved version, the student keeps the focus on himself, not his pet. He chooses the most relevant stories to demonstrate specific qualities, and the structure more clearly builds up to an insightful conclusion.

Man’s Best Friend

I desperately wanted a cat. I begged my parents for one, but once again, my sisters overruled me, so we drove up the Thompson Valley Canyon from Loveland to Estes Park to meet our newest family member. My sisters had already hatched their master plan, complete with a Finding Nemo blanket to entice the pups. The blanket was a hit with all of them, except for one—the one who walked over and sat in my lap. That was the day that Francisco became a Villanova.

Maybe I should say he was mine because I got stuck with all the chores. As expected, my dog-loving sisters were nowhere to be found! My mom was “extra” with all the doggy gear. Cisco even had to wear these silly little puppy shoes outside so that when he came back in, he wouldn’t get the carpets dirty. If it was raining, my mother insisted I dress Cisco in a ridiculous yellow raincoat, but, in my opinion, it was an unnecessary source of humiliation for poor Cisco. It didn’t take long for Cisco to decide that his outerwear could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I took off one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his ensemble more when we had to walk through snowdrifts to get his job done.

When my abuela was dying from cancer, we went in the middle of the night to see her before she passed. I was sad and scared. But, my dad let me take Cisco in the car, so Cisco cuddled with me and made me feel much better. It’s like he could read my mind. Once we arrived at the hospital, the fluorescent lighting made the entire scene seem unreal, as if I was watching the scene unfold through someone else’s eyes. My grandma lay calmly on her bed, smiling at us even through her last moments of pain. I disliked seeing the tubes and machines hooked up to her. It was unnatural to see her like this一it was so unlike the way I usually saw her beautiful in her flowery dress, whistling a Billie Holiday tune and baking snickerdoodle cookies in the kitchen. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained at the foot of the bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that seemed more effective at communicating comfort and compassion than the rest of us who attempted to offer up words of comfort that just seemed hollow and insincere. It was then that I truly appreciated Cisco’s empathy for others.

As I accompanied my dad to pick up our dry cleaner’s from Ms. Chapman, a family friend asked, “How’s Cisco?” before even asking about my sisters or me. Cisco is the Villanova family mascot, a Goldendoodle better recognized by strangers throughout Loveland than the individual members of my family.

On our summer trip to Boyd Lake State Park, we stayed at the Cottonwood campground for a breathtaking view of the lake. Cisco was allowed to come, but we had to keep him on a leash at all times. After a satisfying meal of fish, our entire family walked along the beach. Cisco and I led the way while my mom and sisters shuffled behind. Cisco always stopped and refused to move, looking back to make sure the others were still following. Once satisfied that everyone was together, he would turn back around and continue prancing with his golden boy curly locks waving in the chilly wind.

On the beach, Cisco “accidentally” got let off his leash and went running maniacally around the sand, unfettered and free. His pure joy as he raced through the sand made me forget about my AP Chem exam or my student council responsibilities. He brings a smile not only to my family members but everyone around him.

Cisco won’t live forever, but without words, he has impressed upon me life lessons of responsibility, compassion, loyalty, and joy. I can’t imagine life without him.

Word count: 701

I quickly figured out that as “the chosen one,” I had been enlisted by Cisco to oversee all aspects of his “business.” I learned to put on Cisco’s doggie shoes to keep the carpet clean before taking him out一no matter the weather. Soon after, Cisco decided that his shoes could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I removed one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his footwear more after I’d gear him up and we’d tread through the snow for his daily walks.

One morning, it was 7:15 a.m., and Alejandro was late again to pick me up. “Cisco, you don’t think he overslept again, do you?” Cisco barked, as if saying, “Of course he did!” A text message would never do, so I called his dad, even if it was going to get him in trouble. There was no use in both of us getting another tardy during our first-period class, especially since I was ready on time after taking Cisco for his morning outing. Alejandro was mad at me but not too much. He knew I had helped him out, even if he had to endure his dad’s lecture on punctuality.

Another early morning, I heard my sister yell, “Mom! Where are my good ballet flats? I can’t find them anywhere!” I hesitated and then confessed, “I moved them.” She shrieked at me in disbelief, but I continued, “I put them in your closet, so Cisco wouldn’t chew them up.” More disbelief. However, this time, there was silence instead of shrieking.

Last spring, Cisco and I were fast asleep when the phone rang at midnight. Abuela would not make it through the night after a long year of chemo, but she was in Pueblo, almost three hours away. Sitting next to me for that long car ride on I-25 in pitch-black darkness, Cisco knew exactly what I needed and snuggled right next to me as I petted his coat in a rhythm while tears streamed down my face. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained sitting at the foot of the hospital bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that communicated more comfort than our hollow words. Since then, whenever I sense someone is upset, I sit in silence with them or listen to their words, just like Cisco did.

The other day, one of my friends told me, “You’re a strange one, Josue. You’re not like everybody else but in a good way.” I didn’t know what he meant at first. “You know, you’re super responsible and grown-up. You look out for us instead of yourself. Nobody else does that.” I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t trying to do anything different. I was just being me. But then I realized who had taught me: a fluffy little puppy who I had wished was a cat! I didn’t choose Cisco, but he certainly chose me and, unexpectedly, became my teacher, mentor, and friend.

Word count: 617

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Courault, K. (2023, August 14). College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't. Scribbr. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/college-essay-examples/

Is this article helpful?

Kirsten Courault

Kirsten Courault

Other students also liked, choosing your college essay topic | ideas & examples, how to make your college essay stand out | tips & examples, how to revise your college admissions essay | examples, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

Application Prompts for 2024-2025

Your essay and short answer responses help us get to know you.

We’ve selected the following prompts for the UNC-specific portion for the first-year and transfer applications for 2024-2025. We’re proud of the Carolina community and how each student makes us better through their excellence, intellect, and character. In reading your responses, we hope to learn what being a part of the Carolina community would mean to you.

Short answer prompts

We’d like to know how you’d contribute to the Carolina community and ask that you respond to each prompt in up to 250 words.

  • Discuss one of your personal qualities and share a story, anecdote, or memory of how it helped you make a positive impact on a community. This could be your current community or another community you have engaged.
  • Discuss an academic topic that you’re excited to explore and learn more about in college. Why does this topic interest you? Topics could be a specific course of study, research interests, or any other area related to your academic experience in college.

Common Application essay

You’ll choose one Common Essay prompt to respond to in 250-650 words. These prompts are common to all schools who accept the Common Application, and you can view the prompts here. Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. The Common Application also has an optional section where you’ll have the opportunity to write about how COVID-19 has affected you.

Your responses will be evaluated not only for admission, but also for possible selection for scholarships and other special opportunities. We look forward to learning more about you!

Advice for Your Application

First-year application, transfer application.

More From Forbes

A definitive plan for your college admissions process.

  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Share to Linkedin

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 08: A view of the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in ... [+] Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Trump administration for its decision to strip international college students of their visas if all of their courses are held online. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Navigating the college admissions process can be a daunting journey for students and parents alike. However, with a comprehensive plan and strategic approach , this journey can be transformed into a manageable and rewarding experience. Here’s a definitive plan for navigating the college application process.

Laying The Foundation

The first step in the college application process is to organize and plan meticulously. Begin by finalizing your college list , which will be the road map for your applications. This involves researching colleges, understanding their requirements, and aligning them with your career goals and interests. Your high school’s internal tools, such as Naviance and Scoir, are fantastic resources to help you dive deeply into your options. Speaking with college-based contacts , such as alumni of your high school, and taking virtual tours can provide insight into the experiences at specific college campuses.

Familiarize yourself with application platforms like Common App and Coalition App. These platforms will be your gateway to submitting your applications. So, understanding how to navigate them efficiently is key. Maintain a checklist to ensure all components of your application are completed and submitted on time. Remember, the Common App opens on August 1, and it’s essential to check for any changes to prompts and requirements.

Recently, some universities have adjusted their requirements for standardized testing, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, and Caltech. It’s important to stay updated on each college’s requirements, as policies may vary. Staying informed and prepared will help you navigate these changes smoothly.

Gather letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other supporting documents to ensure a complete application package. Tools like application platforms and checklists will be invaluable in keeping you organized and on track.

Trump: ‘Crazy’ That Secret Service Didn’t Have More Manpower At Rally

Raptors waive vezenkov and freeman-liberty: what’s next, google is not buying wiz for $23 billion after all.

Once you have your list, creating a comprehensive master calendar is essential. Tools like Google Calendar or Notion can help you map out all your deadlines so nothing slips through the cracks. This master calendar will be your guide as you navigate through the myriad of tasks ahead.

Crafting Your Personal Narrative

Your personal statement is a critical component of your application, offering a glimpse into who you are beyond grades and test scores. Begin brainstorming topics that reflect your unique experiences and passions. Reflect deeply on significant life events, challenges, and achievements that have shaped you. Seek inspiration from past successful essays to provide you with examples of compelling narratives that resonate with admissions officers.

As you draft your personal statement, remember that revision is key. Seek feedback from trusted advisors and mentors to refine your essay. Tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway App can assist in ensuring your writing is clear, concise, and impactful. Having the essay assessed by a trusted team of reviewers with experience in admissions can support you in ensuring your narrative will resonate with the audience of college admissions officers .

Tackling Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays provide an opportunity to demonstrate your fit for specific colleges. Taking virtual and in-person tours can provide you with personalized data to show how your story fits your targeted colleges. Start by drafting essays for early application schools. These essays should highlight specific examples why you are a good match. Show your enthusiasm for the school and your intended major, and use specific examples to illustrate your points.

Finalizing Early Applications

As early application deadlines approach, it’s crucial to finalize all materials. This includes completing final revisions on essays and preparing additional documents like resumes and activity lists. Attention to detail can make the difference between a good application and a great one. Make sure every component is perfect before submission.

Don't forget to check in with your teachers regarding your deadlines that they can align the timing of their letters of recommendation with your college submissions.

Early Application Submissions And Refinements

With your early applications ready, submit them and continue refining essays for regular decision schools. Stay organized and ensure all deadlines are met. Conduct thorough final reviews of your early applications and begin preparing regular decision essays. This phase is about ensuring everything is polished and ready for submission.

Perform final proofreads of your early application essays and start drafting and refining essays for remaining colleges. Remember, meticulous preparation and thoughtful reflection are essential to achieving your academic dreams.

Finalizing Regular Decision Applications

As you move closer to the end of the process, focus on finalizing all regular decision application essays and materials. Gather letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other supporting documents to ensure a complete application package. Tools like application platforms and checklists will be invaluable in keeping you organized and on track.

Submit all remaining applications and confirm receipt to ensure everything has been successfully submitted. This final step certifies that all your hard work culminates in successful submissions.

Await Additional Requirements

Colleges may invite you to interview or to submit additional information after your initial required submission. Stay on top of notifications to your application portals and proactively check inside of your portal to ensure you haven’t missed any additional requests. For example, last cycle, some colleges such as Brown and the University of Chicago gave the option of a video introduction inside their portals after submission.

If your family is applying for financial aid, be sure to check for any deadlines related to the FAFSA, CSS profile, and individual scholarship essays.

The college admissions process is a marathon, not a sprint. By following a structured plan and using available resources, you can navigate this journey with confidence and poise. Remember, the key to success lies in detailed preparation, thoughtful reflection, and continuous improvement. With a clear plan and the right support, you can transform the college application process from a daunting task into a rewarding journey.

Dr. Aviva Legatt

  • Editorial Standards
  • Reprints & Permissions

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

Duke University

Your chancing factors

Extracurriculars.

personal essay for university admission example

10 Stellar Princeton University Essay Examples

What’s covered:.

  • Essays 1-2: Why This Major
  • Essay 3: Extracurricular
  • Essay 4: Difficult Topic
  • Essays 5-7: Civic Engagement
  • Essays 8-10: Quotation and Values
  • Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free

Princeton University is consistently ranked within the top three colleges in the nation, and is world-renowned for its quality of education. Admissions is extremely selective, with an acceptance rate dropping lower every year. Since most applicants will have a strong academic profile, writing interesting and engaging essays is essential to standing out. 

In this post, we’ll share Princeton essay examples that real students have submitted to give you a better idea of what makes a strong essay. We will also explain what each essay did well and where they could improve.

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Princeton essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts. 

Essay Example #1: Why This Major

Prompt: If you are interested in pursuing a B.S.E. (Bachelor of Science in Engineering) degree, please write a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had, and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests. (300-500 words)

In 7th grade, I was assigned a research project. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this project would end up sparking an interest which would guide me throughout the rest of my public school career. The project was simple: using Google and other resources, I had to find a potential career I’d be interested in pursuing later in life. Being a naive 7th grader, I had virtually no idea where to start. I knew I had a strong preference for STEM, but as to which area of STEM to pursue, I was clueless. After looking at a myriad of other careers, I finally came across aerospace engineering. 

At first, I was intrigued by the name. I remember thinking that it sounded awesome, and I was compelled to learn more. Fast forward a few days and many hours of research, and aerospace engineering stole my heart. When I got to high school, I took all of the classes my school offered that would be beneficial for an aerospace engineer. AP Physics, Multivariable Calculus, PLTW engineering courses, and countless others made the list, and all the while my desire to become an aerospace engineer intensified. I joined numerous STEM clubs to nurture this interest, and in doing so I not only became a better engineer, but also a better person. I also began looking into outstanding aerospace colleges, and Princeton made the very top of my list.

When I look back on it now, I’m not surprised that aerospace engineering is what called to me in that project. In fact, I’ve been fascinated with planes and rockets since a very young age! I would often build models out of LEGOs, and there are numerous times I spent way too many hours playing Kerbal Space Program. When I discovered there was a career dedicated to those parts of my personality, it makes sense that I’d be drawn to it. I find it fascinating that just by using the arsenals of math and science, we can fabricate every tool needed to explore and catalog the cosmos. If that isn’t powerful, I don’t know what is.

Although aerospace engineering has been my main interest throughout high school, I’ve also felt a pull towards mechanical engineering and robotics. Princeton is unique in that it offers a joint major in mechanical AND aerospace engineering, which is something I haven’t seen at any other school. In addition, Princeton’s certificate program in Robotics and Intelligent Systems will allow me to pursue robotics in the context of aerospace engineering. In particular, if I am admitted to Princeton University, I would love to have the opportunity to conduct research in the Intelligent Robot Motion Lab. The IRoM-Lab’s focus on how robots function in complex environments safely and efficiently has me especially excited, and I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own to be pursued. 

Engineering is the driving force behind progress in society, and I am willing to do everything I can to contribute to that progress.

What the Essay Did Well

This essay does a nice job of covering each aspect of the prompt. We learn why this student wants to study aerospace engineering, what steps they have taken to explore their interest in the subject, and how they will expand on their passion at Princeton. It’s important to make sure you touch on every part of the prompt, so going through each paragraph and finding where you address each question is a nice way to check when you are editing.

Another positive aspect of this essay is the open and conversational tone. It feels like the reader is having a casual discussion with this student about where their love for engineering came from and where they hope to go with it. Using phrases like “ f ast forward a few days, ” “ in fact, ” and “ awesome ” grounds the essay by being more informal. Although you’ve been told in school informality is a bad thing, in college essays it allows you to be more open and comfortable with the admissions officers reading your work and makes you seem more like a person, and less like an application.

Finally, this student did a good job of picking something about Princeton’s engineering program that is unique . Many students reference opportunities at a school that are widely available at other colleges as well, for example an aerospace engineering club. However, this student was very clear about why they are so attracted to Princeton’s program: “ Princeton is unique in that it offers a joint major in mechanical AND aerospace engineering, which is something I haven’t seen at any other school. ” This tells us that finding a joint program is something very important to this student and that they are applying to Princeton for more than the name and recognition—they genuinely value the unique offerings this school has!

What Could Be Improved

One thing this essay could work on is showing, not telling. They tell the reader “ aerospace engineering stole my heart ,” that joining STEM clubs made them a “ better engineer, but also a better person, ” and that they have “ felt a pull towards mechanical engineering and robotics, ” just to name a few.

What we don’t know is what about aerospace engineering stole their heart; was there a particular topic, a movie they watched, or some new revelation they had from studying it? What we don’t know is how they became a better person by joining STEM clubs; did they engineer a useful tool that became implemented in their school or community? What we don’t know is what about mechanical engineering and robotics excites them; was there a specific experience that influenced them or do certain emotions overtake them when they construct a robot.

If the essay used more active language and relied more heavily on placing the reader in stories, rather than recounting their takeaways from 17 years of experience, we would have answers to those questions posed above. It can sometimes feel like you need to summarize your life experiences to make everything fit in a college essay, but we promise that if you take the time to focus on individual anecdotes and the impact they had on you, your reader will take away so much more than if you gave them a rushed summary.

Table of contents

Essay Example #2: Why This Major

Prompt: As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your interests? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer)

The twang of the strings as the delicately strung horsehair bow grazes the steel strings, the enraptured sensation of my hand cramping as I write, and the feeling of connection as my hands dig deep into the damp earth as I nurture my plants. As an academic and most importantly a teen my interests are bilateral. My need for stimulation and innate inquisitive nature are reflected in my academic interests as well.  

As I learned about the intricacies of cell biology and genetics I was enthralled. My love for understanding how the world and humans work from a scientific lens stem from my love for humanity. When I learned about CAS 9 CRISPR and the future of science I felt I had stumbled onto my passion. Furthermore, familiarizing myself with scientific ethicality, I knew this field was for me.  

Princeton recognizes the importance of academics, and the humanities as do I. At Princeton I will take “Scientific Integrity in the Practice of Molecular Biology” where I will explore the conflict between innovation and morality. I can see myself appreciating the wonderful art around Princeton’s campus as I walk to my classes. I look forward to the exchange of knowledge at Princeternship where I will be able to spend time with well-versed individuals to further my knowledge.  

Princeton’s acknowledgment of the arts and humanities align with mine and I am sure yearning for the arts will grow alongside my intellect; gaining enough knowledge to potentially change the world with CRISPR.  

There are three important things that all students should do in their “Why This Major?” Essay : share how their academic interest developed, describe their reasoning and goals, and explain their school choice. While this student’s presentation needs improvement, they at least attempt to meet each of these requirements.

One good thing that this student does (that many students forget) is referencing the specific resources at Princeton — the class “Scientific Integrity in the Practice of Molecular Biology” and the resource of Princeternships. 

What Could Be Improved 

While this student attempts to satisfy the three requirements of a “Why This Major?” Essay , they have room to improve.

The first requirement is sharing how your academic interest developed. This student writes:

As I learned about the intricacies of cell biology and genetics I was enthralled. My love for understanding how the world and humans work from a scientific lens stem from my love for humanity. When I learned about CAS 9 CRISPR and the future of science I felt I had stumbled onto my passion. Furthermore, familiarizing myself with scientific ethicality, I knew this field was for me.

This would be more compelling if it was anchored by a story or anecdote. For example, they could begin with:

“You know how the Sorcerer’s Stone was awesome, but became super dangerous in the wrong hands?” I looked around and everyone was on the edge of their seats. “That’s CRISPR.”

I first learned about the revolutionary genome technology in my AP Biology class, and I must admit, I didn’t get it. Mrs. Gertry said it was powerful, but she didn’t say how. To make matters worse, when I stayed after class to ask how, she said “Honestly kid, I don’t fully get it myself. I just know the experts say that we are on a precipice of DNA advancement, and that’s exciting.”

Since that day, my excitement has steadily developed. It develops as I read The Scientific American blog under the covers each night. It develops as I walk to the UCLA research lab on Friday afternoons. And it will continue to develop until one day I become the expert that Mrs. Gertry told me about. 

Relatedly, the current start to this essay — “The twang of the strings as the delicately strung horsehair bow grazes the steel strings, the enraptured sensation of my hand cramping as I write, and the feeling of connection as my hands dig deep into the damp earth as I nurture my plants” — is confusing, grammatically incorrect, and does not advance the student’s response to the question they are asked. This paragraph should be cut altogether.

The second requirement is describing your reasoning and goals. This student tells us that they want to “change the world with CRISPR.” Though this is more specific than simply changing the world, it is not specific enough. The student should outline more specific, tangible goals like:

  • Advancing treatment techniques for neurodegenerative patients
  • Improving early identification of viruses like COVID-19
  • Creating CRISPR-modified foods that are better for the human body and the environment
  • Developing an economically-viable procedure for biodiesel production

The third requirement is explaining your school choice. While this student references a few Princeton-specific resources, they also write “Princeton recognizes the importance of academics, and the humanities as do I” and “I can see myself appreciating the wonderful art around Princeton’s campus as I walk to my classes.” Every college is interested in academics and humanities and every college has art on campus. These superfluous comments take words away from topics that need more exploration.

Finally, this essay could use editing. Grammatical errors interrupt the flow and confuse the reader. For example, the first sentence we read is not actually a sentence, but rather a series of clauses, and there are multiple instances where the student is missing offsetting commas.

To avoid this issue, have friends, family, teachers, and peers read your essays before submitting them to your top schools. Spelling and grammar errors can make a student seem unmotivated, which is the last thing you want in college admissions.

Essay Example #3: Extracurricular Essay

Prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (150 words)

Soft melodies float in the air, feathery sounds of consonance and dissonance create a cloud of harmonies I fall into each night. Born into a family of musicians, I began practicing the piano at four years old. Thirteen years later, I still look forward to sitting at the piano day after day, embarking on adventures to transform a monochrome score into a piece of art with color and dimension. 

Although I relish the thrill of piano competitions and performances, the intellectual challenge that accompanies learning a piano piece in its entirety is an unmatchable experience. In light of the multitasking that musicians must master, the piano has first taught me discipline, that creating anything meaningful requires practice, patience, and persistence. But in the end, the many hours, days, and weeks practicing the piano are rewarded when I can share an emotional experience with others not by speaking, but through the movement of hands that make a piece come alive. 

This essay starts on a euphoric high point, placing the student and reader in the midst of music all around them. The use of delicate diction like “ soft melodies ” and “ feathery sounds ” creates a sense of beauty and comfort, conveying this student’s attraction towards the piano without explicitly stating it. The student continues to use their mastery of language to make the essay come alive with phrase, “ transform a monochrome score into a piece of art with color and dimension.”

Another positive aspect of this essay is how the student includes the effect playing piano has on them. Admissions officers aren’t just asking this question to get a longer summary of your extracurriculars than the 100 characters in your activities section; they want to see your personal reflection on the meaning this activity has to you. How have you grown? How has this shaped your personality? What is your emotional response to participating in this activity?

This essay touches upon those ideas to bring more depth and color to their essay. This lends to a nice structural separation of the two ideas. In the first paragraph, we see the physical aspect of playing the piano and understand the sounds of it. The essay shifts from physical to emotional description in the second paragraph by detailing the practice and discipline they have developed through their years of playing. Having this clear contrast makes it easier to focus on each idea on its own, so when the reader finishes the essay, we can appreciate the activity for both of its components.

The second paragraph could use a more emotional backbone. The student tells us about how practicing piano taught them skills like discipline and how they enjoy sharing an “ emotional experience with others ” by playing. Other than that, the rest of the second paragraph doesn’t convey anything new about the student and their emotional relationship to the piano. A more impactful paragraph might look like this:

“ Words get lost on my tongue but my music, the melodic crescendos of those black and white keys, fills the silence. When sitting on that stool, practicing and perfecting for hours on end, I replay the warm smiles, the tear-streaked cheeks, and the shaky breaths I coax from my audience, connecting us in a way no conversation ever has. Those images have instilled more discipline in me than a drill  sergeant’s whistle. Repeating the same three bars, I see my mom’s face as she hears my rendition of Clair de la Lune. Stretching my fingers to reach an octave, I hear my friends’ clapping as I finish Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I can’t count the hours I’ve spent alone with my piano. All I know is it’s worth every second when I get to play for others.”

This paragraph reveals the same two central tenets but brings infinitely more emotional impact. One of the ways it is able to do this is by showing, not telling. If this student had shown what it looks like to connect with others and practice endlessly, the essay would have revealed much more about the student and been more engaging to read.

Essay Example #4: Difficult Topic

Prompt: At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future? (350 words)

Superhero cinema is an oligopoly consisting of two prominent, towering brands: Marvel and DC. I’m a religious supporter of Marvel, but last year, I discovered my friend, Tom, was a DC fan. After a 20-minute vociferous quarrel about which was better, we decided to allocate one day to assemble coherent arguments and have a professional debate.

One week later, we both brought pages of notes, evidence cards, and I had my Iron-Man bobblehead for moral support. Our moderator – a Disney fan – sat in the middle with a stopwatch – open-policy style. I began the debate by discussing how Marvel accentuated the humanity of the storyline – such as Tony Stark’s transformation from an egotistical billionaire to a compassionate father – which drew in a broader audience because more people resonated with certain aspects of the characters. Tom rebutted this by capitalizing on how Deadpool was a duplicate of Deathstroke, Vision copied Red Tornado, and DC sold more comics than Marvel. 

40 minutes later, we reached an impasse. We were out of cards, and we both made excellent points, so our moderator failed to declare a winner. Difficult conversations aren’t necessarily always the ones that make political headlines. Instead, a difficult discussion involves any topic with which we share an emotional connection. Over the years, I became so emotionally invested in Marvel that my mind erected an impenetrable shield, blocking out all other possibilities. Even today, we haven’t decided which franchise was better, but I realized that I was undermining DC for no reason apart from ignorance. 

The inevitability of diversity suggests that it is our responsibility to understand the other person and what they believe. We may not always experience a change in opinions, but we can grant ourselves the opportunity to expand our global perspective. At Princeton, I will continue this adventure to increase my awareness as a superhero aficionado, activist, and student by engaging in conversations that require me to think beyond what I believe and viewing the world from others’ perspectives. 

And yes, Tom is still my friend. 

Diversity doesn’t always have to be about culture or heritage; diversity exists all around us, even in comics. The genius of this essay lies in the way the student flipped the traditional diversity prompt on its head and instead discussed their diverse perspective on a topic they are passionate about. If you don’t have a cultural connection you are compelled to write about, this is a clever approach to a diversity prompt—if it is handled appropriately.

While this student has a non-traditional topic, they still present it in a way that pays respect to the key aspects of a diversity essay: depicting their perspective and recognizing the importance of diverse views. Just as someone who is writing about a culture that is possibly unfamiliar to the reader, the student describes what makes Marvel and DC unique and important to them and their friend. They also expand on how a lack of diversity in superhero consumption led to them feeling ignorant and now makes them appreciate the need for diversity in all aspects of their life.

This student is unapologetically themselves in this essay which is ultimately why this unorthodox topic is able to work. They committed to their passion for Marvel by sharing analytical takes on characters and demonstrating how the franchise was so important to their identity it momentarily threatened a friendship. The inclusion of humor through their personal voice—referring to the argument as a professional debate and telling us the friendship lived on—contributes to the essay feeling deeply personal.

Choosing a nonconventional topic for a diversity essay requires extra care and attention to ensure you are still addressing the core of the prompt, but if you accomplish it successfully, it makes for an incredibly memorable essay that could easily set you apart!

While this is a great essay as is, the idea of diversity could have been addressed a little bit earlier in the piece to make it absolutely clear the student is writing about their diverse perspective. They position Marvel and DC as two behemoths in the superhero movie industry, but in the event their reader is unfamiliar with these two brands, there is little elaboration on the cultural impact each has on its fans. 

To this student, Marvel is more than just a movie franchise; it’s a crucial part of their identity, just as someone’s race or religion might be. In order for the reader to fully understand the weight of their perspective, there should be further elaboration, towards the beginning, on how important Marvel is to this student. Maybe they found parallels between a struggle they were going through and a character, maybe seeing Marvel movies was a bonding activity with their father, or perhaps the escapism brings them a peace they can’t find anywhere else. Letting the reader in on whatever the reason is would bring more weight to the story.

Essay Example #5: Civic Engagement

Prompt: Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250 words)

Many students had no choice but to engage in online learning during the pandemic. However, due to the nature of digital learning, many students have faced a gap in education that may take years to remedy. I am passionate about the importance of education. Everyone should have access to quality education regardless of race, zip code, or socioeconomic status. The cold facts are that while some students have access to resources that might lessen the effects of online learning, many do not. Through no fault of their own, students are held back from achieving their full potential. To help close this learning gap, my peers and I offered free tutoring during the pandemic. I taught math and reading to elementary and middle school students, concentrating on the African American community. From this experience, I was exposed to the deficiencies of the public school system and the consequent impact on its students. Nevertheless, I genuinely enjoyed my experience instructing those children. Their warm spirit, limitless energy, and ready minds are all characteristics that I wish to emulate. Due to my experience, I never take my education for granted and am forever grateful for the future it has helped me build. I hope I can work on the public education system and make it more accessible and profitable for the children it is supposed to serve and further give back to the community. 

Essays with lower word counts require students to be focused in their answers. This student does a great job of choosing a specific issue — education access — and sticking to it. While they reference the intersections of race/education and wealth/education (which are important!) they do not get sidetracked from their overall focus. 

They also provide evidence of their interest in education by mentioning their free tutoring initiative. This is important. Admissions officers read lots of essays where students claim interest in issues but do nothing to improve them. This student puts their money where their mouth is. 

The main issue with this essay is that the writing style and structure are not engaging or personal. 

For example, while you may not have space for a “hook” or introduction in a shorter response, your first sentences must draw the reader in. This student begins with stilted sentences that tell us nothing about them — neither their life experiences nor their personality. The first personal sentence that the student writes is “I am passionate about the importance of education,” which comes too late and is not written with personality.

Structurally, for a short Political/Global Issues Essay , we recommend that students focus on their personal connection to an issue rather than the issue itself. This student primarily discusses their issue — education access —, and when they do mention their own experiences, they fall into the unfortunate trap of telling instead of showing. 

To remedy this, the student should pick an anecdote that shows their personal connection to education, then use it as an avenue for communicating their values to admissions officers.

This student’s anecdote could be:

  • Their experience with online learning during the pandemic
  • How they started their free tutoring program
  • A specific moment with a specific student while they were tutoring
  • Forecasting a moment in the future when they are continuing to prioritize education access

Essay Example #6: Civic Engagement

When I began my internship in my state’s Division of Human Rights, some family members scoffed upon hearing the nature of certain cases I dissected. To them, it was a malapportionment of time to heed race-based workplace discrimination when genocides were ongoing. To them, these government institutions reflected the weakness of modern western culture. Despite this deterrence, I stayed confident that preventing severe human rights violations begins with taking more minor instances seriously.       

Exercising my critical thinking while putting justice into action was fulfilling regardless of a complaint’s validity — I dealt with companies firing employees upon discovering their illness diagnoses. I helped interview a woman claiming language harassment as an English speaker in a majority-Hispanic workplace. I accounted for factors such as respondents having attorneys (unlike complainants) when recommending determinations in the face of contradicting claims. I wasn’t discouraged when the same man called the office for the 10th time that day, shouting his demand that we process his case immediately.       

Bureaucracy can cause waste, yet when I compare human rights protections in the Middle East and the United States, I realize that upholding ethics through the law is necessary for many sectors. The same elements that slow the processing of cases safeguard moral consistency, allowing genuine complaints to be separated from frivolous ones. When “insignificant” discrimination slips through the cracks, more severe violations ensue. At Princeton, I’d extend my work in regional human rights to a global scale, building a safer future for vulnerable populations in the Arab world.

This essay engages a simple yet effective structure. Within 12 words, the prompt has been answered. How has the student shown vivid engagement? Through their internship in their state’s Division of Human Rights.

But they don’t stop there. They humanize their experience accepting the internship by describing the backlash they received from their family. They help us understand the nature of their work by describing the people they interact with. And they forecast what their civic engagement will look like at Princeton. This structure is pulled off beautifully. 

Additionally, the student’s moments of reflection do a great job of showing admissions officers their positive qualities:

  • THEY ARE THOUGHTFUL — This is seen as they recognize the importance of cumulative effects over time in the sentence “When “insignificant” discrimination slips through the cracks, more severe violations ensue.”
  • THEY ARE STRONG-WILLED — They do not let their family’s opinions shake their values and beliefs. They are invested in the cause of human rights, no matter the consequences in their personal life.
  • THEY ARE MATURE — They acknowledge that positives and negatives can exist at the same time, a mature concept. This is specifically seen in the sentence “The same elements that slow the processing of cases safeguard moral consistency, allowing genuine complaints to be separated from frivolous ones.” 
  • THEY ARE MOTIVATED — This student has taken on an intense job at a very young age. They are a hard worker, motivated, and willing to go above and beyond.

In a short essay, it is important to cut the fat. Every word should be intentional and any phrases that do not contribute to the essay should be cut. The main issue with this essay is that the student keeps a lot of fat.

For example, the sentence “Exercising my critical thinking while putting justice into action was fulfilling regardless of a complaint’s validity” can become “Exercising my critical thinking was fulfilling, regardless of a complaint’s validity.” The tighter version does not change the meaning of the sentence and helps the essay flow better.

The student also writes “when I compare human rights protections in the Middle East and the United States, I realize that upholding ethics through the law is necessary for many sectors .” The phrase “through the law” is fluff and the lack of precision about “many sectors” detracts from what the student is trying to say. 

Read each sentence you write individually and make sure it makes perfect sense. Make sure it is clear, tight, and does not require extensive mental acrobatics to understand. 

Secondly, while this student makes the wise decision to forecast their future, their forecasting should be more specific. They write “At Princeton, I’d extend my work in regional human rights to a global scale, building a safer future for vulnerable populations in the Arab world.”

Specific examples would make this forecasting more effective. This could look like:

At Princeton, I plan to continue my human rights work through PAJ organizations. As a vocal member of the Princeton Students for Immigration Empowerment, I will use my administrative skills and legal knowledge to help students acquire visas, housing, and support as quickly and easily as possible.

Essay Example #7: Civic Engagement

Since childhood, I have observed the adults of my life giving up their ideals due to financial struggle. My lawyer mother’s dream of justice was disrupted by the corrupt legal system revolving around bribery. My father’s architectural aspiration collapsed after his company’s bankruptcy. They wanted to contribute positively in society: my mother to protect the righteousness and fairness of the laws, and my father to creatively beautify the world surrounding him. Due to the constant pressure of satisfying the basic needs and the appeal of luxuries, they failed. They were not the only ones as illustrated by politicians whose words promise the people security yet their actions submit to corporations’ contributions. Thus, growing up, I chose to pursue money. Though it sounds like a disingenuous excuse for my own greed, I believe that studying finance and economics can exert positive changes on society because these disciplines are interwoven with industries and the well-being of individuals. Interning with a local financial service firm showed me the importance of financial security, which could produce a significant difference in more community involvement, philanthropy, and personal happiness, even among a small community. Whether it is improving financial literacy locally or addressing the wealth gap nationally, an understanding of money and its effects are necessary for meaningful changes to happen. Everyone seeks to solve world hunger, gender inequality, or climate change. Yet to each of these social problems exists an economic perspective that drives its entire operation to which I am committed to target.

One of the most important parts of writing a Political/Global Issues Essay , or a Civic Engagement Essay, is picking an issue close to your life. This student structures their essay around their family history, which helps the essay feel relatable.

The student humanizes themself by approaching their family history with vulnerability. They write about painful subjects — dreams being broken and hopes being let down — honestly, admitting that their parents were motivated by a desire for luxury and by corporate incentives. 

This student’s maturity also transfers to a larger scale. They have identified that capitalism rules the world at a very young age and are committed to working within the system with the ultimate goal of advancing service and philanthropy.

Though this may be a polarizing approach to capitalism, the student addresses it in a non-polarizing way. They position their desire to work in finance as motivated by the greater good. Lots of young people don’t have complex opinions on politics and the economy so, at the very least, this student showed that they have thought about the confines of capitalism and have an opinion.

A few changes could make this essay less confusing.

One simple but important change would be adding a paragraph break to separate the student’s discussion of their family history and their discussion of their life plans. This would help the essay flow better.

The break would occur before “Though it sounds like a disingenuous…” and would turn the preceding sentence — “Thus, growing up, I chose to pursue money” — into a transitional sentence, smoothly carrying us from the student’s childhood to their present life.

Second, as the student discusses their family history, they could more clearly communicate the facts of the story. For example, after reading the sentence “My lawyer mother’s dream of justice was disrupted by the corrupt legal system revolving around bribery,” we can’t tell if the writer’s mother was implicated in a scandal, if someone attempted to bribe her, or if she was disillusioned when she saw the success of a bribe. With tighter writing, we would have fewer questions.

Additionally, if we knew the details of the parents’ stories, the summarizing sentence “Due to the constant pressure of satisfying the basic needs and the appeal of luxuries, they failed” would be more effective. 

Lastly, because the connection between this student’s essay and civic engagement is looser than we’ve seen in other examples, it would benefit them to emphasize “civic engagement” at the end of the essay.

The student writes:

Whether it is improving financial literacy locally or addressing the wealth gap nationally, an understanding of money and its effects are necessary for meaningful changes to happen. Everyone seeks to solve world hunger, gender inequality, or climate change. Yet to each of these social problems exists an economic perspective that drives its entire operation to which I am committed to target. 

Instead, they could write:

While everyone seeks to solve world hunger, gender inequality, and climate change, most people fail to recognize that understanding money must come first. For civic engagement to be effective, it has to be financially informed. 

Essay Example #8: Quotation and Values

Prompt: Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay. (250-650 words)

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Afternoon on a Hill” (Renascence and Other Poems, 1917) 

My teenage rebellion started at age twelve. Though not yet technically a teenager, I dedicated myself to the cause: I wore tee shirts with bands on them that made my parents cringe, shopped exclusively at stores with eyebrow- pierced employees, and met every comforting idea the world offered me with hostility. Darkness was in my soul! Happiness was a construct meant for sheep! Optimism was for fools! My cynicism was a product of a world that gave birth to the War in Afghanistan around the same time it gave birth to me , that shot and killed my peers in school, that irreversibly melted ice caps and polluted oceans and destroyed forests. 

I was angry. I fought with my parents, my peers, and strangers. It was me versus the world. 

However, there’s a fundamental flaw in perpetual antagonism: it’s exhausting. My personal relationships suffered as my cynicism turned friends and family into bad guys in my eyes. As I kept up the fight, I found myself always tired, emotionally and physically. The tipping point came one morning standing at the bathroom sink before school. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the tired, sad girl that looked back with pallid skin and purple eye bags. That morning, I found my mother and cried in her arms. I decided that the fight was over. 

I took a break from fighting. I let go of my constant anger about global problems by first focusing on the local ones that I could do something about, and then learning to do things not because they fixed a problem, but for the simple joy of trying. I apologized to friends that I wronged previously, said yes when my mom asked me to go grocery shopping with her, and spent afternoons alone in the park, just reading. I baked brownies in the kitchen because it made me happy. I slept in on weekends when I could, but I also made an effort to get out of bed and move. I made an effort to be nice-optimistic, even-with the people around me, but more importantly, I made an effort to be nice to myself. 

After a period of self-care, the fight in me recharged, but this time I didn’t rush to spend it in anger. Now, it’s a tool I use wisely. I’ve channeled it into tangible causes: I don’t want the feeling of loneliness and anger to fester inside of anybody else, so I work with school administration to create community-building events for my senior class. From being the first to implement a class messaging system to starting a collaborative playlist with all 800 of my peers, I’ve turned my energy into positive change in my community. 

I’ve still got a few more years of teenage angst in me, but the meaning of my rebellion has changed. It’s not about responding to a world that’s wronged me with defiance, anger, and cynicism, but about being kind to myself and finding beauty in the world so that I can stay charged and fight for the real things that matter. 

I’ve realized that the world is my afternoon on a hill, full of sunlight and optimism if only I can see them. Now, I am the gladdest thing under the sun! I can be vulnerable and open, and I can show my passion to the world through love. I will touch a hundred flowers, seize a hundred opportunities, and love a hundred things. I will not pick just one. 

This essay does a really nice job of providing an overview of this student’s personality and how it came to be. The reader sees clear growth in the student as they progress through the essay. They weren’t afraid to be vulnerable, sharing details about feeling exhausted and lonely, which helped build empathy for the journey of self-discovery and reflection they’ve been on. Understanding their past personality allows readers to understand how confronting that personality formed their new, positive outlook on life.

There was a noticeable shift in the tone from the first paragraph to the second that brought the vulnerability with it. The beginning reads as a funny anecdote where the stereotype of a moody teenager is established. What the reader doesn’t expect is the sharp turn towards discussing the emotional impact of being a moody teenager. The tone shift subverts the reader’s expectations by surprising them with deep, personal reflection that makes them read the rest of the essay with more empathy.

This essay really captures the student’s outlook on life in different stages of their development, which provides so much insight to the admissions officers reading it. They reveal so much about themselves by continuously focusing the essay on how their internal feelings dictated their external actions.

One thing this essay could have done better was work the quote into the piece as a whole. The essay had a great story, but it was difficult to piece together how the story was connected to the quote until the student explicitly explained it in the last paragraph. It would’ve been helpful to keep the theme of the quote running through the entire essay so the reader could draw a connection. For example, using metaphors of sunshine and flowers throughout the piece would have called attention back to the quote and reminded the reader of why this quote is so important. 

Essay Example #9: Quotation and Values

“One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.” 

– Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University.  This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University . 

The air is crisp and cool, nipping at my ears as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky, starless. It is a Friday night in downtown Corpus Christi, a rare moment of peace in my home city filled with the laughter of strangers and colorful lights of street vendors. But I cannot focus. 

My feet stride quickly down the sidewalk, my hand grasps on to the pepper spray my parents gifted me for my sixteenth birthday. My eyes ignore the surrounding city life, focusing instead on a pair of tall figures walking in my direction. I mentally ask myself if they turned with me on the last street corner. I do not remember, so I pick up the pace again. All the while, my mind runs over stories of young women being assaulted, kidnapped, and raped on the street. I remember my mother’s voice reminding me to keep my chin up, back straight, eyes and ears alert. 

At a young age, I learned that harassment is a part of daily life for women. I fell victim to period-shaming when I was thirteen, received my first catcall when I was fourteen, and was nonconsensually grabbed by a man soliciting on the street when I was fifteen. For women, assault does not just happen to us— its gory details leave an imprint in our lives, infecting the way we perceive the world. And while movements such as the Women’s March and #MeToo have given victims of sexual violence a voice, harassment still manifests itself in the lives of millions of women across the nation. Symbolic gestures are important in spreading awareness but, upon learning that a surprising number of men are oblivious to the frequent harassment that women experience, I now realize that addressing this complex issue requires a deeper level of activism within our local communities. 

Frustrated with incessant cases of harassment against women, I understood at sixteen years old that change necessitates action. During my junior year, I became an intern with a judge whose campaign for office focused on a need for domestic violence reform. This experience enabled me to engage in constructive dialogue with middle and high school students on how to prevent domestic violence. As I listened to young men uneasily admit their ignorance and young women bravely share their experiences in an effort to spread awareness, I learned that breaking down systems of inequity requires changing an entire culture. I once believed that the problem of harassment would dissipate after politicians and celebrities denounce inappropriate behavior to their global audience. But today, I see that effecting large-scale change comes from the “small” lessons we teach at home and in schools. Concerning women’s empowerment, the effects of Hollywood activism do not trickle down enough. Activism must also trickle up and it depends on our willingness to fight complacency. 

Finding the solution to the long-lasting problem of violence against women is a work-in-progress, but it is a process that is persistently moving. In my life, for every uncomfortable conversation that I bridge, I make the world a bit more sensitive to the unspoken struggle that it is to be a woman. I am no longer passively waiting for others to let me live in a world where I can stand alone under the expanse of darkness on a city street, utterly alone and at peace. I, too, deserve the night sky.

There are many positives to this essay. To begin with, launching into the essay with multi sensory imagery in the anecdote was really effective at drawing the reader in. The audiovisual context (laughter, street vendors) keeps the scene alive and fully immerses the reader, while the internal narration illustrates how this student looks at the world. The contrast between the imagery of the external scene and the internal thoughts and feelings fully immerses the reader in the essay and alludes to the overarching theme of things being more complicated than they seem on the outside.

Another good thing this essay did was provide a personal account of this student’s experiences with harassment. This established their authority to speak on the topic and underscores their essay with authenticity. They then “zoom out” to provide relevant background information that supplies additional context for readers who might not be that familiar with the extent of the issue at hand. By relating their personal stories to the large-scale issue at hand, they simultaneously develop a personal connection while demonstrating an understanding of a serious global issue.

What really could’ve made or broken this essay was the quote the student chose. Allowing you to choose any quote, this is an extremely open-ended prompt which gives students the opportunity to write about whatever they choose. This student did an excellent job of picking a quote that isn’t well-known or significant, but fit perfectly into the narrative they were trying to express in this essay. The approach the student likely took with this prompt is figuring out what experience they wanted to discuss and finding a quote that fit, rather than picking a quote first. This approach made for an essay that existed independently from the quote and didn’t rely on it as a crutch.

All together, the essay feels cohesive with every part relating back to the overarching theme of diving deeper than the surface level of things. The student’s vulnerability and personal reflection throughout the essay helps carry the theme through each paragraph. Even the conclusion does a great job of circling back to the anecdote at the beginning, bringing the societal problem the student addressed back down to the personal level to remind the reader the student’s personal stake in the issue.

One potential criticism of this essay could stem from the ratio of background to active work. The author spends a lot of time setting up their personal connection and the global context of the issue; however, their essay could stand to gain from more content centered on their actual actions towards fighting harassment against women. They could discuss another small-scale discussion or project they led or elaborate more on their current inclusion. Dedicating two paragraphs to this rather than one gives admissions officers a better idea of their leadership skills and active role in fighting harassment.

Essay Example #10: Quotation and Values

“If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find the answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men . . . A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded.”

Essay/Book: The Fountainhead Author: Ayn Rand —

The US Open.

My parents had asked me if I wanted to come along, and I agreed. We got there; we took pictures next to a giant tennis ball, bought some tennis rackets, and finally headed over to our seats. It was absolutely freezing–and as the match continued, the world around me got darker and darker. An open stadium, I could see the stars in the sky just as clearly as I could feel the cold seeping through my coat. Trying to forget about my discomfort, I gazed up at the stars and listened to the vaguely muffled sounds of grunts and balls hitting the court.

A million things ran through my head.

The persistent cold that I was trying to forget. The beauty of the twinkling lights in the sky. The vast emptiness of the world around me.

And, even as I pulled closer to my mom and dad, an abject feeling of loneliness settled over me, my isolation from the excitement of the crowd making itself apparent as I felt none of the frustration, disappointment, or adrenaline-fueled excitement that the crowd and the players were feeling–a million miles away from my surroundings, insignificant in this moment.

And, it dawned on me, I am. I am insignificant–we all are. Even the tennis players whom we so eagerly watch are only really significant for the few hours of their game–and, is that insignificance necessarily a bad thing? Why should I pursue significance–and essentially, recognition–throughout my life? Why do I feel the need to be recognized? Should I not just want to aid in world progress–whether that be dancing to promote emotional expression, or engineering to promote prosperity and scientific advancement?

I began to understand the futility of ambition revolving solely around world recognition. Why should the entire world know my name? Shouldn’t success be just knowing that I created something, something that helped someone or something somewhere, something that advanced the face of knowledge or innovation, regardless of whether I gained actual ‘credit’ for it?

Having changed my definition of success, I no longer search for significance. My absolute insignificance has never been clearer, clearing the way for me to discover myself in my passions, rather than discovering passions in the hope of gaining relevance. My success is no longer defined by the approval or recognition of anyone but myself, making my successes sweeter and my hard work more gratifying.

This leaves no bar on my dreams, no curb on my goals. I’m an aspiring engineer because I love how math and physics and purpose click together as you design and invent and innovate, how the electricity of passion sparks through my fingertips as I stay up late working on my model rockets and deriving simple harmonic equations. I’m a dancer because I love how the music and movements feel in my muscles and bones, how fiery adrenaline rushes through my veins when I am in the middle of a performance. I’m a hopeful social entrepreneur because I want to give purpose to my innovations; I’m a singer because I like to feel the vibrations of songs collecting in my throat; I’m a programmer because I like to ‘logic’ my way through problems. None of its for money, or for a prize, or for world recognition–because even that significance doesn’t last long. I’m insignificant, and whether or not I remain so–as long as I fulfill my own purpose and achieve my own goals–it makes no difference to me.

This essay has a strong opening that does an excellent job of setting the scene for the perspective shift this student is about to have. There is clearly a sense of the student’s indifference to attending through explaining the match was their parents’ idea, their focus on the freezing cold weather, and explaining how their mind drifted to think about anything but the match. Establishing how removed they were in the moment is a nice segway to their feeling of insignificance. Because we know how they weren’t able to appreciate a moment everyone around them hyped up and cherished, we better understand how they came to the conclusion they are insignificant. 

Even once the student delves into philosophical questions about our purpose—a topic that it is easy to lose your readers on—we stay engaged because of their continued use of rhetorical questions. Especially when discussing more abstract topics in your essay, asking questions is a great tactic to help the reader see things from your perspective and break complex ideas down into more manageable chunks.

This essay concludes by telling us a lot about the student and their passions. The repetition of the phrase “ I’m a… ” creates a sense of continuity throughout their multiple identities and builds momentum for what’s to come. Not only do they reveal they are an engineer, a dancer, a singer, a programmer, and a social entrepreneur, but they also explain their reasoning and purpose for pursuing each of these passions. Sharing all of this student’s facets is a nice way to demonstrate to admissions officers that although they have a unique perspective on success, they are still an engaged and active member of their community.

There are a few ways this essay could be tightened up. The first would be to better incorporate the anecdote of the US Open throughout the rest of the essay. While there is nice set-up, the student basically abandons their story after they shift to talking about insignificance. Yes, the prompt asks for an experience that changed how you approached the world, but that experience should have more of an impact on you than just the location of your life-altering perspective shift. It would have been nice to see them grapple with how they differ from the US Open crowd who idolizes significance or even simply utilizing tennis metaphors to keep the theme going.

Another thing this essay needs to work on is being less vague. Take this sentence for example: “ Shouldn’t success be just knowing that I created something, something that helped someone or something somewhere, something that advanced the face of knowledge or innovation, regardless of whether I gained actual ‘credit’ for it?”  That is wordy and reveals nothing about the student. They use a word containing “some” six times in a singular sentence—lazy writing! Although this is a particularly vague sentence, much of the essay focuses on the abstract idea of embracing insignificance without relating it personally to the student. Bringing in more concrete ideas and tangible thoughts or actions this student has to demonstrate their insignificance would leave a much stronger impression on the reader.

It’s also important to make sure your quote fits in perfectly with your essay. Since it’s the first thing your reader will see, it creates an immediate impression going into the story, but if it doesn’t obviously tie into your essay it will be forgotten by the time your reader finishes. This essay unfortunately lost the quote by the end because it wasn’t clearly connected to the essay. It possibly would have been better had they picked a quote about being insignificant, or even about staring up into the night sky and feeling alone, seeing as that was the moment that their perspective changed. Your quote doesn’t need to be moving and inspirational, it just needs to effortlessly align with your essay.

Where to Get Your Princeton Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your Princeton essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Other Princeton Essay Resources

  • Princeton Essay Guide
  • How to Answer Princeton’s “More About You” Questions
  • How to Write the Princeton Civic Engagement Essay
  • How to Write the Princeton Diversity Essay
  • 4 Example Hooks for Princeton’s Meaningful Activity Essay
  • How to Write the Meaningful Activity Essay for Princeton

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

personal essay for university admission example

UCAS to replace personal statement essay with three questions to help disadvantaged people

UCAS surveyed potential applicants about to start their personal statement and found more than three-quarters prefer the new three-question format.

By Claire Gilbody Dickerson, news reporter

Thursday 18 July 2024 03:37, UK

personal essay for university admission example

Students applying for university through UCAS will be required to answer three questions under new plans to help support people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Under the current system, prospective students have been filling out a free-response essay for their personal statement, which can be up to 4,000 characters long.

But amid concerns the task helps advantaged people who can get support, the essay will, as of September 2025, be replaced with three mandatory questions.

The questions are:

• Why do you want to study this course or subject?

• How have your qualifications and studies helped you to prepare for this course or subject?

• What else have you done to prepare outside of education, and why are these experiences helpful?

More on Higher Education

File pic: PA

Minister does not rule out some universities may close over funding crisis

personal essay for university admission example

Labour's Bridget Phillipson criticised for refusing to rule out tuition-fee hike

File photo dated 24/04/2018 of a general view of St Salvator's Hall at the University of St Andrews. The University of St Andrews has taken the top spot in a national league table, beating Oxford and Cambridge. St Andrews has been placed higher than the elite Oxbridge institutions for only the second time in the 30-year history of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. The rankings show that Oxford fell from first to second place with Cambridge remaining in third place. Issue date

Good University Guide: St Andrews comes out top, with Oxford bumped to second

Related Topics:

  • higher education

Read more: Welsh is UK's most relaxing accent, study finds Graduate visa route should remain, report finds

Students seeking to start university in 2026 will be the first to experience the reformed application form, which will allow for the same amount of writing as the essay.

The move comes as UCAS data suggests the gap in university application rates between the most and least advantaged students has widened in the last year.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Data shows the application rate from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has fallen slightly to 25.4% in England, while the application rate for the most advantaged has marginally increased to 60.7%.

UCAS surveyed potential applicants about to start their personal statement, and found more than three-quarters prefer the new three-question format.

Be the first to get Breaking News

Install the Sky News app for free

personal essay for university admission example

Previous UCAS research found 79% of students felt that the process of writing the personal statement was difficult to complete without support.

Jo Saxton, chief executive at UCAS, said: "The changes to the personal statement, along with our recent fee waiver for students in receipt of free school meals, are all part of UCAS's contribution to the sector-wide effort to ensure more people from disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from the life-changing opportunity of higher education."

Related Topics

ChatGPT: Disruptive or Constructive?

Thursday, Jul 18, 2024 • Jeremiah Valentine : [email protected]

What is Chat GPT?

ChatGPT is a popular emerging technology using Artificial Intelligence. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which describes an AI program that looks for patterns in language and data learning to predict the next word in a sentence or the next paragraph in an essay. The website has a friendly interface that allows users to interact with AI in a n efficient conversational tone . ChatGPT provides another opportunity for students, instructors, researchers, workers, and others to find practical solutions to everyday and complicated problems.

At the root of this conversation is Artificial Intelligence. I plan to explore applicable uses of AI and ChatGPT in the classroom , entrepreneurial potential uses, and applications in industry .

A person types on a laptop.

   

Everyday Uses of Artificial Intelligence

The use of Artificial I ntelligence varies based on the user and their end goal. While many individuals will use certain programs or websites to meet specific objectives , many companies and apps have begun to utilize this emerging technology to better meet their customer's needs.

Duolingo is a popular foreign language learning application that I use to supplement my Spanish studies . The app uses Artificial Intelligence to assess users' knowledge and understanding as they interact with the program , thus streamlining users learning outcomes.

As another example, Khan Academy is a free online resource that helps teachers and students learn any level of math or other grade school topics for free. They have created Khanmigo , using AI. The model acts as a tutor that helps work through a problem while not directly providing the answer. It can assist in writing an essay or solving a complex math problem step by step.

These everyday applications continue a trend of companies implementing this new technolog y into students and teachers' lives . . This new AI technology also allows business professionals to enhance aspects of their processes.

Entrepreneurs, A.I. and the Advantages

While AI already provides companies and organizations with new ways to interact with and better support their customers, AI could also provide emerging industries and entrepreneurs with new paths to business success. 

According to Entrpreneur.com, most businesses currently use AI for customer service purposes , however , AI could also help entrepreneurs create effective spreadsheets cataloging useful data with accuracy that can be incredibly specific or broad. Specifically with customer service, AI can quickly find what a customer needs and solve their problems efficiently. It could also analyze how effective marketing campaigns are influencing customers’ purchases.

As I researched for more information about this topic, I found an article in The Journal of Business Venturing Insights published in March 2023, sharing different techniques business students can use ChatGPT as an asset to generate entrepreneurial business pitches. The article titled “ The Artificially Intelligent Entrepreneur” written by Cole Short, an Assistant Professor of Strategy at Pepperdine University, and Jeremy C. Short, a UTA alumni and Professor at the University of North Texas at Denton, showcased different elevator pitch scenarios.

Students and entrepreneurs study CEOs who have impacted an industry dynamically; the CEO's mentality is an asset . I had the opportunity to question Dr. Jeremy Short on how he arrived at the initial question of using AI as a CEO archetype business consultant. An archetype is a symbol, term, or pattern of behavior which others have replicated or emulated.

He responded, “ We used this existing framework and selected a CEO from each archetype and used ChatGPT to create elevator pitches, social media pitches, and crowdfunding pitches. The strength of ChatGPT is based largely on the creativity of the prompt, which is where we aim as authors.”

An empty classroom sits unused.

CEO Archetypes and Prompt Engineering

ChatGPT allows the user to understand the archetypes of successful CEOs and collaborate with entrepreneurial styles. These archetypes are accessible options to consult with AI. Let ’ s break down different CEO archetypes students used during this study:

Creator CEOs are typically serial entrepreneurs and serve during the growth stages of developing new businesses. These individuals are risk takers recognizing opportunities that others don ’ t see. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter is the creator archetype.

Transformer CEOs are created by climbing the ladder of a successful business and adding new ideas . They have a firm understanding of the company's culture and work to dramatically change the company, separating it from missteps in the past. Indra Nooyi CEO of PepsiCo is the transformer archetype.

Savior CEOs rescue businesses on the verge of failure with disciplined actions, unique experience and insights they forge a successful path forward for declining businesses. Lisa Su, CEO of AMD is the savior archetype.

ChatGPT was prompted to write an elevator pitch in the style of the previously listed CEOs. 

The response for Elon Musk included language about “ building” a product with “ cutting-edge technology.” 

Indra Nooyi ’s response included phrases like “ the world is changing” and making “ a positive impact in the world.” 

Lisa Su's response produced a pitch speaking about being “ accountable, tough and disciplined” with an emphasis on “ a strong focus on efficiency and performance.”

However, I believe these positions can help entrepreneurs develop their own successful business practices; creating a product your former employer could use to gain an advantage over the competition is disruptive. B uying a company on the brink of bankruptcy that has been mismanaged is a scenario entrepreneurs have explored and practiced .

Prompt engineering is the description of a task AI can accomplish , with instructions embedded in the input. Using prompt engineering, users can fine-tune their input to achieve a desired output incorporating a task description to guide the AI model. 

Conversation around ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence

I asked Dr. Short about how students could use this technology as an asset that guides their learning and, additionally, how instructors can use this as well. He spoke about an assignment he is currently using in his classes. “ Chat GPT might be valuable in helping create a recipe for material that students can then refine. For example, in my social entrepreneurship class students create crowdfunding campaigns for either DonorsChoose , a platform that caters to public school teachers or GoFundMe , a service which allows a variety of project types to a larger userbase . I plan on students using ChatGPT to create a ‘rough draft’ to show me so I can see how they refine their responses for their particular campaigns this upcoming fall.” Th is approach allows students to take advantage of popular technology in a constructive way.

The journal article provided some notable conclusions about ChatGPT , i ncluding “ quality control is essential when using automated tools; a hallmark of success for large language models is their vast associative memory, this strength can also be a weakness. Specifically, models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are capable of confidently generating “ hallucinated” output that appears correct but, it is incorrect or completely fabricated. ChatGPT serves as an emerging tool that can efficiently and flexibly produce a range of narrative content for entrepreneurs and serve to inspire future research at the intersection of entrepreneurship and AI.” ChatGPT ’s limitations and potential applications are continually being explored.

Industry Application

After researching various applications of AI, I spoke with Dr. George Benson, Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Management at The University of Texas at Arlington, about AI and ChatGPT from an industry perspective. His research focuses on Artificial Intelligence with Human Resource Management .

Dr. Benson told me that Artificial Intelligence is being invested heavily by human resource departments who are looking to automate hiring practices. Specifically, he mentioned “ HR is using this as a market opportunity. AI is a useful tool to sift through potential applicants by scanning their resumes for qualifications and experiences. Allowing professionals to hire applicants faster.”

This application allows the technology to handle low-level tasks, but the results generated are being handed to a human to review and act on. He spoke about the potential of A.I. “ There are a lot of unknowns, but the technology is new and getting better.” Looking towards the future, technology is already being applied in different ways . These applications are being explored in the classrooms of UTA as well.

A group of Alumni discuss rankings in a conference room.

Exploration of AI at UTA

The College of Business conduct ed a survey to understand the faculty’s attitude towards A I in the classroom. It was a part of the “Teaching with Chat GPT” workshop on Friday February 9 th , which focus ed on how to integrate Chat GPT and other AI platforms into teaching . 

Dr. Kevin Carr, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at UTA, was a part of the workshop ; he currently teaches Advanced Business Communication . I talked to him about the purpose of the workshop and what he hopes to gain from the group's sessions. 

Dr. Carr explained "The point of the workshop is designed to give faculty ideas for instruction and to develop classroom activities to work with students . Our goal for th e workshop is to introduce Artificial Intelligence as a teaching tool for faculty, including showing what AI can do potentially in the classroom. We are going to be very open to faculty’s direction, in terms of ongoing discu ssions and meetings.”

Personal Take

Artificial Intelligence or Chat GPT , in my view, is another useful tool in the toolbox of technology. It will take the air out of certain industries, and it will change jobs, yet every major technological advancement has the potential to do so. The automobile was considered radical, the use of plastic, computers in the workplace, and alternative energy have been impactful on society. 

Alternative energy was headlined as the end of oil use. The automobile changed the way cities were formed and led to the creation of a national highway system. Society has always found a way to adapt and overcome major technological innovations, artificial intelligence is not any different.

AI is the technology of tomorrow. It reminds me of something Dr. George Benson said , “ It's cool software that is a sophisticated search engine.” Google, one of the most popular search engines, reshaped the internet, as you search for resources, it is a natural starting point. AI and ChatGPT are an evolution, for students it is a tremendous resource consulting a CEO archetype, creating business pitches, and most importantly shaping the future .

An unidentified person writes in a journal in front of an open laptop.

News & Events

  • College of Business News
  • The Business Maverick
  • Business Week

IMAGES

  1. Writing a good college admissions essay

    personal essay for university admission example

  2. 33+ College Essay Examples For Admission Image

    personal essay for university admission example

  3. a letter from the university of cambridge to students

    personal essay for university admission example

  4. Examples of essay writing for university

    personal essay for university admission example

  5. personal college admission essay examples about yourself

    personal essay for university admission example

  6. 15+ Admission Essay Examples For College The Latest

    personal essay for university admission example

VIDEO

  1. READING MY COMMONAPP ESSAY that got me into UPENN with FULL RIDE

  2. The personal essay that got me into Duke University

  3. College essay topics: mental health and challenges

  4. Topics to avoid in the college essay

  5. How to write an amazing personal statement for any university / College application

  6. Experts share college essay advice

COMMENTS

  1. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    Common App Essay Prompts. According to the 2024/2025 Common Application, the common app essays topics are as follows:. Background Essay: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.

  2. 14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2024-2025)

    Here are some example essays from some of the thousands of students we've helped get accepted to their dream school. Note: Some personally identifying details have been changed. College essay example #1. This is a college essay that worked for Harvard University. (Suggested reading: How to Get Into Harvard Undergrad)

  3. 10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

    Your personal statement is any essay that you must write for your main application, such as the Common App Essay, University of California Essays, or Coalition Application Essay. This type of essay focuses on your unique experiences, ideas, or beliefs that may not be discussed throughout the rest of your application.

  4. How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

    But writing a good personal statement isn't exactly easy. That's why we've put together the ultimate guide on how to nail your personal statement, complete with example essays. Each essay was reviewed and commented upon by admissions expert Bill Jack. Let's dive in! Related: How to write an essay about yourself What is a personal statement?

  5. 12 Outstanding Personal Statement Examples

    If you're applying to college, you'll most likely need to write a personal statement as part of your college application. (And please note that the personal statement examples below are for undergraduate applications—if you're trying to find grad school statement of purpose examples, please head to that link.). But before diving into analyzing some great personal statement examples, it ...

  6. Personal Statement Tips for College and University ...

    The Free Guide to Writing the Personal Statement. Kick things off with the two greatest brainstorming exercises ever, learn about options for structuring a personal statement + example outlines, check out some amazing example personal statements, and get on your way to writing your own killer personal statement for university applications.

  7. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. Connecticut College. 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025 . Hamilton College. 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026; 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022

  8. How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

    For example, the Common App Essay and Coalition Application Essay are examples of personal statements. Similarly, the ApplyTexas Essays and University of California Essays are also good examples. Personal statements in college admissions are generally not school-specific (those are called "supplemental essays").

  9. How to Write a College Essay

    While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you'd be a good addition to the university. Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application's total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT ...

  10. Essays That Worked

    These selections represent just a few examples of essays we found impressive and helpful during the past admissions cycle. We hope these essays inspire you as you prepare to compose your own personal statements. The most important thing to remember is to be original as you share your own story, thoughts, and ideas with us.

  11. 21 Stellar Common App Essay Examples to Inspire Your College Essay

    When you begin writing your Common App essay, having an example to look at can help you understand how to effectively write your college essay so that it stands apart from others. These Common App essay examples demonstrate a strong writing ability and answer the prompt in a way that shows admissions officers something unique about the student.

  12. The Personal Essay

    The personal essay is a snippet of who you are and where you're coming from - a snapshot for the admissions officers to look at as they read your application. It will never be able to capture everything about you, but you want to make sure that you're giving them your best angle. So sit down, smile, and get to writing!

  13. 32 College Essay Examples That Worked

    A personal statement essay or a college admissions essay is the part of your college application that allows the admissions committee to get a stronger sense of who you are as a candidate. ... College Essay Examples #15/32: University of Pennsylvania. ... college essay examples, sample college admission essays, College Application, college ...

  14. How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

    How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started. Start early. Do not leave it until the ...

  15. How to Write Personal Essays for U.S. Universities

    Mariel S. Tavakoli is a WES Expert Ambassador who recently graduated from the University of Oxford. Her studies focused on helping international students prepare personal statements in English. Below, she provides essential insights about how to prepare a personal essay that will improve your chances of earning admission to a college or university in the United States.

  16. How to Write a College Application Essay

    College application essays allow students to showcase their strengths and uniqueness. A well-written college essay could tip an admission decision in your favor. Students should spend time editing and proofreading their application essays. Your college application essay should focus on you and a meaningful topic.

  17. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    Whether you're using the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a school-specific application portal, it can be scary to try to come up with an essay topic that encompasses the complexity and vastness of who you are as a person … while also staying in the word count.

  18. Essays and Short Answer Prompts

    The Penn application process includes a personal essay—which is sent to most schools you apply to—as well as a few short answer prompts. We read your words carefully, as they are yet another window into how you think, what you value, and how you see the world. ... (For example, all applicants applying to the College of Arts and Sciences ...

  19. Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

    For example, (piggybacking on @alay42's example below) how you and a friend were driving and she was texting and you guys got in an accident. Those are parts of the essay that should be clear. However, you shouldn't write the "What you learned" part so bluntly. In the example given, you don't say that "I learned that texting while driving is ...

  20. How to Write the Common Application Essays 2024-2025 (With Examples)

    Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone. "Show, don't tell" is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most ...

  21. College Essay Examples

    Essay 1: Sharing an identity or background through a montage. This essay uses a montage structure to show snapshots of a student's identity and background. The writer builds her essay around the theme of the five senses, sharing memories she associates with sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

  22. Application Prompts for 2024-2025

    You'll choose one Common Essay prompt to respond to in 250-650 words. These prompts are common to all schools who accept the Common Application, and you can view the prompts here. Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.

  23. A Definitive Plan For Your College Admissions Process

    Seek inspiration from past successful essays to provide you with examples of compelling narratives that resonate with admissions officers. As you draft your personal statement, remember that ...

  24. 10 Stellar Princeton University Essay Examples

    Princeton Essay Examples Essays 1-2: Why This Major; Essay 3: Extracurricular; Essay 4: Difficult Topic; Essays 5-7: Civic Engagement; Essays 8-10: Quotation and Values; Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free Princeton University is consistently ranked within the top three colleges in the nation, and is world-renowned for its quality of education.

  25. UCAS to replace personal statement essay with three questions to help

    Students seeking to start university in 2026 will be the first to experience the reformed application form, which will allow for the same amount of writing as the essay. Advertisement

  26. ChatGPT: Disruptive or Constructive?

    ChatGPT is a popular emerging technology using Artificial Intelligence. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which describes an AI program that looks for patterns in language and data learning to predict the next word in a sentence or the next paragraph in an essay. The website has a friendly interface that allows users to interact with AI in a n efficient conversational tone.