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Blog > Essay Advice , Essay Examples , Supplementals > Writing a Great Academic Interest Essay (with Examples)

Writing a Great Academic Interest Essay (with Examples)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

What is an academic interest supplemental essay.

Academic Interest essays are a kind of supplemental essay . They ask you to expand on one of your primary academic interests. Since you’re going to college to be a student, colleges ask Academic Interest supplemental essay questions because they want to get a sense of your intellectual curiosity.

In fact, Academic Interest essays are one of the main places in your application for you to geek out about the topics you’re most passionate about.

Admissions officers want to know about the questions that keep you awake at night, the problems you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and solve, and the conversations you can’t wait to partake in.

But don’t worry. When a school asks you to describe your academic interest, you don’t have to stress about having your entire life planned out. If you say, “I want to create a robot to clean up litter in the ocean,” nobody is going to come knocking on your door when you graduate looking for a robot.

Your main goal when writing your Academic Interest supplementals? Show that you’ll be a great contributor to the learning community on campus.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to do just that.

Let’s start by looking at a few examples of what Academic Interest prompts look like.

1: Stanford University

The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100 to 250 words)

2: Pomona College

Academic Interest Statement: What do you love about the subject(s) you selected as potential major(s)? If undecided, share more about one of your academic passions.

3: Brandeis University

The Brandeis community is a diverse group of critical thinkers defined by their ability to dive deeper into their learning by questioning, analyzing, evaluating, creating, critiquing and seeking other perspectives. Share an example of how you have used your own critical thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea or interest.

These examples should help you identify Academic Interest prompts when you come across them.

Now let’s move on to discussing three strategies you can use to answer any Academic Interest prompt colleges throw at you.

Academic Interest Essay Strategy

Great essays are strategic essays. Since supplemental essays exist to supplement the rest of your essays (like your personal statement ), activities, and letters of recommendation, it’s important to write them with intention. These three strategies will help you write your Academic Interest essays with an eye toward showing admissions officers how your intellectual curiosity makes you a perfect fit for the intellectual community at the school in question.

Write about an academic interest that aligns with what the school has to offer.

It doesn’t make much sense to write about your undying passion for pursuing a career in linguistics if you’re applying to a school that doesn’t have a linguistics program. Be sure you're doing your research on the school.

Remember that your supplemental essays exist to showcase how well you fit into a school’s academic, social, and cultural communities. While the academic interest you choose doesn’t have to exactly match up with something specific at the school like a Why this Major essay , it’s a good idea to choose an interest that can support your case for academic fit.

Be specific.

Specificity is your friend in most essays but especially in Academic Interest essays. As an admissions officer, one of the most memorable Academic Interest essays I read was about the history of corsets. It doesn’t get much more specific than that!

In a similar way, you should choose something specific to write about based on what the prompt is asking you to do. Whatever your intellectual niche is, don’t be afraid to be explicit about what it is that captivates you. Your goal is to be as specific as is necessary to bring an admissions officer into your intellectual world, give them a look around, and send them on their way with a new understanding of what you care about and why it’s important.

Reflect on the significance of your academic interest.

Academic Interest essays succeed when you demonstrate why the topic is important to you and to the world.

While these supplementals should be specific, they aren’t an opportunity for you to write a treatise on an obscure math concept or insect species. Instead, your Academic Interest essays should make it clear why your interest matters, to whom, and why.

Showing these connections lets an admissions officer know that you’re able to see the big picture and draw connections between academic interests and real-world problems.

How to write an Academic Interest supplemental essay

Alright. With those three strategies in mind, it’s time to get to writing.

Step 1: Read the prompt.

There are lots of ways colleges ask you to write about an academic interest. Take a look at the examples above. The Stanford prompt says that you can reflect on “an idea or experience,” but the Pomona prompt only asks for an “academic passion.” The Brandeis one is different yet, asking you to focus specifically on critical thinking and giving you the freedom to talk about a number of ways your academic interest has manifested.

The wording of the prompt will affect the options you have to choose from, so be sure to read it carefully.

Step 2: Decide on an academic interest.

After you’ve narrowed down your options based on the prompt, next you have to think about your application strategy.

If you’re applying to a particular college major , you should choose an academic interest that is related to your preferred major to emphasize your intellectual curiosity for that subject. Alternatively, you could pick an unrelated academic interest that shows your interdisciplinary inclinations (but that will probably be less effective). What you decide will depend on what kind of school you’re applying to and what other strengths you’ve strewn throughout the rest of your application narrative .

Step 3: Outline & Write

I. Introduction: Hook your reader into your topic with your first sentence, and expand on your academic interest throughout your introduction.

II. Body: Provide more details and introduce your reader to the problem, question, puzzle, or implications that keep you intrigued. III. Body II: Connect your academic interest to an activity you've been involved in. Use this essay as an opportunity to show a connection between your resume and your academic interests.

IV. Conclusion: Reflect on why your interest matters and why your interest in the subject is personally meaningful

Academic Interest Supplemental Essay Mistakes

There are two frequent mistakes applicants make when writing Academic Interest essays, and they typically happen when students aren’t paying enough attention to their application strategy.

Being too academic or too personal.

All college essays are tricky because they require you to balance a number of things. Academic Interest essays are no different. They are a balancing act between intellectual curiosity and personal meaning.

The first mistake applicants make is failing to find this balance. Too much or too little of either, and your essay comes across as too academic or too personal.

You don’t want to be the student who rambles on about a math proof and leaves your admissions officer without any sense of meaning to hang on to. Similarly, you don’t want to dive too deep into meaning and completely neglect to address the details of what interests you. Finding balance is essential.

Being too general.

So you want to “solve the world’s problems” or “find practical solutions to climate change.” That’s great! But when it comes to Academic Interest essays, the key is specificity. Anyone can have general interests in any topic. It’s the niche and particular academic interests that set applicants apart.

Focusing on one very specific interest tells admissions officers that you’re committed enough to your interest to have done thorough research on it. Your specificity shows familiarity with and dedication to a topic—both things that all colleges look for in their students.

If you’re too general, you run the risk of your Academic Interest essay not actually serving you. Too vague, and it’ll be like you didn’t write the essay at all.

So rather than trying to capture all of your interests or solve all of the world’s problems at once, hone in on something that you just can’t stop thinking about. Your future self (and your admissions officers) will thank you.

Academic Interest Supplemental Essay Examples

Example: what do you want to be when you grow up.

Brown: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about any academic interests that excite you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (200-250 words)

"How was school and what do you want to be when you grow up today?"

My mom asked me this two-part question every day when she picked me up in second grade.

One day I wanted to be a chemist because of an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy. The next, I wanted to be a teacher like Miss Frizzle, or a paleontologist because of the dinosaur episode we'd just watched. Or maybe I wanted to produce cartoons for kids.

The idea of really learning something and trying to master it has always excited me. My only issue was that seemingly every subject was the next shiny thing I wanted to learn.

Brown's Open Curriculum is uniquely suited to satiate my broad interests–many of which I have maintained since I was a kid. I still love chemistry and have had the privilege of experiencing an advanced academic lab at UVA studying infectious diseases. I will certainly explore chemistry courses and seek out more research opportunities. I know I want to study abroad, and I'm most interested in the “Dinosaurs, Dry Bones, and Digs" course and trip that Brown archaeology professor Schultz hosts each spring to search for new dinosaur fossils in Brazil. Producing my school’s senior film with the help of my advanced filmmaking team has prompted me to also try on modern culture and media coursework at Brown and participate in the Campus Reel competition in the fall.

While my academic interests have evolved since I was seven, I look to college as a time to explore fields of interest, discover new ones, and maybe after four years have a better answer to that question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

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  • 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


  • 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.

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College Essay About Academic Interests

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  • July 24, 2023

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  • Have any classes or teachers inspired this interest?  How?
  • Are there life experiences that you have had that have spurred your interest?
  • Family involvements
  • Personal anecdotes
  • What experiences have helped expand your understanding of this interest?
  • Club or extracurricular
  • Job or internship
  • Reading: a specific book or publication that impacted your thinking
  • Mentors or other influencers
  • Is there a connection to your future plans that you can envision?

Relate this to the college

This is also an opportunity to show that you’ve done your research. You can provide reasons why this school is a good match for you. Is there a special program, professor, or class that shows why you want to pursue your academic interest at this particular school?  

Because some schools ask both about your academic interests and why their school, think about how you will answer both. You do not want to waste precious word count with any repetition of the same information or ideas.

Show, don’t tell

You are going to hear this again and again. Give the specifics that show how this academic interest has developed for you. As with your primary personal statement, you want to give evidence of your interest. Sometimes anecdotes can be very helpful in showing your interests. Avoid sweeping, vague statements.

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Worry that your answer is a commitment to what you will study

Some institutions will ask applicants to apply to the major or school in which they want to study. If accepted, these applicants will be enrolled directly in that major or school. Happily, at the majority of schools, you are likely to have a great deal of flexibility to change your major later. Even with institutions that are less flexible, your response to this prompt is unlikely to lock you into a major. 

Note that a small handful of schools are particularly strict with regard to you studying what you indicate on your application (e.g., Cal Poly – SLO). If you have questions about this as you fill in your application, be sure to ask your counselor. 

Sweat that your answer is not very specific

Perhaps you have not settled on a major just yet. Perhaps one of the reasons you have chosen this school is that you’ll have the chance to explore and make decisions later about your major.  

It’s perfectly okay to be undecided at a lot of colleges (and presumably, if you are undecided, you’ve chosen to apply to colleges that embrace your “multi-interested” character).  

However, it’s likely that you have academic preferences as well as academic strengths. For example, maybe you’re super strong in science, and you anticipate exploring scientific disciplines in ways you haven’t yet in high school. You might even be able to say that it’s likely you’ll major in the sciences. You can point to the other ways in which your love for sciences shines beyond school.  

For example, maybe you are a nature freak: you hike in the woods, you have had a fishing license since you were 10, and you have volunteered on trail crews every summer. Or maybe you’ve worked on a bird-banding team during migration season. Or maybe you’ve read every popular book and article and watched every video by Neil deGrasse Tyson. All these things indicate that you enjoy science and provide evidence that are likely to pursue science in college. 

Provide a confusing answer

While there are many right ways to write this essay, there is one major pitfall to avoid. Don’t choose to write about an academic interest that you can’t support with any evidence revealed elsewhere in your application. This creates a confusing image of you to your application reader and could send your application to the recycling bin.  

Academic interest essay examples

You might have suddenly decided that you want to study international relations. But your choices might not support the decision. For example, perhaps you stopped taking a foreign language after two years. Or maybe you haven’t chosen any relevant electives, such as human geography, world religions, or international relations. Do you follow international news? If not, then you probably shouldn’t select this academic interest unless you have some other compelling story that proves this major makes sense.

To give another example, let’s say you tend to excel in humanities classes, especially literature. You’ve taken a couple of extra English courses, and you attended a “Great Books” program over the summer. The recommendation letter from your English teacher oozes with compliments about your penchant for literary criticism and remarks how many times you have come into her office to discuss this poem or that novella. And then you write your college essay about an academic interest on how excited you are to be a math major. While it may be true that you do like math, the reader of your essay is likely to be confused about which interest represents your true priorities as you enter college.  

The point is that your answer to this question has to be backed up with some sort of evidence that this academic interest is not an invention. You need to provide a clear and convincing case for how you got interested in this area or discipline, the ways in which you have explored this interest so far, and how you plan to continue this interest in the future.

Your college essay about academic interests – a summary

Colleges are schools. They like scholars. They serve up academic inquiry. This supplemental essay about academic interests is a place for you to demonstrate your academic credentials. It’s also a place to explain how your interests have developed over time and the ways in which you will pursue these interests in the future.

Give the college a picture of who you are intellectually. Demonstrate that you are ready to explore your interests, and to navigate the world of academia as a college student.

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College Essay Prompts: Complete List, Analysis, and Advice

College Admissions , College Essays


When talking about college essays, we tend to focus on the Common Application prompts , and it's true that many students will need to write a Common App essay. However, there are actually quite a few schools, including both public and private universities, that don't use the Common App and instead ask applicants to respond to their own college essay prompts.

Luckily, college essay prompts tend to be pretty similar to each other. In this guide, I'll list all the college essay questions for popular schools in the US (and a few abroad) and then break down the patterns to help you brainstorm topics and plan how to approach multiple essays efficiently. After reading this guide, you'll be able to strategize which essays you'll write for which colleges.

Feature image: Mayr /Flickr

Why Do Colleges Ask For an Essay?

The short answer: the essay gives admissions committees a sense of your personality beyond the statistics on the rest of your application. The essay is your chance to show the committee your unique perspective and impress them with your maturity and insight.

College application essay prompts are written with this goal in mind. Admissions officers want to give you the chance to share your interests, aspirations, and views on the world, so most prompts ask about how your experiences have shaped you or what you're excited about studying or doing in college. I've collected a ton of examples below and provided some analysis to help you begin planning and crafting your own essays.

Keep in mind that the personal statement alone won't be enough to get you in— your grades and test scores are still the most important factors in your application . That being said, a stellar essay can help bring a borderline applicant over the top or give an excellent but not extraordinary student the opportunity to stand out in a competitive applicant pool.

As such, the essay tends to matter most for very competitive schools. Non-competitive schools generally don't ask you to submit an essay.

Complete List of College Essay Prompts

This list collects the 2022 college essay prompts for major state universities, top-50 schools, and other popular schools which have their own unique questions. They're divided by region, with all optional essays listed at the end.

I left off the Common App supplements, as those often require a substantially different approach. I also stuck to four-year schools, meaning I didn't include special two-year programs, such as Deep Springs College or Miami Dade College's Honors Program (both of which require essays).

Finally, note that these prompts are for freshman applicants, so the requirements might be different for transfer students .

General Applications

There are three general applications you can use to apply to many different schools at once:

Common Application

Universal college application, coalition application.

Each application has its own personal statement requirement. Some schools will ask for additional supplemental essays.

Many more schools accept the Common App than they do the UCA or Coalition Application , though some will accept more than one of these applications.

For the Common App essay, you pick one of the prompts and write 250-650 words about it. Here are the prompts for the 2022-2023 school year:

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.

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?

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

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

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

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

The UCA essay prompt is completely open ended and has a 650-word limit. Here is the 2022-2023 prompt:

Please write an essay that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life-changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event.

For the Coalition Application, you'll pick one of five prompts listed below. While there is no hard word limit, the range guidelines are 500-650 words. Here are the prompts for 2022-2023:

What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?

Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?

Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?

What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?

Now that you know the essay requirements for the three general applications, let’s look at the application essays for specific schools . To keep things organized, we’ve grouped schools based on the region of the US in which they’re located.



The Great Dome at MIT

Georgetown University

Georgetown asks applicants to write one short essay (about half a single-spaced page) and two longer essays (approximately one single-spaced page each). Each applicant must respond to the first two prompts and can choose among the other four based on the specific program she's interested in.

Short Essay: Briefly (approximately one-half page, single-spaced) discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved.

All Applicants: As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.

Applicants to Georgetown College: What does it mean to you to be educated? How might Georgetown College help you achieve this aim? (Applicants to the Sciences and Mathematics or the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics should address their chosen course of study).

Applicants to the School of Nursing & Health Studies: Describe the factors that have influenced your interest in studying health care. Please specifically address your intended major (Global Health, Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, or Nursing).

Applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service: The Walsh School of Foreign Service was founded more than a century ago to prepare generations of leaders to solve global problems. What is motivating you to dedicate your undergraduate studies to a future in service to the world?

Applicants to the McDonough School of Business: The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.

For more Georgetown application tips, check out our articles on the Georgetown essays and how to get into Georgetown .

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT doesn't ask for a single personal statement but rather asks applicants to respond to a series of questions with just a paragraph or two of about 200 words each .

We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.

Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community.

Tell us about a significant challenge you've faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?

For more details on how to get into MIT , read our other articles on the MIT application process , tips for MIT essays , and an example of a real MIT acceptance letter !


University of Wisconsin, Madison

Indiana University Bloomington

IU asks for 200-400 words on your plans and interests.

Describe your academic and career plans and any special interest (for example, undergraduate research, academic interests, leadership opportunities, etc.) that you are eager to pursue as an undergraduate at Indiana University. If you encountered any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles in pursuit of your education, share those experiences and how you overcame them. Please note that this essay may be used in scholarship consideration.

University of Illinois

The University of Illinois asks for two essays (or three only if you selected a second-choice major other than what's noted on your application). All responses should be approximately 150 words.

You'll answer two to three prompts as part of your application. The questions you'll answer will depend on whether you're applying to a major or to our undeclared program, and if you've selected a second choice. Each response should be approximately 150 words. If You're Applying to a Major: 1.  Explain, in detail, an experience you've had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. This can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else. 2.  Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from UIUC and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them. If You're Applying to Our Undeclared Program in the Division of General Studies: 1.  What are your academic interests and strengths? You may also include any majors you are considering. 2.  What are your future academic or career goals? If You've Selected a Second-Choice Major (Including Undeclared): Please explain your interest in your second-choice major or your overall academic or career goals.

If you're applying to UIUC, check out our UIUC essay tips article as well!

University of Wisconsin–Madison

All applicants must complete two essays for UW–Madison. The essays should be 250-650 words in length and may be used for scholarship and campus program review.

If you apply through the Common Application, you’ll be asked to reply to one of the freshman Common Application essays in lieu of the first essay prompt below, but you’ll be required to respond to the second prompt below. 

If you apply through the UW System Application, the following two essays are required:

This part is all about you. Tell us about something you've done — academically or personally — and what you've learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education?

Tell us why you would like to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest.

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:

Kyle Field at Texas A&M ( Ed Schipul /Flickr)

The ApplyTexas application is used by all Texas public universities and some private colleges. There are four ApplyTexas essay prompts. Which ones you need to respond to will depend on where you're applying. UT Austin, for example, requires applicants to submit at least one essay responding to Topic A on the ApplyTexas application. .

While there's no set word limit, the online application will cut off each essay at 120 lines (~1000 words).

Topic A: Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?

Topic B: Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.

Topic C: You've got a ticket in your hand – Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?

Topic D: Please Note: The essay in this section is specific to certain college majors and is not required by all colleges/universities that accept the Apply Texas Application. If you are not applying for a major in Architecture, Art, Art History, Design, Studio Art, Visual Art Studies/Art Education , you are not required to write this essay.

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

We go into all the ApplyTexas prompts in detail here !

University of Georgia

For UGA, applicants must write two essays, one 200-300 words and one 250-650 words . Both essays are required for all applicants. The longer personal essay uses the Common Application prompts for 2023 ; the prompt for the shorter essay is as follows:

The c ollege admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years that you have not already shared in your application.

For a more detailed discussion of the UGA essays, read this article .


The Campanile at UC Berkeley

University of California

Students applying to the UC system must respond to four out of eight short personal insight questions. The maximum word count for each response is 350 words.

  • Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
  • Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
  • What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  • Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  • Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  • What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  • Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Learn more about the UC essays , the UC application , and how to choose which UC schools to apply to with our complete guides .

University of Oregon

Applicants to the University of Oregon are required to submit one essay of 650 words or fewer. You also have the option to write a second essay (maximum of 500 words), but it’s not required.

The essay prompts are as follows:

The UO is interested in learning more about you. Write an essay of 650 words or less that shares information that we cannot find elsewhere on your application. Any topic you choose is welcome. Some ideas you might consider include your future ambitions and goals, a special talent, extracurricular activity, or unusual interest that sets you apart from your peers, or a significant experience that influenced your life. If you are applying to the UO's Robert D. Clark Honors College, feel free to resubmit your honors college application essay.

Optional second essay: As you've looked into what it will be like to attend Oregon, you've hopefully learned what makes Ducks Ducks. No two are alike, though, so tell us what makes you you, and how that connects to our campus community. We are interested in your thoughts and experiences recognizing difference and supporting equity and inclusion, and choosing one of these two options will guide you in sharing those thoughts. You can learn more about equity and inclusion at Oregon by visiting the Equity and Inclusion website . Maximum statement length is 500 words. This statement is not required.

University of Washington

In addition to its specific prompts, the University of Washington gives specific advice about what its admissions officers consider to be good writing before the prompts:

"At the UW, we consider the college essay as our opportunity to see the person behind the transcripts and the numbers. Some of the best statements are written as personal stories. In general, concise, straightforward writing is best, and good essays are often 300-400 words in length.

Essay Prompt (Required): Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped shape it. Maximum length: 650 words.

Short Response (Required): Our families and our communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. Maximum length: 300 words

You can also find more tips on the University of Washington essays in this blog article .


Generally speaking, international schools are less likely to ask for an essay, since admission tends to be heavily focused on grades and test results. However, a few popular international schools do ask for a personal statement as part of their application.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UK Schools)

UCAS is a general application for UK schools (similar to the Common App in the US). There's no specific prompt for the personal statement—instead, applicants are required to write an essay describing what they want to study, why they want to study it, and what they bring to the table. There is a 4,000-character/47-line limit.

University of British Columbia

UBC asks applicants to fill out a personal profile consisting of five to seven short-answer questions that vary depending on the program you're applying to. Answers should be 50-200 words.

Depending on which degree program you apply to, you’ll be asked to answer some or all of the following questions on the UBC application:

  • Tell us about who you are. How would your family, friends, and/or members of your community describe you? If possible, please include something about yourself that you are most proud of and why.
  • What is important to you? And why?
  • Family/community responsibilities
  • Creative or performing arts
  • Work/employment
  • Service to others
  • Tell us more about one or two activities listed above that are most important to you. Please explain the role you played and what you learned in the process. You will be asked for a reference who can speak to your response.
  • Additional information: You may wish to use the space below to provide UBC with more information on your academic history to date and/or your future academic plans. For example: How did you choose your courses in secondary school? Are there life circumstances that have affected your academic decisions to date? What have you done to prepare yourself specifically for your intended area of study at UBC?
  • Please submit the names of two referees who know you well and can comment on your preparedness for study at UBC. Examples of referees include an employer, a community member, a coach, a teacher/instructor, or anyone who knows you well. One of the referees you select must be able to speak to one of the activities/experiences described in one of your long-answer responses above. For applicants who are currently attending a high school, one of your referees must be a school official (e.g., Grade 12 or senior year counsellor, teacher, or IB coordinator). Neither referee should be a friend, family member, or paid agent.

Some programs of study may ask applicants to respond to the questions above and some additional, program-specific questions when completing the personal profile.


University of Cambridge

Optional Essays

Some schools don't require an essay from all applicants but do recommend or require an essay for certain programs. I've listed a selection of those prompts below.

Arizona State University

Students applying to the Barrett Honors College at ASU must submit one essay of 300 to 500 words in response to one of the following prompts (your response may be critical or creative):

Prompt 1 Discuss how a specific piece of art (painting, literature, photograph, etc.) or popular culture (song, comic book, etc.) helped you realize something new about yourself or the world. What was that realization, and how did the piece of art or pop culture bring about this change in your thinking? Do not simply describe the piece of art or pop culture; instead, focus on its effect on you and how it makes you a good fit for the Barrett Honors College experience. Prompt 2 Tell us about a habit or way of thinking that others would recognize as “uniquely you.” This is something you value and would hesitate to give up because it is a distinct part of who you are or what makes you different - why is it so? Be sure to share how this aspect of your identity makes you a good fit for the Barrett Honors College experience.

City University of New York

Applicants to Macaulay Honors College must write two essays: an “about you” essay, and an essay describing your plans for college. Each response should be around 500 words, give or take a few within reason.

Essay 1: About you. (Select one of the options below.) 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. OR Tell us about an area or activity, outside of academics, in which you have invested a lot of time and effort. Tell us why. What did you learn? How was it meaningful?

Essay 2: About your plans for college. Please discuss all points below. Why do you want to go to an honors college ? There are many benefits of being a Macaulay student, such as the Macaulay community, special courses, Honors advisement, cultural passport, opportunities funds, and other financial benefits. Please describe how these features will shape you and your college experience, including, what you expect to bring to the college community and what you expect to get out of your college experience.

Florida International University

Only applicants who don't meet the criteria for automatic admissions and whose applications undergo holistic review will need to submit a 500-word essay:

Students requesting appeal or additional review of their admission status must submit a written statement including:

Your goals and educational or professional objectives

A summary/explanation of past academic performance

Information and/or circumstances that may have affected past academic performance

  • Any other information the student wishes to have considered

Ohio University

For the Ohio University application, students who've been out of school for more than a year must submit an essay explaining what they've done in their time off from school.

Applicants who have been out of high school for more than one year must submit an essay detailing activities since graduation.

Additionally, applicants to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism are encouraged, though not required, to submit an essay detailing how they want to help shape the future of journalism.

For all other applicants, submitting an essay here is optional; however, if you do wish to write an essay, the application suggests that you describe any academic challenges you’ve faced, academic and career objectives, or involvement in community affairs (recommended length is 250-500 words).

Those interested in Ohio University's OHIO Honors Program (including the Cutler Scholars Program) are required to answer the following essay prompt (limit 250 words):

Students in the OHIO Honors Program represent all majors on campus and take engaging honors courses while applying what they learn outside of the classroom. Students choose from classes and experiences across three pathways: community engagement, research and creative activity, and leadership . Students in OHP can move among the three pathways as their interests evolve and they develop their goals. What pathway is most exciting to you right now, and why?

Finally, those interested in the Honors Tutorial College are must answer the following two essay prompts (in about 500 words each):

HTC Question 1: Please explain why you have chosen your particular program(s) of study.

HTC Question 2: We expect that one reason you seek a tutorial education is for the one-on-one interaction with faculty, but other than that, what interests you about pursuing a tutorial-based undergraduate education? What aspects of your education and life experience have prepared you for a tutorial education with its emphasis on research and creative activity?


Type 1: Questions About a Meaningful Experience

This type of college essay question is the most common. The exact focus of these prompts can vary quite a bit, but they all ask you to reflect on an important experience. Some questions specify a type of experience whereas others don't, simply opting to have applicants write about whatever matters to them.

There are three basic sub-types that you'll see when dealing with these prompts. Let's look at an example of each.

#1: Overcoming a Challenge

These prompts ask about how you dealt with a particular challenge or solved a problem. Below is a typical example of this question type from the MIT application:

Tell us about the most significant challenge you've faced or something important that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?

To address a question like this, you need a topic that has real stakes —that is, something that you genuinely struggled with. Even though it can seem as though you should only discuss positive experiences and feelings in your college essay (you want to impress your readers with how awesome you are!), unwavering positivity actually hurts your essay because it makes you seem fake.

Instead, be honest : if you're writing about a negative experience, acknowledge that it was unpleasant or hard and explain why. Doing so will just make your overcoming it that much more impressive.

#2: Engaging With Diversity

Questions about diversity ask how you interact with those who are different from you . See an example below from the Common Application:

When approaching this type of question, you need to show that you're thoughtful about new ideas and perspectives. Colleges are full of students from all kinds of backgrounds, and admissions officers want to know that you'll be accepting of the diversity of other students, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

Also, make sure to pick a specific instance to focus on. Writing a general essay about how you accept others won't impress admissions officers—you need to show them an example of a time that you did so.

#3: Growing Up

Finally, this type of prompt asks about a transitional experience or rite of passage that made you feel like an adult. I've reprinted another example from the Common App:

For these types of prompts, you want to show personal growth. Explain to the reader not just who you are but also how you've changed . (Really, this is a good idea no matter which prompt you're addressing!)

College can be challenging, so admissions officers want to know that you have the maturity to deal with (likely) living on your own, managing your own life, and planning for your future.

Regardless of the exact prompt, the key to this type of college essay is to show what you've learned from the experience. Admissions officers don't care that much about what happened to you—they care about what you think and feel about that event. That's what will give them a sense of who you are and what kind of college student you'll make.


Once you write a first draft, put it in a drawer for a week. Taking some time away from it will allow you to come back to it with fresh eyes. Then, try to read your essay from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. Would they be able to understand the story? Do you explain clearly what you learned? Does your intro grab the reader's attention?

It can also be helpful to ask someone you trust, such as a parent, teacher, or peer, to read your essay and give you feedback. Really listen to what they say and think about how you can improve your writing.

Finally, try reading your essay aloud. This will help you catch any weird or awkward phrasings.

What's Next?

If you're struggling with how to approach your personal statement, consider looking at some college essay examples .

The essay is just one part of the college application process. Check out our guide to applying to college for a step-by-step breakdown of what you'll need to do.

Finally, if you're planning to take the SAT or ACT , consider taking a look at our expert test-prep guides for some helpful advice on whatever you might be struggling with.

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:

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Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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Empowering Choices: Insights and Advice for Parents and Teens on Major and Career Exploration

Recent posts, subscribe here, more expert advice, how to write the “academic interests” supplemental essay.

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If you’re a senior starting to work on supplemental essays for college applications this fall, it’s likely you’ve encountered some version of this question: what do you want to study, and why?

Before you dive in, it’s important to understand what the question is asking (I know this seems like a duh, but stay with me). Like we discussed here , the way this question is asked reveals a lot about both the school itself and the way you should approach it. For some schools – many liberal arts colleges and universities where it’s relatively easy and encouraged to switch majors – this question is usually phrased as what you want to learn more about. Responses to questions like these should zing with curiosity. For others – more siloed universities where you apply into a particular college and into a specific major – this question is often asked to reveal how much thought you’ve put into your major of choice, both in how you’ve prepared for it and what you hope to do with it in the future.

For some students, if the way the question is asked makes it tough to answer, it may be a sign that the college itself isn’t the right fit. But for most students, it’s more about not knowing where to start. If you’re stuck with how to approach this style of question, this blog post is for you.

First, much like with the “why us?” supplemental essay, it’s important to know what style of question you’re answering. Once you figure that piece out, the essay is much easier to write. This question usually is asked in one of three ways:

1) Why major?

This is the most straightforward version. It’s typical of schools where you’re applying more directly into a specific major, and they want to hear how you’ve decided on that pathway. Classic examples of this one are Purdue, UT Austin, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Southern California.

Sample : Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.

2) What do you hope to study?

This is a more open-ended version of the question above. It invites you to share multiple academic pathways, perhaps if you’re undecided or see many roads ahead for yourself. CU Boulder, U Penn, and Pomona all ask a version of this question.

Sample : Please share a bit more about your academic interests. What do you hope to study at CU Boulder? What has inspired your interests in this area? Or if you are undecided, what area(s) of study are you considering? Think about your prior/current coursework, extracurricular activities, work/volunteer experiences, future goals, or anything else that has shaped your interests.

3) Intellectual curiosity

This is a popular question for liberal arts colleges or any college that celebrates intellectual discovery and exploration (ie, where changing your academic pathway, or exploring many interests, is easy or encouraged). Some schools that ask this type of question are Yale, Stanford, Tufts, Barnard, and Haverford.

Sample : The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning.

As you approach this topic, it’s important to remember that while you can be undecided (except for schools that ask that first question), you can’t be uninterested . Colleges want to hear your curiosity in these responses. It’s very likely you’ll change majors or pathways in college (frankly, it’s what most American colleges are built to encourage). But what leads to academic success is a spark of an interest, so make sure you’re demonstrating those sparks. Here’s how.

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4 Tips on How to Write This Well  

1)   Share honest stories about yourself and how you became interested in these subjects.

Origins of interest sound like this:

"I've never seen my father angrier than the day I took our family television apart just to see how it worked. I was 12 years old, and Monday Night Football was just about to start.  It wasn't the first time I'd done something like that, but it was the first time I wasn't able to put something back together quickly. It took me three hours, but I did it, just in time for my dad to see his beloved Giants lose. I never made that mistake again, but I've also never stopped trying to learn how things work." 

The development of interests sounds like this:

"My junior year of high school, I volunteered to lead a fundraiser to send our soccer team to Europe to compete in a tournament. And while I enjoyed organizing the car wash and the donation drive and the now much maligned "shrimp-a-thon" (Sizzler doesn't mean it when they say, "All you can eat shrimp,” by the way), what I really enjoyed was crafting personal emails to ask for donations, and writing the regular update newsletters I sent to people who were supporting us, and updating the travel blog I wrote during our stay in Europe. Every day, I thought about new ways to share our story with people who might be interested. Yes, we raised money. But we also raised interest. People who had never cared about our team started caring. We developed a following of loyal supporters, and 18 guys who had never been to Europe finally got to go because of it. That experience was the first time I started to understand the power of the well-written word."

2) Pick stories that show you enjoying what you’re learning.

"I truly enjoy working on complex math problems. There is no better feeling than persisting through difficult formulas and eventually working out the right answer." 

"My friends and I are the only people I know who have fights about math. Not physical fights (none of us are tough enough for that), but arguments. We spend a lot of our lunch hours sitting at what we call the ‘coolest table’ working through problem sets for the “Math Club,” and you’d be surprised how worked up we get about it. But I love it. I love that I can sit at a table with some of the smartest people at my school and argue about the best way to solve a complex math problem. And the best part is, nobody is ever angry when they’re proven wrong. We love math too much to be mad when someone shows us a faster, better way to solve the problem.”

3) If the question is asked as “why major” (sample question #1) or “what are your academic interests?” (sample question #2), then tie these interests to your future college plans.

Imagine yourself studying and learning in a particular college. Do you see a clear picture in your mind? Have you really investigated your chosen major? Have you looked at what classes are required, what will be expected of you, and what types of students seem to flourish there? And when you're answering those questions, how much of what interests you is specific to this school? If the question is more open-ended (version #2), you can paint a picture of multiple pathways – perhaps dabbling in music and biology or using their core curriculum to help you decide on psychology or political science.

4) If the question is like sample question #3 (intellectual curiosity), stay open-minded and get nerdy!

Remember that your answer to this style of prompt doesn’t necessarily have to align with your potential major choice. We’ve seen great responses to this question that nerd out about Spanish literature from future physics majors, or the paradoxes of time from future English majors. Don’t box yourself into writing about your intended major pathway necessarily. Think instead of what has made you truly excited about learning in the past – whether it’s when you connected the dots in a murder mystery and explored the interplay of psychology and creative writing, or that time you went down a rabbit hole about parallel universes and never got out. These responses should sparkle with inquisitive excitement.  

For more on supplemental essays, make sure to check out our thorough overview here of how to crush supplemental essays, the Collegewise way. 

About Us:  With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include  counseling ,  test prep ,  academic tutoring , and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform , leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates. 

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Essays That Worked

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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.

college essay examples about interests

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College Interest Statement Examples

College Interest Statement Examples

Taking a look at some college interest statement examples will help you develop your own and figure out how to write a college essay . You could spend a lot of time looking through style guides and taking expert college essay tips to heart – and we recommend doing all of that – but there is an extra layer of knowledge to be gained by observing the work of those who have gone before.

Even how to start a college essay can be daunting, so reading college interest statement examples will help improve your own ability to write your personal statement or college interest statement and will boost your application with slicker, more confident writing. In this article, we present you with three separate college interest statement examples for your perusal, so that you might better write your own material.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free initial consultation here <<

Article Contents 10 min read


The primary goal of a statement of interest is to show why you are the perfect fit for the program to which you are applying, that is, why you are the right person. Your high school resume , extracurriculars for college , and letter of recommendation cannot stand on their own; you need to say something in your own words to provide insight into who you are in the bigger picture.

Many colleges use the Common App or Coalition Application, with a mandatory personal statement. These serve a similar function to a college interest statement but tend to focus on who you are and why you are perfect for the field you want to study; they will not mention specific colleges or programs because they will be sent to all of the several schools you are applying to through the Common App. However, if you encounter a statement of interest, either in the secondary application or with a school that does not employ the Common App, you will want to tailor your statement to highlight programs or opportunities afforded by the specific school to which you are applying.

First Statement

Brushstrokes in anger dispel the emotion. I tear at a canvas, my brushes and palette knives smearing out something dark inside me, and while I rend my art, I stitch my soul. Art therapy was the best thing that ever happened to me.  

I lost my mother in a traumatic event when I was still a little girl. She could swim, but I could not when I was seven years old and curious about the fish off the dock. She saved me, but the undertow pulled her away. My survivor’s guilt left me depressed and angry.  

My father tried putting me in traditional therapy, but I didn’t respond. However, when a paintbrush was put into my hand, I would talk about what I was painting, and art therapy saved me.  

In my teenage years, I took as many art courses as I could and began to help out at my old art therapy center. In fact, I taught some basic painting courses to help kids who, like me, needed to express themselves in ways that were extraverbal.  

I was sullen on the ride home from the science fair. We were getting home late because we couldn’t leave right away. My exhibit was still smoldering an hour after the exhibit, despite the fire extinguisher’s timely deployment. Needless to say, I had not won a blue ribbon. I had accomplished very little, outside of greatly reducing the moustache of Mr. Worczyk, my science teacher.  

The only people pleased by the evening were my siblings, who thought my humiliating failure was hilarious. Mr. Worczyk was nonplussed, my parents were apoplectic, and the fire department – who were called prudently, if unnecessarily – were not happy with my experiment either. None of them could have been as miserable as I was, however, because I loved science, and I felt the door was closed to me forever.  

I wanted to skip class and never have to look Mr. Worczyk directly in his minimally mustached face again, but I was in enough trouble as it was without adding class skipping to my offenses, so I attended on Monday. Mr. Worczyk asked to speak with me after class. Once my instinct for self-preservation overcame my brief impulse to jump from the window, I glumly approached his desk.  

“Let’s fix that experiment, Dylan. Shall we?”  

This was the real start to my love of science. My experiment – intended to show how different gasses diffused light – had gone up in smoke, but thanks to Mr. Worczyk, its failure shed real light on what failure could be: a true opportunity to learn.  

The scientific method thrives on failure. A hypothesis without counterexamples yields unreliable and inaccurate results. How could you know what was missing? How could you be sure of your conviction that you were right? In the true scientist, failure is to success what a rung is to a ladder: just another step up.  

Now I fail gleefully. Science experiments in my chemistry lab go wrong, and I get the opportunity to find out why. Thanks to those failures, I have passed many tests and quizzes, and I have received several blue ribbons at other science fairs, including third place at a national event last year. If I hadn’t learned how to fail better, I could never have gained the knowledge, skills, and experience to accomplish any of that.  

“Why?” is the most effective question for advancement that we possess. It is at the core of science and central to failing properly – in such a way that knowledge is gained.  

My studies in chemistry have led me to many fascinating places. I have moved from light diffusion to heat dispersal and how energy moves. I am currently in the middle of failing at trying to find out more efficient ways to move electrical currents from one place to another. Failing is, I know now, creeping success.  

Someday, I will work in a laboratory and ask “why” over and over again, and I will fail until I succeed – as the two are blended together so neatly that I don’t see a reason to distinguish one from the other.  

With some of the finest laboratory facilities in the country – certainly in any educational institution – the obvious choice for my future studies is your school: the Varnsen Institution is my dream school. In particular, I appreciate the current research being conducted by faculty about states of matter, including the exploration of dark energy. These fascinating, cutting-edge research areas are exciting and inspiring and will prepare me for my curious life in science.

I owe this bright tomorrow to my failures of yesteryear. Mr. Worczyk taught me to try again and regenerate my failure into success. Thus, my experiment never truly failed at all. As a side effect, by the way, Mr. Worczyk finally shaved his moustache off. He tells me that Mrs. Worczyk considers this a success, too.

My intro to philosophy course was Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which includes a gleeful sketch about a fictional faculty in Australia singing a drinking song about besotted intellectuals. Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Aristotle are all name-dropped in the raunchy lyrics, and I laughed my head off.  

But I was also curious: I knew of these philosophers – enough to giggle at the sketch – but I didn’t know what they actually believed. Therefore, I set off to read some of the greatest minds that our civilization has come across. What I found altered my worldview several times, opened my mind, and charted my academic course.  

Friends of mine were fellow Python fans, but they didn’t want to talk philosophy as often as I did, so I found myself seeking out other, like-minded persons. I found them in two places at my school: the school newspaper and the debate club.  

The former allowed me to write op-ed columns in which I could expound on the work of whatever great thinker I had “discovered” that week, while the latter honed my skills of dialectic. I appreciated both for what they allowed me to do.  

In the case of journalism, I learned to articulate my viewpoints and apply philosophy to the real world. Many people believe that the study of philosophy is a dusty way to trap oneself in the perpetual motion machine of academia. I came to understand that this is not the case. My column attempted to find reason in madness. We live in a society that is constantly evolving new threats to itself, whether on an existential level with nuclear armaments, in the political sphere with factionalism, or on a day-to-day level with work-life balance.  

I believe that philosophy helps us find a path forward in our lives, no matter how chaotic. I attempted to carve out some of those pathways through my column. I don’t think I always succeeded, but to be fair, this was a high school newspaper.  

Debate club gave me the chance to argue as the Greek philosophers of old did. More importantly, debate club kept me on my toes, putting me into a position where I had to defend my position by understanding my opponent’s. This saved me from my own potential echo chambers and forced me to contemplate one of the greatest philosophical questions of all time: “What if I’m wrong?”

One of my part-time jobs is tutoring younger kids. We live in an affluent neighborhood, so I have several clients who want a good grade boost for their children. While teaching math and history, I found I could also throw in some philosophy from time to time, and it has been a delight to see these kids “get it.” They understand quite a bit, and although they might not know words like “teleological,” they can grasp many philosophical concepts – utilitarianism, for example – in principle, if not by rhetoric.  

So, for a classical philosopher, the question is, “Why?” Why do I want to study specifically at the University of Milford? The answer could easily be because of the fascinating and trendsetting philosophical papers published by the faculty, or it could be the beauty and history of the campus. But, in my case, it is because of the robust interdisciplinary focus of the coursework, which will allow me to explore how philosophy connects to other subjects and areas of our post-post-modern world.

I think that teaching philosophy has been relegated to dustiness and dismissal because we teach it “in-and-of-itself,” as a means to its own end. I believe philosophy is dynamic and alive. One need only look to the thriving podcast market to surmise that opining about the world is not only necessary for the human condition, but also a desirable pastime. We crave conversation, connection, and understanding, and I believe the study of philosophy will allow me to provide this, in a classroom or podcast – or both.

You can see how these essays have presented their subjects, from engaging opening hooks to closing statements that neatly wrap everything up. Expertly written samples will help you a lot, particularly if bolstered with college essay tips . This should help you break down your own college interest statement when you set out to apply to any program at your dream institution.

Interest statement lengths will vary from school to school. Some schools will measure by word count, others by character count, and some by page count. Check with your institution and program to see your limits.

Most personal statements will sit between 500 and 650 words, which comes to about a page, if you’re using a 12-point font and have average-sized paragraphs. If no word count is given, aim for 500, allowing for a little room on either end.

That’s more than enough room to make a good statement but do make sure that you respect any specified limits. 

Functionally, very little. This section of your application might be called a statement of interest, letter of intent, personal statement, or other similar terms. The purpose remains largely the same.

Do note that when an institution uses the specific phrase “statement of interest” or “interest statement,” they will be looking for a connection to the university or college that you are applying to. Make sure to include that connection in the statement by linking their specific programs or opportunities to your plans and vision for your future.

It is a way for you to introduce yourself, your uniqueness, and your individuality to the admissions committee while connecting those qualities to the school you are applying to.

Your primary goal should be to give a quick “snapshot” of yourself. You will present your background, reveal some of your personality, and describe what led you to apply to the institution and program you chose. You could do this by talking about academics, hobbies, your personal life, or any other facet of yourself; just make sure that you showcase the essential “you.”

This is best accomplished by revealing just enough to intrigue the admissions committee and make them curious about who you are. Leaving them wanting more – in a good way – will make them want to bring you in for an interview.

Most require some form of short essay to introduce yourself in a personal way. It might not be called an interest statement, but a similar text will be required in virtually every application.

Mostly, you should connect yourself to the program you are applying to and tell your “story.” Anything is on the table, with the sole exception of repeating information that can easily be included elsewhere. Don’t recite your resume, don’t brag about academic accomplishments, and don’t just list a bunch of general information.

You should also avoid answering any other essay questions that can be answered elsewhere in your application. For example, if another required essay at your institution is, “Why did you apply to this school/program?” you don’t need to talk too much about that in your statement of interest because you can answer that question elsewhere. In such a case, you would focus more heavily on your personal story while only touching on “why this school?” in your interest statement.

As only certain schools will require an interest statement, particularly at the undergraduate level, chances are you will need to create one for each school. Moreover, the focus of an interest statement is the specific school and program, so aside from a brief introduction to yourself and your background, most of the interest statement will discuss the school itself. 

Many institutions utilize centralized application systems, such as the Common or Coalition Applications, which require that you write one personal statement to be sent to multiple institutions. With secondary essays and supplemental material, you will be able to create individualized essays for schools you are applying to.

Approximately two to three weeks should be spent writing your interest statement, although keep in mind that you won’t be writing constantly; it won’t be a full-time occupation. However, working on the statement daily will help you accomplish all of the planning, writing, re-writing, and editing that you will need to deliver a perfectly polished piece.

Yes. Although interest statements aren’t assessed the same way as standard college essays, they are still being evaluated and giving the admissions committee members a good idea of who you are as a person and as a student. If you fail to write coherently and skillfully – including spelling and grammar – you may leave a negative impression of your skills and academic capabilities.

You have tools like spellcheckers and grammar checking apps at your disposal. Use what you must but produce an error-free paper.

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college essay examples about interests

30+ Short Essay Examples

Short essay examples.

Writing essays can be one of the most daunting aspects of applying to college. From the personal statement to the extracurricular list to short answer essay questions, the way you communicate your experiences and personality within your application is crucial. Looking at short essay examples is an excellent way to prepare yourself to write your own. In this guide, we’ll provide several short essay examples to help you get a sense of what schools are looking for. 

We’ll break down the differences between short answer essay examples and long essays, give you some college essay tips, and provide a wide variety of short essay examples. Reading short essay examples for college can help you brainstorm how to structure your essays to best represent your personality. In this guide we’ll look at short essay examples from Columbia, Princeton, and many other schools and colleges. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by college application essays, then you’re in the right place!

But before getting into our short essay examples, let’s learn more about different types of essays and their requirements.

Essay Types and Requirements

Writing essays is a crucial part of the college admissions process. Therefore, learning about the different types of essays you’ll need to write in your college applications is a good place to start the process. There are three main types of essays you’ll encounter as you apply to college: personal statement, long/medium essays, short answer essay questions. 

Common App essay

The Common App essay , also known as a Personal Statement, is the most well-known college essay you’ll have to write. So, it is not surprising that most colleges require the Common App essay/personal statement as part of their application process. The word limit for the personal statement is 650 words, and is it usually the longest essay requirement. 

Supplemental essays

Supplemental essays vary in length; however, many colleges will have long/medium essay requirements in addition to short answer essay questions. Generally, long/medium essays are between 200-400 words. That being said, you should always review the essay requirements for each college well before the application deadlines as they will vary. 

Short answer essays

A sub-type of the supplemental essay format are short answer essay questions. It can be easy to leave the short answer essays to the last minute. However, since these essays usually have a word limit of 50-150 words, they can actually be the most difficult to write. Therefore, it’s important to dedicate enough time and energy to your short answer essays as they can help your application stand out. 

This guide will focus on short essay examples and college essay tips for short answer essay questions. Short answer essays can be challenging, especially given the small word limit. Indeed, it can be hard to adequately capture your personality and strengths in such a short format. We’ll cover short essay examples later in this guide to help inspire your writing process!

Short Essays vs. Long Essays

Managing all the different types of essays needed for your applications can be difficult. And, while the short essays may feel like they don’t take as much effort, they are just as important as the personal statement or other longer essays. 

In general, you’ll find long essays take longer to plan and edit. However, the benefit of longer essays is that you have more room to explore your ideas. Alternatively, short answer essays require you to be very intentional with every word. Therefore, they may be trickier to brainstorm and to edit down below the word limit.

Reading examples of college essays can give you a sense of how long and short essays differ, and how you should shift your approach for each. In fact, many of the short essay examples we’ve collected highlight just how impactful short answer essays can be at communicating your unique personality and interests. While long essays grant you more space, short answer essays can quickly help you stand out in the admissions process. 

Together, short and long essays help paint a holistic picture of who you are. Additionally, they help indicate if you’d be a good fit for a specific school. Reading through short answer essay examples can give you a feel of the pace and tone schools are looking for in this type of essay. 

Do all college applications require short essays?

No, not all colleges require short essays! While you research short essay examples, it’s good to keep in mind the essay requirements for each of the schools on your college list. 

You may encounter schools with a mix of short essays and long/medium essays, such as the University of Southern California or UT Austin . Some schools will only have long/medium essays in addition to the personal statement, like Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago . On the other hand, there are schools that don’t have any supplemental essay requirements, like Northeastern and Oberlin . As you make your college list, be sure to review the college admissions requirements for each school. 

What colleges require short essays?

Many different colleges require short essays. Later in this guide, we’ll look at short essay examples from Stanford , Princeton , and Columbia . However, many other schools have short essay questions.

Colleges with Short Essays

  • Brown University requires four short answer essays, ranging from 3 words to 100 words. 
  • California Institute of Technology (CalTech) has three optional short essays with word limits between 50-150 words. Given how competitive Caltech is, researching some short answer essay examples is wise!
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  requires five short essay responses as part of their application. Responses should be between 100-200 words.
  • University of Southern California has different short essay questions depending on your major. Check out the additional application requirements for the specific school you’re applying to. 
  • University of Notre Dame has five unique short essay prompts, and students have to pick three of them to complete. Each short essay has a word limit of 50 words. Students must also respond to two other essay prompts, and although not necessarily deemed “short” essays, they have word limits of only 150. 
  • Dartmouth College has three separate essay supplements; only one is considered “short” with a word limit of 100 . Reading through college essay ideas can help you brainstorm your best Dartmouth short essay. 
  • Tufts University has two supplemental essay requirements, one of which is considered a short essay. For the Tufts short essay, all students must complete a sentence in 100 words or less explaining why they are applying. Take advantage of Tuft’s guide on tackling the short essay questions. 
  • University of Pennsylvania has two mandatory short answer essays and one that is major specific. Each has a word limit of 150-200 words. 
  • Virginia Tech has four required short essay prompts, each with a 120-word limit. 
  • Occidental College has one 20-word response supplemental essay as well as a 150-200 word essay among their essay requirements.

As you can see, short essays are prevalent in many schools’ essay requirements. Therefore, reading short essay examples will help you with your applications. And remember, be sure to check each school’s specific requirements as every school is different! Writing requirements can also change yearly so search the school’s site for the most up-to-date information.

Examples of Short Prompts

In this section, we’ve compiled several short essay examples for you. For these short essay examples, we’ve included several different answers to each prompt. This will help you see the wide variety of ways you can tackle short answer essay questions. For each prompt, we’ll give you some college essay tips, and break down ways you can approach these short essays. 

The following prompts are all variations on personal interest essays. In general, these short answer essay questions help admissions officers understand your unique perspective and how your interests have shaped your understanding of the world. You can use these short essay examples as a jumping off point to shape your own approach to personal interest short essays. 

Let’s check out the first prompt and three short essay examples that answer it. 

When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 word limit)

Response #1.

Read: The New York Times, Vox, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Quora. Favorite authors include Siddhartha Mukherjee, Atul Gawande, Dushka Zapata, and Zora Neale Hurston. 

Listen: This American Life, The Daily, Radiolab, Invisibilia, U.S. and French pop. 

Watch: The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, YouTube science, baking, and fingerstyle guitar videos.

Response #2

Read: an unhealthy number of self-help books, re-reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, every one of Audre Lorde’s books… 

Listen to: Danez Smith’s slam poetry (my personal favorite? Dinosaurs in the Hood), Still Woozy, Invisibilia… 

Watch: all the television I was forbidden from watching when I was twelve, POSE, ContraPoints, YouTubers criticizing ContraPoints… 

Response #3

Read: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, The Wendigo, How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, weekly newsletter

Listen: Shostakovich, Lauv, Atlas, 20-hour-rain soundtrack on Spotify 

Watch: Avatar, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, Hachi (if in the mood to cry), any Marvel movie!

These media focused short answer essay questions are very popular as your answer can say a lot about who you are! However, don’t try to be impressive or list things you haven’t actually read or watched – be honest and let your personality come through. 

Now, let’s look at some more prompts and their short essay examples:

Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists. (50 word limit)

I love literature and art that helps me explore my roots and learn to love myself. These works and authors include: The Color Purple, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,

Maya Angelou, Day of Tears, Hope for the Flowers, and Langston Hughes.

What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy? (50 word limit)

I enjoy newspapers and magazines that enable me to learn something everyday. I like National Geographic because it lets me learn more about science. Once it even inspired me to do a self directed project on albatrosses. I also enjoy The Economist as it gives me a well rounded view of today’s politics and economics.

What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)

“December 24th, 9pm, Eastern Standard time.” Rent began. I was sitting in between my best friends. We were losing circulation in our hands from holding on too tight and washing off our make-up with our tears. I felt an immense sense of harmony with the play and it was fantastic.

These short essay examples show how robust of an answer you can write with 50 words. Furthermore, they’re great examples of how students are able to expand on their personal interests to create a cohesive story with their essays. Indeed, the best college essay ideas will strengthen your personal narrative, even within short responses! These short essay examples show how much you can learn about an applicant in minimal words.

Moving on from those unique prompts, let’s turn to a favorite among schools. You’re likely to see a version of the following prompt for many different colleges. 

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 word limit)

I live by my motto: “Dare!” in all instances of Truth or Dare.

Apparently, so do the students who brave Secret Snowflake. It spotlights what I love most, Truth or Dare minus the truth. Will I attempt to break the jalapeno eating record? Hop into The Claw in sub-zero temperatures?

We’ve included this Stanford prompt to highlight the ways in which short essay examples for college can also be used to gauge your knowledge about the school you’re applying to. Many college essay tips are school specific , but it’s important to think broadly when reading examples of college essays.

While some college essay advice may apply more to one school than another, many college essay tips can be used across various schools. This prompt highlights the importance of using research to demonstrate your interest in a school. 

In general, you might notice that many short essay examples have quite unique prompts. The following prompt is creative and fun, allowing students to take their response in any direction they want.  

Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 word limit)

I’d split my hour two ways, investing time in my own wellbeing and in others. Half I’d spend baking treats for friends, which would double as a personal gift, since I find baking—like running—relaxing and restorative. The second half I’d spend answering Quora questions—something I’ve been meaning to pay forward.

At eight, I dreamed of becoming a YouTuber, documenting life in rectangular video. Each year, this dream drew further from reach.

With extra time, I’d retrieve what time stole. Creating comedic skits or simply talking about my day, I’d pursue what I value most—making others laugh and capturing beautiful moments.

These short essay examples demonstrate how one thought-provoking question can capture someone’s personality and values. College admissions officers use these questions to see how well a student knows themselves and what their priorities are. When reading examples of college essays, try to imagine how your answer will come across to a stranger. What details do you need to include to make sure your thoughts and ideas come across clearly? 

How to write a short answer essay for college?

After reading a couple of short essay examples, you may feel overwhelmed with how to answer the short answer essay questions. When you’re applying to college the short answer questions may be the last thing on your priority list. However, as our short answer essay examples demonstrate, short essays can help your application stand out. 

When you first approach a short essay prompt, feel free to break it down into even smaller parts. What is the core idea you’re trying to convey? Try to answer the prompt in a single answer, or even word, first. You can then use the remaining word count to explain or justify your answer. The best short essay examples get right to the point and communicate the answer clearly and concisely. 

Once you have a version you’re happy with, get some feedback! While the short answer essay examples we’ve included feel effortless, rest assured that they were edited and workshopped. Remember that the short essay examples paint a picture of the applicant– think about what you’re putting forward, and what assumptions the reader may make.

Planning your short essay responses

Despite the small word count, short essay examples for college require thoughtful planning and careful execution. Try reading the short answer essay examples as a college admissions officer might. What story is being told? Is it being told well? 

Then consider the response in the context of an application. Are you trying to highlight your experiences and how they relate to your major? Is there anything you’re proud of that you want to mention? Looking at the short essay examples holistically can help you see how other students have been able to shape a narrative, and, in turn, can help you map out yours. 

As our examples of college essays highlight, it’s important to be precise with your words – each word should have a role and work towards your overall answer. There’s no room for fluff here! 

Things to avoid in your short essay responses!

All of our short essay examples are well-written. However, it can be helpful to know what to stay away from in your responses.

Firstly, and most importantly, avoid generic answers. Have your answers be true to who you are, and allow them to display your unique personality. The short essay examples included in this article show how crucial personality is in the application process. Good short essay examples tell you something about the author and leave you with a better sense of who they are. 

When brainstorming college essay ideas, don’t try to create totally new interests to appear impressive. It’s hard to fake authenticity. As such, owning your experiences and hobbies will be more impactful than inventing them. The short answer essay questions are a tool to help bolster your application – use them that way!

The last thing to avoid when writing short essays is waiting until the last minute to get started. While it may be tempting to focus on your longer essays, it will be obvious to admissions officers if the short answer essay questions were rushed through. The short answer essay examples included here were not written the day of the application deadline – careful planning and drafting are essential! 

What is the format for a short essay?

The beauty of short essays is that there is no single format you have to follow. As demonstrated with our short essay examples, some answers come in list form and others in short paragraph form. So don’t be afraid to experiment with the format of your answers. But remember, answering the prompt directly and quickly will allow you room to explore your rationale – don’t make the college admissions officer search for your answer! 

Researching examples of college essays that experiment with form can help you think outside the box. There is no one formula for short essay examples, so let yourself be creative. With such a limited word count, you don’t have the space to build up to your answer. The short answer essay examples we’ve included here don’t follow the traditional essay format. Don’t be afraid to break away from traditional essay rules – as long as your essay response answers the prompt, it can take on any form!

As previously mentioned, we’ve got some school-specific essay examples in store for you – starting with examples for the Columbia essay.

Columbia Short Essay Examples

The Columbia essay, like all short essays, is an important part of the overall application. The short essay examples below can help you brainstorm your own responses and serve as a guide as you write your own Columbia essay. 

Let’s jump into our Columbia essay examples. Here are the prompts and the short essay examples: 

Columbia Essay Examples Guidelines

For the list question that follows, there is a 100-word maximum. Please refer to the below guidance when answering this question: 

  • Your response should be a list of items separated by commas or semicolons.
  • Items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. 
  • It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications.
  • No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.

List a selection of texts, resources and outlets that have contributed to your intellectual development outside of academic courses, including but not limited to books, journals, websites, podcasts, essays, plays, presentations, videos, museums and other content that you enjoy. (100 words or fewer) 

1984, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Kite Runner, Number the Stars, Beowulf, Into the Wild, The Crucible, The Art of Strategy, The New York Times, NBC News, NPR, The Associated Press, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, CNalaysis, Elections Daily, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Split Ticket, FiveThirtyEight, Twitter/X, Yahoo Finance, MarketWatch, Nature, Animal World, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Mathematical Reviews, Timeline – World History Documentaries, History Matters, Mr. Beat, Oversimplified, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words or fewer) 

Cultivates conversations that cross all boundaries and borders whether in the dorms of John Jay or at The Forum. 

A community that is collaborative but challenges individuals to be the best versions of themselves. 

Where a homebody can chill with a slice of Koronet pizza or go out for a night on the town. 

A campus spirited with the buzz and excitement of the city yet mellow with the rhythmic clicks and frantic thoughts in the library. 

Full of hands with sore thumbs and paper cuts from flipping through the pages of The Aeneid 

Where an introverted-extrovert can get lost in the crowds of 8 million people or among fellow students on the Van Am Quad. 


List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

The Girls by Emma Cline, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150 words or fewer) 

Time Magazine, (especially the Youtube channel), Vogue,

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

Isolation Tour (Kali Uchis), American Teen Tour (Khalid), Music Midtown (Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Rainbow Kitten Surprise) – Freudian by Daniel Caesar, The New York Times Great Hall exhibit at the Newseum, “Pictures of the Year: 75 Years of the World’s Best Photography” at the Newseum – A Changing America at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “The Future Is…” podcast summer series, Stuff You Should Know (podcast by HowStuffWorks), The Good Place, Mad Men

You’ll notice that all of the Columbia essay prompts are in list format. Therefore, they don’t leave you much room to explain or elaborate on your answers. The lists you create will speak for themselves. These short essay examples highlight the ways you can still create a strong narrative through the lists you make. 

Next, we’ll turn our attention to some great Princeton essay examples!

Princeton Short Essay Examples

Remember, when researching short essay examples for college, it can be helpful to have college-specific short essay examples. Let these short answer essay examples inspire you as you begin brainstorming your response for your own Princeton essay. 

Here are the Princeton essay examples:

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words max) 

I would like to learn the important skill of team collaboration in college. Through research programs and student organizations, I will work within a team and navigate diverse perspectives. This will help prepare me for the collaborative complexities of the real world beyond the campus.

What brings you joy? (50 words max) 

One of my hobbies is building election models that predict the results of the next general election. It brings me great joy when I predict the results with profound accuracy, and even if I get some wrong, it’s all part of the unpredictable process—sometimes even my models need a recount!

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words max) 

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield represents the soundtrack of my life right now. Its lyrics mirror my journey of self-discovery and untapped potential. Lines like “Feel the rain on your skin; no one else can feel it for you” inspire me to embrace my responsibilities and savor life’s experiences.

When reading them as a whole, each Princeton essay should work to create a sense of who you are and what you’re interested in. When writing a Princeton essay, it can be tempting to come across a certain way, or try to mimic what you think college admissions officers want. However, it’s important to remain authentic in your essays and own your interests and passions. These short essay examples demonstrate this – the more authentic your answer, the better your essay will be! 

Below, we’ll wrap up our school-specific essay examples with one final school: Stanford.

Stanford Short Essays Examples

For the Stanford short essays, we’ve included more than one example for each prompt. With such a small word count, you’ll have to be super careful with your Stanford short essays. Read through these Stanford short essays to help jumpstart your writing process . 

Here are some short essay examples for the Stanford short essays: 

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)

The deterioration of political and personal empathy. There’s been an aggressive devaluing of inclusive mindsets and common ground rules—the kind of solidarity of purpose necessary to accommodate divergent viewpoints, respect evidence, share burdens, and tackle national/international emergencies like climate change and immigration. We are fumbling—in backwards tribalism—while the world burns.

Where’s Waldo books. 

By searching for Waldo, we subconsciously teach children that certain people aren’t meant to belong–they are meant to be hunted. Our brains may be hardwired to notice people who are different, but we are instructed to treat those people differently. 

Searching for Waldo must be consciously unlearned. 

Ignorance poses a paradoxical issue: we can’t solve a problem that we don’t know exists.

For fifteen years, I heard gentrification and thought humanitarian. The Oxford English Dictionary had even taught me that gentrification means “positive change.” How can such atrocities become noticed when our perceptions are so skewed?

Response #4

Greed. The root of all evil. To make momentous strides towards improving societal conditions, people and corporations must put aside their greed. Unfortunately, greed – the deep, dark desire for power and money – is the dominant force at work in many aspects of society, making it society’s most significant challenge.

These short answer essay examples highlight the different approaches you can take when answering this question. These short essay examples get to the point quickly– each example directly answers the prompt within a single sentence (or word), and then uses the remaining space to justify the answer. 

Now let’s look at the second prompt and short essay examples:

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)

Learned to drive; internship in Silicon Valley (learned to live alone and cook for myself!); Governor’s Honors Program; AAJA JCamp in Detroit; wrote articles for The Borgen Project; lobbied at the Capitol and met Rep. Lucy McBath; Kenyon Review Young Writers in Ohio; read a whole lot.

My goal: Adventure

2015: Moved from North Carolina to Texas (mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama in between), vacationed in Orlando.

2016: Math program at MIT in Boston, engineering program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, mission trip to Laredo, Texas, vacation to northern California including the lovely Palo Alto.

These short essay examples highlight the ways in which you can play with form. The first example is in list form, while the second breaks up the answer into an easily digestible format. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your form with the short answer essay questions – they don’t have to follow a traditional format.

Here’s the third prompt:

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)

Valentina Tereshkova’s 1963 spaceflight. Tereshkova’s skill, grit, and persistence carried her from working in a textile factory, through grueling tests and training, to becoming the first woman to fly solo in space. Her accomplishment remains symbolic of women’s empowerment and the expanded progress that’s possible with equity in STEM opportunities.

In 2001, Egyptian authorities raided a gay nightclub, arresting 55 men. The prosecutors tried them under fujur laws—initially passed by Egyptian nationalists to counter British ‘immorality’ during colonization. 

Watching the prosecution construct homosexuality as un-Egyptian would illustrate the extent anti-Western sentiment drove homophobia and how similar anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric remains today. 

Most definitely Paganini’s legendary one-stringed performance; one-by-one, his violin strings snapped mid-performance until he was left with only the G-string. Being Paganini, he simply continued to play flawlessly all on that single string!

Change does not happen without courage. I wish I could have witnessed the courage it took for the four A&T students sit in at the Woolworth’s counter in my hometown, Greensboro, North Carolina. I want to see the light overcoming darkness that created a change to last forever.

When applying to college, you may encounter prompts like this one, where you’re expected to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of world events. These short answer essay examples demonstrate how you can display your personality and interests in prompts like these.

Let’s look to the fourth prompt:

What five words best describe you? (5 word limit)

Speak up. Take action. Together.

Peter Parker meets Atticus Finch

The light of the world

Short answer essay questions like these can feel the most challenging, but don’t be afraid to get creative. They are meant to help capture the essence of your personality. These short essay examples for college highlight the ways these answers can have such a big impact, in such a small format.

What makes a short essay statement stand out?

When applying to college, there’s a lot of pressure to make your essays stand out. The best short essay examples help communicate the writer’s personality and interests clearly. Developing your personal writing style is key in having your short answer essay examples stand out. Start early and don’t be afraid to get creative!

It’s also important to consider how your essays will work together.Do they tell a cohesive narrative? Do they work to highlight different experiences but help connect your bigger picture message? Reading short essay examples with a focus on cohesion can help you map out your responses. 

The best way to have your short essays stand out is to plan them out carefully, and make sure they are authentic, demonstrating who you are and what you’re interested in. The best short essay examples feel genuine and convey a core aspect of the writer’s personality. Draft and edit your short essays until they feel right to you! 

Additional Short Essay Tips

In addition to outlining short essay examples for college, we’ve compiled some additional tips to help you get started with your college essay ideas:

1. Have a brain dumping session. 

When reading short essay examples for college, it can feel intimidating if you’re unsure of what to write about. Having a brain dumping session can be a great way to inspire the writing process and help you map out what you want to communicate. Don’t worry about structure or formatting; just free-write and let the words flow! 

2. Edit, edit, edit.

It’s likely that your first draft of short essays will go over the word limit, but don’t worry! The short essay examples included here were not first drafts – they were honed and edited down to their current versions. Keep this in mind as you read short essay examples for college, and be sure to plan enough time for the editing process when writing your own essays. 

3. Be truthful.

One thing all of our short answer essay examples have in common is that they are authentic to the writer. The best short essay examples make you feel closer to the writer. They should allow you to understand the writer on a deeper level. It can be tempting to embellish your short answer essay responses to match what you think a school wants to hear, but authenticity is hard to replicate. Therefore, be true to yourself when writing your short essay responses.

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore

After you’ve explored the short answer essay examples outlined here, be sure to utilize the many other resources CollegeAdvisor has to offer. In addition to guidance on the overall admissions process , CollegeAdvisor has several other resources on writing essays. After reading these short answer essay examples, you can watch our webinars on essays: Writing About Extracurriculars in Your College Essays and Supplemental Essays . 

CollegeAdvisor also has ample resources on specific colleges. You can find additional short essay examples for Columbia , Barnard , and Stanford , as well as tips and tricks from former admissions officers. If you are looking for college admissions resources, CollegeAdvisor has you covered!

Short Essay Examples – Final Takeaways

While the short answer essays may seem like the easiest part of an application, using the limited word count in a smart, thoughtful way is challenging. The short essay examples for college highlight how impactful short essays can be in building out your overall candidate profile. As you start writing your short essay answers, be sure to remain authentic and truthful. And don’t be afraid to get creative! 

College essay writing can be stressful, but don’t let the short answer essay questions intimidate you– and definitely don’t leave them to the last minute! Take your time, plan thoughtfully, and be confident in your answers. The best short essay examples for college bring out your personality – be bold and rest assured that you’re putting your best foot forward. 

This article was written by senior advisor Jess Klein . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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college essay examples about interests


Thesis Statement for Persuasive Essay

Thesis statement generator for persuasive essay.

college essay examples about interests

Crafting a compelling thesis for a persuasive essay is fundamental in anchoring your argument and driving your message home. A persuasive thesis not only states your position but also presents the argument you’ll use to sway your reader. This guide unveils the art of formulating influential persuasive essay thesis statements , offering examples and expert tips to ensure your essay resonates with conviction and persuasive power. Dive in to fortify your argumentative prowess.

What is a Persuasive Essay Thesis Statement? – Definition

A persuasive essay thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of the essay. It serves as a roadmap for readers, indicating the stance the writer is taking on a particular issue or topic and the key arguments they will use to convince readers of their perspective. Essentially, it’s the heart of your argument, capturing the essence of what you’re trying to persuade your audience to believe or do.

What is the Best Thesis Statement Example for Persuasive Essay?

While the “best” thesis statement is subjective and depends on the topic and target audience, a strong example might be:

“Given the environmental, economic, and health benefits, cities should invest more in cycling infrastructure to promote bicycle commuting, reduce traffic congestion, and decrease air pollution.”

This good thesis statement not only clearly states the writer’s perspective but also outlines the main arguments they’ll use to persuade readers.

100 Thesis Statement Examples for Persuasive Essay

Thesis Statement Examples for Persuasive Essay

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A persuasive essay thesis is a declarative sentence that condenses the central argument you intend to make. It’s more than just a statement of intent: it’s a bold proclamation of your viewpoint on an issue. A compelling thesis can differentiate a strong essay from a weak one. Dive into these examples to understand the diversity and depth a persuasive essay thesis can achieve.

  • “School uniforms should be mandatory as they foster equality, reduce distractions, and improve student focus.”
  • “Solar energy is not only environmentally friendly but also economically viable, and governments should provide more incentives for its adoption.”
  • “Animal testing for cosmetics is both unethical and unnecessary and should be banned globally.”
  • “Fast food chains should be required to display calorie counts on their menus to promote healthier eating habits.”
  • “Online education provides flexibility, accessibility, and personalized learning experiences, making it superior to traditional classroom settings.”
  • “The death penalty is an outdated form of punishment and should be abolished due to its potential for wrongful executions.”
  • “Parents should monitor their children’s internet use to protect them from the dangers of cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content.”
  • “Companies should prioritize corporate social responsibility over profits to ensure sustainable and ethical operations.”
  • “Vaccinations should be mandatory for public school entry to protect the greater community from preventable diseases.”
  • “Single-use plastics are a major environmental concern, and there should be a global ban on their production and sale.”
  • “Public transport should be made free to decrease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.”
  • “Professional athletes should be held to higher standards of behavior due to their influence on younger fans.”
  • “Parents should have an active role in their children’s education, including the right to choose schools and curricula.”
  • “Governments should regulate and limit the exposure of children to advertising to protect them from consumerist indoctrination.”
  • “The age for legal alcohol consumption should be raised to 21 to combat the rise in youth alcohol-related incidents.”
  • “The government should fund and promote STEM education to ensure a competitive workforce in the global market.”
  • “Smoking in public places should be banned due to its detrimental health effects on non-smokers.”
  • “Teens under 18 should not be allowed to access social media platforms to protect their mental health.”
  • “The global community should take more aggressive actions to combat climate change and protect future generations.”
  • “Freedom of the press is essential for a functioning democracy, and any attempts to limit it are detrimental to society.”
  • “The gig economy exploits workers and lacks job security; therefore, stricter regulations should be enforced.”
  • “GMO foods, when properly regulated, can solve global hunger issues and should be embraced.”
  • “Gender pay gaps exist and are a result of systemic sexism; companies should be mandated to ensure equal pay.”
  • “Limiting screen time for children promotes healthier physical and mental development.”
  • “Mandatory voting ensures everyone’s voice is heard and should be implemented to strengthen democratic processes.”
  • “Public figures should have a limited right to privacy due to their influence and role in society.”
  • “Advertisements targeting children should be banned to prevent early consumerism.”
  • “Body cameras for law enforcement officers are essential to promote transparency and accountability.”
  • “Whistleblowers play a crucial role in democratic societies and should be protected by law from retaliation.”
  • “Cultural appropriation in fashion and art belittles original traditions and should be discouraged.”
  • “Educational institutions should focus more on practical skills rather than theoretical knowledge to prepare students for real-world challenges.”
  • “Restricting the sale of sugary beverages can lead to a significant reduction in obesity rates.”
  • “Children’s exposure to violent video games directly correlates with aggressive behavior, and such games should have age restrictions.”
  • “The censorship of art is a violation of freedom of expression and stifles the creative spirit.”
  • “Mental health education should be a mandatory part of school curricula to address and destigmatize mental health issues.”
  • “Homeschooling, when done effectively, can offer a more personalized and efficient education than traditional schools.”
  • “Organic farming practices should be promoted and subsidized by governments due to their environmental and health benefits.”
  • “The excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture poses long-term health risks, necessitating stricter regulations.”
  • “Workplace wellness programs not only benefit employees but also lead to increased productivity and should be adopted by all companies.”
  • “Governments should impose heavier taxes on junk food to curb the increasing rates of health issues related to poor diet.”
  • “Higher education should be made affordable for all, as it’s a fundamental right and not a luxury.”
  • “Celebrities endorsing political candidates can unduly influence the public, and such endorsements should be approached with skepticism.”
  • “Urban planning must prioritize green spaces due to their psychological and environmental benefits.”
  • “Euthanasia, when done under strict regulations, is an act of mercy and should be legally allowed.”
  • “The global community must cooperate to tackle the refugee crisis and ensure safe resettlement and support.”
  • “Artificial intelligence, without proper ethical guidelines, poses a threat to job markets and privacy.”
  • “Zero-waste lifestyles are crucial for sustainability, and consumer practices should align with this goal.”
  • “Fast fashion contributes to environmental degradation, and consumers should support sustainable clothing brands.”
  • “Limitations on free speech in the name of national security can lead to authoritarianism and should be scrutinized.”
  • “Digital literacy is as fundamental as reading and writing in the 21st century, and schools should integrate it into their curricula.”
  • “The increasing privatization of natural resources threatens public access and should be regulated.”
  • “Adopting a plant-based diet can dramatically reduce one’s carbon footprint and combat climate change.”
  • “In an era of misinformation, critical thinking skills are paramount and should be emphasized in education.”
  • “Universal healthcare is a fundamental human right and should not be tied to employment or economic status.”
  • “Cybersecurity measures are not just an IT concern but are crucial for national security.”
  • “Regulating tech giants is essential to prevent monopolies and protect user data.”
  • “Banning beauty contests can help alleviate societal pressures and stereotypes regarding physical appearance.”
  • “Space exploration, beyond its scientific benefits, can unify humanity and should be pursued more aggressively.”
  • “Sports organizations should take a stricter stance against doping to maintain the integrity of competitions.”
  • “Mandatory parental leave can ensure better family bonding and equalize career opportunities between genders.”
  • “Animal testing for cosmetics is not only cruel but also ineffective and outdated, necessitating its global ban.”
  • “Educational reforms should emphasize financial literacy to equip students with the skills to navigate the modern economic landscape.”
  • “Promotion of renewable energy sources over fossil fuels is not just environmentally beneficial but also economically viable in the long run.”
  • “Public transport should be heavily subsidized to encourage use and combat urban air pollution.”
  • “Parents should limit screen time for children due to its detrimental effects on physical health and cognitive development.”
  • “In light of the opioid crisis, holistic and non-addictive pain management methods should be promoted and made more accessible.”
  • “Cultural appropriation in the fashion and entertainment industries perpetuates stereotypes and should be addressed through increased awareness and regulations.”
  • “Privacy rights are increasingly jeopardized in the digital age, necessitating stronger data protection laws.”
  • “The gender wage gap is not only a matter of fairness but also an economic inefficiency that should be addressed through legislative reforms.”
  • “The rise of isolationism in global politics undermines international collaboration and poses threats to global security and prosperity.”
  • “Teachers should be remunerated based on skill and effectiveness rather than years of service, promoting a merit-based system.”
  • “The legal drinking age should be reconsidered in light of scientific evidence on brain development and societal impacts.”
  • “The portrayal of mental health in media, if inaccurate, can perpetuate stigma, emphasizing the need for informed and sensitive representation.”
  • “Trade wars harm global economies more than they protect local industries and should be approached with caution.”
  • “Gerrymandering undermines the principles of democracy, and independent bodies should be responsible for electoral redistricting.”
  • “Public libraries play a crucial role in community development and should receive adequate funding and support.”
  • “The proliferation of fake news can be curbed through media literacy education and stricter platform regulations.”
  • “The decriminalization of certain drugs can lead to reduced criminal activity and better health outcomes.”
  • “Historical monuments associated with divisive figures should be placed in context rather than removed, promoting education over erasure.”
  • “The adoption of electric vehicles should be incentivized to rapidly reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.”
  • “Childhood vaccinations should be mandatory, given their role in preventing outbreaks of life-threatening diseases.”
  • “Modern education should evolve to incorporate emotional intelligence training to foster empathy and interpersonal skills.”
  • “Prohibitive costs of tertiary education perpetuate socio-economic disparities; governments should implement tuition-free university policies.”
  • “Whistleblowers play a crucial role in maintaining institutional integrity and should be protected from retaliation.”
  • “Plastic waste is one of the prime environmental threats; introducing biodegradable alternatives should be a priority for industries.”
  • “Diverse representation in film and television is not just about fairness but also about accurately reflecting the world we live in.”
  • “Urban agriculture can address food security issues in growing cities and should be promoted through policies and community initiatives.”
  • “Excessive consumerism contributes to environmental degradation; embracing minimalism can lead to a more sustainable future.”
  • “Telecommuting, propelled by technological advancements, can lead to better work-life balance and reduced city congestion.”
  • “Unregulated cryptocurrency can pose financial risks; there is a pressing need for standardized global regulations.”
  • “Limiting advertisement in children’s TV programming can lead to healthier eating habits and reduce materialistic tendencies.”
  • “Promoting bilingual education from an early age can lead to cognitive benefits and cultural appreciation.”
  • “Offshore drilling poses significant environmental risks, and its expansion should be curbed in favor of sustainable energy sources.”
  • “Body cameras for law enforcement officers can ensure transparency and accountability in policing.”
  • “The modern gig economy, while offering flexibility, often circumvents labor rights and needs comprehensive regulation.”
  • “Online data breaches are becoming common, and companies should face stricter penalties for compromising user data.”
  • “Promotion of community gardens can foster social ties and address urban food deserts.”
  • “Implementing a universal basic income can address wealth disparities and provide a safety net in rapidly changing job markets.”
  • “Arts education, often undervalued, plays a crucial role in fostering creativity and should receive equal emphasis as STEM subjects.”
  • “Sustainable tourism ensures local community benefits and environmental protection, and should be the industry standard.”

Persuasive Essay Thesis Statement Examples for High School

High school students often grapple with formulating compelling arguments in their essays. These thesis statement for high school examples are tailored to the perspectives and concerns of high schoolers, offering a starting point to craft persuasive essays on various contemporary issues.

  • Uniforms in School: “Mandatory school uniforms stifle individual expression and fail to address the underlying issues of bullying and peer pressure in schools.”
  • Homework Volume: “The excessive amount of homework assigned to high school students is counterproductive to learning, leading to burnout and diminishing returns on student effort.”
  • School Start Times: “High schools should start later in the morning to align with adolescent sleep patterns, thereby improving academic performance and mental health.”
  • Standardized Testing: “Reliance on standardized testing for college admissions is an outdated approach that doesn’t truly reflect a student’s capabilities or potential.”
  • Extra-Curricular Importance: “Extra-curricular activities are as vital as academic subjects in developing a well-rounded education and should be given equal importance in school evaluations.”
  • Cellphones in Class: “Banning cellphones in classrooms ignores their potential as valuable learning tools and overlooks the importance of teaching digital responsibility.”
  • Sports in School: “High school sports programs, while beneficial, receive disproportionate funding at the expense of other crucial educational programs.”
  • Summer Vacations: “Extended summer vacations are an outdated model; year-round schooling with more frequent short breaks would better support learning retention.”
  • Student Council Power: “Student councils should have a tangible say in school operations, encouraging youth civic engagement and responsibility.”
  • Health Education: “Comprehensive sex education in high schools is crucial for informed decision-making and reducing teen pregnancies and STIs.”

Persuasive Essay Thesis Statement Examples for College

College-level persuasive essays demand a higher degree of critical thinking and specificity. These thesis statement examples delve into deeper societal and academic issues, providing college students with a foundation to develop nuanced arguments and insights in their writings.

  • Tuition Fees: “The skyrocketing cost of college tuition limits access to higher education and exacerbates socio-economic disparities.”
  • Curriculum Flexibility: “Colleges should offer more interdisciplinary courses, allowing students to tailor their education to align with their career and personal interests.”
  • Campus Safety: “Increased measures for campus safety are imperative to foster a conducive learning environment and protect students.”
  • Online Learning: “Online courses should be given the same credence as in-person classes, offering flexibility and catering to the modern learner’s needs.”
  • Fraternity and Sorority Culture: “Greek life in colleges, while rich in tradition, needs comprehensive reforms to address issues of hazing and exclusionary practices.”
  • Mental Health Services: “With rising cases of mental health issues among college students, universities must prioritize and expand on-campus mental health services.”
  • Internship Opportunities: “Colleges should actively integrate more internship opportunities into curricula, bridging the gap between academic learning and real-world application.”
  • Diversity and Inclusion: “Higher education institutions must actively promote diversity and inclusion, not just in enrollment, but also in curriculum and campus culture.”
  • Foreign Language Requirements: “Mandating foreign language courses for all majors is unnecessary and restricts students from exploring more relevant subjects.”
  • Textbook Costs: “The exorbitant cost of college textbooks is unjustified, urging the need for universities to promote open-source or affordable alternatives.”

These thesis statements resonate with the concerns and challenges faced by students at high school and college levels, making them ideal starting points for persuasive essays. Y ou may also be interested to browse through our other  Analytical Essay thesis statement .

What is a thesis statement used for in persuasive writing?

A thesis statement in persuasive writing serves as the anchor of the entire essay. It states the primary argument or claim that the writer seeks to prove. Acting as a roadmap, it informs the reader about the main topic and the stance of the writer on that topic. The efficacy of a persuasive essay largely hinges on how compelling and clear its strong thesis statement is. Without it, readers might be left unsure about the writer’s intent or the purpose of the essay.

Is a claim a thesis statement for a persuasive essay?

Yes, in persuasive writing, the thesis statement is often referred to as a claim. While all thesis statements express the main idea of a piece, in persuasive essays, this statement specifically claims a position that the writer will argue for. This claim seeks to persuade the reader of its validity, backed by evidence in the body of the essay. It’s essential that the claim is debatable, meaning there must be opposing viewpoints on the topic, so the writer has something to persuade the reader about.

How do you write a thesis statement for a persuasive essay? – Step by Step Guide

  • Choose a Debatable Topic: Ensure the topic has multiple viewpoints, giving you something to persuade your reader about.
  • Take a Stance: Decide your position on the topic. This becomes the foundation of your claim.
  • Research Supporting Evidence: Before finalizing your thesis, research to ensure there’s ample evidence to support your claim.
  • Be Specific: Your thesis statement should be clear and specific. Avoid vague or general statements.
  • Keep it Concise: Ideally, a thesis statement should be one or two sentences long. It needs to be straightforward and to the point.
  • Positioning: Place your thesis statement at the end of your introductory paragraph to provide readers with a clear guide to your essay’s direction.
  • Revisit and Revise: As you write, you might find your direction slightly shifting. Always revisit your thesis statement to ensure it aligns with the content of your essay.

Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay Thesis Statement

  • Be Clear and Vivid: Since descriptive essays aim to paint a picture, ensure your thesis provides a snapshot of what you’ll describe.
  • Engage the Senses: Allude to the sensory details you’ll include in your essay. This sets the tone for the vivid descriptions to follow.
  • Avoid Subjectivity: While your experience is personal, avoid overtly subjective statements. Let the descriptions evoke feelings in the reader.
  • Stay Focused: A descriptive thesis should focus on a single object, event, person, or place, ensuring the essay remains cohesive.
  • Use Strong Language: Use powerful adjectives and verbs to convey emotion and create a strong mental image for the reader.

Remember, while the specific thesis statement provides direction, it’s the body of the essay that elaborates and brings the description to life. Ensure coherence between the thesis and the detailed descriptions that follow.


Text prompt

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Write a Thesis Statement for Persuasive Essay advocating for climate change action.

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Made by History

How the College Application Essay Became So Important

Board of Admissions examining applicatio

S chool is out and summer is here. Yet future high school seniors and their families are likely already thinking about applying to college — a process that can be as labor-intensive and time-consuming as it is confusing. Students submit SAT scores, grades, references, personal essays, and more, often without a clear sense of what counts most.

The challenges facing college applicants today aren’t new. For over a century, Americans seeking higher education have had to navigate complicated admissions requirements including exams and grades as well as qualitative metrics of assessment, such as references, interviews, and essays.

Collecting so much academic and personal information has given colleges and universities greater control over the kinds of students they admit. In the first half of the 20th century, this information was mainly used to bar some applicants based on race, gender, and religion. Since the social movements of the 1960s and 70s, however, it has been used to do nearly the opposite by expanding access to previously excluded groups. In this process, personal essays have been especially valuable for the unique insights they can offer into applicants’ backgrounds and perspectives. In the context of today’s narrowing national diversity agenda, they are key to promoting inclusion in American higher education.

In the late 19th century, college admission standards were relatively low in America, even at the “Big Three” private universities, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. In an era when few Americans had more than an eighth-grade education, and even fewer could afford the cost of higher education, there was little competition for admission. Applicants needed only to pass subject matter exams, tests that were rudimentary and could be taken repeatedly until passed. Even those who failed their entrance exams might be admitted if they had elite standing and could pay tuition.

Read More: How to Talk About Race on College Applications, According to Admissions Experts

By the turn of the 20th century, however, demand for higher education was growing. Colleges worked intentionally to admit a broader range of students, dropping archaic requirements like knowledge of Latin and Greek that had previously barred all but the most privileged high school students from applying. More and more qualified applicants competed for fewer available spots, which meant that colleges and universities could be more selective. 

But with more applicants passing exams and earning entry to higher education, private universities became increasingly concerned about the demographics of their student bodies. By the 1910s, as immigration increased, and more public high schools were better preparing students of all backgrounds to meet private entrance requirements, rising numbers of Jewish students were landing spots at the historically Protestant and upper-class universities. With antisemitism on the rise, many private colleges adopted new metrics of admission that could be used to limit the number of “undesirable” students, especially Jewish ones. 

It was at this juncture that selective colleges introduced the application essay to assess students for the amorphous category of "fit." Applications in general became much more involved and intrusive. 

For instance, beginning in 1919, Columbia required prospective students to complete an eight-page form, submit a photo, list their mother’s maiden name, and provide information about their religious background. Even standardized tests could be used to screen students by cultural background. Early entrance exams were heavily biased toward American customs and colloquialisms, putting first-generation immigrants at a disadvantage.

In the wake of World War II, the passage of the GI Bill created a surge in demand for higher education across the country. Between 1950 and 1970, enrollment in colleges and universities in the U.S. nearly quadrupled. 

Although public and private universities expanded in response, they still came under new pressures to bolster selective criteria that would allow them to limit the growth of their student bodies. To ensure spots for students long considered the natural recipients of higher education — especially white, middle-class, Protestant men — private colleges continued to use quotas and other forms of preference such as legacy status to effectively limit the numbers of Jewish students, people of color, and women admitted. Meanwhile, admissions were far from need blind; applying for a scholarship could damage your chance of acceptance.

Public universities like the University of California, Berkeley charted a different course. In the post-war period, the UC system admitted all students who met basic requirements — graduation from an accredited high school along with a principal's recommendation, acceptance by exam, or completion of an Associate’s degree. But public universities now also faced more demand than they could accommodate. Indeed, the 1960s California Master Plan for Higher Education acknowledged that state universities, too, might well have to introduce a selective process for choosing applicants in the face of expanded access across much wider class, geographic, and ethnic backgrounds. 

By the 1960s, a selective application process became common across major private and public universities. But the social movements of the 1960s and 70s forced private universities to drop their formal practices of discrimination and changed the use of personal essays and other qualitative metrics of evaluation in the process. 

For the first time, in the 1960s, admissions officers at historically white and Protestant universities acknowledged that applicants’ academic profiles were deeply shaped by the opportunities — educational, economic, and cultural — available to them, and that these in turn were shaped by students’ race, ethnicity, and sex. 

While special considerations about background had once been used to systematically exclude minorities, in the 1960s they were invoked for the first time to do the opposite, albeit with some striking limitations. 

By looking at applicants from a comprehensive standpoint, which included these markers of identity, even the most selective private universities made major strides in achieving racial diversity in this period. They also dropped quotas and began to admit women on an equal basis with men. Class diversity, however, was another matter — to this day private universities continue to be comparatively socio-economically homogenous despite meaningful shifts in other areas. 

Since the 1970s, the admissions system has only grown increasingly competitive, with more students than ever before applying to college. That forced universities to choose between strong applicants while building their own brands and competitive profiles. This competitive environment has turned the college application essay into a particularly important vehicle in the admissions process for learning about students’ backgrounds and human qualities.

Read More: How the End of Affirmative Action Could Affect the College Admissions Process

In 1975, a small group of mostly East Coast colleges came together to form the Common App — today used by more than 1,000 universities. The Common App led the way in formulating what we now think of as the personal statement, aimed at understanding the inner world of each student.

For more than 50 years now, universities both private and public have evaluated essays for a range of qualities including leadership capacity, creativity, service to the community, and ability to overcome hardship, as part of their admissions decisions. The kinds of questions universities ask, the qualities they seek, and the responses they receive have changed many times and have been shaped by the cultural trends of our times. 

In 2021 for example, following the spread of a global pandemic, the Common App introduced a question about gratitude for the first time. And while the prompts remained unchanged following the 2023 Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. (SFFA) v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and SFFA v. University of North Carolina , which formally excluded race as a factor in admissions, universities began to read them for the role of race, ethnicity, and other identities in students’ profiles. In these and many other ways, the essay has only gained value as a way for students to explain the important ways their experiences and identities have shaped their academic profiles.

college essay examples about interests

Still, there have been calls to eliminate the college essay from admissions requirements from both the right and the left, as either frivolously inclusive, or potentially exclusionary. Now, at a time when there are major political constraints on supporting diversity and inclusion at the national level, personal essays give admissions committees important flexibility. They also allow colleges to evaluate students for underrated but essential intellectual and personal qualities hard to observe elsewhere, including the capacity for growth, self-reflection, and awareness of the world around them. 

The history of modern admissions shows how institutions of higher education have sought to engineer their classes, often reinforcing harmful racial, class, and gender hierarchies. There is little objectivity in the metric of “fit” that has shaped American admissions practices. But the Civil Rights era has had a powerful and long-lasting legacy in broadening access through an assessment of applicants that is attentive to identity. However flawed the system, the essay offers something no other metric can: an account of a student’s lived experience, in their own words.

Sarah Stoller is a writer and historian. She also tutors college essay writing.

Made by History takes readers beyond the headlines with articles written and edited by professional historians. Learn more about Made by History at TIME here . Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors .

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Write to Sarah Stoller / Made by History at [email protected]

More From Forbes

How not to write your college essay.

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If you are looking for the “secret formula” for writing a “winning” college essay, you have come to the wrong place. The reality is there is no silver bullet or strategy to write your way to an acceptance. There is not one topic or approach that will guarantee a favorable outcome.

At the end of the day, every admission office just wants to know more about you, what you value, and what excites you. They want to hear about your experiences through your own words and in your own voice. As you set out to write your essay, you will no doubt get input (both sought-after and unsolicited) on what to write. But how about what NOT Notcoin to write? There are avoidable blunders that applicants frequently make in drafting their essays. I asked college admission leaders, who have read thousands of submissions, to share their thoughts.

Don’t Go In There

There is wide consensus on this first one, so before you call on your Jedi mind tricks or predictive analytics, listen to the voices of a diverse range of admission deans. Peter Hagan, executive director of admissions at Syracuse University, sums it up best, saying, “I would recommend that students try not to get inside of our heads. He adds, “Too often the focus is on what they think we want.”

Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College agrees, warning, “Do NOT get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what is going to impress the admission committee. You have NO idea who is going to read your essay and what is going to connect with them. So, don't try to guess that.” Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment, at Scripps College adds, “Do not write about something you don’t care about.” She says, “I think students try to figure out what an admission officer wants to read, and the reality is the reader begins every next essay with no expectations about the content THEY want to read.” Chrystal Russell, dean of admission at Hampden-Sydney College, agrees, saying, “If you're not interested in writing it, we will not be interested when reading it.” Jay Jacobs, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Vermont elaborates, advising. “Don’t try to make yourself sound any different than you are.” He says, “The number one goal for admission officers is to better understand the applicant, what they like to do, what they want to do, where they spend the majority of their time, and what makes them tick. If a student stays genuine to that, it will shine through and make an engaging and successful essay.”

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Don’t Be Artificial

The headlines about college admission are dominated by stories about artificial intelligence and the college essay. Let’s set some ground rules–to allow ChatGPT or some other tool to do your work is not only unethical, it is also unintelligent. The only worse mistake you could make is to let another human write your essay for you. Instead of preoccupying yourself with whether or not colleges are using AI detection software (most are not), spend your time focused on how best to express yourself authentically. Rick Clark is the executive director of strategic student success at Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the first institutions to clearly outline their AI policy for applicants. He says, “Much of a college application is devoted to lines, boxes, and numbers. Essays and supplements are the one place to establish connection, personality, and distinction. AI, in its current state, is terrible at all three.” He adds, “My hope is that students will use ChatGPT or other tools for brainstorming and to get started, but then move quickly into crafting an essay that will provide insight and value.”

Don’t Overdo It

Michael Stefanowicz, vice president for enrollment management at Landmark College says, “You can only cover so much detail about yourself in an admission essay, and a lot of students feel pressure to tell their life story or choose their most defining experience to date as an essay topic. Admission professionals know that you’re sharing just one part of your lived experience in the essay.” He adds, “Some of the favorite essays I’ve read have been episodic, reflecting on the way you’ve found meaning in a seemingly ordinary experience, advice you’ve lived out, a mistake you’ve learned from, or a special tradition in your life.” Gary Ross, vice president for admission and financial aid at Colgate University adds, “More than a few applicants each year craft essays that talk about the frustration and struggles they have experienced in identifying a topic for their college application essay. Presenting your college application essay as a smorgasbord of topics that ultimately landed on the cutting room floor does not give us much insight into an applicant.”

Don’t Believe In Magic

Jason Nevinger, senior director of admission at the University of Rochester warns, “Be skeptical of anyone or any company telling you, ‘This is the essay that got me into _____.’ There is no magic topic, approach, sentence structure, or prose that got any student into any institution ever.” Social media is littered with advertisements promising strategic essay help. Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to emulate a certain style, topic, or tone. Liz Cheron is chief executive officer for the Coalition for College and former assistant vice president of enrollment & dean of admissions at Northeastern University. She agrees with Nevinger, saying “Don't put pressure on yourself to find the perfect, slam dunk topic. The vast majority of college essays do exactly what they're supposed to do–they are well-written and tell the admission officer more about the student in that student's voice–and that can take many different forms.”

Don’t Over Recycle

Beatrice Atkinson-Myers, associate director of global recruitment at the University of California at Santa Cruz tells students, “Do not use the same response for each university; research and craft your essay to match the program at the university you are interested in studying. Don't waste time telling me things I can read elsewhere in your application. Use your essay to give the admissions officer insights into your motivations, interests, and thinking. Don't make your essay the kitchen sink, focus on one or two examples which demonstrate your depth and creativity.” Her UC colleague, Jim Rawlins, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management at the University of California at San Diego agrees, saying “Answer the question. Not doing so is the surest way we can tell you are simply giving us a snippet of something you actually wrote for a different purpose.”

Don’t Overedit

Emily Roper-Doten, vice president for undergraduate admissions and financial assistance at Clark University warns against “Too many editors!” She says, “Pick a couple of trusted folks to be your sounding board when considering topics and as readers once you have drafts. You don’t want too many voices in your essay to drown you out!” Scripps’ Romero agrees, suggesting, “Ask a good friend, someone you trust and knows you well, to read your essays.” She adds, “The goal is for the admission committee to get to know a little about you and who better to help you create that framework, than a good friend. This may not work for all students because of content but helps them understand it’s important to be themselves.” Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions at The University of Pennsylvania adds, “Avoid well-meaning editorial interference that might seem to polish your writing but actually takes your own personal ‘shine’ right out of the message.” She says, “As readers, we connect to applicants through their genuine tone and style. Considering editorial advice for flow and message is OK but hold on to the 'you' for what you want to say and how you want to say it.”

Don’t Get Showy

Palmer Muntz, senior regional admissions counselor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks cautions applicants, “Don’t be fancier than you are. You don’t need to put on airs.” He adds, “Yes, proofread your work for grammar and spelling, but be natural. Craft something you’d want to read yourself, which probably means keeping your paragraphs short, using familiar words, and writing in an active voice.” Connecticut College’s Strickler agrees, warning, “Don't try to be someone you are not. If you are not funny, don't try to write a funny essay. If you are not an intellectual, trying to write an intellectual essay is a bad idea.”

Anthony Jones, the vice president of enrollment management at Loyola University New Orleans offers a unique metaphor for thinking about the essay. He says, “In the new world of the hyper-fast college admission process, it's become easy to overlook the essential meaning of the college application. It's meant to reveal Y...O...U, the real you, not some phony digital avatar. Think of the essay as the essence of that voice but in analog. Like the completeness and authenticity captured in a vinyl record, the few lines you're given to explain your view should be a slow walk through unrestrained expression chock full of unapologetic nuances, crevices of emotion, and exactness about how you feel in the moment. Then, and only then, can you give the admissions officer an experience that makes them want to tune in and listen for more.”

Don’t Be A Downer

James Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at The University of Chicago says, “Don’t be negative about other people, be appreciative of those who have supported you, and be excited about who you are and what you will bring to our campus!” He adds, “While admissions offices want smart students for our classrooms, we also want kind-hearted, caring, and joyous students who will add to our campus communities too.”

Don’t Pattern Match

Alan Ramirez is the dean of admission and financial aid at Sewanee, The University of the South. He explains, “A big concern I have is when students find themselves comparing their writing to other students or past applicants and transform their writing to be more like those individuals as a way to better their chances of offering a more-compelling essay.” He emphasizes that the result is that the “essay is no longer authentic nor the best representation of themselves and the whole point of the essay is lost. Their distinctive voice and viewpoint contribute to the range of voices in the incoming class, enhancing the diversity of perspectives we aim to achieve.” Ramirez simple tells students, “Be yourself, that’s what we want to see, plus there's no one else who can do it better than you!”

Don’t Feel Tied To A Topic

Jessica Ricker is the vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Skidmore College. She says, “Sometimes students feel they must tell a story of grief or hardship, and then end up reliving that during the essay-writing process in ways that are emotionally detrimental. I encourage students to choose a topic they can reflect upon positively but recommend that if they choose a more challenging experience to write about, they avoid belaboring the details and instead focus on the outcome of that journey.” She adds, "They simply need to name it, frame its impact, and then help us as the reader understand how it has shaped their lens on life and their approach moving forward.”

Landmark College’s Stefanowicz adds, “A lot of students worry about how personal to get in sharing a part of their identity like your race or heritage (recalling last year’s Supreme Court case about race-conscious admissions), a learning difference or other disability, your religious values, LGBTQ identity…the list goes on.” He emphasizes, “This is always your choice, and your essay doesn’t have to be about a defining identity. But I encourage you to be fully yourself as you present yourself to colleges—because the college admission process is about finding a school where your whole self is welcome and you find a setting to flourish!”

Don’t Be Redundant

Hillen Grason Jr., dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College, advises, “Don't repeat academic or co-curricular information that is easily identifiable within other parts of your application unless the topic is a core tenant of you as an individual.” He adds, “Use your essay, and other parts of your application, wisely. Your essay is the best way to convey who your authentic self is to the schools you apply. If you navigated a situation that led to a dip in your grades or co-curricular involvement, leverage the ‘additional information’ section of the application.

Thomas Marr is a regional manager of admissions for the Americas at The University of St Andrews in Scotland and points out that “Not all international schools use the main college essay as part of their assessment when reviewing student applications.” He says, “At the University of St Andrews, we focus on the supplemental essay and students should avoid the mistake of making the supplemental a repeat of their other essay. The supplemental (called the Personal Statement if using the UCAS application process) is to show the extent of their passion and enthusiasm for the subject/s to which they are applying and we expect about 75% of the content to cover this. They can use the remaining space to mention their interests outside of the classroom. Some students confuse passion for the school with passion for their subject; do not fall into that trap.”

A Few Final Don’ts

Don’t delay. Every college applicant I have ever worked with has wished they had started earlier. You can best avoid the pitfalls above if you give yourself the time and space to write a thoughtful essay and welcome feedback openly but cautiously. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect . Do your best, share your voice, and stay true to who you are.

Brennan Barnard

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Some Federal Student Loan Interest Rates at Record Highs

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Federal student loan interest rates for 2024-25 are now live. Some have reached record highs, increasing the cost of college for people who will take out student loans for the upcoming school year.

Here’s how the current 2024-25 federal student loan interest rates compare to 2023-24 rates:

Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students: 6.53% interest rate for 2024-25, up from 5.50%. 

Direct unsubsidized loans for graduate students : 8.08% interest rate for 2024-25, up from 7.05%

PLUS loans, available to parents and grad students to fill in funding gaps: 9.08% interest rate for 2024-25, up from 8.05%. 

Since 2006, all federal student loans have had fixed interest rates. Undergraduate direct loan interest rates haven’t been this high in 16 years, since the 2008-09 academic year. (The standing record is 6.8%, for loans disbursed between 2006 and 2008.) Interest rates on direct graduate loans and PLUS loans have never been this high.

The latest federal interest rate hikes come on the heels of major FAFSA errors , which impacted and delayed financial aid offers, including federal loan eligibility, for millions of students. For some families, private student loans with lower interest rates may look more attractive this year — but private loans come with fewer borrower protections and no forgiveness options.

Rising rates increase the total cost of college

Each spring, the government sets federal student loan interest rates for the academic year ahead. The rates are effective from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025, and they apply to all borrowers who take out new federal student loans for the 2024-25 school year. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates, so they won’t change during the repayment period — which typically lasts from 10 to 25 years, depending on your repayment plan. (If you’re already repaying older student loans, this interest rate hike doesn’t affect you.)

Ultimately, higher interest rates will make college more expensive for the millions of college students and their families who take out loans. Today, 42.8 million people collectively owe $1.62 trillion in outstanding federal student loans, per Department of Education data.

That tally may grow in the coming years: A 2024 high school graduate heading to college this fall could amass about $37,000 in student loan debt while pursuing their bachelor’s degree, according to a recent NerdWallet analysis . Dependent undergraduate students can take out no more than $31,000 in federal loans, so more students may turn to private loans to fill the gaps.

Here’s an example of how the higher interest rates can hit your wallet: If you start college in the fall and borrow $31,000 worth of unsubsidized federal direct loans over the course of your undergraduate education, with a 6.53% interest rate, you’ll wind up paying back about $42,315 under a standard 10-year repayment plan. If you’d started college in 2020-21 and taken out the same $31,000 in unsubsidized federal loans with a record-low 2.75% interest rate, you’d have had to repay around $35,510 over 10 years — a $6,805 difference.

In practice, you could pay even more. You can’t borrow the full $31,000 at once — the capped amount is split up over the years you’re in school. If you'll be a college freshman in the fall, interest rates could increase in the three (or more) years to follow.

Run the numbers with a student loan calculator to see how much your debt may cost over time.

Federal vs. private student loan interest rates

In recent years, federal student loans have offered lower interest rates than private alternatives — but that may no longer be true for some borrowers. Currently, private student loans for undergraduates have interest rates from 3.85% to 15.9%, according to a May 2024 NerdWallet analysis.

“More than ever, we are really encouraging our families to be good consumers,” says Stacey MacPhetres, senior director of education finance at EdAssist by Bright Horizons.

Shop around for private student loans and compare interest rates like you would for a mortgage, MacPhetres adds.

To qualify for the lowest rates on private student loans, borrowers must have a high credit score. Many students will need a parent or co-signer with excellent credit to co-sign the loan and accept equal legal responsibility for repaying it.

Federal student loans don’t allow co-signers, and only federal PLUS loans require a credit check. Other federal student loan borrower protections not typically offered by private lenders include:

Repayment plans that cap monthly bills at a certain percentage of your income, such as the new SAVE repayment plan . 

Extended payment pauses, like a student loan deferment or forbearance , for financial hardships. (Private loan forbearances are generally shorter and more difficult to qualify for.) 

Loan forgiveness programs, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). 

Loan discharges for borrowers whose school closed or defrauded them. 

As a general guideline, borrowers should prioritize federal student loans. If they still have remaining costs, private student loans are a good option to fill in the gaps.

But when it comes to PLUS loans, private alternatives may be a better choice this year if you can qualify for a lower interest rate. PLUS loans don’t offer the same robust protections and flexible repayment options as other types of federal student loans, and they have a 4.228% origination fee that most private lenders don’t require.

Submit the FAFSA and free up cash flow to minimize borrowing

Evaluate your family’s capacity to pay out of pocket or consider using some savings or investments to cover education bills this year, MacPhetres says. “We’re really trying to encourage everybody to exhaust all of their other options before borrowing at all, which includes federal student loans.”

You can also minimize your total college debt and interest payments by leaning on funding sources you won’t have to repay, like scholarships, grants and work-study. You must submit the FAFSA for each year you’ll be in school to qualify for most grants and work-study. That includes the federal need-based Pell Grant , which can give you up to $7,395 per year in free money to pay for college. Many scholarships require applicants to submit the FAFSA. You also need to submit the form to be eligible for federal student loans.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is open until June 30, 2025, for the 2024-25 school year, but you should fill it out as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting more money — some types of aid draw from limited pools and can run out.

Another strategy to reduce borrowing: See where you or your child can trim college costs in the first place.

“Your student doesn't have to live in the best residence facility right now ... or maybe they don't need the 21-meal plan if they have never eaten breakfast in their lives,” MacPhetres says. “Little things that you might not think would have a significant impact can certainly help in trying to reduce your overall spending.”

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10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

What’s covered:, what is a personal statement.

  • Essay 1: Summer Program
  • Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American
  • Essay 3: Why Medicine
  • Essay 4: Love of Writing
  • Essay 5: Starting a Fire
  • Essay 6: Dedicating a Track
  • Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders
  • Essay 8: Becoming a Coach
  • Essay 9: Eritrea
  • Essay 10: Journaling
  • Is Your Personal Statement Strong Enough?

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. This essay should be an opportunity for the admissions officers to get to know you better and give them a glimpse into who you really are.

In this post, we will share 10 different personal statements that were all written by real students. We will also provide commentary on what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement, so you can make your personal statement as strong as possible!

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. 

Personal Statement Examples

Essay example #1: exchange program.

The twisting roads, ornate mosaics, and fragrant scent of freshly ground spices had been so foreign at first. Now in my fifth week of the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco, I felt more comfortable in the city. With a bag full of pastries from the market, I navigated to a bus stop, paid the fare, and began the trip back to my host family’s house. It was hard to believe that only a few years earlier my mom was worried about letting me travel around my home city on my own, let alone a place that I had only lived in for a few weeks. While I had been on a journey towards self-sufficiency and independence for a few years now, it was Morocco that pushed me to become the confident, self-reflective person that I am today.

As a child, my parents pressured me to achieve perfect grades, master my swim strokes, and discover interesting hobbies like playing the oboe and learning to pick locks. I felt compelled to live my life according to their wishes. Of course, this pressure was not a wholly negative factor in my life –– you might even call it support. However, the constant presence of my parents’ hopes for me overcame my own sense of desire and led me to become quite dependent on them. I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school. Despite all these achievements, I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success. I had always been expected to succeed on the path they had defined. However, this path was interrupted seven years after my parents’ divorce when my dad moved across the country to Oregon.

I missed my dad’s close presence, but I loved my new sense of freedom. My parents’ separation allowed me the space to explore my own strengths and interests as each of them became individually busier. As early as middle school, I was riding the light rail train by myself, reading maps to get myself home, and applying to special academic programs without urging from my parents. Even as I took more initiatives on my own, my parents both continued to see me as somewhat immature. All of that changed three years ago, when I applied and was accepted to the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco. I would be studying Arabic and learning my way around the city of Marrakesh. Although I think my parents were a little surprised when I told them my news, the addition of a fully-funded scholarship convinced them to let me go.

I lived with a host family in Marrakesh and learned that they, too, had high expectations for me. I didn’t know a word of Arabic, and although my host parents and one brother spoke good English, they knew I was there to learn. If I messed up, they patiently corrected me but refused to let me fall into the easy pattern of speaking English just as I did at home. Just as I had when I was younger, I felt pressured and stressed about meeting their expectations. However, one day, as I strolled through the bustling market square after successfully bargaining with one of the street vendors, I realized my mistake. My host family wasn’t being unfair by making me fumble through Arabic. I had applied for this trip, and I had committed to the intensive language study. My host family’s rules about speaking Arabic at home had not been to fulfill their expectations for me, but to help me fulfill my expectations for myself. Similarly, the pressure my parents had put on me as a child had come out of love and their hopes for me, not out of a desire to crush my individuality.

As my bus drove through the still-bustling market square and past the medieval Ben-Youssef madrasa, I realized that becoming independent was a process, not an event. I thought that my parents’ separation when I was ten had been the one experience that would transform me into a self-motivated and autonomous person. It did, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t still have room to grow. Now, although I am even more self-sufficient than I was three years ago, I try to approach every experience with the expectation that it will change me. It’s still difficult, but I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important.

What the Essay Did Well

This is a nice essay because it delves into particular character trait of the student and how it has been shaped and matured over time. Although it doesn’t focus the essay around a specific anecdote, the essay is still successful because it is centered around this student’s independence. This is a nice approach for a personal statement: highlight a particular trait of yours and explore how it has grown with you.

The ideas in this essay are universal to growing up—living up to parents’ expectations, yearning for freedom, and coming to terms with reality—but it feels unique to the student because of the inclusion of details specific to them. Including their oboe lessons, the experience of riding the light rail by themselves, and the negotiations with a street vendor helps show the reader what these common tropes of growing up looked like for them personally. 

Another strength of the essay is the level of self-reflection included throughout the piece. Since there is no central anecdote tying everything together, an essay about a character trait is only successful when you deeply reflect on how you felt, where you made mistakes, and how that trait impacts your life. The author includes reflection in sentences like “ I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success, ” and “ I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important. ” These sentences help us see how the student was impacted and what their point of view is.

What Could Be Improved

The largest change this essay would benefit from is to show not tell. The platitude you have heard a million times no doubt, but for good reason. This essay heavily relies on telling the reader what occurred, making us less engaged as the entire reading experience feels more passive. If the student had shown us what happens though, it keeps the reader tied to the action and makes them feel like they are there with the student, making it much more enjoyable to read. 

For example, they tell us about the pressure to succeed their parents placed on them: “ I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school.”  They could have shown us what that pressure looked like with a sentence like this: “ My stomach turned somersaults as my rattling knee thumped against the desk before every test, scared to get anything less than a 95. For five years the painful squawk of the oboe only reminded me of my parents’ claps and whistles at my concerts. I mastered the butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle, fighting against the anchor of their expectations threatening to pull me down.”

If the student had gone through their essay and applied this exercise of bringing more detail and colorful language to sentences that tell the reader what happened, the essay would be really great. 

Table of Contents

Essay Example #2: Being Bangladeshi-American

Life before was good: verdant forests, sumptuous curries, and a devoted family.

Then, my family abandoned our comfortable life in Bangladesh for a chance at the American dream in Los Angeles. Within our first year, my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He lost his battle three weeks before my sixth birthday. Facing a new country without the steady presence of my father, we were vulnerable — prisoners of hardship in the land of the free. We resettled in the Bronx, in my uncle’s renovated basement. It was meant to be our refuge, but I felt more displaced than ever. Gone were the high-rise condos of West L.A.; instead, government projects towered over the neighborhood. Pedestrians no longer smiled and greeted me; the atmosphere was hostile, even toxic. Schoolkids were quick to pick on those they saw as weak or foreign, hurling harsh words I’d never heard before.

Meanwhile, my family began integrating into the local Bangladeshi community. I struggled to understand those who shared my heritage. Bangladeshi mothers stayed home while fathers drove cabs and sold fruit by the roadside — painful societal positions. Riding on crosstown buses or walking home from school, I began to internalize these disparities. During my fleeting encounters with affluent Upper East Siders, I saw kids my age with nannies, parents who wore suits to work, and luxurious apartments with spectacular views. Most took cabs to their destinations: cabs that Bangladeshis drove. I watched the mundane moments of their lives with longing, aching to plant myself in their shoes. Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

As I grappled with my relationship with the Bangladeshi community, I turned my attention to helping my Bronx community by pursuing an internship with Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. I handled desk work and took calls, spending the bulk of my time actively listening to the hardships constituents faced — everything from a veteran stripped of his benefits to a grandmother unable to support her bedridden grandchild.

I’d never exposed myself to stories like these, and now I was the first to hear them. As an intern, I could only assist in what felt like the small ways — pointing out local job offerings, printing information on free ESL classes, reaching out to non-profits. But to a community facing an onslaught of intense struggles, I realized that something as small as these actions could have vast impacts. Seeing the immediate consequences of my actions inspired me. Throughout that summer, I internalized my community’s daily challenges in a new light. I began to stop seeing the prevalent underemployment and cramped living quarters less as sources of shame. Instead, I saw them as realities that had to be acknowledged, but could ultimately be remedied. I also realized the benefits of the Bangladeshi culture I had been so ashamed of. My Bangla language skills were an asset to the office, and my understanding of Bangladeshi etiquette allowed for smooth communication between office staff and its constituents. As I helped my neighbors navigate city services, I saw my heritage with pride — a perspective I never expected to have.

I can now appreciate the value of my unique culture and background, and of living with less. This perspective offers room for progress, community integration, and a future worth fighting for. My time with Assemblyman Sepulveda’s office taught me that I can be a change agent in enabling this progression. Far from being ashamed of my community, I want to someday return to local politics in the Bronx to continue helping others access the American Dream. I hope to help my community appreciate the opportunity to make progress together. By embracing reality, I learned to live it. Along the way, I discovered one thing: life is good, but we can make it better.

This student’s passion for social justice and civic duty shines through in this essay because of how honest it is. Sharing their personal experience with immigrating, moving around, being an outsider, and finding a community allows us to see the hardships this student has faced and builds empathy towards their situation. However, what really makes it strong is that they go beyond describing the difficulties they faced and explain the mental impact it had on them as a child: Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

The rejection of their culture presented at the beginning of the essay creates a nice juxtaposition with the student’s view in the latter half of the essay and helps demonstrate how they have matured. They use their experience interning as a way to delve into a change in their thought process about their culture and show how their passion for social justice began. Using this experience as a mechanism to explore their thoughts and feelings is an excellent example of how items that are included elsewhere on your application should be incorporated into your essay.

This essay prioritizes emotions and personal views over specific anecdotes. Although there are details and certain moments incorporated throughout to emphasize the author’s points, the main focus remains on the student and how they grapple with their culture and identity.  

One area for improvement is the conclusion. Although the forward-looking approach is a nice way to end an essay focused on social justice, it would be nice to include more details and imagery in the conclusion. How does the student want to help their community? What government position do they see themselves holding one day? 

A more impactful ending might look like the student walking into their office at the New York City Housing Authority in 15 years and looking at the plans to build a new development in the Bronx just blocks away from where the grew up that would provide quality housing to people in their Bangladeshi community. They would smile while thinking about how far they have come from that young kid who used to be ashamed of their culture. 

Essay Example #3: Why Medicine

I took my first trip to China to visit my cousin Anna in July of 2014. Distance had kept us apart, but when we were together, we fell into all of our old inside jokes and caught up on each other’s lives. Her sparkling personality and optimistic attitude always brought a smile to my face. This time, however, my heart broke when I saw the effects of her brain cancer; she had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her left side. She was still herself in many ways, but I could see that the damage to her brain made things difficult for her. I stayed by her every day, providing the support she needed, whether assisting her with eating and drinking, reading to her, or just watching “Friends.” During my flight back home, sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed me. Would I ever see Anna again? Could I have done more to make Anna comfortable? I wished I could stay in China longer to care for her. As I deplaned, I wondered if I could transform my grief to help other children and teenagers in the US who suffered as Anna did.

The day after I got home, as jet lag dragged me awake a few minutes after midnight, I remembered hearing about the Family Reach Foundation (FRF) and its work with children going through treatments at the local hospital and their families. I began volunteering in the FRF’s Children’s Activity Room, where I play with children battling cancer. Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up. When they take on the roles of firefighters or fairies, we all get caught up in the game; for that time, they forget the sanitized, stark, impersonal walls of the pediatric oncology ward. Building close relationships with them and seeing them giggle and laugh is so rewarding — I love watching them grow and get better throughout their course of treatment.

Hearing from the parents about their children’s condition and seeing the children recover inspired me to consider medical research. To get started, I enrolled in a summer collegelevel course in Abnormal Psychology. There I worked with Catelyn, a rising college senior, on a data analysis project regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Together, we examined the neurological etiology of DID by studying four fMRI and PET cases. I fell in love with gathering data and analyzing the results and was amazed by our final product: several stunning brain images showcasing the areas of hyper and hypoactivity in brains affected by DID. Desire quickly followed my amazement — I want to continue this project and study more brains. Their complexity, delicacy, and importance to every aspect of life fascinate me. Successfully completing this research project gave me a sense of hope; I know I am capable of participating in a large scale research project and potentially making a difference in someone else’s life through my research.

Anna’s diagnosis inspired me to begin volunteering at FRF; from there, I discovered my desire to help people further by contributing to medical research. As my research interest blossomed, I realized that it’s no coincidence that I want to study brains—after all, Anna suffered from brain cancer. Reflecting on these experiences this past year and a half, I see that everything I’ve done is connected. Sadly, a few months after I returned from China, Anna passed away. I am still sad, but as I run a toy truck across the floor and watch one of the little patients’ eyes light up, I imagine that she would be proud of my commitment to pursue medicine and study the brain.

This essay has a very strong emotional core that tugs at the heart strings and makes the reader feel invested. Writing about sickness can be difficult and doesn’t always belong in a personal statement, but in this case it works well because the focus is on how this student cared for her cousin and dealt with the grief and emotions surrounding her condition. Writing about the compassion she showed and the doubts and concerns that filled her mind keeps the focus on the author and her personality. 

This continues when she again discusses the activities she did with the kids at FRF and the personal reflection this experience allowed her to have. For example, she writes: Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up.

Concluding the essay with the sad story of her cousin’s passing brings the essay full circle and returns to the emotional heart of the piece to once again build a connection with the reader. However, it finishes on a hopeful note and demonstrates how this student has been able to turn a tragic experience into a source of lifelong inspiration. 

One thing this essay should be cognizant of is that personal statements should not read as summaries of your extracurricular resume. Although this essay doesn’t fully fall into that trap, it does describe two key extracurriculars the student participated in. However, the inclusion of such a strong emotional core running throughout the essay helps keep the focus on the student and her thoughts and feelings during these activities.

To avoid making this mistake, make sure you have a common thread running through your essay and the extracurriculars provide support to the story you are trying to tell, rather than crafting a story around your activities. And, as this essay does, make sure there is lots of personal reflection and feelings weaved throughout to focus attention to you rather than your extracurriculars. 

Essay Example #4: Love of Writing

“I want to be a writer.” This had been my answer to every youthful discussion with the adults in my life about what I would do when I grew up. As early as elementary school, I remember reading my writing pieces aloud to an audience at “Author of the Month” ceremonies. Bearing this goal in mind, and hoping to gain some valuable experience, I signed up for a journalism class during my freshman year. Despite my love for writing, I initially found myself uninterested in the subject and I struggled to enjoy the class. When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines. Journalism required a laconic style and orderly structure, and I found my teacher’s assignments formulaic and dull. That class shook my confidence as a writer. I was uncertain if I should continue in it for the rest of my high school career.

Despite my misgivings, I decided that I couldn’t make a final decision on whether to quit journalism until I had some experience working for a paper outside of the classroom. The following year, I applied to be a staff reporter on our school newspaper. I hoped this would help me become more self-driven and creative, rather than merely writing articles that my teacher assigned. To my surprise, my time on staff was worlds away from what I experienced in the journalism class. Although I was unaccustomed to working in a fast-paced environment and initially found it burdensome to research and complete high-quality stories in a relatively short amount of time, I also found it exciting. I enjoyed learning more about topics and events on campus that I did not know much about; some of my stories that I covered in my first semester concerned a chess tournament, a food drive, and a Spanish immersion party. I relished in the freedom I had to explore and learn, and to write more independently than I could in a classroom.

Although I enjoyed many aspects of working for the paper immediately, reporting also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I am a shy person, and speaking with people I did not know intimidated me. During my first interview, I met with the basketball coach to prepare for a story about the team’s winning streak. As I approached his office, I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block, and I could hardly get out my opening questions. Fortunately, the coach was very kind and helped me through the conversation. Encouraged, I prepared for my next interview with more confidence. After a few weeks of practice, I even started to look forward to interviewing people on campus. That first journalism class may have bored me, but even if journalism in practice was challenging, it was anything but tedious.

Over the course of that year, I grew to love writing for our school newspaper. Reporting made me aware of my surroundings, and made me want to know more about current events on campus and in the town where I grew up. By interacting with people all over campus, I came to understand the breadth of individuals and communities that make up my high school. I felt far more connected to diverse parts of my school through my work as a journalist, and I realized that journalism gave me a window into seeing beyond my own experiences. The style of news writing may be different from what I used to think “writing” meant, but I learned that I can still derive exciting plots from events that may have gone unnoticed if not for my stories. I no longer struggle to approach others, and truly enjoy getting to know people and recognizing their accomplishments through my writing. Becoming a writer may be a difficult path, but it is as rewarding as I hoped when I was young.

This essay is clearly structured in a manner that makes it flow very nicely and contributes to its success. It starts with a quote to draw in the reader and show this student’s life-long passion for writing. Then it addresses the challenges of facing new, unfamiliar territory and how this student overcame it. Finally, it concludes by reflecting on this eye-opening experience and a nod to their younger self from the introduction. Having a well-thought out and sequential structure with clear transitions makes it extremely easy for the reader to follow along and take away the main idea.

Another positive aspect of the essay is the use of strong and expressive language. Sentences like “ When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines ” stand out because of the intentional use of words like “lyrical”, “profound”, and “thrilling” to convey the student’s love of writing. The author also uses an active voice to capture the readers’ attention and keep us engaged. They rely on their language and diction to reveal details to the reader, for instance saying “ I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block ” to describe feeling nervous.

This essay is already very strong, so there isn’t much that needs to be changed. One thing that could take the essay from great to outstanding would be to throw in more quotes, internal dialogue, and sensory descriptors.

It would be nice to see the nerves they felt interviewing the coach by including dialogue like “ Um…I want to interview you about…uh…”.  They could have shown their original distaste for journalism by narrating the thoughts running through their head. The fast-paced environment of their newspaper could have come to life with descriptions about the clacking of keyboards and the whirl of people running around laying out articles.

Essay Example #5: Starting a Fire

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This student is an excellent writer, which allows a simple story to be outstandingly compelling. The author articulates her points beautifully and creatively through her immense use of details and figurative language. Lines like “a rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees,” and “rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers,” create vivid images that draw the reader in. 

The flowery and descriptive prose also contributes to the nice juxtaposition between the old Clara and the new Clara. The latter half of the essay contrasts elements of nature with music and writing to demonstrate how natural these interests are for her now. This sentence perfectly encapsulates the contrast she is trying to build: “It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive.”

In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.

There is very little this essay should change, however one thing to be cautious about is having an essay that is overly-descriptive. We know from the essay that this student likes to read and write, and depending on other elements of her application, it might make total sense to have such a flowery and ornate writing style. However, your personal statement needs to reflect your voice as well as your personality. If you would never use language like this in conversation or your writing, don’t put it in your personal statement. Make sure there is a balance between eloquence and your personal voice.

Essay Example #6: Dedicating a Track

“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.

Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.

Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.

They didn’t bite. 

Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.

Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin. 

The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.

Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.

This essay effectively conveys this student’s compassion for others, initiative, and determination—all great qualities to exemplify in a personal statement!

Although they rely on telling us a lot of what happened up until the board meeting, the use of running a race (their passion) as a metaphor for public speaking provides a lot of insight into the fear that this student overcame to work towards something bigger than themself. Comparing a podium to the starting line, the audience to the track, and silence to the gunshot is a nice way of demonstrating this student’s passion for cross country running without making that the focus of the story.

The essay does a nice job of coming full circle at the end by explaining what the quote from the beginning meant to them after this experience. Without explicitly saying “ I now know that what Stark actually meant is…” they rely on the strength of their argument above to make it obvious to the reader what it means to get beat but not lose. 

One of the biggest areas of improvement in the intro, however, is how the essay tells us Stark’s impact rather than showing us: His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

The writer could’ve helped us feel a stronger emotional connection to Stark if they had included examples of Stark’s qualities, rather than explicitly stating them. For example, they could’ve written something like: Stark was the kind of person who would give you gas money if you told him your parents couldn’t afford to pick you up from practice. And he actually did that—several times. At track meets, alumni regularly would come talk to him and tell him how he’d changed their lives. Before Stark, I was ambivalent about running and was on the JV team, but his encouragement motivated me to run longer and harder and eventually make varsity. Because of him, I approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

Essay Example #7: Body Image and Eating Disorders

I press the “discover” button on my Instagram app, hoping to find enticing pictures to satisfy my boredom. Scrolling through, I see funny videos and mouth-watering pictures of food. However, one image stops me immediately. A fit teenage girl with a “perfect body” relaxes in a bikini on a beach. Beneath it, I see a slew of flattering comments. I shake with disapproval over the image’s unrealistic quality. However, part of me still wants to have a body like hers so that others will make similar comments to me.

I would like to resolve a silent issue that harms many teenagers and adults: negative self image and low self-esteem in a world where social media shapes how people view each other. When people see the façades others wear to create an “ideal” image, they can develop poor thought patterns rooted in negative self-talk. The constant comparisons to “perfect” others make people feel small. In this new digital age, it is hard to distinguish authentic from artificial representations.

When I was 11, I developed anorexia nervosa. Though I was already thin, I wanted to be skinny like the models that I saw on the magazine covers on the grocery store stands. Little did I know that those models probably also suffered from disorders, and that photoshop erased their flaws. I preferred being underweight to being healthy. No matter how little I ate or how thin I was, I always thought that I was too fat. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and would try to eat the least that I could without my parents urging me to take more. Fortunately, I stopped engaging in anorexic behaviors before middle school. However, my underlying mental habits did not change. The images that had provoked my disorder in the first place were still a constant presence in my life.

By age 15, I was in recovery from anorexia, but suffered from depression. While I used to only compare myself to models, the growth of social media meant I also compared myself to my friends and acquaintances. I felt left out when I saw my friends’ excitement about lake trips they had taken without me. As I scrolled past endless photos of my flawless, thin classmates with hundreds of likes and affirming comments, I felt my jealousy spiral. I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.” When that didn’t work, I started to feel too anxious to post anything at all.  

Body image insecurities and social media comparisons affect thousands of people – men, women, children, and adults – every day. I am lucky – after a few months of my destructive social media habits, I came across a video that pointed out the illusory nature of social media; many Instagram posts only show off good things while people hide their flaws. I began going to therapy, and recovered from my depression. To address the problem of self-image and social media, we can all focus on what matters on the inside and not what is on the surface. As an effort to become healthy internally, I started a club at my school to promote clean eating and radiating beauty from within. It has helped me grow in my confidence, and today I’m not afraid to show others my struggles by sharing my experience with eating disorders. Someday, I hope to make this club a national organization to help teenagers and adults across the country. I support the idea of body positivity and embracing difference, not “perfection.” After all, how can we be ourselves if we all look the same?

This essay covers the difficult topics of eating disorders and mental health. If you’re thinking about covering similar topics in your essay, we recommend reading our post Should You Talk About Mental Health in College Essays?

The short answer is that, yes, you can talk about mental health, but it can be risky. If you do go that route, it’s important to focus on what you learned from the experience.

The strength of this essay is the student’s vulnerability, in excerpts such as this: I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.”

The student goes on to share how they recovered from their depression through an eye-opening video and therapy sessions, and they’re now helping others find their self-worth as well. It’s great that this essay looks towards the future and shares the writer’s goals of making their club a national organization; we can see their ambition and compassion.

The main weakness of this essay is that it doesn’t focus enough on their recovery process, which is arguably the most important part. They could’ve told us more about the video they watched or the process of starting their club and the interactions they’ve had with other members. Especially when sharing such a vulnerable topic, there should be vulnerability in the recovery process too. That way, the reader can fully appreciate all that this student has overcome.

Essay Example #8: Becoming a Coach

”Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

This essay begins with an in-the-moment narrative that really illustrates the chaos of looking for a coach last-minute. We feel the writer’s emotions, particularly her dejectedness, at not being able to compete. Starting an essay in media res  is a great way to capture the attention of your readers and build anticipation for what comes next.

Through this essay, we can see how gutsy and determined the student is in deciding to become a coach themselves. She shows us these characteristics through their actions, rather than explicitly telling us: To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side.  Also, by discussing the opposition she faced and how it affected her, the student is open and vulnerable about the reality of the situation.

The essay comes full circle as the author recalls the frantic situations in seeking out a coach, but this is no longer a concern for them and their team. Overall, this essay is extremely effective in painting this student as mature, bold, and compassionate.

The biggest thing this essay needs to work on is showing not telling. Throughout the essay, the student tells us that she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence,” she “grew unsure of her own abilities,” and she “refused to give up”. What we really want to know is what this looks like.

Instead of saying she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence” she should have shared how she taught a new move to a fellow team-member without hesitation. Rather than telling us she “grew unsure of her own abilities” she should have shown what that looked like by including her internal dialogue and rhetorical questions that ran through her mind. She could have demonstrated what “refusing to give up” looks like by explaining how she kept learning coaching techniques on her own, turned to a mentor for advice, or devised a plan to win over the trust of parents. 

Essay Example #9: Eritrea

No one knows where Eritrea is.

On the first day of school, for the past nine years, I would pensively stand in front of a class, a teacher, a stranger  waiting for the inevitable question: Where are you from?

I smile politely, my dimples accentuating my ambiguous features. “Eritrea,” I answer promptly and proudly. But I  am always prepared. Before their expression can deepen into confusion, ready to ask “where is that,” I elaborate,  perhaps with a fleeting hint of exasperation, “East Africa, near Ethiopia.”

Sometimes, I single out the key-shaped hermit nation on a map, stunning teachers who have “never had a student  from there!” Grinning, I resist the urge to remark, “You didn’t even know it existed until two minutes ago!”

Eritrea is to the East of Ethiopia, its arid coastline clutches the lucrative Red Sea. Battle scars litter the ancient  streets – the colonial Italian architecture lathered with bullet holes, the mosques mangled with mortar shells.  Originally part of the world’s first Christian kingdom, Eritrea passed through the hands of colonial Italy, Britain, and  Ethiopia for over a century, until a bloody thirty year war of Independence liberated us.

But these are facts that anyone can know with a quick Google search. These are facts that I have memorised and compounded, first from my Grandmother and now from pristine books  borrowed from the library.

No historical narrative, however, can adequately capture what Eritrea is.  No one knows the aroma of bushels of potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic – still covered in dirt – that leads you to the open-air market. No one knows the poignant scent of spices, arranged in orange piles reminiscent of compacted  dunes.  No one knows how to haggle stubborn herders for sheep and roosters for Christmas celebrations as deliberately as my mother. No one can replicate the perfect balance of spices in dorho and tsebhi as well as my grandmother,  her gnarly hands stirring the pot with ancient precision (chastising my clumsy knife work with the potatoes).  It’s impossible to learn when the injera is ready – the exact moment you have to lift the lid of the mogogo. Do it too  early (or too late) and the flatbread becomes mangled and gross. It is a sixth sense passed through matriarchal  lineages.

There are no sources that catalogue the scent of incense that wafts through the sunlit porch on St. Michael’s; no  films that can capture the luminescence of hundreds of flaming bonfires that fluoresce the sidewalks on Kudus  Yohannes, as excited children chant Ge’ez proverbs whose origin has been lost to time.  You cannot learn the familiarity of walking beneath the towering Gothic figure of the Enda Mariam Cathedral, the  crowds undulating to the ringing of the archaic bells.  I have memorized the sound of the rains hounding the metal roof during kiremti , the heat of the sun pounding  against the Toyota’s window as we sped down towards Ghinda , the opulent brilliance of the stars twinkling in a  sky untainted by light pollution, the scent of warm rolls of bani wafting through the streets at precisely 6 o’clock each day…

I fill my flimsy sketchbook with pictures from my memory. My hand remembers the shapes of the hibiscus drifting  in the wind, the outline of my grandmother (affectionately nicknamed a’abaye ) leaning over the garden, the bizarre architecture of the Fiat Tagliero .  I dice the vegetables with movements handed down from generations. My nose remembers the scent of frying garlic, the sourness of the warm tayta , the sharpness of the mit’mt’a …

This knowledge is intrinsic.  “I am Eritrean,” I repeat. “I am proud.”  Within me is an encyclopedia of history, culture, and idealism.

Eritrea is the coffee made from scratch, the spices drying in the sun, the priests and nuns. Eritrea is wise, filled with ambition, and unseen potential.  Eritrea isn’t a place, it’s an identity.

This is an exceptional essay that provides a window into this student’s culture that really makes their love for their country and heritage leap off the page. The sheer level of details and sensory descriptors this student is able to fit in this space makes the essay stand out. From the smells, to the traditions, sounds, and sights, the author encapsulates all the glory of Eritrea for the reader. 

The vivid images this student is able to create for the reader, whether it is having the tedious conversation with every teacher or cooking in their grandmother’s kitchen, transports us into the story and makes us feel like we are there in the moment with the student. This is a prime example of an essay that shows , not tells.

Besides the amazing imagery, the use of shorter paragraphs also contributes to how engaging this essay is. Employing this tactic helps break up the text to make it more readable and it isolates ideas so they stick out more than if they were enveloped in a large paragraph.

Overall, this is a really strong essay that brings to life this student’s heritage through its use of vivid imagery. This essay exemplifies what it means to show not tell in your writing, and it is a great example of how you can write an intimate personal statement without making yourself the primary focus of your essay. 

There is very little this essay should improve upon, but one thing the student might consider would be to inject more personal reflection into their response. Although we can clearly take away their deep love and passion for their homeland and culture, the essay would be a bit more personal if they included the emotions and feelings they associate with the various aspects of Eritrea. For example, the way their heart swells with pride when their grandmother praises their ability to cook a flatbread or the feeling of serenity when they hear the bells ring out from the cathedral. Including personal details as well as sensory ones would create a wonderful balance of imagery and reflection.

Essay Example #10: Journaling

Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.

I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.

“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008

Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.

“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019

I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.

With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.

“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020

Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.

With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.

I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”

The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.

Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.

At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!

Although this essay is already exceptionally strong as it’s written, the first journal entry feels out of place compared to the other two entries that discuss the author’s shyness and determination. It works well for the essay to have an entry from when the student was younger to add some humor (with misspelled words) and nostalgia, but if the student had either connected the quote they chose to the idea of overcoming a fear present in the other two anecdotes or if they had picked a different quote all together related to their shyness, it would have made the entire essay feel more cohesive.

Where to Get Your Personal Statement Edited

Do you want feedback on your personal statement? 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!

Next Step: Supplemental Essays

Essay Guides for Each School

How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay

4 Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay

How to Write the “Why This College” Essay

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Professor of Political Science, Trinity College

college essay examples about interests

Chairperson and Associate Professor of Law, College of Staten Island, CUNY

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After President Joe Biden’s disastrous performance at the June 27, 2024, debate, many Democrats have raced to ring the alarm bell, proclaiming that it’s time for him to step aside, time to let someone else take the reins in hopes of defeating Donald Trump in November.

With that in mind, as political scientists with a side interest in sports, we recount three moments from history when men and women faced the difficult decision to stay or go. We hope they will help inform the current discussion.

We begin with two who worked at the highest levels of power in the U.S.:

A gray-haired man in a dark suit, standing on a stage, looks at something to his right.

President Lyndon Johnson, 1968

On the final night of March 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, known universally as “LBJ,” spoke to the nation from the Oval Office to say that the United States would unilaterally halt nearly all its bombing in North Vietnam.

But as his address came to a close, he had something more to say:

Shocking his audience, LBJ added : “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Johnson was 59 years old. Three-and-a-half years earlier, he had scored one of the greatest landslides in American history, winning 61% of the vote and 44 states in the 1964 presidential election .

A scant few individuals so aptly defined the term “political animal” as LBJ. He had come to Washington as a young man bursting with ambition and succeeded like few others.

Indeed, since becoming president after John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination , Johnson had ushered through Congress an avalanche of progressive legislation , including the historic 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights acts. With the possible exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, no other president had achieved so much legislatively.

But on that March day in 1968, at a time of growing antiwar protests and the accelerating pull of rival candidates for the Democratic nomination, he understood that he now led a country coming apart at the seams. Despite having declared his candidacy for reelection, seeking another term might make things worse.

It was time for someone else to have a turn.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2013

As one of us recounts in his book, “ A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other: The Deepening Divide Between the Justices and the People ,” President Barack Obama invited Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a private lunch at the White House in the summer of 2013.

Obama wanted to nudge Ginsburg into retirement. The 80-year-old justice was a two-time survivor of pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancers. She had already served on the high court for two decades and had carved out a legacy as a staunch liberal and champion of women’s equality.

Additionally, Obama was concerned about the upcoming midterm elections. If the Democrats lost the Senate, he would not be able to replace her with a like-minded justice, because a GOP-run Senate would not confirm such a nominee.

Ginsburg didn’t take Obama’s hint.

A woman wearing eyeglasses is sitting in a chair and raises her hand to make a point.

Soon after the lunch, she noted, “ I think one should stay as long as she can do the job .” She added shortly after , “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”

That next president was Donald Trump.

Ginsburg died in mid-September 2020, just weeks before Joe Biden would oust Trump from the White House. But significantly, Trump had sufficient time to fill Ginsburg’s seat with the conservative Amy Coney Barrett .

In 2022, Barrett provided the fifth and decisive vote in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal protection of abortion rights .

Deciding when to step away or stay may have deep consequences in the political world.

The consequences are big in sports, as well, but at a more personal level.

Philadelphia Eagle Jason Kelce, 2024

Skeptics said he was too small to play among the giants on an offensive line in the NFL. Not strong enough. Not tough enough. A former walk-on who had been drafted in 2011 in the sixth round .

But in a short space of time, Jason Kelce redefined the position of center and helped guide his team to its first-ever Super Bowl win.

In 2024, Kelce’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, was still one of the best in the NFL. It had been to the Super Bowl just a year earlier, and Kelce was still considered to be playing near the top of his game.

But Kelce had had enough. It was time for him to end his playing days.

Sitting before a packed room of reporters and family members, the bare-armed and burly-chested 36-year-old Kelce set out to say goodbye .

A dark-haired, bearded man in a black T-shirt with cutoff sleeves looks sad.

But before he could even get a sentence out, his emotions took over, forcing him to pause for several moments. He held his head in his hands, sobbing, sniffling, snorting, taking deep breaths. Tears streamed down his face throughout the news conference. Repeatedly, he had to stop and wipe them away with a washcloth someone tossed to him.

As he struggled to get through his statement, listeners could hear him motivate himself several times with the phrase, “Come on.”

The ‘courage to call it quits’

Kelce’s retirement announcement is both difficult and extraordinarily captivating to watch. During those 40 minutes, he displays the courage it takes to call it quits when there is still something to be gained.

The picture was of a man coming to terms with his fate. Not because of injury or lack of skill, but because he believed it was necessary to take this step before those things forced him out.

Are there moments when we can judge for another when it is time to bow out? Most assuredly, there are. Hopefully, we do so with compassion and gratitude, but there are simply times when conscience demands an honest reckoning and unflinching truth-telling.

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • Voting Rights Act
  • US Constitution
  • Political conventions
  • US presidency
  • Mental ageing
  • 25th Amendment
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Civil Rights Act
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • US democracy

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