College Essay Examples: Essays that Worked

When writing a college essay, some people argue about whether it is useful or not to read other students’ essays for inspiration.

In particular, we are huge fans of John Hopkins’s articles on “Works that worked,” as admissions officers explain in detail why they find college essay examples effective. Also included are some general guidelines for answering the essay “Why this college”, as this is an important essay for students explaining why a particular school may be suitable for them.

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Over the past few years, The New York Times has invited students to share their college entrance essays on money, class, work, and economics, as well as reactions and thoughts about the effectiveness of Ron Lieber’s essays.

2015 essays and reaction: Essays About Work and Class That Caught A College’s Eye

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2016 essays: Memories and Hopes: The Top Essays

2017 essays: Standout College Application Essays

2018 essays: Standout College Application Essays

2019 essays: Standout College Application Essays

In addition to knowing what a college essay example looks like, it is also important to remember that good content can be overshadowed by careless errors. Proofreading is the key. And if you need professional help, do your research. And if your child asks you to read a completed essay, make sure that you are positive and inspiring. Give them the freedom they need to bring this essay home.

Over the years, students who tell me they love to write say they struggle with an essay. So if you bit your nails or tearing your hair at least a little, you are not alone.

Now for my tips.

  1. Allow yourself plenty of time to write the essay. Do not wait until the last minute. I know this sounds absurdly simple, but it really does make a difference to be as relaxed as possible when you sit down to write.
  2. Choose the hint that comes closest to what you would like to write about. The goal of the tip is to help you think about something important to you. Your application will be full of information that highlights aspects of you and your abilities, but only an essay gives you the means to speak in your own voice about something personally meaningful. Choose what you care about and it will flow more naturally

    (a) Error: If you have not experienced events that change your life, you have nothing to write about. Wrong. You care about things now. Write about one of them and show us why this is important to you.

    (b) Error: If you did not have major international service experience, you are sunk. Not so again. If you had such an experience and you feel that he is saying something important about you, wonderful. If not, just choose something that says something important about you. That’s all.
  3. When you wrote the first draft, leave it. Then get back to it the other day. Ask people you trust for their feedback, but don’t let anyone tell you how to write it. Is this your story or some small, but significant part of it, as you told or reflected on it.
  4. When you edit it to the core, read it carefully. Spellchecking is not always the most reliable friend, as I sometimes found out from a quickly typed email that is sent before it is read!
  5. Send it and treat yourself to something pleasant – for example, your favorite movie, a run, quality time with a dog, or something else that you like. That’s it for tips.

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